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Lampton hosting Shakespeare contest

The monologues and sonnets of William Shakespeare will ringaloud in Lampton Auditorium this weekend when five state studentscompete in the First Annual Jackson Branch Finals of the NationalShakespeare Competition.

The state finals will be held on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. atthe historic downtown auditorium. The event is sponsored by theEnglish-Speaking Union, an organization dedicated to promotingscholarship and the advancement of knowledge through the effectiveuse of the English language.

Kelsey Britt from Brookhaven High School and Amber Rhodes of theMississippi School of the Arts are among competitors. Two others inthe contest are from Jackson and one is from Clinton.

This is the first time the competition has made its way toMississippi even though it started in 1983. More than 2,000American high school students participate every year, and more than50 local winners vie for the top spot in the annual finals in NewYork City.

MSA officials are excited that the event will be held on theircampus and that two area students will be competing.

“It’s fun to bring something new to the state, and this is anothergood thing to say about our town,” said Ken Bolinsky, dramainstructor at MSA.

Britt and Rhodes were selected from among numerous other studentson their own respective campuses to compete. Through the program,they study, memorize and interpret monologues and sonnets.

During Saturday’s contest, competitors will present a monologueduring the first round. The semi-finalists will be asked to performa sonnet in the second round and, then, the finalists will be givena cold reading.

“That (cold reading) is the one that separates the men from theboys,” said Bolinsky. “They have about five minutes to prepare, geton the stage and let loose.”

From the Branch Finals, one competitor will go on to representMississippi at the National Shakespeare Competition in New YorkCity over the weekend of April 30. The first-place contestant atthe National event will receive a three-week study trip toEngland.

The annual Shakespeare Competition is a curriculum-based programdesigned to help students develop their understanding ofShakespeare and to help them communicate that understanding.Bolinsky said it was fitting to bring this type of competition tothe area.

“Since Shakespeare is being taught in the schools, this seemed likea logical thing to include,” said Bolinsky.

There is no cost involved for schools or participants, other thantransportation to the Branch Finals. Branch Finals will beadjudicated by a panel of university theatre professors and othertheatre and arts professionals from within the state. Their nameswill be announced on the day of the competition.

“It’s just a win-win situation for the students,” Bolinskysaid.

He believes as more schools hear about the competition, they willbe eager to take part in it in the future.

“I think many people are taking a wait-and-see attitude, butthey’re going to jump on board next year,” Bolinsky said.