Meet the DRW College Prep Seniors Who Competed in the National August Wilson Monologue Competition

Published On: June 13th, 2024Categories: 2024, Campus Life, DRW College Prep, Students

Two DRW College Prep seniors went far this year in the highly competitive national August Wilson Monologue Competition. J’Maria Stamps and N’yana Polk have been avid theater students for three years now, specializing in set design. This year, they both competed in the design portion of the competition, where they faced off against about 100 other talented students in the Chicagoland area who created set designs for different August Wilson monologues. Both were selected as semi-finalists (ranking in the top 6) for the region, and J’Maria went on to win 2nd place overall in the national competition!

Ms. Eva Tyler, their teacher, is so proud of them and the many doors and opportunities this competition will bring to the girls as they add it to their portfolios and resumes. J’Maria even received scholarship money for placing in the national competition.

“I was proud. I was happy that DRW was back on the map. After COVID, things were rough. I was really defeated. But this happening has really brought back my hope, and I’m so proud of them,” Tyler said.

We sat down with J’Maria and N’yana to hear more about their passion for theater and how they felt about the competition. Check it out:

Q: What does theater mean to you?

J’Maria Stamps: It’s an expressive outlet. I love music and that kind of goes with acting and things like that.

N’yana Polk: Theater is important to me because I feel like it’s very creative. It’s for you to let all that creative steam out. The students who do participate in theater—they get to express themselves in more ways than just in class.

Q: Why did you decide to enter the competition?

JS: It had a lot to do with Ms. Tyler. I did it to do something different and try something new because I’ve done theater before, but I was never in the August Wilson (competition). So, Ms. Tyler was like, “Do the design portion. Even if you don’t want to act, do something, try something.”

NP: Ms. Tyler really made me think about it more. At first, I didn’t want to do it, but then I thought about it as more of an experience and opportunity for me to do something different and step out of my comfort zone. Once I started it, it was actually interesting to take something and make it your own because even if you had the same monologue as someone else, you did it in a different way. That’s why I really like it.

  • J'maria and N'yana sit together at the deign gallery
  • DRW students posed together at the competition.

Q: How did you feel about being selected as a semi-finalist?

JS: I’m not even gonna lie, I didn’t think I was going to make it just because I wasn’t confident in myself. But to see that I made it was a real confidence boost. I was like, “Dang, I really made it. They liked my art.” It was a good feeling.

NP: I was proud because I feel like I pushed myself to do something that I didn’t want to do at first. I saw the beauty in it. And I felt like I was being acknowledged for doing something good. So I felt proud of myself.

Q: J’Maria, you won the semi-finals and made it to nationals. What did you do to prepare for that?

JS: So what I did to prepare was go over my monologue again and really get back in touch with my design. I also just went into it with confidence. I present the same design, but I don’t say the same thing every time. It’s about the design, yes, but it’s also about how you explain that design. It’s about eye contact. So, I gave it my all… It’s just really about how you interact with (the audience) and how you get them to interact with your project.

DRW student holding trophy

Q: Do you plan to continue theater after high school?

JS: I don’t know. The design part of theater is interesting. It’s interesting to see what I could come up with and create, so maybe… I really liked thinking about the monologue and going through the different emotions to see what I could create… I would probably do art on the side (because) it’s really interesting to see the types of concepts you can come up with. Art can take so many different forms… I plan to major in social work because I want to be a psychotherapist.

NP: Perhaps. Maybe. I’m going to have a lot of time in college. I’ll be there for a while. So, I could probably minor in it or something like that. I plan to major in veterinary medicine. I’ve always wanted to do something with medicine, but I figured out I wanted to do something with animals. I really love animals.

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