Brandon J. Dirden Hosts LEAP's NYC August Wilson Monologue Competition March 4

Brandon J. Dirden Hosts LEAP's NYC August Wilson Monologue Competition March 4

Broadway and TV star Brandon J. Dirden (All the Way, Jitney, The Americans) is set to host the 11th annual New York City August Wilson Monologue Competition, sponsored by LEAP (Learning through an Expanded Arts Program, Inc.). A total of 18 LEAP students from nine New York high schools in four boroughs will inhabit Wilson's characters and provide their own interpretations-immersing them in Wilson's world of 10 plays, referred to as The Century Cycle. The presentation begins at 7 pm on Monday, March 4, and will be held on Stage 2 of New World Stages, 340 W. 50th St., New York, N.Y., off 8th Avenue. The event is free to the public. Two students will be chosen from this competition to move on to represent New York City at the National August Wilson Monologue Competition on Broadway.

Through a comprehensive LEAP artist residency, students explore and inhabit characters from Wilson's plays, chronicling the African-American experience in the 20th century, and choose the monologues that speak to them. This competition is the culmination of LEAP's August Wilson Program, and is part of a nationwide initiative, introducing new generations of high school students to the works of the renowned playwright (winner of two Pulitzer Prizes), while exploring African-American history and his legacy. Two winners will move on to the National August Wilson Competition, held May 6, 7 pm, at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway, presented by Kenny Leon's True Colors Theatre Company, Jujamcyn Theaters, Delta Air Lines, and Aetna, and hosted by Leon.

LEAP's NYC judges include accomplished actors from Broadway and Off Broadway: Brian D. Coats, Jolie Garrett, Tanesha Gary, Jamil A.C. Mangan, and Rosalyn Coleman Williams.

"This is the culminating event of a 20-session artist residency that explores the world and characters of August Wilson, with each of his plays set in a different decade of the 20th century," says Michael Perreca, LEAP's Director of Advancement. "His words become immediate, relevant and vibrant to our students This is the highlight of the year for them and we are honored to present their excellent work. We are also thrilled to have Mr. Dirden, an accomplished August Wilson actor and director, as our host."

Brandon J. Dirden was featured in the casts of the Tony-winning productions of Jitney (Booster) and All the Way (Martin Luther King, Jr.), as well as this year's Emmy-winning series The Americans. He has directed and performed in several August Wilson plays.

Student semi-finalists come from the following schools:
MANHATTAN: Gramercy Arts High School, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts, Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts
BRONX: Belmont Company High School for Theatre Arts, Frederick Douglass Academy III Secondary School
BROOKLYN: Juan Morel Campos Secondary School, Spring Creek Community School

QUEENS: Hillcrest High School

A special video performance will also feature students from New World High School, Bronx.

LEAP's mission is to provide quality educational arts programs to promote access and equity for New York City students underserved in the arts. Through artistic inquiry and expression, LEAP inspires diverse school communities to be more engaged in learning and build their creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking skills. Serving New York's educational community for more than 40 years, LEAP reaches 20,000 students in 160 school in all five boroughs annually.

LEAP's August Wilson Program and Competition is made possible by the Applebaum Foundation, Axe-Houghton Foundation, Richenthal Foundation, Rosenthal Family Foundation, Leo Rosner Foundation, Ted Snowdon Foundation, and Michael Tuch Foundation. LEAP's citywide arts programs are made possible in part by The New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

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