Shlomit Barquin-Cadena won first place in the English Speakers Union Shakespeare Competition at Ocoee High School Jan. 20 and will advance to the regional contest, to be held Feb. 20 at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater.
Xan Kahn, an instructional coach at the school and sponsor for the school-level contest, issued an invitation for students to join the competition, and five students participated: Barquin-Cadena; Gian Delgado, who came in second place; third-place winner Colby Salvatore; Molly Dunagan; and Jaylen Wright. Students had to learn a monologue or sonnet from an approved list, and Kahn helped them select pieces based on what she knew about the students.
The judges were Ocoee art teacher Haley Hostetter and English teachers Audrey Rogers and Ashley Gecewicz.
The ESU is a national organization that hosts the Shakespeare competition annually with about 26,000 student participants.
This is Ocoee High’s first year participating, and Kahn was pleased with the turnout. She also is impressed with Barquin-Cadena’s accomplishment because English is her second language, having immigrated six months ago from Colombia. Kahn and Barquin-Cadena have been meeting twice a week to work on the pieces, and Kahn has been coaching her on pace, inflection and body expressions.
“She had such a command of the language of Shakespeare, the understanding of the monologue and where it stands within the rest of the play,” Kahn said.
“They have to really understand and have a command of the language,” she said. “Shakespeare is kind of an archaic language, and they have to have an understanding of what Shakespeare is communicating and where it fits in the scene. And with the sonnet, especially because it’s a poem, it’s really analyzing what the poet is trying to say and then communicating that through verbalizing and facial expression.”
Shakespeare is difficult because it was meant to be seen and not read, Kahn said.
“There’s such bravery in students who are willing to deep dive into a language that is no longer spoken and to put themselves out there in front of people on a stage,” Kahn said.
Barquin-Cadena’s monologue was from Queen Elizabeth from “Richard II,” Delgado’s selection was Shylock from “The Merchant of Venice,” Salvatore’s piece was from Bottom from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Dunagan’s monologue was Jailer’s Daughter from “The Two Noble Kinsmen,” and Wright’s piece was Othello from “Othello.” Barquin-Cadena and Delgado also prepared sonnets — 17 and 130, respectively.
All participants received a water bottle sticker of Shakespeare and a certificate. The top three winners received a gift card.
Barquin-Cadena will compete against about 17 public and private schools for the first prize of a financial scholarship, a trip to New York City to compete at the National ESU Shakespeare Competition held at the Lincoln Center Stage April 24 and a scholarship for a summer program at Orlando Shakespeare Theater.
She also is in the running for The Love of the Bard financial scholarship. This is a nomination scholarship through a sponsor recommendation.