Codman Academy student Oliver Hernandez from Savin Hill recites Shakespeare’s Sonnet 110 and Act V, Scene ii from “King John” morning and night.
Hernandez is preparing to compete against nine state finalists this Saturday for a spot in the National Shakespeare Monologue Competition that will be held in New York City from May 4-6. He is the only public school student from Boston to make the state finals.
Arriving in the country at age nine, Hernandez was born in the capital of Dominican Republic and started his American education at the John Marshall School on Westville Street. Hernandez said he was pushed back a grade when he arrived and did not speak a word of English.
“I had a Spanish speaking teacher as part of the bilingual program, but my teacher just spoke Spanish,” he said.
Hernandez said he taught himself how to speak English by watching animated films like “The Bee Movie” and “Stuart Little” that year.
“I watched multiple movies in Spanish then in English and I practiced speaking with my cousin. I asked my parents questions, and by summer I was speaking perfect English,” he said.
Hernandez is a young man of many talents. Before being introduced to acting in high school, he played the violin in middle school. That experience, Hernandez said, sparked his interest in performing arts.
Now a junior at Codman Academy, Hernandez has been able to learn the art of acting from the Huntington Theatre Academy for the past three years. He has been cast as Asagai in “A Raisin in the Sun,” Tommy in “My Children! My Africa!,” Demetrius in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and Oliver in “As You Like It.”
“The Codman Academy has a longstanding relationship with the Huntington Theatre,” said Porsha Olayiwola, the enrichment coordinator at the Academy who has been encouraging Hernandez to pursue acting as a possible career.
Acting is a required course at the Academy for all freshmen as are Saturday elective courses. For the past two years Hernandez has enrolled in acting classes as his elective and has worked with acting coach Anneke Reich who recommended the King John monologue to him.
He has also competed in the August Wilson Monologue Competition at the Huntington Theatre twice as a finalist from his school. This year marks his second loss in the competition. Shortly after, he began working on his entry for the Shakespeare competition, which he’s determined to win.
“Anything theatre, anything drama to me is Oliver,” Olayiwola said. “For him to come around two weeks later [from his defeat] and make it to the finals of the Shakespeare competition to me is really showing that you deserve to be there.”
Hernandez said trying to balance school work and acting practices and rehearsals for the competition has been hard for him.
“Here at the Codman we have school from 9 to 5 and Saturday school. I have to do my monologue and take breaks during practice. I practice every night before I go to sleep and every morning when I wake up.”
With his mind focused on the competition, Hernandez has not been thinking about his future plans post-graduation next year. He has considered doctor, lawyer, and actor among other things as possible career paths.
“What I really want to be is the best at something. I want to be really good at what I do,” he said.
State finalists will compete at Emerson College on Saturday from 1– 4p.m.