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18th annual Shakespeare contest for kids accepting apps online now

December08/ 2011

When it comes to Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Shakespeare monologue and scene contest, says PPT Education Director Rob Zellers, “My biggest thrill is to see someone try this out for the first time, and when we see them the next year they’ve set the bar so much higher for themselves.”

The 18th annual contest is now accepting applications from both individuals and groups through Jan. 20 online. What began with 75 students has now grown to more than 1,000 kids, and even offers pre-contest coaching. This year they’ll be seen — and heard — over six days at the beginning of February 2012, followed by a Feb. 13 showcase in front of an audience, featuring the 25 best performers. They’ll be acting the Bard’s lines amid scenery for the PPT’s production of “As You Like It.”

Zellers says the contest draws both school-supported groups and individuals as well kids who just want to try their hands at being thespians, if only for a few moments. “Let’s face it, as a young person you don’t get a lot of chance to do this sort of thing,” he says. And every year, there is someone who isn’t necessarily a drama student who surprises the judges.

Those judges, he adds, “have struggled in that same position” as fledgling interpreters of Willie’s words. Through the years, some of the winners have joined PPT productions, either as children or as pros later in life.

“That’s when you really feel like you’re doing something right,” Zellers says. Still, he is quick to add, “more importantly is all these kids who get to do Shakespeare as a serious, rigorous pursuit.”

Writer: Marty Levine

Source: Rob Zellers, Pittsburgh Public Theater