Sophomore Sophia Leverett Wins the 2023 August Wilson New Voices Regional Competition
Providence Catholic sophomore Sophia Leverett won the 2023 August Wilson New Voices Regional Competition on Monday, March 27, 2023, held at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.
“August Wilson is an African American Playright,” says Dr. Stacy Eckert, Director of Choirs, Liturgical Music and Theatre at Providence Catholic. “Sophia chose a monologue, and then competed against high school and college aged students at the finals. Now, she will compete at the national finals in May. We are extremely proud of her dedication to her craft and this incredible accomplishment.”
According to www.goodmantheatre.org, “August Wilson’s Century Cycle is a singular achievement in American Theatre. Each of the ten world-class plays is set in a different decade of the Twentieth Century. At the core of each work are soaring, lyrical monologues that take the song, laughter, pain, and rich content of African American Life, and place it in the mouths of the greatest and most varied ensemble of characters written since Shakespeare. This monologue competition offers students of all ethnicities the opportunity to inhabit the lives and speak the words of these vital, lively characters.”
Sophia was one of 20 finalists – out of 400 total participants – who competed at the event. “I was looking for an opportunity in which I could be surrounded by fellow actors,” says Sophia. “I wanted to educate myself about August Wilson and other black playwrights. I wanted to grow as an actor. I was reading all the other monologues and thought they were great. However, when I read the monologue I chose…I started crying. I realized all my senses were activated. I could see her pain. I could hear her pain.”
The competition is open to all students from Chicago Area High Schools. Participants perform a two or three minute monologue, taken from any of the plays in August Wilson’s Century Cycle, before a panel of experienced judges. They are judged on preparedness, understanding of the text, vocal delivery, characterization and emotional connection to the material.
It wasn’t just the competition that inspired Sophia, but the opportunity to learn more about young, black students in theatre. “I think it is important for other young black actors to realize our voices matter,” she says. “August Wilson writes about the black struggle in most of his work and it’s inspiring to see young black individuals get their chance to shine. I was able to be part of a community; something that is bigger than myself. I felt love, creativity, and hope. I only hope that others get a chance to have the same experience.”
To prepare, Sophia worked through the Goodman August Wilson New Voices program. “I worked with my coaches every weekend. I read my monologue from five to twenty times a night. I never performed it anywhere else besides Goodman,” she adds. “At Nationals, I look forward to meeting other creative individuals and learning more about myself. It’s really not about winning. Just being able to have this experience is a blessing in itself. I am extremely thankful to God for blessing me with this opportunity.”
Sophia is a Frankfort resident. At Providence Catholic, she is involved in basketball, track, cross country, Student Council, Yearbook Club, IALAC 2.0, Theatre, Forensics Club, Model UN, Scholastic Bowl, Coding Club, and serves as Student Ambassador. Outside of Providence, she is also a member of the National Society of High School Scholars and a Lymphoma and Leukemia Society Student Visionary Team Member.