Monday, February 15, 2010

Prep football players tackle Shakespeare

The play's the thing: wherein football teammates may catch the consideration of the judges at Wingate University's annual Shakespeare Competition.

Rev Blanquicet and Allen Carpenter are on the high school football team at Central Academy of Technology and Arts in Monroe. School theater teacher Larry Robinson encouraged them to participate in the Wingate contest, which will be held Tuesday.

They are among 300 middle and high school students, mainly from Union and Mecklenburg County, who will recite a sonnet and part of a Shakespeare play. For them, all the world's a stage.

The high school division winner receives a free trip to New York to compete in the national contest sponsored by the English-Speaking Union of the United States.

This is Wingate's 26th year running the contest, said Joshua Fisher, competition organizer and associate professor of English. He's found many students embrace the chance to tackle Shakespeare before a crowd.

"Part of the (popularity) goes back to the 'American Idol' culture, about the thrill of performing and getting in front of your peers," Fisher said.

The contest serves as a big draw for some private schools, and Fisher hopes to find ways to attract even more students from public schools, which might not have as active participation in the arts.

Robinson said the competition presents a good challenge to his students. It provides experience for those who plan to go into a college drama program, where they would need to do auditions with prepared material.

Blanquicet and Carpenter enjoy acting as well as football, although headaches sometimes arise when they have to deal with scheduling conflicts.

"Me and Allen get ragged on a lot (by their teammates)," said Blanquicet, a 16-year-old junior from Waxhaw. "But a lot of times, they are very supportive and come to our shows."

He is reading Iago's role in a scene from "Othello," where Iago tries to undermine Othello and Desdemona. His sonnet, No. 23, mentions "an unperfect actor on stage." Blanquicet likes how the sonnet speaks to how all people have imperfections.

Some words Shakespeare uses are hard to understand, Blanquicet said. "Fortunately, there are dictionaries all over the classroom, so that helps."

Carpenter is reciting a scene involving the arrogant Nick Bottom in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

"I'd like to do more Shakespeare," said Carpenter, 16, a junior from Monroe. "Some of his plays are hilarious and I think they're great, like 'Midsummer' and 'Romeo and Juliet.' Well, that one's not really funny but it's still a good show."

-- Adam Bell