CTG Picks 12 Students for 2016 August Wilson Monologue Competition Next Month

Center Theatre Group has selected 12 local students to participate in the regional finals for the 2016 August Wilson Monologue Competition (AWMC) to be held at the CTG/Mark Taper Forum on Monday, February 29, 2016.

CTG will host the Southern California component of the national monologue competition for the fifth consecutive year. Using monologues from August Wilson's "Century Cycle," a 10-play dramatization of the African-American experience in the 20th century, the program is designed to inspire and educate Los Angeles youth through Wilson's work.

Those chosen to participate in the regional finals are Joey Aquino (Los Angeles), Blake Brewer (Inglewood), Samuel Christian (Los Angeles), Arcadia Eckmayer (Anaheim), Rhenzy Feliz (Santa Monica), Madison Gallus (Pasadena), Mylan Johnson (Los Angeles), Marjorie McNary (Pasadena), Angel Nieves (Eastvale), Max Toubes (Los Angeles), Damaris Vizvett (San Bernardino) and Aryana Williams (Carson). The students represent several local high schools within Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties.

The 12 regional finalists were selected from a pool of 10th, 11th and 12th-grade students from more than 20 different schools that participated in a semi-final round held on December 12. Prior to the semi-final round, the program kicked off in November with a preliminary audition that featured more than 150 students from Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

The students selected will receive training and rehearsal sessions throughout January and February. Provided by CTG as part of the AWMC, the sessions will allow the students to refine their performances while gaining valuable acting techniques.

On February 29, the 12 regional finalists will perform their monologues in front of a panel of judges, made up of stage, film and screen artists and professionals from around the Southland. The two top-performing students will be selected to move forward to the ninth annual AWMC national finals with a third place student serving as alternate. The first and second place students will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City for the finals, which will take place on May 2 in New York City at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway. As preparation for the national component of the competition, all three students will receive master classes to workshop their monologues, as well as scholarship awards.

"The reason why the August Wilson Monologue Competition is such a treasure to us is twofold," said CTG Director of Education and Community Partnerships Leslie K. Johnson. "Not only does it give many of our local high school students the opportunity to actively participate in theatre, but it also provides them with some insight into decades of African American culture and history using the work of one of the most prolific African American voices in theatre."

Many students discovered the competition through their schools; however, in addition to the outreach conducted at local high schools, CTG also called upon its community partners to share details about this opportunity with local youth. As a result, two of the 12 regional finalists (McNary and Toubes) have become part of the process by way of CTG's partnering organizations, Foothills Arts Collective and Get Lit respectively.

The Southern California component of the August Wilson Monologue Competition is led by the CTG Education and Community Partnerships Department. Currently one of the most active theatre education programs in the country, CTG's Education and Community Partnerships Department reached more than 20,000 students, teachers and community members throughout Southern California in the 2014-2015 season.

Regional funding for the August Wilson Monologue Competition is provided by the CTG Affiliates and the Wells Fargo Foundation. The AWMC also receives generous support from the William Randolph Hearst Education Endowment.

The August Wilson Monologue Competition is a national program presented by Kenny Leon's True Colors Theatre Company and Jujamcyn Theaters and is hosted in several other cities across the country including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh, Portland and Seattle. Each city runs its program differently but the goal is the same: to introduce high school students to August Wilson's works and to help them find their own voices.

The inspiration for the AWMC was sparked in 2007 in Atlanta by Wilson's long-time collaborators Kenny Leon and Todd Kreidler of True Colors Theatre Company. Modeled after Pittsburgh Public Theater's annual Shakespeare Monologue and Scene Contest, the AWMC utilizes performance tools and text analysis to help students explore the interior lives of August Wilson's characters and study the social, economic and historical realities they inhabit.

CTG honors its long-standing relationship with August Wilson through its participation in the national monologue competition as well as through its continued production of Wilson's work. CTG has presented eight of Wilson's plays, including two world premiere productions. This August, Wilson's "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" will be presented at the Mark Taper Forum.

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

Pictured: Joey Aquino, Samuel Christian, Damaris Vizvett, Aryana Williams, Angel Nieves, Blake Brewer, Marjorie McNary, Mylan Johnson, Madison Gallus, Max Toubes, Rhenzy Feliz and Arcadia Eckmayer at the CTG August Wilson Monologue Competition Finalist Awards Luncheon on January 10, 2016, in Palos Verdes, California. Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging.

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