The Hebrew Academy held its second annual school-wide Shakespeare competition last week. The competition belongs to a national Shakespeare organization which engages over 20,000 high school students throughout the country.
After several weeks of hard work and practice, the ten participating students performed in the school media center in front of an audience and panel of judges. The contest included Natalie Alishayev (10th grade), Michelle Behar (10th), Jack Benveniste-Plitt (11th), Yael Bister (10th), Samantha Ebner (10th), Abigail Gottlieb (10th), Ron Ben-Hayoun (12th), Abraham Kanter (10th), Yosef Melul (10th), and Sarah Safdie (10th).
English teacher Mr. Lafountain ran the competition and trained the participants.
“I was blown away,” Mr. Lafountain said. “I meet with students during lunch and do dry runs and give advice. I was surprised by how strong a lot of the performances were, considering how many other things the students have going on.”
Many teachers and students crowded the media center on Tuesday to watch their classmates, friends, and students perform. English teachers Mrs. Berman and Mrs. Handwerger judged the event. Abraham Kanter kicked off the contest with his portrayal of Julius Caesar. The competition continued with each subsequent contestant staging their designated soliloquy or monologue from the play which they selected.
“I thought everyone did a really great job with handling the language,” said Mrs. Berman. “It was clear what their characters were feeling in the moment. I am proud of all the participants taking on this challenge–it is not easy.”
All ten competitors left the audience in applause. The presence of a large quantity of peers in the crowd helped motivate students and add to their passion. Notably, after a minor setback, Natalie Alishayev recovered and wowed the crowd when she returned and performed a stunning rendition of Imogen from Cymbeline. Later, Ron Ben-Hayoun left the crowd in raucous laughter after demonstrating his humorous personality as a part of his Midsummer Night’s Dream monologue.
“I really liked it, it was entertaining to watch,” said spectator Sherri Shahar (10th).
William Shakespeare’s plays are complex and contain difficult content and language, especially for high school students. According to Mr. Lafountain, the contest serves as a way to allow students to expose themselves to Shakespeare in the most comprehensive way suitable for them.
On Friday, winners were announced over the loud-speaker. First place went to Jack Benveniste-Plitt (11th) for his gripping rendition of Claudius from Hamlet. Second place went to Natalie Alishayev and third place went to Yosef Melul (10th) for his powerful portrayal of Hamlet. All winners received Amazon gift cards.
“I think that Shakespeare is a really important part of our culture,” Alishayev said. “Shakespeare is clearly something influential on art, so I think that it’s really good that we as high school students are exposed to this opportunity, and I think it’s really important.”
By: Jeremy Dobin (9th Grade)