Greenhill Students Chosen for Regional August Wilson Monologue Competition


Photo courtesy of Joshua Timmons

Senior, Joshua Timmons, participates in monologue competition.

Ava Iwasko and Emma Rikalo

Sophomore Erica Fulbright and senior Joshua Timmons were recently recognized as two of the top sixteen regional finalists in the August Wilson Monologue Competition.

The August Wilson Monologue Competition, started by collaborators Kenny Leon and Todd Kreidler, celebrates the work of playwright August Wilson by inviting students to perform a monologue from one of his many plays.

While the first competition was held in 2009, this year marks the first time Greenhill students have participated.

“I think we should be really proud and really excited that we represented Greenhill really well,” Head of Fine Arts Terry Martin said. “I hope that we continue to participate and get more students involved and excited about this.”

Although both Fulbright and Timmons have experience with performance, the August Wilson Monologue Competition was their first time participating in a monologue competition.

Timmons has been doing speech. interpretation and debate since fifth grade, and was named the national champion at the National Speech and Debate Tournament just last year for his poetry interpretation. He thought that the August Wilson Monologue Competition would be a fun way to go a bit out of his comfort zone.

“It seemed like fun,” Timmons said. “And it’s something different, I haven’t really done monologues. I’m not really a theater guy.”

Fulbright, on the other hand, has had plenty of acting experience, and has been a part of three school productions since coming to Greenhill her freshman year.

Each competitor was free to choose which piece to explore during their performances. Students were encouraged to dive into the emotions and themes present in their monologues.

“It was a one-minute-long monologue, and I thought, ‘This can’t be too deep’, but it really was,” Fulbright said. “It felt like in each line there was a different set of emotions or a different set of meanings.”

When Timmons chose his piece, he did not realize that it was in fact the longest of the available monologues. Timmons said that a piece similar to the monologue he performed would usually take him about four to five minutes to perform with the usual acting choices he makes.

However, the time limit for each performance was three minutes. So, Timmons had to work on making sure he was able to perform it under the time limit.

“I have to make precise acting decisions, which is something I had never really thought about before,” Timmons said.

In the end, however, Timmons was glad he chose the piece he did.

“It’s definitely worth it because I like the way that you can tell the story,” Timmons said.

They were, however, not alone during the preparation process. Fulbright and Timmons also worked with Martin and Upper School Drama and Theatre Teacher Valerie Hauss-Smith to prepare for their monologues.

Like most events, the competition has had to adjust in light of COVID-19 and was held on Zoom this year.

In total, 52 students from the DFW area competed in the competition. The larger group was split up into smaller groups of about 14 to 16 students each. Martin, Fulbright and Timmons were all in the same Zoom “room”, so Martin was able to see and give feedback on their preliminary performances.

“It was important as their sponsor that I was able to see their audition so that I could give them feedback and we can continue to work on what they did,” Martin said. “My role was to observe how they did and be able to give them feedback on how they did compared to the other actors in their group.”

While seeing others perform their monologues can create anxiety for some performers, Fulbright thinks she gained a lot out of the experience.

“It’s nerve-racking, seeing other people and how they perform,” Fulbright said. “But it’s also really cool to see these people do the same type of piece that you’re doing and perform them and see how they have their own take on it.”

According to Timmons, the lack of an in-person audience posed a new challenge for him, as competitors in the Zoom meeting would mute and turn off their cameras during others’ performances.

“Whenever you’re performing, the audience feedback can make a pretty big difference,” Timmons said. “Getting used to not having that is definitely weird.”

Although technical difficulties are always a concern when performing over Zoom, Fulbright said that, luckily, the competition went relatively smooth in that regard.

Ultimately, Fulbright and Timmons were successful during the competition, coming out as two of the top sixteen regional finalists.

Looking back on his performance, Timmons thought he learned a valuable lesson while preparing for the competition.

“I learned a decent amount about myself as a performer,” Timmons said. “Whenever I did this one, I had to be extremely precise with every choice that I made in my performance and to make it impactful within the amount of time that I had.”

Martin just hopes the students were able to learn about a new playwright that they had probably not known of previously.

“I think what they got out of it was a feeling of accomplishment that they discovered a body of literature that they weren’t aware of before,” Martin said.

Martin also thinks that August Wilson’s voice in particular is an important one for students to hear and learn more about.

“The fact that the competition brings August Wilson’s voice to high school students is really important. I think that is what makes this competition so unique, one where all of these are African American voices of the 20th century talk about their experiences,” Martin said. “It’s really interesting, the scope of the work that August Wilson, as a playwright, left us and how particularly he gives voice to the African American experience and the richness of the characters that he’s created.”

Martin hopes to bring the competition to students outside of the Greenhill Theatre Department next year. Because students entered in the competition so close to the first performances this year, Martin brought it to drama students first.

“We were so late, and I immediately went to theatre students because they were used to preparing something like this, and I figured that they could be ready in the time period that we needed to be ready,” Martin said. “In the future, I would open this up to not only our theater students, but anyone who might be interested in participating in the competition.”

Fulbright hopes that she can participate in the competition again next year and encourages others to consider participating.

“I would recommend it to anyone who likes speaking,” she said. “I think anyone that can speak well would do a good job at it.”

Timmons agrees that any students who are interested should go ahead and enter.

“If anybody has thought about it or is on the fence about it, I would definitely say to do it. It’s fun, and you’ll definitely learn something,” Timmons said, “It’s a great opportunity.”