Besting the Bard

DM thespian earns first in state Shakespearean competition


Morgan Karam

Bringin’ the Bard: Sophomore Trystan Davenport shows off her first place ribbon in Arizona’s annual English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition. Her performance catapulted her into the top 50 in the nation; the national competition, normally held in New York, was held online in early May.

Christopher Lessler, Staff writer

Why should I love this gentleman? ’Tis odds

He never will affect me. I am base…

Sophomore Trystan Davenport’s depiction of the jailer’s daughter from Act II, Scene 4 of Shakespeare’s Two Noble Kinsmen proved anything but common–earning first in the state in Arizona’s annual English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition. 

“I didn’t know Shakespeare was my thing,” said Davenport, who is in Ms. Mumaw’s Theater II class; she only competed in the competition because she already memorized her monologue. “It wasn’t something I did in the past, but I always was interested in it.” 

Davenport has spent much of her life working to become a theater professional. And her dreams recently became much closer to reality–because her first-place finish earned her a seat at the table at the national competition.


2020 ESU National Shakespeare Competition

The sophomore’s success came as no surprise to Ms. Mumaw, the head of DM’s theater program. Ms. Mumaw holds a Shakespeare unit in some of her theater classes and encourages her students to participate in the ESU Shakespeare Competition, along with some other contests.

“We are a competitive program,” said Ms. Mumaw. “I really want kids to participate in those [competitions] as a way to grow.”

This competition, of course, features the work of William Shakespeare, who is renowned as one of the best playwrights of all time. “I mean, he changed our language; he quite literally creates most of modern English,” said Mr. Peterson, who teaches senior literature and dual enrollment college English at DM and serves as one of the judges for the school-wide competition–which was the qualifying round for the regionals.

In fact, Shakespeare was able to write timeless plays that concern immutable elements of human existence. “Human beings are social creatures; they are meant to share ideas,” Peterson said, “and these ideas from 400 years ago are still relevant today. I mean, that’s why Shakespeare doesn’t go away.”

Mr. Peterson, who is a school-level judge, said that he looks for certain features of a performance. “I want to see a hint of the character,” he said, and “I want to see them use that stage.” However, judges sometimes have differing opinions on certain performances.

“I have been on a panel with two other judges,” Peterson said, “and some people love one person’s performance, and I thought another one was good, and that’s when we agree to disagree.”

Lauren Reilly, the President of DM’s Drama Club, agrees. “One judge might really like the way you did something, but another judge might have thought of it in a different way,” she said, adding that “You always have to know that you are not going to please everyone.”

Davenport, despite her lack of experience, finished high on all the judges’ cards, catapulting her to the regionals, where she finished top in the state and on her way to the national competition, typically held live in New York.

This year was an exception, though; because of the current pandemic. ESU was forced to change their live nationals into a video submission-based competition. 

“It was definitely weird because it was in front of a camera, rather than an audience; it’s a whole different experience,” Davenport said. Because of the new format, she was also able to redo her performance several times before submitting the performance of her choice.

“Sometimes that’s a good thing,” Davenport said, “but also you kind of get in your head more, and you’re really picky.”

Though she did not place in the top 10 nationally, Davenport hopes her attention to detail pays dividends in the future. Because, just like Shakespeare’s jailer’s daughter, she has bigger ambitions.

“Acting is my biggest passion,” Davenport says. “My biggest dreams are to be on Broadway.”