NEW YORK (AP) — A 17-year-old from Pittsburgh has won the fifth annual August Wilson Monologue Competition, performing a section of the playwright’s “King Hedley II” with powerful skill.
Tambi Gxuluwe, who attends West Mifflin Area High School, took the first place trophy Monday night by beating out 14 other students during the finals at Broadway’s August Wilson Theatre.
“It feels like I’m floating. I feel like I’m swimming on air,” Gxuluwe said moments after her victory. “This is not just a trophy for me. This is a trophy for my city, for my family. This is a trophy for everybody who wanted to do this but didn’t. This is wonderful.”
The runner-up was Pablo Lopez from Los Angeles, and third place went to Branndin Phillips-Laramore from Chicago. The 15 finalists came from seven cities — Seattle, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston and Atlanta.
Each picked a 2- to 3-minute monologue from one of the 10 plays in Wilson’s “Century Cycle,” which chronicles the experience of black Americans in each decade of the 20th century. The cycle includes the plays “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” ”Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” ”The Piano Lesson” and “Radio Golf.”
The program, which was started at Atlanta’s True Colors Theatre Company after Wilson’s death in 2005, is designed to familiarize students with the life of the prize-winning African-American playwright.
As part of the program, students attend a Broadway or off-Broadway show and meet with Broadway actors, directors and designers. This year, the contestants saw “Motown: The Musical” and worked with two of Wilson’s collaborators, director Kenny Leon and adapter Todd Kreidler.
Leon is the driving force behind the contest, urging schools to perform Wilson’s plays and turning the students into soldiers for the cause. He high-fived each of the performers and kept the crowd excited by doing push-ups between monologues.
“It makes we want to cry every time because it is doing what we set out to do — keeping August Wilson alive,” he said afterward. “It also lets these students understand that America is theirs. They can do anything they want to do.”
The judges were actors Pauletta Washington, Crystal Dickinson, Brandon Dirden and James A. Williams, and scenic designer David Gallo. Also in attendance were Wilson’s widow and daughter.
Judging was based on projection, emotional depth, memorization, energy and characterization, but the polished performances Monday made the final selection difficult. Each contestant had successfully navigated at least three rounds in his or her home state to get to New York.
“It’s been thrilling in years past, but this one was really a strong group,” said Dickinson, who judged for the second straight year and who made her Broadway debut last year in “Clybourne Park.”
“What I was moved by was that there were these very young people — some 16 years old — able to encompass the volume of emotion and commitment that those monologues require.”
Gxuluwe, a senior, plans to attend Point Park University this fall and hopes to study journalism and theater. She won by performing Tonya’s monologue from “King Hedley II,” in which Tonya despairs at the idea of motherhood in a society where “the undertaker got so much business he don’t know what to do.”
The evening also featured a performance from musician Guy Davis and a scene from Wilson’s “Two Trains Running” performed by Roslyn Ruff and Billy Eugene Jones.
The first place winner got a $1,500 cash prize, the runner-up received $750 and the honorable mention winner took home $500. Each winner also became eligible for college scholarship opportunities, and everyone left New York with anthologies of Wilson’s work.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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