ATLANTA: True Colors Theatre Company has announced the winner and finalists of the second annual Next Narrative Monologue Competition (NNMC) for high school students. Sakura Rosenthal from Boston won first place along with a $3,000 scholarship. Sixteen students from eight cities across the country participated in the competition’s national finals earlier this month that featured original monologues from 31 contemporary Black playwrights.
Eryn Regans from Atlanta finished second with a $2,000 scholarship, and Laylah Cooper-Hallman from Greensboro, N.C., came in third, receiving a $1,000 scholarship. Each of the runners-up received a $250 scholarship from Stefaniyemiya Ingram for Shifting Energy from the HeARTt.
True Colors artistic director Jamil Jude began the NNMC out of a desire to center Black artists in an environment that understands the context of their work. As part of the Next Narrative program, Jude has reached into his professional network to commission monologues from 50 Black playwrights that reflect the rich diversity of the Black community, thereby providing an inclusive portal to new worlds and the truths therein. NNMC serves high school students, grades 9-12. In each participating region, students progress through three rounds of competition: preliminaries, semi-finals, and a regional final. The top two winners from each regional competition participate in the national finals.
“All of the students gave fantastic performances, and we extend our congratulations to Sakura, Eryn, and Laylah,” said Jude in a statement. “We can’t say enough to thank our National Finals Coordinator Larsen Kennedy for once again putting on a tremendous show and weekend of activities for the contestants.”
The finalists received an all-expenses-paid trip to New York for the event. In addition to performing, they also saw a performance of Fat Ham, had a lunch-and-learn session with Jonathan McCrory, executive artistic director of the National Black Theatre, and had professional headshots taken.
This year’s finalists included Jomar Crawford and Eryn Regans of Atlanta, Sakura Rosenthal and Seine Young of Boston, Fairah Leruise Harper and Sahir Budwani of Dallas, Nicole Pereira and Laylah Cooper-Holman of Greensboro, Sanaiah Hibbler and Ronneal Davis of Milwaukee, Isabelle Chow and Khylee Faith McBride of New York City, Rina Tchivandja and Nehema Kilassa of Portland, and Savanah Coleman and Lelena Moore of Seattle.
The national finals were held on May 8 at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, and were co-hosted by Jamil Jude and actor/producer Marcel Spears, who plays the lead role in the Pulitzer-winning Broadway play Fat Ham. Judges for the 2023 event were actors Billy Eugene Jones and Amber Iman, as well as Lillian Osei-Boateng, program manager for the arts for the Doris Duke Foundation.
True Colors Theatre Company is a nonprofit regional theatre company based in Atlanta. The theatre’s mission is to celebrate the rich tradition of Black storytelling while giving voice to bold artists from all cultures.
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