RBC Senior Takes On Shakespeare At National Competition

May 22, 2018
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Devlin Stark, a Red Bank Catholic senior, was a semifinalist in the English Speaking Union’s National Shakespeare Competition last month.

By Elizabeth Wulfhorst |

RED BANK – Most people have a difficult time reading Shakespeare’s writings, let alone speaking them in front of their peers while being judged. But Red Bank Catholic senior Devlin Stark isn’t most people.

Devlin proved so comfortable with the Bard’s works, she became a semifinalist in the English-Speaking Union’s 35th annual National Shakespeare Competition, which earned her a trip to Lincoln Center in New York City at the end of April. There Devlin competed on stage against 54 other high school students from around the U.S., reciting Sonnet No. 50 and delivering Anne’s monologue from Richard III.

“Anne was a really intense character,” said Devlin about why she chose that particular monologue. “There’s a lot to work with in the piece.”

The two-day event included a day of workshops at New York University, said Devlin, and ice breakers with the other students. The competition started early on a Monday morning, with every student performing a monologue and sonnet. While no one else recited Sonnet 50, “about a dozen people” did Anne’s monologue, said Devlin with a laugh, and she did not make the top ten.

Devlin said she was happy with her performance, especially since this was the first and only time she participated in the competition which is open to all high school students. She advanced to nationals by finishing first in the Monmouth County competition held at Brookdale Community College in March.

Devlin is no stranger to Shakespeare or the stage. Freshman year at RBC she played Fiona in the school’s production of “Shrek the Musical” and has performed in “The Odd Couple” and “Cinderella,” in addition to an original work by the playwright Christopher Durang.

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Last summer Devlin attended a four-week course in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. She stayed for a fifth week during which a select group of students put together an abbreviated Shakespearean production in just one week. During this course she discovered Sonnet 50 and got to work on her interpretation with the RADA instructors. The course gave her “a ton of exposure” to Shakespeare’s works, she said.

“Shakespeare gives you all the tools of what the character is trying to say,” said Devlin. “The hardest thing is finding the details about the character that makes them want to say those lines.”

For her college auditions, Devlin performed Helena’s monologue from “All’s Well That Ends Well” and Portia’s from “The Merchant of Venice,” neither of which were in the packet of approved monologues for this year’s English-Speaking Union competition.

“I want to perform in any way,” Devlin said, about her career aspirations. “Acting for film or stage.” She will be studying acting at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, a conservatory in Winston-Salem, in the fall.

This article was first published in the May 10-17, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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