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Is this a trophy I see before me?

Nov 01, 2017 05:55PM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Malia Hansen, Madison Park, and Britney Belcher of Taylorsville High School receive trophies for first place in the Duo/Trio Dance competition. (Katherine Call/Taylorsville High School)

Gallery: Comic-Con of the Shakespeare World [2 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Jet Burnham | j.burnham@mycityjournals.com    


The Comic-Con of the Shakespeare world took place in Cedar City on September 28-29. Nearly 3,400 students from 109 schools in five states attended the 41st Annual Shakespeare Competition, hosted by the Utah Shakespeare Festival (USF) and Southern Utah University (SUU).

The competition was an opportunity for junior and high school students to perform Shakespeare scenes as ensembles, duos, trios and monologues as well as showcase dance and stage crew skills. Students are judged and given feedback by professionals. They also attend workshops and USF productions.

The competition is divided into six divisions, based on school size.

In the Cambridge Division, Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts had a great showing. They took first place in the Sweepstakes, the award for the highest total score of all performers from one school. Their Acting Ensemble piece took first place and their duo/trio scene with Anna Nadjafinia, Anna Trick, and Caylee White took second place. Mikala Gonzales earned a Ray Jones Award and first place in the monologue competition. Kaybri Wolf received the Larry Lott Acting Award, chosen as the best actor in the division.

In the Oxford Division, Highland High School earned third place in Sweepstakes.

In addition to acting competitions, schools competed in dance. For the dance portion, students present a three- to six-minute interpretation of a Shakespearean play or sonnet

Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts’ Dance Ensemble Piece took first place. Their dance duo/trio by Christin Dennis, Emma Hansen and Alana Stuffs took third place.

 The most popular competition was the acting ensembles. They incorporate the most actors and were often reinterpretations of Shakespeare scenes. Riverton High School competed with the wedding scene from “Taming of the Shrew.” Their interpretation incorporated steam punk and Commedia dell’arte. 

“It’s very physical, it’s very silly—think slide whistles and rubber chickens,” said Riverton High School theater teacher Erin McGuire. 

Herriman High School’s scene from “Much Ado About Nothing” was set in the post-war 1920’s. Herriman Herriman’s theater teacher KayCee Brügger said many directors choose to change time periods for their scenes because Shakespeare’s themes and characters are so universal.

 Another part of the competition is the Techie Olympics, in which stage crew members get to be in the spotlight. Teams showcase technical skills related to props, costumes, lighting, sound, etc. Participants may have to demonstrate how to apply a fake moustache and then put in a specialty filter and focus a spotlight. Tasks get scored on time and quality of skills.

The rest of the teams watch the Olympics and cheer them on. 

“Theater people get excited about watching someone change a lamp in a lighting fixture,” said Brügger.

 In addition to competing, students attended workshops on topics such as stage combat, improvisation, movement, modern dance techniques and choral performance. 

But the biggest benefit of the weekend was when students received feedback from professional actors and directors, said McGuire. Judges rate the performances and then provide critiques and feedback to the actors. 

“The experience, the process of getting there is just as important as the feedback for the performance. You can take all that entire experience and use it in all your future performances,” said McGuire.

 This was a record-breaking year with nearly 3,400 students in attendance. 

“I think people who aren’t familiar with the competition would be amazed at the level of preparation and work that these student s put into this,” said McGuire. “It’s pretty awesome—in the true sense of the word awesome—full of awe.”

All the performers do their best, hoping to win, but they are very supportive of each other, McGuire said. 

“There’s enough competition and meanness out there and art should be something that you’re celebrating, that you’re sharing,” McGuire tells her students. 

Theater students often befriend fellow thespians at neighboring schools and support each others’ performances throughout the school year.

 “I work really hard with my students to try to make sure that they know theater isn’t just about competition but it’s about bringing people together,” said Brügger. 

McGuire said the competition can be a life-changing experience for the students. It is a Comic-Con-like atmosphere for theatre kids.

 “Down there, they’re the norm,” said McGuire. “It’s like finding your tribe.”   

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