ESU Hawaii Branch

A Message from the Hawaii Branch President

President's Update May 2023

The 2023 ESU National Shakespeare Competition, during which 41 ESU branch competition winners from around the country competed in New York City at Lincoln Center, took place on Monday, April 24th. Each student performed a Shakespearean monologue of their choice and recited a sonnet. Ten students were then chosen to advance to the finals round and be evaluated by a new set of judges. The competitors were judged on their understanding of their selected texts and on their ability to communicate their interpretation to the audience.

Elena Hollenbeak not only became a finalist but achieved first place in the 40th national competition for her stellar performances of Sonnet 14 and a monologue by Lady Macbeth from Macbeth. Lyn Ackerman, Elena's drama teacher at St. Andrew's Schools: The Priory in Honolulu, attended the national competition and was awarded the $1,000 Teacher Recognition Award.

Elena's grand prize is a scholarship to the British American Drama Academy Midsummer Conservatory Program in London.

The 2023 ESU National Shakespeare Competition Finals can be viewed at the following link:

Left to right: ESU Chairman Quinn Peeper, Elena Hollenbeak, and Lyn Ackerman at Lincoln Center in New York City, April 24, 2023

For additional information regarding the English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition, please visit

The English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition is a performance-based education program in which high school students nationwide read, analyze, perform, and recite Shakespeare's works. Through the program, students develop communication skills and an appreciation of the power of language and literature. In the Competition's three progressive levels, students perform in their own schools, at ESU Branch community competitions, and at the National Shakespeare Competition in New York City. Since 1983, more than 400,000 young Americans of all backgrounds have taken advantage of this opportunity to bring the timeless works of Shakespeare to life and learn to express his words with understanding, feeling, and clarity.

ESU Hawaii, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is operated entirely by volunteers and relies on charitable contributions (tax deductible!) to continue the mission of ESU founder Sir Evelyn Wrench "to bring together in the bonds of friendship the English- speaking peoples of the world." The Hawaii Branch of the English-Speaking Union has had more national winners than any other branch in the history of the ESU National Shakespeare Competition: Connor Lawhorn (2011), Sarah Spalding (2015), Ari Dalbert (2016) and, now, Elena Hollenbeak (2023). If you would like to support our efforts to continue bringing Hawaii's students together to celebrate the language of Shakespeare, please consider becoming a member via the link on our site or making a contribution (or both!).

An Appealing Sonnet

To fund the ESU Hawaii Branch

Is what this humble sonnet asks of you So that deposits, which we long to bank, Increase enough to let us follow through

In nurturing young minds we cherish dearly. If Bard of Avon's your fond proclivity, 

Help underwrite our competition yearly 

And more Shakespearean activity.

To "ESU Hawaii" make out your check

In an amount best matching with your means, 

And a noble difference you will make

In lives of brave, performing island teens. 

The truth of this is ineluctable:

Your gift is fully tax deductible!

Checks made out to ESU Hawaii may be mailed to Mark Lawhorn, 2121 Ala Wai Blvd., Apt. 2705, Honolulu, HI 96815.

Thank you for visiting the ESU Hawaii web site. The ESU president and other executive committee members may be contacted at

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News And Events

The 2024 National Shakespeare Competition Starts Now!

News Photo

We are pleased to announce the kick-off of the ESU's National Shakespeare Competition! Schools in our region may enter now, giving students the opportunity to compete in Hawaii Branch Competition.  The winner of the branch competition will travel to NYC to compete in the national finals at Lincoln Center!  


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2019 Hawaii Branch National Shakespeare Competition Finalist

Left to right: Maggie Odom (third), Mariko Jurcsak (first), Skylar Dysarz (second) Top three winners in the Hawaii segment of the 2019 ESU National Shakespeare Competition.

April 29,  2019 may have been a normal Monday for most high school students, but for Mariko Jurcsak from 'Iolani School it will be a day to remember forever. Mariko, student of Robert Duval, placed as a finalist at the 36th Annual National Shakespeare Competition celebrating William Shakespeare's birthday while competing against 50 students from around the US on stage at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center Theater in New York City.


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Honolulu Area High School Student to Compete in the 35th English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition at Lincoln Center in New York

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Left to right: Ruby O’Malley (first place), Mark Lawhorn (ESU Hawaii President), Kylie E Shaieb (second place)

Ruby O'Malley, student of  Ann Ogilvie from Kaiser High School in Honolulu achieved first place at the English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition Hawaii Branch tournament on March 3, 2018. The repeat win for Kaiser High School, whose Makana Richter won first place in 2017, is the first such back-to-back public school win since Mililani High School won in 1998 and 1999. Ms. O'Malley will travel to New York City along with more than 50 other contestants from around the country to participate in the ESU National Shakespeare Competition at Lincoln Center Theater in New York on April 23, 2018. 


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With a performance of a sonnet and monologue from Shakespeare, Makana Richter  from Honolulu, HI, a student of Ann Ogilvie at Kaiser High School in Honolulu, placed as a semi-finalist in the 34th  annual English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition in New York City. The Competition took place on May 1, 2017 on the stage of the Mitzi Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center with 54 semi-finalists from as many ESU Branch competitions nationwide. Makana previously won the ESU Hawaii Branch competition.

The winner of the 34th English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition, Ogechi Egonu, representing the San Francisco Branch, received a full scholarship to attend the American Shakespeare Center Theatre 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.

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Hawaii Branch

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