“It was almost like talking into the mirror,” said Wayne Mackins of being on the “A” side of a post-show Q&A session with high school students from around the country on a rainy spring night in New York City. Mackins, a senior at Fordham University, is currently making his Broadway debut as an ensemble member in The Prom. But in 2014, he was on the “Q” side of things as a national finalist in the August Wilson Monologue Competition.
As the Los Angeles home of the National August Wilson Monologue Competition, Center Theatre Group has helped hundreds of high school students from across our region hone their acting and storytelling skills. Each year, 12 of those students perform in the Los Angeles Regional Finals at the Mark Taper Forum, and a few advance to the nationals in New York. Just five years ago, Mackins was one of those students, and he continues to credit the training he received with helping prepare him for the rigors of Broadway.
“I remember the exact talkback I saw when [director, longtime Wilson collaborator, and August Wilson Monologue Competition presenter] Kenny Leon took us to see Something Rotten! But this time it was more like a family reunion, passing on knowledge that I was taught and told to share,” said Mackins.
Incredibly, Mackins was not the only Los Angeles August Wilson Monologue Competition alum to be performing in New York this spring—and to be paying forward the experience. Javen K. Crosby, who participated in the 2015 Los Angeles Regional Finals, took a break from rehearsals of Much Ado About Nothing at The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park to talk to our students as well. Crosby, a 2018 graduate of the UK’s Royal Welch College of Music and Drama, said that he still uses his Wilson monologue for auditions. (And it’s partly what got him the Much Ado About Nothing role.)
Center Theatre Group Director of Social Strategy, Innovation and Impact Leslie K. Johnson and other Center Theatre Group staff members have been bringing students to New York for the National Finals since 2011. We’ve had students place first, second, and third; the group has met Denzel Washington, seen Hamilton, and gotten backstage tours of the Apollo Theater. But this was something really special.
“I was struck with just a huge sense of pride seeing these two young men—Angelenos that we know—making their way as working artists,” said Johnson. “It was profoundly moving to me to see our students achieving, and to know that we had played a part. And while the focus of the program is not aimed at whether students go on to become working artists, it was a delightful fruition to see them realizing themselves and their artistry, and being able to continue to support and celebrate them—and watching them connect with the next students who are following in their footsteps.”
The students themselves agreed. “It was incredible to see Wayne and Javen fearlessly follow their dreams in New York, and it encouraged me to continue to follow mine,” said Mylah Eaton, who was performing in New York for the first time—achieving a longtime dream—at the National Finals. Eaton would be graduating in June from CHAMPS Charter High School of the Arts, heading to the University of Southern California…and then who knows where next?
The August Wilson Monologue Competition enables students from all walks of life to discover August Wilson's profound and deeply relevant works of art, study the craft of acting, explore their own creative voices, and learn more about our shared history and themselves.Learn More