Press Release: Stratford Challenge finalists for Shakespeare Performance Selected

Festival selects five finalists to compete for $17,500 purse

The five finalists of the Stratford Challenge have been chosen; groups will perform their scenes for a panel of expert judges at the Studio Theatre on May 5 for the chance to win the grand prize of $10,000.

The five finalists are:

  • St. Elizabeth Catholic High School, Thornhill – Titus Andronicus (Act II, Scene iii)
  • Unionville High School, Markham – Richard III (Act I, Scene ii)
  • The Country Day School, King – A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act II, Scene i)
  • Etobicoke School of the Arts – The Merry Wives of Windsor (Act III, Scene iii)
  • Bell High School, Nepean – Othello (Act V, Scene ii)

“This Challenge was issued to broaden students’ experience of Shakespeare and get them excited about his work in their own modern context,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “It’s part of the initiative we launched in 2009 to ensure that every student in Ontario has the opportunity at least once in his or her school career to see a production at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Young people are our future, and it is vital that we do everything we can to stimulate their imaginations and awaken them to the potentially life-changing power of creative thinking.”

“This program was the result of a great idea and a generous donation from one of our donors, Felice Sabatino,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “We are very grateful for his enthusiastic interest in coming to us with the concept for this competition and the generous seed money to get it off the ground. We want to be sure to reach out to students in new ways to ensure they have every opportunity to experience the work of the world’s greatest playwright.”

“The Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the most significant classical theatre company in North America, is leading the way in enriching arts education,” says Mr. Sabatino, who has produced other world-class challenges. “The Stratford Challenge is intended to further that enrichment, by inspiring and nurturing the theatre artists of tomorrow and reaching out to the next generation of theatergoers.  It’s my hope that the $10,000 prize – the largest prize being offered to performing arts students – will be a great incentive and will take kids beyond watching theatre to actually creating it. And I hope that in the future, we will be able to reach out even further by offering challenges in musical theatre, new work and soliloquies and I would love to see the project expand nationally and internationally.”

The Stratford Challenge was launched in October 2010 and asked Ontario high school students to produce a 10-minute scene from Shakespeare, record it on DVD and send it to the Festival.

In its inaugural year the Challenge received close to 100 entries from high schools all across the province. A panel of 11 current and former Festival artists watched all submissions; each selected his or her top three, and from those selections the panel collectively chose the top five.

Finalists will perform their scenes at the Festival’s Studio Theatre before an invited audience. The performances will be adjudicated by Artistic Director Des McAnuff, General Director Antoni Cimolino and Toronto Star theatre critic Richard Ouzounian.

The first-place team will receive $10,000, to be shared by the school and the students involved in the scene. Second place will receive $2,500, and third place $1,500. Fourth and fifth-placing groups will receive $1,000 each.

Shakespeare Writing Competition winner

In addition to the Stratford Challenge, the Festival also issued the Shakespeare Writing Competition, which asked students to write 500 words on the topic “Why Shakespeare?” for the chance to win $1,500.

“The writing competition is a way of reaching out to students interested in other aspects of the creative disciplines and encouraging intellectual and spiritual reflection,” says Mr. Sabatino.  “It’s my hope that directors, writers, and others will gain a fuller perspective and appreciation for the arts through the various aspects of this competition.”

The winner of the Shakespeare Writing Competition is Calvin Akler, a student at Dunbarton High School in Pickering.

“Calvin managed to grasp the essence of what Shakespeare tries to do, as well as providing a very decent duplication of the Bard’s writing style,” says Mr. Ouzounian, who made the final selection from the top three entries. “But best of all, he appreciates how relevant Shakespeare’s work remains in this ever-changing world.”


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