All the WAHS’s a Stage

Western Students Perform in Shakespeare Competition


Credit: Gray Tracey

Gray Tracey, Staff Writer

On January 9th, a small circle of passionate students gathered after school to show off their theatrical prowess in WAHS’ annual Shakespeare Competition, each student choosing a monologue from one of the Bard’s plays to perform. 

Caitlin Pitts, the WAHS Drama teacher, organized the competition. She described it as “a way to expose students to Shakespeare and cultivate enthusiasm for his plays.” While she isn’t thrilled by the small participation – only five students attended – Pitts said “all the students were amazing.” She commented on the dedication it takes to participate. “It’s hard to fit in,” she explained, “they have to prepare their monologue on their own time.” 

The contest was judged by Charlottesville resident and career actor Doug Schneider and Miller School drama teacher Chris Celella, who evaluated contestants on several criteria. The first was their understanding of the monologue itself. According to Pitts, “That can be hard sometimes, because the language is four hundred years old.” As if that were not challenging enough, participants were also judged on how well they expressed, first the monologue and second the character behind it.

This year’s winner was WAHS sophomore Jackson Davis. Although he joined the competition on a whim after hearing Pitts encouraging more students to sign up, he says “it resulted in a lot of great stuff.” 

Davis, a first-timer to this event, has long had a passion for theater in general and the Bard’s work in particular. “I’ve always enjoyed doing Shakespeare monologues,” Jackson said, “and this was a great opportunity to practice that art.” 

This year, he performed a monologue from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act I, Scene 4. He supplemented his act with a favorite Shakespearean sonnet of his: Sonnet 71, sometimes known by its opening line “No longer mourn for me when I am dead.” Davis admires the message of his chosen sonnet. “It’s this guy saying, ‘hey, you don’t need to cry for me when I’m dead.’ It’s really chill, and I love that,” he said.

Western’s competition was just the entry-level of a nationwide Shakespeare tournament. Davis, as the school’s winning Shakespearean, will be moving to the regionals, held in Staunton’s Blackfriars Playhouse. Pitts said that she and the other student competitors will be there to cheer Davis on. They also intend to take in the unique theatrical atmosphere – the American Shakespeare society designed Blackfriars to evoke the theaters of the Bard’s London. “It’s such a cool theater,” she said. “The neat thing about this competition is that students get to act on that stage.” 

Pitts and Davis both echoed the same excitement and pride in every WAHS thespian who took a stab at the competition. “All the wonderful people there [at the Western competition] were very talented,” Davis said. Pitts agreed, saying, “It takes a special kind of kid to do that.”