Dongre and Finacchio Compete In Shakespeare Competition

This past Sunday, Kaj Dongre ’22 and Zack Finacchio ’21 competed at the Princeton Branch Shakespeare Competition. They became the first competitors from the same school to place in the top two, with Finacchio placing first and Dongre placing second.

This past Sunday, Kaj Dongre ’22 and Zack Finacchio ’21 competed at the Princeton Branch Shakespeare Competition. They became the first competitors from the same school to place in the top two, with Finacchio placing first and Dongre placing second.

Earlier this year, the two of them competed in Lawrenceville’s own Shakespeare competition held in cooperation with the English Speaking Union (ESU). In this round, they were judged on their performance by Matthew Campbell, Katherine O’Malley H’07, and Miranda Christofferson P’14 ‘18. Within the Lawrenceville competition, Dongre placed first while Finacchio placed second. They both successfully moved onto the next round at the Princeton Branch Competition. In both rounds, each participant performed both a sonnet and a monologue.

Dongre decided to perform “Sonnet 90”, which follows the rejection and subsequent breakdown of a couple’s relationship. She described this sonnet as “dark and sentimental.” Looking for a contrast between her two performances, for her monologue, she chose a scene from As You Like It, a Shakespeare comedy, through the lens of a character named Phoebe. “I chose that one because I wanted to take on a light-hearted character [who] I could show a different side of,” Dongre said.

On the other hand, Finacchio chose “Sonnet 95”, which tells the story of “being flooded with love for somebody and watching how out of control you let yourself get.” He followed that with a performance of a monologue from King Lear from the perspective of Edgar, who is running away from his family thinking that his father is out to kill him.

Outside of this competition, most of Dongre’s experiences with Shakespeare revolved around dark tragedies, such as her performance as Titus in Titus Andronicus in Freshman Shakespeare. Thus, she enjoyed performing a comedic monologue. She found this monologue especially relatable, and therefore entertaining, to research and deliver. “I was just going for a piece that a lot of people could relate to…I thought that was just a really fun way to play that kind of girl...and it was a really fun energy to channel,” she said.

One of the struggles Finacchio faced involved finding time to practice his performance. He had only been notified that he would be participating in the Princeton Branch Competition the Thursday before the competition. “I needed to go back and review the sonnet a bit because I don’t think I really had the chance to fully absorb it the first time…that was definitely a challenge,” he said. That being said, Finacchio particularly enjoyed working with his director: “It was a really nice chance to bond with...him and really work with him one-on-one,” he said.

Although preparing was a difficult process, Finacchio mentioned, “Memorization is never a blast, but it’s fun to wrestle with the language. It’s not easy content because it’s in practically a different language, but there’s always something interesting to find in [the words]…There are seven elements of theatre, including plot, spectacle, character, diction, theme, and audience. Shakespeare is considered to be one of the only playwrights who uses all seven of them as principle elements.”

Similarly, Dongre said, “I think Shakespeare is so beautiful…I think it’s really fun because when you get used to [his language], you are able to understand it as you’re reading it, rather than having to go back a million times. It lets you pick up on his wordplay and jokes.”

Looking forward, both Dongre and Finacchio hope to attend similar events. Dongre’s main goal for next year’s competition is to make it to nationals, and Finacchio looks forward to competing at nationals, hoping to place in the top three. “Whatever pops up, I’ll be ready and able to enjoy it,” Finacchio said.

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