A Monologue in a New York Minute: Trystan Novak Headed to National Shakespeare Competition

By: Hayden Alexander

Every year the National English Speaking Union hosts the Shakespeare competition where drama students from across the country, or thespians as they are known in the theatre world, compete at state-level/branch competitions in hopes of advancing to the national level. There these performers will present Shakespearean monologues and sonnets on the Lincoln Center stage in New York City. Out of 64 branches participating in this prestigious competition, only about 50 thespian students advance to the national level, and one of those students is Jenks Senior Trystan Novak.

Novak joined the Jenks drama program as a freshman without knowing what he was getting into.

“I didn’t exactly know what it meant to be a thespian yet so I just, you know, wanted the pin and the sticker and stuff, but then it came with a lot more than that,” says Novak.

As a junior, Novak first competed in the Shakespeare competition at the state-level where he received an honorable mention. Novak was disappointed that a comedic monologue and love sonnet he had his heart set on last year was not on the setlist, but as luck would have it was this year. Novak began practicing right away pouring his heart and soul into this one special performance.

“I worked with Mr. Hurst the theater director, and his predecessor Mrs.Harbolt, who is retired now, but she is a Shakespeare expert,” says Novak. “ I have been working on the comedic monologue for two years, and I have put a lot of thought into it.”

Equipped with his Shakespearean monologue paired with a romantic sonnet Novak quieted his nerves for the performance and brought the house down.

“It was a comedic monologue. Everybody laughed. Everybody loved it,” says Novak.

After his performance, Novak watched the rest of the Jenks students showcase their talents; including a duet performance of Midsummer’s Night Dream. After what felt like a lifetime, the competition ended and they called Novak and his competitors to the stage. After acknowledging the 20 competitors with certificates, ribbons, and announcing the honorable mentions the moment of truth finally came.

“They announced third place, second place. I was breathing really hard, my vision went blurry, and my heart was pounding. The adrenaline was going,” says Novak. “ the judge said drumroll please, and then Trystan Novak. 

The crowd (especially Jenks Students) went wild as Novak collected his certificate.

Trystan Novak receives his first-place certificate.

“I felt like I was floating on air. It’s like this is finally happening. I’ve never been to New York, and now I’m going to compete on the National level, and it was hard to believe at first,” says Novak.

Novak won performing a comedic monologue from Shakespeare’s comedic play  “All’s Well That End Well”, and Shakespeare’s love sonnet 116. The basis of the monologue is that Parolles(a coward, and lackey of Bertrum, Count of Roussillon) is trying to convince Helena, the female, protagonist’ that she doesn’t need her virginity. The sonnet takes a more romantic outlook on marriage and true love standing strong even in the face of death. Novak will perform this again in New York in late April.

Novak is looking forward to conquering the Big Apple. With the competition only a few months away, Novak continues to prepare and taking into account all the critiques that have been given thus far. When he is not preparing Novak is busy dreaming about the wonders of New York City.

A view of the inside of the Lincoln Center Stage where Novak will be performing.

“I’m going to New York, and  I will be competing on Lincoln Center stage which is huge, and crazy,” says Novak “My dream in the future is to go to New York to perform on Broadway; plays and musicals.”

Novak knows this is the opportunity of a lifetime. Not everyone gets to see their dreams become reality  He has a bit of wisdom for his fellow thespians.

“Do what you’re passionate about. Do what you love. There is not a lot of time in high school or college. It is such a small part compared to the rest of your life, so focus on your passion now because it is really going to make an impact in the future”

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