Foresight Leadership Foundation presents Magnum Opus International Speech and Drama Competition

Foresight Leadership Foundation presents Magnum Opus International Speech and Drama Competition

Winners Showcase Festival in Review
Magnum Opus International Speech and Drama Competition Winners Showcase Festival
Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
November 11, 2016

The Magnum Opus Festival presented an appealing array of young actors at the Winners Showcase of their Shakespeare Extravaganza Competition. The actors showcased their talents in Shakespearean monologues and more modern works–plus acting or lecturing/public-speaking their own topics and creative material.

The evening opened with 17-year-old Hansen Ze Liang Zeng performing Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 and an excerpt from Act II, Scene 2 of Romeo and Juliet. His native accent was detectable, with some diction issues and rushing at the ends of words and phrases, but he maintained good projection throughout. 8-year-old David Zhang performed Mary O’Neill’s Wind Pictures. He projected clearly to those in the audience and had an excellent sense of movement, with variety–although his planned fall to the floor was unnecessary. Jasper Liu recited with a good sense of timing and pauses, plus a variety of pitch and good body language; only at the end did he swallow his words. Kevin Yiyang Li acted convincingly with good physical movement but had some diction issues, mumbling a couple of words here and there. He had the authentic British accent, but there were some pronunciation issues. Nina Eastveld, age 8, performed Robert Munsch’s Boo with good theatrics, but spoke too quickly and with too monotonous a tone–although all her “boo’s” were appropriately spaced and alarming. It was a well-chosen monologue for her age, and she should do it again next Halloween.

Angela Jiang, at age 12, wrote her own original and inspired material, called War, a Survival Game. She had good projection, interesting staging, solid projection, and varying, musical dynamics and voices in her speech. She was born in China, but her English diction was excellent. Crystal Lin recited T.S Elliot’s The Waste Land. Her voice had the appropriate wisdom when she said the words “I remember”. Her tone changes and diction were excellent. She had a good sense of timing and used the stage well, maintaining good eye-contact with the audience. Samuel Gan, in The Taming of the Shrew, had a detectable Chinese accent but pretty good diction nonetheless. There was a welcome variety in his speech patterns but his acting came across as a bit insincere or too externalized. Maria Lin, age 16, performed E.J. Pratt’s Silences, and although there weren’t enough silences between her words, and some proses sounded coached or unnatural, her diction was very good.

Philip Xia presented his own excellent, original work, a speech entitled A Different Approach to North Korea. It was a persuasive point of view. Although he paused nicely between arguments, he tended to rush and have some trouble with his pronunciation. Aaron Sun’s engaging portrayal of A Midsummer Night’s Dream included excellent use of the hands and a variety of physical movement. He rushed but he had a good, lusty laugh. Emily Liu, age 8 and from Vancouver, recited Kenneth Oppel’s Silverwing with a good sense of timing. Her hands were still the whole time, so she needed more physical movement, and she had a slight memory slip. Then Jean-Marc Bedaux acted a selection from Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor with good character-acting, good tempo and pronunciation and an authentic British accent. Occasionally, there was too much random movement, but he exhibited excellent, meaningful facial expressions. 13-year-old Victor Tong’s original work entitled Children at War was a convincing speech/lecture that presented different sides of the equation. He spoke with an excellent diction and sound-level, with good tempo-variety. He did have a few stumbles; when he was emphatic about a point, he would suddenly lose his train of thought. But overall, I found him to be very sincere and passionate.

A Much Ado About Nothing excerpt was read with too much American accent by 17-year-old Michael Lau. There was not enough variety– with often too much shouting–but he did speak with a good, clear diction throughout. Phoebe Pang, age 14, presented with space and clarity. Although the pronunciation was a bit off–with a Chinese accent interfering–and although she swallowed the ends of phrases, there was some well-timed pausing between the strands and a good spiritual uplift in the last verse of Campbell’s How One Winter Came in the Lake Region. Andrew Chen Kai Huang, age 16, rushed his opening, and his overall diction was somewhat unclear, but he took his time with later proses and varied his tempo at the end. In another selection from Midsummer Night, 13-year-old William Liang projected well and presented–with variety–a natural emotion for the piece. He also used the stage and his chair-prop well. Only on occasion was his delivery a little fast and garbled. John Donne’s A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning, was recited with honest, sincere acting by Daniel Yan. It didn’t always have enough variety and he had an accent, but the diction was clear.

Mary Agnes’ Death Comes to Us All was always in character, and delivered by the utmost sincerity and reflection by Cindy Xin Yi Xu. The acting was genuine and heartfelt throughout. The timing was wonderful and it was well-paced, with a crescendo to the climax. Cindy is a talent to watch; she is graced with pure talent and she gave the most memorable performance of the evening. Darren Sayson’s performance ended the evening with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 55 and a solid rendering of the famous monologue from Hamlet. It wasn’t always clearly enunciated, and I missed the authenticity of the British accent. His line “To be or not to be” felt contrived–although after Cindy’s presentation, anyone would have paled by comparison. I kept thinking about the life that Cindy breathed into Death Comes to Us All.