A young San Marinan will be heading to New York City to compete in a national Shakespeare competition.
Grace Wallis, a senior at Westridge School, 18, received an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City from May 2-3 to compete in the English-Speaking Union’s National Shakespeare Competition at Lincoln Center. There, 60 young theater students from across the country will perform monologues and sonnets on stage. Grace also will be able to partake in exclusive acting workshops, attend a Broadway show and do plenty of sightseeing.
The winner of the national competition will receive an all expenses-paid-trip to study theater at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London during the summer.
Grace placed first in the Los Angeles finals of the ESU High School Shakespeare Competition on Feb. 20.
“They have an annual Shakespeare competition for kids in high school,” she said.
Grace won with her prepared performance of Margaret from “Henry VI Pt. III” and “Sonnet 91” in addition to her cold reading of “As You Like It.”
“Grace is a talented performer and an impressive person,” Westridge Head of School Elizabeth McGregor said. “She discovered her passion for theatre quite recently and it was a pleasure to watch her flourish and grow and find real joy in it. She is a wonderful example of a Westridge girl. She is generous person, intellectually adventurous, and a real leader on our campus. This year, in addition to participating in theatre throughout the year, Grace is the student body president, and played on the tennis team. We couldn’t be more proud of this recognition of Grace; it is well earned.”
Grace said her Westridge Director of Theatre Laurie Riffe told her about the Los Angeles ESU High School Shakespeare Competition in December.
“She asked me if I would be interested in memorizing a monologue and a sonnet and competing in the LA Branch Competition,” she said.
Riffe and Grace rehearsed together for four to six hours per week to prepare.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to see Grace’s hard work recognized in this way, and it has been very exciting to watch her bringing Shakespeare to life,” Riffe said. “I could not be more proud of her work as a young actor, and we are thrilled to attend the National Finals at Lincoln Center in May.”
Though Grace appreciated Shakespeare and enjoyed reading his pieces in classes, she really came to understand the famous playwright much better when she was a reader for the auditions for the Westridge’s fall production of “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
“It was a completely different experience from just reading it and annotating a copy in my English classroom,” Grace said.
She said she then became a real fan of Shakespeare when rehearsing for the competition and is considering studying him in college.
Grace started participating in theater at Westridge last spring and fell in love with it. She acted in school productions of “Into the Woods,” “The Liar” and “A Little Princess.” She played male roles in all three shows, as she does attend an all-girls school.
“It’s given me another kind of confidence,” she said, regarding playing male roles.
She said she really loves the theater program at Westridge.
“There’s something really unique about Westridge Theatre that I haven’t found at shows that I’ve seen at other schools,” Grace said. “It’s a different kind of community that is going to be hard to leave.”
She also will be producing and acting in her own production of “The Vagina Monologues” at Westridge later this year.
Grace also enjoys tennis, student government, activism and National Charity League. She is the president of her school’s Associated Student Body.