Center Theatre Group Announces Winners of 2014 August Wilson Monologue Competition

Center Theatre Group Announces Winners of 2014 August Wilson Monologue Competition

From a field of 12 local high school students, Jonah Gould, Mykaela Sterris and LeafRickard have been selected as the winners of the 2014 August Wilson Monologue Competition Los Angeles Regional finals. Contestants this year featured high school students from nine Southern California cities, who performed in the regional finals at the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum, Tuesday night, March 11, 2014. The top three student performers received scholarships and the opportunity to perform again in New York City. The August Wilson Monologue Competition is presented by the Center Theatre Group Affiliates, a volunteer organization that supports Center Theatre Group's education and community partnerships programs.

Center Theatre Group, host of the August Wilson Monologue Competition in Southern California, is pleased to announce that Jonah Gould of Los Angeles placed first in the competition, earning a $500 scholarship, Mykaela Sterris of Fullerton took second place, with a $400 scholarship, and Leaf Rickard of Burbank took third place and a $300 scholarship. Both Gould and Sterris will compete in the national finals at the August Wilson Theatre in New York City on May 5, and Leaf Rickard will perform and also serve as an alternate at the finals.

"The performances were incredible and moving," says Center Theatre Group's Artistic Director Michael Ritchie. "We are so proud of all of the courageous students who participated this year. Seeing tonight's young performers grow as a team ensemble and as individuals while honoring a legendary playwright has been a true delight."

Every student participating in this competition performed a monologue from playwright August Wilson's 10-play "Century Cycle," an epic dramatization of the African-American experience in the 20th century.

Judges of the Los Angeles regional finals were professional actors and entertainment professionals with special interest in the works of August Wilson, including Wren Brown, (founder and artistic director of Ebony Repertory Theatre), Anita Dashiell-Sparks (actor and faculty member at the University of Southern California School of Dramatic Arts), Robert Gossett (actor), Shana C. Waterman (senior vice president at Fox), William Allen Young (actor) and Joe Morton (actor). Master of Ceremonies was award-winning broadcast journalist and CBS 2's co-anchor of the 5, 6 and 11 p.m. news, Pat Harvey.

Debbie Allen, Angela Bassett, Phylicia Rashad and Courtney B. Vance are among the members of the 2013-2014 CTG August Wilson Advisory Committee, comprised of prominent national figures and qualified professionals who are dedicated to lending their service to arts education while furthering the legacy of August Wilson.

Designed to help students from all backgrounds connect with a significant part of American history and to gain theatre and performance skills, the national competition was inaugurated in 2007 in Atlanta by Wilson's long-time collaborators Kenny Leon and Todd Kreidler of True Colors Theatre Company.

This is the third year that CTG has been the Southern California home for the national program, which includes theatres from Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Portland, and Pittsburgh. Each city runs the program differently, but the goal is the same: to introduce high school students to August Wilson's works and the African-American perspectives he chronicles as well as help students of all backgrounds explore their own creativity.

The 12 Los Angeles regional finalists who performed on March 11 were chosen on January 18 after performing in the regional semifinals held at the California Educational Theatre Association High School Theatre Festival in Anaheim. A preliminary audition was hosted in November by Center Theatre Group.

Among the 100+ total Southern California AWMC participants, 34 schools, 28 school districts and 39 different cities were represented. The program was open to students in grades 10-12 in Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

In addition to its leadership in the AWMC, CTG also spearheads the August Wilson In-School Residency Program that involves semester-long residencies at four local schools. Each residency partners a CTG teaching artist with a high school partner teacher and allows for Three Finalists Chosen in August Wilson Monologue Competition -3students to explore all 10 plays of Wilson's "Century Cycle." Students from participating residency classrooms attended the AWMC regional finals on Monday night.

CTG's AWMC participation and its Wilson in-school residencies are programs of CTG's Education and Community Partnerships department, led by Leslie K. Johnson. Currently one of the most active theatre education programs in the country, CTG's Education and Community Partnerships Department reached 19,920 students, teachers and community members throughout Southern California in the 2012-2013 season. The department is dedicated to the development of artists, educators and young people's skills and creativity through the exploration of theatre, its literature, art and imagination.

Regional funding for the August Wilson Monologue Competition is provided by the Center Theatre Group Affiliates, the Dream Fund at UCLA Donor Advised Fund, Vladimir & Araxia Buckhantz Foundation, Friars Charitable Foundation, William Randolph Hearst Foundation, HUB International Insurance Services, Rosenthal Family Foundation, Dwight Stuart Youth Fund and Wells Fargo Foundation. Funding for the national August Wilson Monologue Competition comes from Delta Air Lines, Macy's, Publix Supermarket Charities, Massey Charitable Trust, Bank of America, and The Imlay Foundation.

In a long relationship with August Wilson plays, CTG presented August Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," directed by Phylicia Rashad at the Mark Taper Forum in spring 2013. The play received three 2013 LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards including Best Production of a Play (Large Theater), Best Acting Ensemble for a Play and Best Lead Actor in a Play (Glynn Turman). "Jitney," "King Hedley II" (Tony Award® nomination for Best Play), "Gem of the Ocean" and "Radio Golf" were also seen at the Mark Taper Forum in previous seasons. CTG also presented the Tony Award®-nominated "Seven Guitars" and "Two Trains Running" at the Ahmanson Theatre, and "The Piano Lesson" (1990 Pulitzer Prize) at the Doolittle Theatre in Hollywood.

More information on CTG's August Wilson program can be found at www.centertheatregroup.org/AugustWilson.

Photo Credit: Ryan Miller

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