New York Daily News

Bard to the bone

Harlem teen 1st to win Shakespear­e contest


MUCH ado has come of one Harlem high-schooler’s “Much Ado About Nothing” monologue.

Xavier Pacheco, 16, is the first New Yorker to win the nation’s largest competitio­n for teen Bard fanatics — the English-Speaking Union National Shakespear­e Competitio­n.

Just two years ago, the young thespian thought William Shakespear­e was boring.

“I’d never read one of his plays,” Pacheco admitted. “But if you sit down and read one, you’ll probably fall asleep; it’s work that’s meant to be performed.”

During his freshman year at the Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts in Harlem, Pacheco was introduced to Shakespear­e by Epic Theater’s Shakespear­e Remix after-school program. Right away, the 14-year-old was cast as Benedict in “Much Ado About Nothing.”

“Xavier was so solid and confident,” said Melissa Friedman, director of Epic Remix. “He immediatel­y had such a strong command of the language and an ability to delve into the text.”

But it’s the high school sophomore’s work ethic that got him through the four months and five rounds of national competitio­n, eventually beating out 15,000 other eager teens for the top spot.

“I don’t stop at just getting it right,” said Pacheco. “I want it to be perfect and I’ll go through every double meaning, every pun, every metaphor until I understand it and then can make the audience understand it, too.”

It wasn’t until he beat out the 57 other New York public and private highschool­ers that the Queens native thought he had a shot of winning.

In April, Pacheco stepped up to the Lincoln Center stage and wowed judges, including a member of the Royal Shakespear­e Company, a Broadway actress and the co-founder of the American Shakespear­e Center. To beat the last 10 contenders, Pacheco performed his monologue from “Much Ado About Nothing,” Shakespear­e’s Sonnet 29 (“When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes...”), and another monologue.

“I wasn’t nervous because I knew my work well,” he said.

As his prize, Pacheco will attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. When he returns, everyone expects to see more of him.

“There’s no question he’s going to end up lighting many more stages,” said Friedman. “Xavier really stands apart.”

 ??  ?? Xavier Pacheco (left) will attend Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Photo courtesy of Melissa Friedman
Xavier Pacheco (left) will attend Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Photo courtesy of Melissa Friedman

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