Queens Students Boost Confidence Using Playwright's Words
A program at some city high schools is teaching the work of a famous playwright in a unique way, allowing students to put their public speaking and memory skills to the test. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
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Hillcrest High School Senior Alicia Sycamore took to the stage Monday, reciting an excerpt from August Wilson's "Seven Guitars" spoken by a woman named Vera, the former girlfriend of the main character named Floyd.
"He had a hit record, and he left me for another girl and went to Chicago to make that hit record with her," explained Sycamore.
Alicia is one of 15 students at Hillcrest involved in the August Wilson Monologue Competition presented by the non-profit Learning through an Expanded Arts Program or LEAP. Students at schools in seven cities including six here in New York are studying Wilson's 10-play "Century Cycle", a chronicle of the 20th Century African American Experience.
"The reason we love the program is because the kids really connect to the work of August Wilson, it is really a place where they can shine, said Leap Associate Executive Director Alice Krieger.
"Every week they get to work with a teaching artist, and that's just something I wouldn't be able to provide them, they get an hour and a half with this professional who can show them how to make their characters come to life," said Hillcrest High School Theatre Institute Director Amy Morrison.
The students say the program helps give them self confidence getting up on stage in front of an audience and having to remember their lines. Of course, there are always some jitters.
"When you see like an audience you sort of kind of feel like you need to release the tension and the nerves kind of help you to get that all out," said Hillcrest High School Senior Kemone Robinson.
"You get your mind, and just have to know that it's for you and this is the character that I am portraying," said Hillcrest High School Senior Jkaira Collins.
"It really prepares them for a life of understanding what's it is to be part of the theatre community," said Hillcrest High School Principal Stephen Duch.
The top three students from the competition at Hillcrest High will move on to the city finals. The top three finishers from there will head on to the nationals, to be held appropriately at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway.