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August Wilson Monologue Competition 2017

Dallas regional finals name top two winners to receive all-expenses-paid trip to national finals in New York City

Who is August Wilson?

August Wilson (b. 1945 d. 2005) is an American playwright best known for the “Century Cycle,” a collection of ten plays about the African American experience in the twentieth century. Most are set in the Hill District of Pittsburgh where Wilson grew up.

One of Wilson’s plays, Fences, was adapted into a movie starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis and was nominated for four Academy Awards in 2017: Best Picture; Actor; Supporting Actress; and Writing (Adapted Screenplay). The original Fences opened on Broadway in 1987 and starred James Earl Jones. It earned $11 million in one year, as well as a Pulitzer Prize and multiple Tony Awards. Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, set in the 1930s, was nominated for the Tony in five categories and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1990.

The New York Times calls his series of plays a “landmark in the history of black culture, of American literature and of Broadway theater.”

The August Wilson Theater is on Broadway, on 52nd Street. It is one of several theatres owned by Jujamcyn Theatres, which also owns the Eugene O’Neill, Al Hirschfeld, St. James and Walter Kerr theatres.

For the second year in a row, SMU Meadows School of the Arts hosted the regional finals for the national August Wilson Monologue Competition. On February 20, 19 students from Dallas-area high schools vied for an all-expenses-paid trip to the national finals in New York City. Winners of the 2017 competition are: first place, Zalayna Jenkins, Booker T. Washington (DISD), portraying “Becker” in Jitney; second place, Stakiah Washington, Lamar High (Arlington ISD), as “Rena” in Jitney; and third place, Amiyah Oney, Cedar Hill High (CHISD), as “Ruby” in King Hedley II. Jenkins and Washington advance to the national finals, to be held May 1. If either is unable to make the trip, Oney will serve as alternate.

The top two winners will compete in Broadway’s August Wilson Theatre against finalists from Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Greensboro, North Carolina.

While in New York, the finalists will talk with established stars of stage and screen. Past visits have included Denzel Washington, Viola Davis and other well-known actors. Finalists will also be attending on- and off-Broadway productions; last year’s competitors were treated to complimentary tickets to Hamilton. Each finalist will receive a complete set of August Wilson’s Century Cycle, a collection of ten plays about the African-American experience, all set in the twentieth century. In addition, competitors will have a chance to win scholarships.

The 19 Dallas regional finalists were selected from a pool of 94 competitors during the regional semifinals held at SMU Meadows on January 19. The seven high schools and one cultural center that competed in the semifinals included Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, DISD; Booker T. Washington, DISD; Cedar Hill, Cedar Hill ISD; Lamar, Arlington ISD; Natural Charms of Arts, Shreveport, La.; Plano East, PISD; Skyline, DISD; and Wilmer Hutchins, DISD. The Dallas regional competition is coordinated by SMU Meadows Division of Theatre Assistant Professor Benard Cummings.

Judges for the Dallas regional finals were Broadway star André De Shields; award-winning director and educator Ed Smith; award-winning playwright and actor, SMU Theatre Artist-in-Residence Will Power; actress Alejandra Flores (B.F.A. Theatre ’16); actress and Dallas Theater Center teaching artist Sasha Davis (B.F.A. Theatre Studies ’16); and Cara Mía Theatre Executive Artistic Director David Lozano. The emcee for the evening was actor Hassan El-Amin, a former member of the Dallas Theater Center Brierley Resident Acting Company.

The Dallas competition is sponsored by SMU Meadows School of the Arts, Dallas Theater Center, African American Repertory Theater and Soul Repertory Theater, all of which participated in training sessions held specifically for the regional competitors. The national competition is presented by True Colors Theatre Company of Atlanta and Jujamcyn Theaters of New York City. The national sponsors are Macy’s, Delta Air Lines and Time Warner Foundation.

Read more about SMU Meadows Division of Theatre and Assistant Professor Benard Cummings.

Read more about the annual August Wilson Monologue Competition and keep up with the Dallas regional finalists on Facebook.

Read more about August Wilson.

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