February 10, 2011

Inaugural August Wilson Monologue Competition

Contributed by Donna Glick, Education Director

Mariah Watkins, winner of the August Wilson Monologue Competition

I wanted to share with everyone that Huntington Theatre Company's Education Department kicked-off our new program -at least to the public- the August Wilson Monologue Competition, on Saturday, February 5, with great success.  We have been working with eight Boston public Schools teaching about August Wilson, his life, his plays, and his contributions to American theatre.  During November, December, and January, Associate Director of Education Lynne Johnson, Education Department Manager Meg Wieder, Education and Community Associate Naheem Garcia, Education Assistant Danny Bryck, and two outside teaching artists, Vincent Siders and Penny Benson, worked directly with an in-class group or an after-school group in the eight high schools. 

The ultimate goal involved preparing the students to memorize, analyze, and perform an August Wilson monologue from one of the ten decade cycle of plays.  The teaching artists met with some resistance.  There were numbers of high school kids who had never talked formally or performed in front of classmates or an audience.  Our effort over the last decade in the Codman classrooms indicates that performance and communicating as an individual are accepted as skills to be attained and improved upon.  Very few of these eight Boston public schools have embedded these important social and life skills into their curriculum.

The hard work and great commitment on the part of the teaching artists paid off tremendously.  Saturday, I watched while the finalists from each school made sure that they were connected to their Huntington teaching artist - looking for encouragement, last minute direction, and hugs before the competition began. 

And the results?  Amazing talent and hope revealed on the set of Ruined.  Watching the transformation that occurs when young people are challenged at a high level and then meet that challenge never gets old!  Judges were Jacqui Parker, educators and actors, Jason Cross and Keith Mascoll, and Cleopatra Wilkins, Senior Program Director for the Arts in the Boston Public Schools.  We named three winners, all of whom will be traveling to New York in May for an all-expenses paid experience for the national competition. 

Finally, "IT" truly is about the kids, their teachers, families, and communities.   However, it's gratifying to also be able to report that our funders, three of whom were in attendance, commented with an onslaught of superlative adjectives.  And board members, as well as non-Education staff (kudos to Mary O'Donnell, Meg White and Daniel Morris) congratulated us on a well-organized and meaningful event.  Hilda Willis, the representative of True Colors Theatre Company, Kenny Leon's company who originated the competition, was especially pleased with our first year's results. 

Congratulations and a job well-done to everyone involved. Enjoy a few standout performances below!

Denver Petit-Honne
(Wining Boy from The Piano Lesson)

Nehemie Auguste, 2nd Runner-Up
(Berneice, The Piano Lesson)

Tyler Jackson, 1st Runner-Up
(Troy Maxson, Fences)

Mariah Watkins, Champion
(Vera, Seven Guitars)

And now, we're on to Poetry Out Loud.....

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