CPS students to represent city at National August Wilson Monologue Competition

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PICTURED LEFT TO right, are Evan Simpson from Chicago High School for the Performing Arts (third place) Nia Sarfo from Chicago High School for the Performing Arts (first place); and Chisom Chima from Nicholas Senn High School (second place).

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., Chicago Crusader

THE LATE RENOWNED August Wilson is one of the most celebrated playwrights known for his searing, explosive and endearing work within his Century Cycle plays. Each of the 10 world-class plays is set in a different decade of the 20th Century.

The League of Chicago Theatres, Goodman Theatre, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Broadway In Chicago and competition organizer Derrick Sanders announce the three Chicago finalists for the 9th Annual August Wilson Monologue Competition: Nia Sarfo from Chicago High School for the Performing Arts (first place, performed Molly, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone); Chisom Chima from Nicholas Senn High School (second place; performed King, King Hedley II); and Evan Simpson from Chicago High School for the Performing Arts (third place, performed Youngblood, Jitney).

The top three Chicago finalists were awarded scholarships in the amount of $500, $250 and $100, respectively. The top two winning students will receive expenses paid to travel to New York City for the National Finals, where they will compete on May 7, 2018.

More than 600 students from across the city participated in the preliminary rounds. The Chicago Regional Finals were held at The Broadway Playhouse on February 26. The judges throughout all qualifying rounds included: Alana Arenas, E. Faye Butler, Veronda Carey, Sydney Chatman, Shanèsia Davis, Wendell Etherly, Allen Gilmore, Anthony Irons, Daniel Kyri Madison, Derrick Sanders, Regina Taylor and Willa Taylor.

The 21 competitors in the Finals included students from Nicholas Senn High School, Wendell Phillips Academy, Chicago High School for the Performing Arts, the Advanced Arts Program at Gallery 37, Lincoln Park High School, Southland College Prep, Simeon Career Academy High School and Perspectives Charter School.

The August Wilson Monologue Competition is sponsored by The League of Chicago Theatres, Goodman Theatre, and Broadway In Chicago, and organized in Chicago by Derrick Sanders. Open to Chicago area high school sophomores, juniors and seniors, the August Wilson Monologue Competition focuses on exposing students to the richness of August Wilson’s Century Cycle and incorporating the plays into the standard high school curriculum.

Coordinator Derrick Sanders hopes to continue building robust partnerships with schools across Chicago, creating educational opportunities that allow students to connect to August Wilson and his work through the study of history, social studies and literature.

For the Chicago and national competition, students perform a 2-3-minute monologue of their choosing from one of the 10 plays in August Wilson’s Century Cycle. They are adjudicated by a panel of Chicago theatre professionals based on preparedness, understanding of the text, emotional connection to the material, and commitment to the performance.

Event sponsor, Goodman Theatre, was the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in Wilson’s acclaimed Century Cycle—including world premiere productions of Seven Guitars (1995) and Gem of the Ocean (2003).

The three Chicago finalists received cash scholarships, and the first and second place winners will receive an all-expense paid trip to New York to compete in the Finals. The winner of the Chicago Finals is also awarded a partial scholarship to attend the University of Illinois Chicago’s School of Theatre and Music.

The top two finalists will receive additional coaching before competing in the national competition in New York, where they will participate in a weekend of activities around the competition and national prizes, including monetary awards and scholarship opportunities. In six of the eight years, Chicago has had a student place in the top three national finalists.

Now in its ninth year, most students come to the competition through programs at their schools, after-school programs and education programs at local professional theatres. This year, teaching artists funded by the Allstate Foundation will be brought into DRW College Prep, Young Women’s Leadership Charter School and Perspectives Leadership Charter School. There will also be workshops held for students and teachers open to all.

The 2018 AWMC Chicago Preliminaries were held at Victory Gardens Theater on February 5 and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts on February 6 and 7, 2018. The semi-final competition was hosted by the Goodman Theatre on February 14, 2018. Regional competitions also take place in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Boston, New York City, Buffalo, Los Angeles, New Haven, Portland, OR and Greensboro, NC.

The AWMC is made possible with support from Allstate.

For more information about the Chicago competition, visit: http://chicagoplays.com/august-wilson-monologue-competition.html.

About the Century Cycle

August Wilson’s Century Cycle is a singular achievement in American theatre. Each of the 10 world-class plays is set in a different decade of the twentieth century. At the plays’ core are soaring, lyrical monologues that take the rich song, laughter, and pain of the African-American experience and place it in the mouths of the most varied ensemble of characters written since Shakespeare. The plays of the Century Cycle are: Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Fences, Two Trains Running, Jitney, King Hedley II, and Radio Golf.

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