The annual Shakespeare Competition in Cedar City is all about learning, improving and performing.
High school students from several different divisions and schools come to enhance their skills and showcase their talents and abilities at this event, which was held on the first weekend of October and is sponsored by the Utah Shakespeare Festival and Southern Utah University.
At the end of the competition, the winners of each division are announced in the following categories: art, music, dance, ensemble scenes, monologues, scenes and Tech Olympics.
Yet students at Shakespeare Competition are given plenty of opportunities to do more than just act; they're also allotted time to go watch amazing productions in the Adams Theatre or the Randall L. Jones Theatre. Most popular among these productions this year were "Peter and the Starcatcher" by Rick Elice (a sort of prequel to "Peter Pan"), and one of Shakespeare's plays, "Richard II."
Perhaps it was the hilarious character choices or the truthful and powerful acting in each play that made students repeatedly say -- no matter which production they saw -- "That was the best play I've ever seen! It was absolutely phenomenal!"
Not only were students able to watch professional plays, but they were also able to watch other teens perform their scenes and monologues. All the monologues and partnership scenes had three rounds of judging, which wouldn't be so hard if everybody got judges that liked them and audiences that reacted well.
But when it came down to competition day, all the excitement that filled the air seemed to turn to nervousness. Everybody had been preparing for the competition for months and it was finally knocking at the door.
"It was really hard to perform a comedic scene in front of the audiences that didn't ever laugh," says Jacob Jackson, a junior at Northridge High, who performed a comedic partner scene with classmate Gideon Benge.
Jackson and Benge, a junior, said they did have some good audiences though, and like plenty of other students, enjoyed being able to incorporate what they learned from watching others' scenes into their own acting abilities.
Bonding is another huge part of Shakespeare Competition. At least, it's a huge thing to Northridge High's Repertory Theatre, of which I am a part. These students were constantly increasing their friendship through late-night "talks'," relentless rehearsals of their ensemble scene, thrift shopping, many shared jokes, and the hilarities of taking on hot sauce challenges.
"I got to know people a lot more than I originally thought I had," says McKenna Parsons, a junior at Northridge High.
And not just the people in their own group. The students decided to wholeheartedly support their stage crew during the Tech Olympics. They definitely were able to form a better relationship with the kids behind the scenes by cheering them on as they completed light matching, prop cleanup, set building and rigging tasks in their Olympics.
"My favorite thing about the Tech Olympics was being able to try things I've never done before and get feedback from professionals. It was a great experience," says Danielle Allen, a junior and a member of Northridge's stage crew.
What a truly amazing experience Shakespeare Competition really is. Everybody feels so welcome and involved. There didn't seem to be a single person who regretted their decision to go to the Cedar City event.
In the end, it really wasn't about who won in the competitions or even how well the performances went. Jana Coates, Northridge High's Repertory Theatre teacher, put it in simple words: "The most important thing about Shakespeare is the interactions with each other."
Kathryn Talbot is a junior at Northridge High School. She loves to draw, design things and play Ultimate, a flying disc sport. Email her at email@example.com.