Kenny Leon's True Colors Theatre Company has announced the winners of the 14th annual August Wilson Monologue Competition National Finals, which were held virtually May 3. National finalists were judged remotely by a panel of judges made up of Slave Play Tony nominee Joaquina Kalukango, Jason Dirden, James A. Williams, Tony winner Tonya Pinkins, and Seret Scott.
The monologue competition, founded in 2007 by Leon and Todd Kreidler to ensure the legacy of Tony- and Pultizer-winning playwright August Wilson lives on through new generations of creative minds, traditionally awards scholarships to a first-, second-, and third-place winner. This year, a financial gift made by Pinkins after seeing the finalists funded six additional scholarships, and an additional gift from long-time True Colors donor Stefaniyemiya Ingram funded seven additional scholarships. The additional scholarships resulted in all 16 2021 finalists receiving scholarships—a first for the competition.
Taloria Merricks of Atlanta was awarded first place and a $3,000 scholarship. Atlanta's Taylor Jackson received second place and a $2,000 scholarship, and Tyla Uzo of Los Angeles came in third, receiving a $1,000 scholarship.
Pinkins' gift funded $500 scholarships for finalists Arwen-Vira Marsh, New York, Yexuanj Rivera Melendez of Milwaukee, and Jola Olojede, Dallas; and $300 scholarships for Kaylah Copeland of Atlanta, Jayla Gossett of Dallas, and Marla Jordan of Portland.
Ingram's gift funded $250 scholarships for Dalencia Brown of Chicago, Katherine Bruce of Pittsburgh, Shakyna Golphin of Pittsburgh, Juwan Lee of New Haven, Julius Shanks of Atlanta, Bri'Yon Watts of Chicago, and Johnathan Westbrook of Chicago.
The 16 finalists are chosen from a national semifinal competition, which is attended by the top winners from 13 regional competitions nationwide. Finalists are usually invited to New York City for a week of workshops that culminates in the final competition, held on the stage of Broadway's August Wilson Theatre. The 2018 competition was followed by documentary cameras for James D. Stern and Fernando Villena's Giving Voice, which is now available to stream on Netflix.
This year's virtual competition saw finalists attending streaming panel discussions and workshops with such theatre luminaries as Clint Ramos, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Phylicia Rashad, David Gallo, Xacier Pierce, Allen Lee Hughes, and Dwight Andrews.