Los Angeles National Finalists for 2015 August Wilson Monologue Competition Named

by Naomi Crews

From left, Shaila Essley (1st place winner), Philip Patrick Bucknor (2nd place winner) and Wayne R. Mackins-Harris (3rd place winner) accept their awards on stage during the August Wilson Monologue Competition Los Angeles Regional Finals at Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum on March 2, 2015, in Los Angeles, California. (c) Ryan Miller/Capture ImagingShaila Essley, Philip Patrick Bucknor and Wayne R. Mackins-Harris have been selected to represent Los Angeles in the August Wilson Monologue Competition (AWMC) national finals. 

THREE LOCAL STUDENTS NAMED NATIONAL FINALISTS IN THE 2015 AUGUST WILSON MONOLOGUE COMPETITION

Los Angeles Regionals Were Hosted by Center Theatre Group at Mark Taper Forum National Competition to Take Place on Broadway in New York on May 4

From a field of 12 local high school students, Shaila Essley, Philip Patrick Bucknor and Wayne R. Mackins-Harris have been selected to represent Los Angeles in the August Wilson Monologue Competition (AWMC) national finals. Contestants this year featured high school students from four Southern California cities, who performed in the regional finals at the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum, Monday night, March 2, 2015.

CTG is pleased to announce that Shaila Essley of Chino Hills placed first in the competition, earning a $500 scholarship; Philip Patrick Bucknor of Los Angeles took second place, with a $400 scholarship; and Wayne R. Mackins-Harris of Los Angeles took third place and a $300 scholarship. Both Essley and Bucknor will compete in the national finals at the August Wilson Theatre in New York City on May 4, and Mackins-Harris will perform and also serve as an alternate at the finals.

“This [the AWMC] has turned out to be, for me, one of the great evenings in the theatre, and I look forward to it every year,” said Center Theatre Group’s Artistic Director Michael Ritchie during his welcoming remarks Monday night.

Every student participating in this competition performed a monologue from playwright August Wilson’s 10-play Century Cycle, an epic dramatization of the African- American experience in the 20th century.

Judges of the Los Angeles regional finals were professional actors and entertainment professionals with special interest in the works of August Wilson, including the Tony Award- nominated actress Kimberleigh Aarn (August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” on Broadway), Tony Award-nominated Founder and Artistic Director of Ebony Repertory Theatre Wren Brown, actor and faculty member of the USC School of Dramatic Arts Anita Dashiell-Sparks and stage and screen actors Robert Gossett (recently seen in "The Royale" at the Kirk Douglas Theatre) and William Allen Young (best known for his role as Frank Mitchell on "Moesha"). Master of Ceremonies was the award-winning broadcast journalist and CBS 2’s co-anchor of the 5, 6 and 11 p.m. news, Pat Harvey.

With the support of the CTG Affiliates, this is the fourth consecutive year that CTG hosted the Southern California component of the national monologue competition. Theprogram is designed to inspire and educate Los Angeles youth through the work of August Wilson.

The program kicked off with a preliminary round featuring more than 150 students, and the 12 regional finalists were selected during a semi-final round held on December 13. The program progressed with training and rehearsal sessions (provided by CTG) throughout January and February for each of the 12 regional finalists.

The AWMC 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. The program encourages students from all backgrounds and ethnicities to read and perform the work of August Wilson, a playwright who influenced American theatre for decades by illustrating the intricacies of the African-American experience. Through performance, the AWMC gives high school students the opportunity to not only explore their creativity, but also learn about significant moments in African-American history from a unique perspective.

Regional funding for the AWMC is provided by the CTG Affiliates, the Department of Cultural Affairs for Los Angeles and the Wells Fargo Foundation. The AWMC also receives generous support from the William Randolph Hearst Education Endowment. Funding for the national AWMC comes from Delta Air Lines, Macy’s, Publix Supermarket Charities, Massey Charitable Trust, Bank of America, The Imlay Foundation and The Zeist Foundation.

CTG’s work reaches beyond that of the AWMC with the August Wilson In-School Residency Program that gives four local high schools the opportunity to learn about Wilson’s work both in and outside of the classroom. In a semester-long, multidisciplinary program that connects teachers with a CTG teaching artist, high school students analyze all 10 plays from Wilson’s “Century Cycle” and, in doing so, learn about the playwright’s influence and theatrical contribution to society. Taking Wilson’s work from page to stage, the participating high schools also attended the regional finals of the AWMC at the Mark Taper Forum on March 2. Classrooms from Los Angeles River School, PUC CALS Early College High School, Thomas Jefferson High School and University High School are taking part in the residency program this year.

CTG has had a long relationship with the work of August Wilson, presenting eight of his plays. In addition to “Jitney,” “King Hedley II” (Tony Award nomination for Best Play), “Gem of the Ocean” (world premiere production), “Radio Golf” (world premiere production) and “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” at the Mark Taper Forum, CTG presented the Tony Award-nominated “Seven Guitars” at the Ahmanson Theatre and “Two Trains Running” and “The Piano Lesson” (1990 Pulitzer Prize) at the Doolittle Theatre in Hollywood.

For more about the August Wilson Program at Center Theatre Group, please visit CenterTheatreGroup.org/AugustWilson.