Reflections on the Shakespeare Festival Competition

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Reflections on the Shakespeare Festival Competition
Aryan Ghodrat ’24

Aryan Ghodrat ’24 takes on the Bard in his first effort in Triangle-wide event.


On Feb. 18, Ravenscroft drama student Aryan Ghodrat ’24 competed at the English Speaking Union’s Research Triangle Branch 2021 Student Shakespeare Competition. Nine other high school students in the Triangle also sent in videos of themselves performing a monologue and a sonnet, which were then presented over Zoom to be judged. Though he did not place in first, he had lots to reflect on looking back on the experience.

Honestly, I was really surprised when my video submission was chosen for the local competition. Since this is my first semester in an Upper School drama class, I could not imagine myself to be competing — and in such a challenging form of drama as Shakespeare — already. Not only that, but I had only read two Shakespeare plays in my life prior to the event. 

However, all of that changed when I began learning more about this art form and, of course, practicing constantly.

It started when students in my class were told to pick out one Shakespearean monologue and sonnet. Scrolling through the long list of options, I finally selected two that I would end up working on over the next few weeks. My next task was to start memorizing them. For my monologue, I chose to perform as Marina from the comedy “Pericles, Prince of Tyre.” I also performed Sonnet 71, which begins, “No longer mourn for me when I am dead.”

Photo from the 2020 Shakespeare Festival Competition

Preparation was intense. I was given one week to memorize my monologue and another to memorize my sonnet. Fortunately, Mr. Sharp, the Upper School drama teacher, gave my class a list of strategies to memorize our pieces. Tips included walking while talking, speaking in different accents and moving in funny ways while performing the pieces. Although it felt unnatural, these techniques helped me memorize my lines in a fun and efficient way. 

Since this was my first time performing Shakespeare, making sense of the language was the hardest aspect, since I had no clue what about 30% of the words even meant! With repetition and practice I finally was able to understand what I was saying.

Next thing I knew, I was recording my pieces to be submitted for the competition. As crazy as it may sound, I prefer acting live instead of in front of a camera because it takes so much longer to create that perfect video where everything feels like it was done to perfection. I remember taking dozens of videos and somehow messing up each one. After about 30 minutes of reading the same lines over and over again, I gave myself one more try and told myself that if I messed it up I would have to submit it no matter what! That was probably the best decision I made, because the next video I took would be the one that I submitted.

Two weeks after my video was selected for the competition, the day arrived where all the video submissions would be played before the local judges. The talent of the other students was so impressive. I often forget just how much talent we have right here in the Triangle. 

Though I did not place in the competition, I had a lot to take away from other student’s performances and am so thankful I had the opportunity to represent the school!