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Pittsburgh winners chosen in August Wilson Monologue Competition

An audience that almost challenged the fire laws crammed into the Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville Monday night for the 12th annual August Wilson Monologue Competition.

Sixteen finalists — 14 women and two men, all high school students — performed monologues or extracts from dialogue selected from the 10 plays of August Wilson’s American Century Cycle (also known as the Pittsburgh Cycle).

When the dust settled, three winners were announced: first, Mysheree Key, a sophomore from the Alumni Theater Co., who played Bynum from “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”; second, Jamaica Johnson, a senior at Urban Pathways, who played Rose from “Fences”; and third, Shakyna Golphin, also a sophomore from the Alumni Theater, who played Memphis from “Two Trains Running.” These three women knew a good thing, and in August Wilson, the best things often belong to the male characters.

The three winners take home scholarships of $10,000, $7,500 and $5,000 to the Point Park University Conservatory of Performing Arts, along with cash prizes of $500, $250 and $100. The two top finishers, Key and Johnson, will represent Pittsburgh when the winners from 14 cities gather for the national finals May 6 in the August Wilson Theater on Broadway.

The annual competition is a project of the Bill Nunn Theatre Outreach Project, started by the admired Pittsburgh actor (1953-2016), best known for his work in August Wilson plays and Spike Lee films (Radio Raheem in “Do the Right Thing”). The program is now administered by Demeatria Boccella, along with Meleana Felton and Thembisile Gxuluwe.

Actress, playwright and Wilson scholar Kimberly Ellis was emcee. The four judges tasked with choosing the winners from many competitors of real ability were actress Rita Gregory, playwright/director Mark Clayton Southers of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, actor/director Ricardo Vila-Roger, and Christopher Rawson, senior theater critic at the Post-Gazette and KDKA-TV.

Read more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh winners chosen in August Wilson Monologue Competition