Two Manhattan And One Queens Student Win August Wilson Monologue Competition

The soaring, lyrical works of August Wilson's monologues were given new life by the 16 students competing at the first ever NYC August Wilson Monologue Competition at Washington Irving High School on April 6, 2009.

Adreena Thompson, a 11th grader from Gramercy Arts High School in Manhattan; Paul Edme Belneau, a 11th grader from Hillcrest High School in Queens; and Chrystal Maldonado, a 9th grade student from Gramercy Arts High School won the competition, which was initiated by non-profit arts education organization Learning through an Expanded Arts Program (LeAp) in collaboration with True Colors Theatre Company in Atlanta, and are moving forward to the National August Wilson Monologue Competition at the August Wilson Theatre on April 27, August Wilson's birthday, to compete with the three finalists from Atlanta, where the program began, and Pittsburgh.

Tony Award winning actor for August Wilson's Seven Guitars and Emmy Award nominee for Lackawanna Blues, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, spoke to the students at the event. "You carry the torches into the future, "said Santiago-Hudson, "and I and the theater world feel very safe and
comfortable knowing the integrity that you guys put on the stage tonight will continue."

Santiago-Hudson also bestowed acting advice upon the children: "Remember-when you come up here for that moment, it's your moment. Don't make it about us. Make it about your moment on stage."

Frankie Fasion, actor from HBO's "The Wire" and August Wilson's Fences, announced the winners along with his panel of judges including: Lou Myers, a NAACP Image Award winner for his role in
August Wilson's King Hedley II; Ankh Ra Amenhetep, musical director in the theater world and coach on MTV's "Making the Band 4"; Lanre Olabisi, director of the film August the First, which screened at MoMa, South by Southwest, and many other festivals; Traci Tolmaire, an actor, dancer, and singer who appeared in 365 Days/365 Plays and A Raisin in the Sun; and Linda Key, Education Director of the Vital Theatre Company. The students won cash prizes and will compete for scholarships to Point Park University in Pittsburgh at the national competition. The 16 NYC contestants received tickets to see Broadway's revival of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone.

August Wilson's works are a singular achievement in the American Theater. At the plays' core are monologues that take the song, laughter, pain, and rich content of African American life and place it in the mouths of the greatest and varied ensemble of characters written since Shakespeare.

LeAp began the August Wilson Monologue Competition in New York City to introduce students with one of the most revered playwrights and his work. LeAp has many different programs that integrate arts with the academic curriculum. For more information, visit


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