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Teenager from San Francisco wins 2017 English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition

The three winners of the 2017
English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition
on stage at Lincoln Center in New York City

(l to r) – Third place winner Trevon Wainwright, First place winner Ogechi Egonu, and Second place winner Brandon Burk.

With a performance of a sonnet and monologue from Shakespeare's Othello, Ogechi Egonu from San Francisco, CA, a student of Jennifer Grimes at San Domenico School in San Anselmo, won the 34th annual English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition. The Competition took place on May 1, 2017 on the Mitzi Newhouse Theater stage at Lincoln Center in New York City with 54 semi-finalists from as many ESU Branch competitions nationwide. Ogechi previously won the ESU San Francisco competition.

As the winner of the 34th English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition, Ogechi received a full scholarship to the American Shakespeare Center Theater Camp in Staunton, VA, this summer. Second place winner, Brandon Burk, from the Kentucky Branch, won a cash prize of $1,000 from the English-Speaking Union, while the third place winner, Trevon Wainwright, representing the Kansas City Branch of the ESU, received an award of $500 provided by The Shakespeare Society.

More than 20,000 high school students nationwide participated in the English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition at the school and regional levels. 

The finalists were:

Chinyelu Mwaafrika - Indianapolis Branch - Shortridge High School;
Mya Ison - Research Triangle Branch - Enloe High School;
Lee Ann Bael - New York City Branch - Edward R. Murrow High School;
Malenky Welsh - Greenwich Branch - ACES Education Center for the Arts;
Judy Durkin - Los Angeles Branch - Santa Monica High School;
Rutvik Ashtikar - Princeton Branch - JP Stevens High School;
Padraig Bond - Albany Branch - Shenendehowa High School.

Judges for the semi-finals were actor Kelley Curran; Folger Shakespeare Library Master Teacher Michael Klein; actor Geoffrey Owens; Lincoln Center Theater Associate Director of Education Alexandra López, and professor Sid Ray. Judges for the final competition were actors Kate Burton, Dana Ivey and Peter Francis James as well as arts professor and founder and director of Tish School of the Arts at New York University Louis Scheeder, and Founding Executive Director of the American Shakespeare Center Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen.  

The English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition is a school-based program designed to help students develop their speaking and critical thinking skills and their appreciation of literature as they explore the beauty of the language and timeless themes in Shakespeare's works. In three progressive competition levels, students memorize, interpret, and perform monologues and sonnets in their own schools, at ESU Branch-sponsored community competitions and at the English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition. Citing the competition's 34th season this year, the Honorable Bill De Blasio, Mayor of the City of New York, proclaimed May 1, 2017 as William Shakespeare Day in New York City. Laura Hickey, the Deputy British Consul-General in New York, read the proclamation, and Dr. Paul Beresford-Hill CBE KSt.J, Chairman of the English-Speaking Union, awarded certificates to the competitors.

The ESU provided the semi-finalists with educational and cultural activities in New York City, including an exclusive acting workshop by faculty of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.  Perhaps best of all for these teenagers was the opportunity to spend time  with other  students  from  across  the  country  who  share  a  love  of  the English language  and,  particularly, Shakespeare.

Among the winners and finalists of the Competition who have gone on to national acclaim are actor and director Joe Sofranko, whose Hulu series Complete Works is, in fact, based on the National Shakespeare Competition; actors Emily Bergl (Shameless, Desperate HousewivesSouthland); Tyler Hilton (Walk the LineOne Tree Hill); Heather Lind (Demolition, Boardwalk EmpireTurn: Washington's Spies); Bronwyn Reed (Law and Order: SVU); as well as Broadway's Matt Harrington (Twelfth NightMatilda) and Adam Wesley Brown (Once the Musical).

Founded in 1920, the ESU is a nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that promotes English as a shared language to foster global understanding and good will by providing educational and cultural opportunities for students and educators.

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