Photo by Katelynn Ivy
The English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition is a nation-wide contest in which high schoolers memorize and perform a Shakespeare monologue and sonnet of their choice. Schools from across the country, including Round Rock, send representatives to community branch competitions to compete for a spot in the national competition with an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City. This year, directors sent senior Production IV student and thespian executive Hayden Mays to the branch competition to go head to head with five of the best high school actors from across Central Texas.
While most competitors pick their own monologue and sonnet, Hayden preferred to have his director Charles Hobby choose them for him.
“I think it’s easier to do it that way because when I go in blind it allows me to get a fresh view,” Hayden said. “Hobby also understands what I can do well since we’ve been working with each other for so long, which allows me to play to my strengths.”
As a Thespian executive and frequent cast member in theatre productions, most recently “Tarzan,” Hayden has spent the last four years proving himself to the directors and solidifying him as their choice for the branch competition.
“Before the performance I was terrified as normal, frantically running through my lines and all that,” Hayden said. “I barely even remember anything from a performance because I just blank out and do my thing. I do remember some lady in the front row smiling so I made sure to direct all my most powerful moments at her.”
Hayden’s performances of Caliban from “The Tempest,” Act 2 Scene 2 and Sonnet 17 were enough to prove to the judges that he was worthy of the national slot. This is no small feat. Just 66 students from across the nation will be attending the finals later this spring, putting Hayden in an elite class of young actors and actresses.
“Afterward, I was a little angry with myself because I had mispronounced a word,” Hayden said. “When they announced I got first I jumped up and threw my hands in the air. Then it was saying thank you to everyone who was congratulating me and doing a happy dance outside while I called my parents.”
For the last few years, the finals for the 37th Annual ESU National Shakespeare Competition have been scheduled to take place on the same weekend as prom.
“It turns out that this year the finals are going to be the day after prom, so I’ll be able to go,” Hayden Mays, “Still not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.”