National Shakespeare Competition on stage at Penn State New Kensington

February 17, 2015

“Why, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile,
And cry ‘Content!’ to that which grieves my heart,
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face to all occasions.
I’ll drown more sailors than the mermaid shall;
I’ll slay more gazers than the basilisk..."

Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part III

UPPER BURRELL, Pa. – Shakespearean sonnets and monologues, running the gamut from angst to jocularity, and replete with an anon and tarry, will emanate from Penn State New Kensington at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21, at the National Shakespeare Competition in the campus’ Forum Theatre.

Loquacious students representing the western Pennsylvania high schools of Kiski Area, North Allegheny, Shadyside Academy, Springdale and Valley will read, memorize, interpret and recite Shakespeare in a public setting. Similar competitions will be held in the eastern and central sections of the commonwealth.

Wherefore art thou holding such an extemporaneous tribute to the Bard? The English-Speaking Union of the United States sponsors the contest to encourage the development of communication skills and an appreciation of the power of language and literature. The annual event promotes scholarship and the advancement of knowledge through the effective use of English in an expanding global community. Participants explore the beauty of Shakespeare's language and learn to express his words with understanding, feeling and clarity. Approximately 15,000 students participate each year.

The pre-regional’s top orator, as determined by a panel of judges, advances to the regional stage Feb. 27, at Lock Haven University. The winner of the regional earns a trip to the nationals April 27 at the Lincoln Center in New York City.

Sixty-eight regional winners from across the country will demonstrate their elocution prowess in the attempt to woo the votes of the panel of judges composed of actors, directors, scholars and educators. Former judges include Gene Wilder, Sarah Jessica Parker, Phylicia Rashad and Andre Braugher. The first-place thespian is awarded a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art's Young Actors Summer School in London.
The pre-regional at the New Kensington campus is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Karen Blair-Brand, regional president, at

For more about the competition, visit

  • Shakespearean monologue

    A high school student performs a monologue at the 2013 National Shakespeare Competition in New York City. 

    IMAGE: Elena Olivo

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Last Updated February 19, 2015