Chicago's Christian Helem Wins 2nd Place in National August Wilson Monologue Competition


The Goodman Theatre and Derrick Sanders, in collaboration with the Department of Theatre and Music at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), the League of Chicago Theatres, American Theater Company, Court Theatre, Victory Gardens Theatre and Atlanta's True Colors Theatre Company have announced that Chicago's own Christian Helem (Chicago High School for the Arts – American Theater Company), placed second in the national August Wilson Monologue Competition held this past Monday, May 7, 2012, at Broadway's August Wilson Theatre.

This year's National August Wilson Monologue Competition included 21 students representing 7 cities. In addition to Helem's top two finish, Chicago's Janyce Caraballo (Chicago High School for the Arts – American Theater Company), and Jonathan Nieves (Schurz High School – Victory Gardens) also placed in the top six – an extraordinary feat considering there was only a one point spread between 1st and 6th place. Chicago is now the only city to have placed in the top three for three years running, and is the only team to have all finalists advance beyond the national preliminary round to the main event.

The top three contestants from the national competition are awarded college scholarship opportunities in addition to monetary awards and the gift of TCG's Century Cycle collection. The first place winner receives a $1000 cash prize, the runner-up a $500 cash prize and the honorable mention a $250 cash prize. Each of the winners will also become eligible for college scholarship opportunities.

Judges for the 2012 Annual August Wilson Monologue Competition included Crystal A. Dickinson (actress), Lynn Nottage (playwright), Jasmine Guy (actress, singer, and dancer), James A. Williams (actor), and David Gallo (scenic designer). The evening also featured a performance from Wilson's Gem of the Ocean by Phylicia and Condola Rashad.

"We are very proud of all three students who represented Chicago at the national competition," said Derrick Sanders, who, with Goodman Theatre, the Department of Theatre and Music at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the League of Chicago Theatres coordinated the competition in Chicago. "The strong showing made by Janyce, Jonathan and Christian is a testament to their hard work in preparing for the competition and to the incredible teachers and teaching artists we have in Chicago."

To compete in the August Wilson Monologue Competition, high school students performed a short monologue from one of the ten plays in August Wilson's Century Cycle. Regional competitions took place earlier this year in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, Los Angeles and New York.

The August Wilson Monologue competition exposes students to the richness of Wilson's Century Cycle, and incorporates the plays into the standard high school curriculum. The Chicago finals were held on March 19, 2012, at Goodman Theatre, the first theatre in the world to produce all ten plays in the Century Cycle, Wilson's decade-by-decade exploration of the 20th century African American experience. The monologues of 20 finalists were judged by Narda Alcorn (Stage Manager of August Wilson productions on Broadway), Alana Arenas (Steppenwolf Ensemble Member), Tanera Marshall (Chair of the Department of Theatre and Music at UIC) and CedRic Young (professional Chicago actor).

About the competition: Students perform a short monologue of their choosing from one of the ten plays in Wilson's Century Cycle and are judged by a panel of theatre professionals on their preparedness, understanding of the text, emotional connection to the material and commitment to the performance.

Chicago's participation in this national event is coordinated by Derrick Sanders, who hopes to continue building robust partnerships with schools across Chicago, encouraging the adoption of August Wilson's work into the standard curriculum. These partnerships create educational opportunities that allow students to connect to August Wilson and his work through the study of history, social studies and literature.

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