Announcing the New "August Wilson Legacy Project," a partnership between the August Wilson Estate, Goodman Theatre and Derrick Sanders
This reimagination of the famed August Wilson Monologue Competition will establish Chicago as a Wilson Hub, and invigorate the Pulitzer Prize Winner's work for a new generation.
The classic, timeless, epic work of seminal American playwright August Wilson endures as a new partnership—the “August Wilson Legacy Project”—forms between the August Wilson Estate, Goodman Theatre and Derrick Sanders. In honor of her late husband and as Executive Director of August Wilson Legacy LLC, Constanza Romero-Wilson taps longtime Wilson collaborator Derrick Sanders/AW-Chicago and Willa J. Taylor/Walter Director of Education and Engagement at Goodman Theatre to reestablish and build on the success of the national August Wilson Monologue Competition and “Designing August” (the scenic and costume design arm of the competition) for a new generation. The new partnership roots the famed Monologue and Design Competitions in Chicago—the first city to have experienced all 10 of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright’s American Century Cycle plays produced by Goodman Theatre (where a critically acclaimed major revival of Gem of the Ocean directed by Chuck Smith appears on stage through Sunday, February 27).
Building on the robust partnerships with schools in Chicago, this new national collaboration will reinvigorate relationships with theaters across the country, creating educational and performance opportunities that allow students to connect to Wilson and his work through the study of history, social studies, and literature. As the “August Wilson Legacy Project” partnership gets underway, the 2022 August Wilson Monologue and Design Competitions now welcomes student applications (see competition timeline below); the Goodman will again host the 20 high school students appearing in the final round on May 2, 2022 at 6pm. The Competitions are presented by Sanders and the Goodman in collaboration with the League of Chicago Theatres; for details, visit ChicagoPlays.com.
"I am thrilled that the August Wilson Monologue Competition will be reimagined by Goodman Theatre in partnership with Derrick Sanders of AW-Chicago. There is no other theater I would be more excited about leading the national competition. The Goodman supported August all throughout his career. I have full faith and trust that they will keep his legacy alive,” said Constanza Romero-Wilson.
August Wilson’s 10-play American Century Cycle is a singular achievement in the American theater. Goodman Theatre was first in the nation to produce every play—including two world-premiere productions—of the cycle, each one set in a different decade of the twentieth century, including: Gem of the Ocean (1900s), Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1910s), Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1920s), The Piano Lesson (1930s), Seven Guitars (1940s), Fences (1950s), Two Trains Running (1960s), Jitney (1970s), King Hedley II (1980s) and Radio Golf (1990s). At the plays’ core are lyrical monologues that take the song, laughter and pain of the African American experience and place it in the mouths of the most varied ensemble of characters written since Shakespeare.
"We are honored and excited to work with the Estate of August Wilson to reimagine and expand opportunities for students through the national competition, and to partner with theaters and organizations around the country to ensure that generations of young people will know the poetry of his language, the richness of his legacy, and the brilliance of this great American playwright," said Walter Director of Education and Engagement Willa J. Taylor who, during her 15 seasons at the Goodman has created 14 new education and engagement programs—including Teaching August Wilson, which develops educators’ capacity to use Wilson’s American Century Cycle as a lens for American history.
“It’s my profound pleasure to help lead and reimagine the August Wilson Monologue Competition. Over the past 13 years, I’ve seen the powerful impact of August’s words on the self-esteem of thousands of students—and the inspiration of his legacy on teachers and theaters across the nation,” said award-winning director and filmmaker Derrick Sanders, Associate Director of the Drama Division at Juilliard and the producing director of Chicago’s August Wilson Monologue Competition, which has drawn nearly 4,000 students over the past 13 years.
In December 2020, Netflix released Giving Voice, a full-length documentary about the national August Wilson Monologue Competition and the importance and influence of Wilson’s work on the students. The inspirational film features footage of the Chicago Monologue Competition and Sanders, along with interviews of Viola Davis, Denzel Washington and Stephen Henderson; watch the film's trailer.
2022 August Wilson Monologue and Design Competitions Timeline
The free August Wilson Monologue Competition gives Chicagoland youth an opportunity to explore and share the richness of Wilson’s American Century Cycle through master classes and offering college scholarships. The newest aspect of the competition—“Designing August,” focusing on scenic and design elements—returns for its second year. Program participants from around Chicago encounter Wilson’s ten-play cycle and receive coaching from teaching artists to prepare their monologues for competition.
March 4 Deadline for teachers and administrators to apply for their students
March 15 Individual student application deadline for acting and design
March 21 Deadline for final “Designing August” submissions
March 21-23 Preliminary Monologue Auditions (at Roosevelt University and Logan Center for the Arts)
April 18 Semi-Final Monologue Auditions (at Victory Gardens Theater)
April 23 Masterclass, coaching for finalists
May 2 Final Monologue and Design Competition (at Goodman Theatre, 6pm)
Now in Session
For High School Students in the Chicagoland Area
This five-week training program prepares young artists to participate in the August Wilson Monologue Competition, a city-wide competition open to all Chicago high school students. Students who perform a monologue or share a design presentation at the competition are eligible to win cash prizes, scholarships, and opportunities to work with professional theatre artists.
Born and raised in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August Wilson (1945-2005) authored the American Century Cycle of 10 plays, including Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Fences, Two Trains Running, Jitney, King Hedley II and Radio Golf. These works explore the heritage and experience of African Americans, decade by decade, over the course of the 20th century. Goodman Theatre was the first in the country to have produced every play in Wilson’s cycle. In 2003, Wilson made his professional stage debut in his one-man show How I Learned What I Learned. Wilson’s work garnered many awards, including Pulitzer Prizes for Fences (1987) and The Piano Lesson (1990); a Tony Award for Fences; Great Britain’s Olivier Award for Jitney; as well as seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars and Jitney. Additionally, the cast recording of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom received a 1985 Grammy Award and Wilson received a 1995 Emmy Award nomination for his screenplay adaptation of The Piano Lesson. On October 16, 2005, Broadway renamed the theater located at 245 West 52nd Street the August Wilson Theatre.
Willa J. Taylor
Willa J. Taylor is the Walter Director of Education and Engagement at Goodman Theatre. In her 15 seasons, she has created 14 new education and engagement programs, including InterGENS, which partners seniors and teens to create original narrative performances that address community concerns; Stage Chemistry, a unique interactive curriculum for students based on science and math concepts onstage; NOURISH, which mentors community organizations interested in finding art-based solutions to community-identified problems; and Teaching August Wilson, which develops educators’ capacity to use Wilson’s American Century Cycle as the lens for American history. Taylor was the 2020 inaugural recipient of the Exemplar Award from the August Wilson Society for her advocacy for teaching August Wilson’s work in schools; and was honored with the 2021 Leadership in Community-Based Theatre and Civic Engagement Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education. She is adjunct faculty at DePaul University where she teaches dramaturgy for youth, and leads workshops nationally on facilitation, intergenerational organizing, and trauma-informed pedagogy. Taylor is a writer and storyteller who performs nationally. She is a contributor to Arts Integration in Education: Teachers and Teaching Artists as Agents of Change, published by Intellect LTD; and to Applied Theatre with Youth: Education, Engagement, Activism, published by Routledge. Her scholarship will also be featured in the forthcoming edited collection: August Wilson In Context with Cambridge University Press. She holds a Masters of Fine Arts from American University, Masters of Education from Concordia University, and a culinary degree from Kendall College.
An award-winning director and filmmaker, Derrick Sanders is the Associate Director of the Drama Division at Juilliard. He has been the producing director of Chicago’s August Wilson Monologue Competition and an associate professor in the theater department at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was also the founding artistic director of Congo Square Theatre, one of the country’s leading ensembles dedicated to work rooted in the African diaspora. Richard Feldman (faculty 1987-present), who had been serving as associate dean for 16 years, will continue teaching and directing in the division. Sanders received a BFA from Howard University and an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. His directing credits include the world premiere of Jonathan Norton’s Penny Candy (Dallas Theater Center); Kelvin Roston Jr.’s Twisted Melodies (Baltimore Center Stage, Apollo Theater, Mosaic Theater Company); Athol Fugard’s The Island and Carlyle Brown’s The African Company Presents Richard III (American Players Theatre); Will Power’s Fetch Clay, Make Man (Round House Theatre); Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop (Virginia Stage Company); Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park and Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Beneatha’s Place for “The Raisin Cycle” (Baltimore Center Stage); Lydia Diamond’s Stick Fly (True Colors Theatre Company); Javon Johnson’s Sanctified (Lincoln Theatre); Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder’s Gee’s Bend (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park); Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog (American Theater Company); David Ingber’s Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money (world premiere), Christopher Paul Curtis’ Bud, Not Buddy, and Dan Gutman’s Jackie and Me (Chicago Children’s Theatre); and the world premiere of Five Fingers of Funk (Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis). Perfect Day, the short film he wrote and directed, garnered critical acclaim and numerous awards. In addition to founding the August Wilson Monologue Competition, which is featured in the film Giving Voice, Sanders has directed numerous Wilson plays, including King Hedley II (Signature Theatre, Kennedy Center); Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (Baltimore Center Stage); Fences and Radio Golf (Virginia Stage); and Jitney (True Colors Theatre Company). He was also the assistant director of the Broadway premieres of Radio Golf and Gem of the Ocean.