Community Drama and Dance High Schools Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences K-12

High School Competition Encourages Students to Brush Up on Their Shakespeare

Students from eight local schools participated in the annual high school competition that Hofstra University’s Department of Drama and Dance  hosted as part of its 66th annual Shakespeare Festival. The annual competition is known for sparking students’ interest in Shakespeare and a love of performing. Native Long Islander and two-time Tony Award-winner Brian Dennehy performed in the high school competition as a teenager and has publicly credited it with igniting his love for acting.

This year’s competition took place on March 12 and 13, with four high schools participating each day. Students spent the first part of the day participating in workshops on stage combat, voice and speech and improv. Chair of Hofstra’s Department of Drama and Dance David Henderson says the day is a valuable experience for these aspiring actors. “They might think of pursuing drama but interacting with our students and faculty gives them real insight on what it is like to study theater on the college level.”

Photographer: Zack Lane, Hofstra University Photographer
Division Avenue High School puts a new spin on As You Like It.

From 3-5 p.m. on both days the visiting students performed scenes from a Shakespearean play for a panel of faculty members from Hofstra’s Department of Drama and Dance. Staging, lighting, costumes, music and sound are part of the presentations. The Hofstra professors offer the students critique and advice and give awards for “Best Actor,” “Best Actress,” and “Best Ensemble.”

On Thursday, March 12, the participating schools were:

  • Valley Stream Central High School – performing Hamlet, Act II, scene II
  • Division Avenue High School in Levittown – performing As You Like It, Act III, scene II and Act V, scene 2, 3, 4
  • Walter G. O’Connell Copiague High School – performing The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, scene I
  • and Cold Spring Harbor High School – performing Macbeth, Act I, scene I and III

Judging the scenes were Hofstra Professors Christopher Dippel, Jennifer Hart and Peter Sander. They awarded:

  • Best Actor to Isaac Cruz, who played “Hamlet” for Valley Stream
  • Best Actress to Marcia Aracena, who played “Portia” for Copiague High School
  • Best Ensemble to Cold Spring Harbor for the “creepy” ambiance they brought to The Hofstra professors praised the students for setting the mood and for their “clear storytelling.”
  • Best Costume Design and Best Set Design were awarded to Isaiah Chan and Anastacia Pereira, from Valley Stream Central High School

On Friday, March 13, the participating schools were:

  • Mepham High School in Bellmore – performing Julius Caesar, Act III, scene I
  • Calhoun High School in Merrick – performing All’s Well That Ends Well, Act II, scene III
  • Wantagh High School – performing The Tempest, Act IV, scene I
  • and NYC’s High School for Environmental Studies – performing King Lear, Act II, scene V, VII
Students get feedback from Hofstra drama faculty on March 13.
Students get feedback from Hofstra drama faculty on March 13.

Judging the scenes were Hofstra Professors Jean Dobie Giebel, James J. Kolb and Jennifer Hart. Dr. Kolb, who has directed seven of Hofstra Shakespeare Festivals, was very impressed by the high schoolers. “Often there’s one school that isn’t quite ready to match what the other schools are doing, but today it was different.” He then added, “I’ve been participating in the competition for more than 20 years, and today was the best set of performances.”

Awards given were:

  • Best Actor to Robert Gallo, who played the “King of France” for Calhoun
  • Best Actress to Leonela Rodriguez, who played “Gloucester” for the High School for Environmental Studies
  • Best Ensemble to Wantagh High School for The Tempest
  • Best Costume Design and Best Set Design were awarded to Becca Lewis and Holden Smith from Calhoun High School.

Top image: Students from Valley Stream Central High School perform a scene from Hamlet – when the King and Queen watch the actors perform in their court.

With reporting from Jean Pierre Guzhnay

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