Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company and Jujamcyn Theatres are proud to announce the winners for the 11th Annual August Wilson Monologue Competition National Finals, held on Monday, May 6th at the August Wilson Theatre in New York. The first-place winner was Trajan Clayton from Perry, GA; second-place, Katara Willis from Buffalo, NY; and third place, Abad Viquez from Chicago, IL.
The first and second place winners from Georgia’s Regional August Wilson Monologue Competition, Trajan Clayton and Michael Cook, respectively, traveled with True Colors’ Director of Education, Nikki Toombs, to New York to compete in the national semi-finals against competitors from cities around the country. In addition to the Georgia teens, the event featured high school students from Boston, MA; Buffalo, NY; Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; Los Angeles, CA; New Haven, CT; New York, NY; Greensboro, NC; Pittsburgh, PA; and Seattle, WA performing monologues from the legendary American playwright August Wilson’s American Century Cycle.
Trajan Clayton, who has competed in the Regional August Wilson Monologue competition for two years, won third place his first year. This was his first year representing True Colors in the national semi-finals and finals. Clayton portrayed “Caesar Wilks” from Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. He remarked, “this process has taught me so much about acting and what it means to be an actor. I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity, as unreal as it seems!”
“This experience helped me to understand the balance between preparation and enjoying the moment, to embrace the entire experience of the competition and not just focus on being the winner,” Michael Cook, who performed a monologue as “Toledo” from Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, shared. “I see the greatness that lies within me. As a young black man in the arts, my appreciation for August Wilson’s work was my greatest takeaway.” This was Cook’s third time participating in the Regional August Wilson Monologue Competition and first representing True Colors in the national semi-finals and finals.
“These two competitors made my job easy,” gushed Nikki Toombs, True Color’ Director of Education. “They both come from theatre programs that demonstrate the power of the arts to impact lives. Though they are both great talents, they needed to realize there was room for growth. I helped them understand the story—the antecedent situation for their characters—and the variance and subtleties of the language. These young men went to New York and walked in the spirit of boldness while maintaining humility in their greatness. They both represented True Colors well.”
The evening was hosted by Tony Award® Winner Kenny Leon and Russell Hornsby (Fences, The Hate U Give) with special musical guest Guy Davis. The panel of celebrity judges included Narda E. Alcorn (Production Stage Manager: Choir Boy, The Iceman Cometh), Quincy Tyler Bernstine (Marys Seacole), Danielle Brooks (Tony Award® Nominee: The Color Purple, “Orange is the New Black”), Roslyn Ruff (Fairview, X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation) and Pauletta Washington (Beloved).