Eight years after his death, the annual August Wilson Monologue Competition provides high school students from around the country an opportunity to carry on the African-American playwright’s legacy. That legacy includes Pulitzer Prizes for “Fences” and “The Piano Lesson,” two installments of Wilson’s 10-play series set in his hometown of Pittsburgh that examined 20th-century black life through the personal and political struggles of everyday people.
The monologue competition originated in Atlanta with director Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre. It draws participants from seven cities including Seattle, New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh. Winners from this year’s regionals will compete in a final performance on May 6. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at the Broadway theater named after Wilson.* Colorlines.com caught up with two of the finalists, 17-year-old Zhane Ligon and 16-year-old Reginald Wilson Jr., at Manhattan’s Repertory High School for Theater Arts. In the video below, Wilson’s words from “Jitney” help transform them from soft-spoken teenagers into powerful storytellers.
*Post has been updated since publication.