MSA student tames competition to claim state Shakespeare honor

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 20, 2006

An 18-year-old Mississippi School of the Arts senior is takingthe words of an immortal English poet on the road to New York Cityafter winning a statewide drama contest.

Robbie Gowdy, of Ridgeland, used voice, movement andinterpretation in a monologue and sonnet to outscore eight othercontestants in the English-Speaking Union’s second stateShakespeare Competition Saturday at St. Joseph’s Catholic School inMadison.

“I’m thrilled,” Gowdy said. “I’ve never been to New Yorkbefore.”

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With his win, the senior has received an all-expense trip to NewYork April 22-25 for the national tournament and a free actingclass.

He won’t be traveling alone, though. A proud Ken Bolinsky,director of the MSA’s drama department, wants to see Gowdy performagainst the nearly 60 contestants nationwide at the historicLincoln Center.

“I’ve made my reservations already,” Bolinsky said. “I don’twant to miss this.”

The national winner will receive three weeks training with theBritish Academy of Dramatic Arts in London to learn more abouttheater and Shakespeare.

Gowdy attributed his success at the state tournament topreparation.

“I was confident in my preparation and my work,” he said. “Iknew what I was going to do, but acting is very subjective and youcan have an off-day or the judges can have an off-day.”

Students at Clinton High School and Jackson Academy placedsecond and third, respectively.

The New York competition will be taking his acting to a newlevel and offer even stronger challenges, he said.

“I’m confident in my abilities. I’m not sure about winning,”Gowdy said.

Gowdy performed Petruchio from Act 4, Scene 1 of “The Taming ofthe Shrew” and Sonnet No. 16 at both the school and statetournaments. He plans to perform the same routine at the nationalcompetition.

Gowdy said MSA provided both the interest and the training forhim to compete at the events.

“It made all the difference in the world,” he said. “Withouteverything I’ve learned here and the support of the school, none ofthis would have been possible.”

Bolinsky said Gowdy worked hard all year in preparation for thecompetitions and deserved the winning accolades.

“Robbie did a good job,” he said. “He did what he has beentrained to do, and he did it well.”

The drama director said he was “equally proud” of the MSAstudent body, who went to St. Joseph’s in large numbers to supporttheir fellow student.

“I’d say there were close to 30 MSA students there. That’s abouta quarter of the student body,” Bolinsky said.

The event occurred on a “go home” weekend, where students arereleased to return to their hometowns and families, Bolinsky said.Instead, many of the students in the Ridgeland-Jackson area openedtheir homes to students outside of the St. Joseph’s area so theycould also attend the tournament.

“We may not have parades and pep rallies, but this is how weshow our school spirit,” Bolinsky said.