San Domenico School in San Anselmo

San Domenico School senior brings home national Shakespeare honor By: Adrian Rodriguez (arodriguez@marinij.com)
POSTED: Tuesday, May 9, 2017 – 6:28 p.m. UPDATED: TODAY
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Ogechi Egonu, a senior at San Domenico School in San Anselmo, is presented with the award for winning the national Shakespeare competition at Lincoln Center in New York City. (Courtesy of San Domenico School) A graduating senior of the private San Domenico School in San Anselmo captured top honors at this year’s English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition in New York City.
Performing a monologue from “Othello” and “Sonnet 18,” Ogechi Egonu, a 17-year-old boarding school student born and raised in Santa Clara, won the 34th annual competition that took place May 1 on the Mitzi Newhouse Theater stage at the Lincoln Center.
“Right now, I’m definitely on cloud-nine,” Egonu said Tuesday. “I’m still in shock.”
As part of her award, Egonu earned a full scholarship to the American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp in Staunton, Virginia this summer.
Founded in 1920, the English-Speaking Union is a nonprofit organization that promotes English as a shared language to foster peace, global understanding and good will by providing educational and cultural opportunities for students and educators.
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She was among 54 students who competed at the national event. Each earned a place there by winning regional branch competitions. Egonu had won the San Francisco competition.
More than 20,000 students nationwide competed at the local and regional levels.
Ogechi Egonu and her twin sister Ugochi are first generation Americans with parents who were refugees from Nigeria. They have been active in the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice causes. Ogechi Egonu started the Black Student Association at San Domenico and is president of the school’s Multicultural Club.
Egonu said she didn’t discover her love for Shakespeare until she was a sophomore in high school.
That year, her previous misconceptions that Shakespeare was “so boring, or so old school,” were thwarted when she took Jennifer Grimes’ drama class.
“I realized that Shakespeare could be applied even now,” Egonu said. “Jen is just so excited about it, so passionate about it, you can’t help but be excited and passionate,” too.
Egonu learned the difference between reading Shakespeare and performing his work. She began to identify with the characters, especially Othello, who she describes as a man who “succumbs to the pressure” of being a “black face in a white place.”
For the competition, she performed the monologue that describes the moments right before Othello kills Desdemona.
“It’s not me trying to act, but letting that character take over,” she said.
That’s what set her apart from the other competitors, Grimes said.
“It’s because she knows him (Othello) so well … she knows these people so well that’s how she could become them,” Grimes said with admiration. “It’s lots of work that brings her to do that.”
After the summer camp, Egonu is headed to Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She doesn’t yet know what she will study, but is happy to find out.
“It’s full of inquiry and full of wanting to be a better person in the world,” she said of the liberal arts college. “And I’m really excited to be part of that.”

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