In April, Shaker High School senior Samantha Vatalaro traveled to NYC as one of the top 55 national finalists in the English Speaking Union’s English in Action event. The students experienced two days of educational and cultural activities, including an exclusive acting workshop by the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University faculty, and a tour of The Juilliard School. As a culmination of a year-long competition, Vatalaro performed her monologue and soliloquy at the Mitzi Newhouse Theater in Lincoln Center and was selected as one of the top ten finalists. Vatalaro qualified for the National Shakespeare Competition finals after winning the regional ESU Albany Branch Shakespeare Competition on February 4 of this year.
After her first winning performance at the Lincoln Center, Vatalaro was given a brand new monologue for which she had 15 minutes to decipher, understand, and perform (memorization was not required). She performed her prepared monologue and soliloquy again, as well as the new monologue, finishing in the top ten of more than 22,000 students who began the competition!
“Shakespeare, to me, is the ultimate storyteller,” said Vatalaro. “His stories are so good–so relatable–that they’ve lasted hundreds of years and they’re still making them into movies and books and songs.”
Vatalaro is an English student of Maureen Livingston and has performed in the Shaker Theater Program directed by Liana Martino.
During the competition, students are judged on their understanding of their selected texts and on their ability to communicate their interpretation to the audience. Through this school-based program, students in grades 9-12 develop critical thinking and speaking skills and increase their self-confidence through the performance of Shakespeare’s work. The competition brings together renowned actors and members of the theater community to judge the students’ performances.
“Samantha commits so completely to everything,” said Deputy Kathleen Skeals. “Yes, she has talent and yes, she passion, but she also has an incredible work ethic. During the weeks leading up to the National Shakespeare Competition, she took it upon herself to read as many of Shakespeare’s plays as possible so she could be better prepared to perform the impromptu monologue in NYC. Samantha is truly a student for others to model themselves after.”
Vatalaro will perform a monologue during the June 25 Board of Education meeting.