Every day, Paige Pedersen reads Shakespeare.
It’s been years since she fell in love with the playwright’s works, and now she’s taking that love to The Big Apple.
After winning first place at the district level of the National Shakespeare Competition, Pedersen, a senior at Olympia High School, is one of 56 students from across the United States who will be competing in the national competition on May 2.
For the past two years, Pedersen has competed in the National Shakespeare Competition at Olympia and at the district level, but had never advanced to the national level.
“I was so shocked,” Pedersen said about her win.
Pedersen’s love of all things Shakespeare has been years in the making. The first Shakespeare play she read was “Romeo and Juliet,” but she didn’t fall in love until she cracked open “Macbeth.”
“After I read ‘Macbeth’ was really when the light bulb went off,” she said. “It’s so amazing.”
And although most people find the Old English challenging to digest, Pedersen wanted to delve deeper into the unfamiliar language.
“It intrigued me,” she said. “I wanted to know exactly what they were saying.”
Now she has no problem picking up one of Shakespeare’s works and understanding the dialogue and storyline.
It’s a learned skill, she said.
To qualify for the National Shakespeare competition, Pedersen had to prepare 20 lines of a Shakespeare monologue. She choose one of Rosalind’s monologues from “As You Like it.” For the district competition, which included dozens of students from schools across Central Florida, she had to present her monologue plus a sonnet.
For the national competition, she will recite both Shakespeare pieces but will also be asked to do a cold reading out of one of Shakespeare’s works. To prepare for the competition, Pedersen spends her days reading random Shakespeare passages.
“If I know the play and the context, it’s easier,” she said of cold readings. “If I have no idea where it’s from, that’s a lot harder.”
One of Shakespeare’s more challenging plays is “Julius Caesar,” Pedersen said.
“There is so much you have to study about the rules and the government,” she said.
But for all her love of Shakespeare, Pedersen has yet to perform in a Shakespeare play. She has been involved in the theater program at Olympia High School since she was a freshman, although her theater days began before high school.
“I started doing it at my church,” Pedersen said. “It was totally the Lord who brought me into that position, and it’s what He’s calling me to do.”
And there is nothing quite like being onstage with the lights illuminating your every move as hundreds of eyes watch from the audience.
“It’s such a unique art form,” Pedersen said. “We get to reflect the world onstage. I love when the audience walks away thinking about something.”
If she could choose any one of Shakespeare’s characters to portray in a play, Pedersen’s first choice would be Rosalind from “As You Like it.”
“She is so strong,” Pedersen said. “And her way of encouraging people is so funny.”
But until she can be in a Shakespeare play, Pedersen will continue reading his works.
“It’s another side of theater that’s really, really unique,” she said.
Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected]