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High School Talent Competition Will Honor August Wilson

By Test Reporter | March 21, 2011 3:16pm | Updated on March 21, 2011 7:52pm
A student performs a monologue at the 2010 competition.
A student performs a monologue at the 2010 competition.
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Courtesy of LEAP NYC

By Leila Molana-Allen

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN — High school students will vie for three coveted scholarships in the third annual NYC August Wilson Monologue Competition at Manhattan's Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts on Thursday.

The New York leg of the competition is run by Learning through an Expanded Arts Program (LEAP), a New York-based nonprofit that has organized arts outreach programs in high schools for 35 years. It was founded to honor the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, who died of liver cancer in 2005.

"When he died they decided they wanted to keep his legacy," says LEAP's Associate Executive Director Alice Kreiger of the competition's founders, who included Wilson's former director Kenny Leon."They wanted to have students say August Wilson and William Shakespeare in the same breath."

The first round of the competition will take place at Manhattan Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts at 123 West 43rd St. The three winners will then continue on to compete against the winners from competitions in the other boroughs on April 12.

Finalists will be chosen from these contestants, and will go on to compete in the national competition on May 9 against students from Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Seattle and Boston.

That competition will be judged by a panel of theater professionals, and will be held at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway at West 52nd Street. The use of the theatre, where the musical "Jersey Boys" is currently playing, has been donated to the competition for the night by its owners, the Jujamcyn Theatre Group. The theatre was named after Wilson two weeks after his death.

The three national winners will be awarded four-year scholarships to Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Wilson's home town, as well as cash prizes and bound copies of Wilson's work. The scholarships are funded by the university.

"People there are really devoted to him and his memory, so they wanted to do this," Krieger said.

Wilson is best known for his 10-play series, The Pittsburgh Cycle, for which he was awarded two Pulitzer Prizes. The cycle focuses on different aspects of the African-American experience in the United States through the 20th Century, with each play set in a different decade. Students must choose a segment from a play in the cycle to perform for the competition.