Center Theatre Group, host of the August Wilson Monologue Competition (AWMC) in Southern California, has announced that 15 finalists have been selected to compete in the AWMC regional finals to be held at the CTG/Mark Taper Forum on March 26, 2012.
The finalists were chosen after competing at the California Educational Theatre Association High School Theatre Festival on January 14 in Anaheim.
Among the 86 participants who competed, 31 schools and 37 different cities were represented. The competition was open to students in grades 10-12 in Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.
Each student selected a monologue to perform from August Wilson’s 10-play “Century Cycle,” an epic dramatization of the African-American experience in the 20th century.
This is the first time that Southern California students are participating in the AWMC as CTG joins the national competition with theatres from Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Boston, Seattle and Pittsburgh. Each city runs the program differently, but the goal is the same: to introduce high school students to August Wilson’s works and help them find their own voices.
The top three Southern California regional finalists chosen in March will compete in the fifth annual AWMC national finals, to be held on May 7 at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway.
The Southern California regional finalists are Marcus Arellanes (from Los Angeles), Keanu Beausier (Alhambra), Edward Cabasal (West Covina), Tyler Edwards (Tustin), Jake Foulkes (Mira Loma), Jasmine Hogan (San Jacinto), Nicole Julian (Los Angeles), Pablo Lopez (Los Angeles), Kayla Matthews (Los Angeles), Christie Owens (Fullerton), Kara Royster (Toluca Lake), Jeffrey Sims (Fontana), Christopher Smith (Fullerton), Dominique Thompson (Los Angeles) and Rhyver White (Hawthorne).
On January 18 many of the Southern California regional finalists attended a special kick-off celebration held at Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles. At the event CTG Artistic Director Michael Ritchie remarked, “The idea that these high school students will be introduced to August Wilson’s themes, his characters and his work and will learn from this experience is incredible. It makes me extremely proud to have Center Theatre Group support this program.”
Ritchie also introduced special guest star Phylicia Rashad, whose long career in TV, film and theatre includes the role of Aunt Ester in Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean.” Rashad appeared in the 2003 Taper world premiere production and in the 2005 Broadway production, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award.
Rashad is also a member of the CTG August Wilson Advisory Committee, comprised of prominent national figures and qualified professionals who are dedicated to lending their service to arts education while furthering the legacy of August Wilson. Other members of the 2011-2012 committee include Gordon Davidson, Angela Bassett, Courtney B. Vance, Danai Gurira and Ben Vereen.
The 15 regional finalists will participate in four master classes lead by CTG to help refine their performance skills in preparation for the March regional finals. The top three regional finalists will receive $500, $250, and $100 scholarships, respectively, and compete in May on Broadway.
In addition to its leadership in the AWMC, CTG is also spearheading the August Wilson In-School Residency Program that involves 15-week residencies at four pilot schools. Each residency partners a CTG teaching artist with a 9th grade classroom teacher and provides opportunities for students to learn about Wilson’s work. Students from participating residency classrooms will attend the AWMC regional finals at the Taper in March.