Get to know the 2021 August Wilson Monologue Competition finalists! We asked a few of the students involved in this year's Regional Finals competition to share what they love about August Wilson, what they've learned, and more in a series of interviews. Hear from Carly Jo Leonhardt, Kennedy Dawson, Francesca Corso, Lala Smith, and ZuZu Kandilige in our second Meet the AWMC Finalists interview.
What drew you to the August Wilson Monologue Competition (AWMC)?
Carly Jo Leonhardt: "What drew me to the AWMC was the incredible way August Wilson speaks about the struggles of Black Americans through each decade. Being able to learn about a period of history through doing what I love is really an intriguing and showstopping experience."
Kennedy Dawson: "I knew generally about the competition, but I watched the documentary Giving Voice on Netflix over the Christmas break to learn more. After watching, that solidified my desire to try and make every effort I could to compete this year, if at all possible. Plus, I previously competed in forensic speech for three-years, which deepened my love of performing monologues and set me up nicely to compete this year in the AWMC."
Francesca Corso: "What drew me to the competition was my teacher and friends telling me about it. I thought it was interesting and have become more invested as the competition has continued, and as I have read the shows and seen some of them as well."
Lala Smith: "Watching the movie Giving Voice on Netflix about the AWMC inspired me to want to do it and work harder with my acting."
ZuZu Kandilige: "I was checking out the Seattle Rep website and I came across the AWMC and thought it looked like a fun challenge, so I signed up!"
What do you love about August Wilson’s work?
CJL: "I love that all of August Wilson's work has so much meaning. Every moment and every line has a purpose. I also think we can learn a lot from his work. Even today the world is struggling with racial inequality, and we need to amplify Black voices like August Wilson's to invoke change in order to create a better and more unified world."
KD: "I love that August Wilson's plays are real and honest. His characters speak the way real people in the Black community would speak. The plays are about my community, and I love that. They also touch on themes important to the Black community and Black relationships that we don't often see in the stories that are told in theater."
FC: "What I love about August Wilson’s work is its truth. He never turns away from the truth of life, and the hardships that African Americans have had to face throughout history. He forces you to face the truth and learn to be okay with being uncomfortable."
LS: "I love the untold stories about African Americans, and how he watched the normal lives of African Americans to create these plays."
ZK: "I love that August Wilson’s work is very truthful about the Black experience, while also creating complex and lovable characters."
What’s one thing you’ve learned from competing in the AWMC?
CJL: "One thing I learned is that I am more capable than I believe. Throughout my life, I have struggled with having confidence in myself and my work. My peers and the Seattle Rep staff have been so supportive and have really helped me better myself as an actor, and I am so thankful for that."
KD: "One thing I have learned from competing in the AWMC is that Black people are even more resilient than we are often given credit for."
FC: "One thing I have learned from this competition, so far, is how to take care of yourself when you have a difficult monologue to learn. None of these monologues are easy mentally to handle, but I have learned how not to push myself, and how to learn the piece without pushing myself to the edge."
LS: "I learned to work hard for what I want, to not be afraid to show my emotions, and to connect my life to my character."
ZK: "I have learned so much from the AWMC. I’ve learned new acting techniques from the amazing coaches, teamwork skills from the other contestants, and more about the Black experience."
What three words would you use to describe your experience?
CJL: "Advantageous, revealing, astounding"
KD: "Inspiring, challenging, fun"
FC: "Fun, truthful, breathtaking"
LS: "Fun, unique, stressful"
ZK: "Thrilling, fulfilling, exciting"
Bonus question: Favorite rehearsal snack?
KD: "Plain Lay's potato chips!"
FC: "Pretzels because they are my favorite snack, they are easy to carry around, and they don’t dry out your mouth or anything if you have water."
LS: "I love to have peanut butter on banana for all the protein and energy. It helps me get ready!"
ZK: "A chocolate chip cookie!"
Watch these performers take the virtual stage on March 25 at 6 p.m. PT! Reserve your free tickets to AWMC Regional Finals today.