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Every Theatre Kid’s Dream: Perform on Broadway Stage

103 Area High School Students Vie for All-Expenses-Paid Trip to New York to Compete in the National August Wilson Monologue Competition

Cedar Hill High School student Jeffery Pope, one of two finalists in last year’s Dallas regionals, received congratulations from SMU Meadows Assistant Professor Benard Cummings, coordinator of the Dallas regionals.

Benard Cummings, SMU Meadows assistant professor, gave instructions to regional semi-finalists during the 2016 Dallas regionals held at SMU Meadows’ Greer Garson Theatre. The 2017 regionals begin January 19.

2017 Dallas Regionals to Be Held Jan. 19 at SMU Meadows

More than 100 Dallas-area high school students will compete at Meadows on January 19 in the regional semifinals of the national August Wilson Monologue Competition, an annual event that honors the life’s work and artistic legacy of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson. Each student will present a two- to three-minute monologue from one of Wilson’s “Century Cycle” plays, a collection of ten plays about the African American experience that include his career-making Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and the Broadway blockbuster Fences.

The two top Dallas regional winners will receive an all-expenses paid trip to compete in the national finals in Broadway’s August Wilson Theatre in New York City, and, along with regional winners from Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Greensboro, N.C., Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New York and Seattle, will tour Lincoln Center, dine with celebrities, receive a 10-volume Century Cycle collection and enjoy complimentary tickets to Broadway and Off-Broadway performances.

Last year was the first time Dallas competed in the contest, with 80 entrants from several regional high schools. The two local winners who represented Dallas in the national finals were Bonnie Scott of Booker T. Washington High School and Jeffery Pope of Cedar Hill High School. This year, 103 students from eight schools will compete in the regionals for a chance to advance to the nationals in New York.

Participating schools in the 2017 Dallas regionals are: From DISD, Booker T. Washington HSPVA, Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, Skyline High School and Wilmer Hutchins High; from Arlington ISD, Lamar High School; from Plano ISD, Plano East High; from Cedar Hill ISD, Cedar Hill High; and, from Shreveport, La., Natural Charms of Arts.

Students examine American politics, sexism, racial inequality; camaraderie, stage skills and pro coaching part of the experience

Ira Steck, theater teacher at Arlington ISD’s Lamar High School, brought students to the Dallas regionals last year and is returning with 15 students for the 2017 competition. Last year’s competition, says Steck, was a terrific opportunity for his students. “It provided a forum in which they were able to rehearse, perform and watch Wilson’s work, which is made of a language that is so thrillingly immediate, visceral and poetic,” he said. “August Wilson and his plays are such an important part of the American theater’s more recent history.”

Leading up to the competition, students are coached by professionals from SMU Meadows, Dallas Theater Center, Soul Repertory Theater and African American Repertory Theater. SMU Meadows students also work with the high school students, helping them hone their skills.

Student Mary Burkett of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (DISD) competed last year and is returning to compete in the 2017 round. “It is a great opportunity to work with actors my age, and receive constructive criticism that enhances my performance on stage,” she said. “There’s also a chance to receive a free trip to New York to compete in nationals, and even a college scholarship, which would be extremely beneficial for my future.”

Amiyah Oney of Cedar Hill High is also returning to the competition this year and says her understanding of the world broadened as a result of participating in the competition. “This process has helped me to see the actual reality of this world that we live in,” she said. “The process highlights reoccurring problems in the black community and how they are dealt with and how to avoid them. On the theatrical side, I was able to understand how to beat [a brief moment to transition from one thought to another] and transition fluently. Also, understanding how to focus on just the character and in-depth characterization is important because Wilson's characters need that.”

The first place winner at the nationals in May will receive a $1,500 scholarship award, the runner-up $750 and the honorable mention $500.

The National August Wilson Monologue Competition is presented by True Colors Theatre Company of Atlanta and Jujamcyn Theaters of New York City. The national sponsors are Macy’s, Delta Airlines and TimeWarner Foundation.

Dallas regional sponsors are SMU Meadows School of the Arts, Dallas Theater Center, Soul Repertory Theater and African American Repertory Theater.

Dallas Regionals Begin January 19; Open to the Public

The preliminary round of the Dallas regionals will be held January 19 in SMU’s Owen Arts Center, in the Greer Garson Theatre. The competition is free and members of the public are welcome to observe at no charge, but the doors to the Greer Garson Theatre will remain closed once the competition has begun to allow competitors to deliver their monologues without distraction. The competition will begin at 9 a.m.

Top winners of the preliminary round will advance to the Dallas regional finals, which will be held on February 20 at the Bob Hope Theatre in the Owen Arts Center. Ultimately, two contestants will be selected to represent the Dallas region and advance to the finals in New York City.

For public parking information, please see SMU Meadows directions.

For more details about the Dallas regionals of the national August Wilson Monologue Competition, contact SMU Meadows Assistant Professor Benard Cummings.

Read more about SMU Meadows Division of Theatre.

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