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MIHS sophomore earns spot in national monologue competition

Josiah Townsend, a Mercer Island High School student, will travel to New York to compete in the finals of drama competition that features the work of playwright, August Wilson. - Contributed photo
Josiah Townsend, a Mercer Island High School student, will travel to New York to compete in the finals of drama competition that features the work of playwright, August Wilson.
— image credit: Contributed photo

In February, three Mercer Island High School students competed with about 60 others from the Puget Sound region in the Seattle Repertory Theatre August Wilson Monologue Competition. Two students, Josiah Townsend and Jahari Delgado, reached the finals with eight other competitors. Townsend finished in second place, earning a $250 cash prize and a trip to compete in the national finals in New York this May.

“I am so pleased and proud of the work Jahari and Josiah did for this competition. They spent hours working, rehearsing and memorizing these pieces. They took the words and poetry of August Wilson and really brought them to life,” said MIHS Drama Director Daniela Melgar. “Each of them is incredibly talented. They understand how complicated, intense, honest and beautiful these characters are.”

Townsend, a sophomore, is looking forward to competing in New York less than a mile away from where he hopes to attend college, at Juilliard. “I was so fascinated in August Wilson’s background. I connect with his work because every character he introduces in his plays reminds me of a real character I have met in my life,” said Townsend. “I am proud to say I am an Islander and that community supports me with love and encouragement.”

Townsend added that not making the top ten when he competed last year fueled him to come back with greater determination this year.

Wilson was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who wrote a series of ten plays, based mostly in Pittsburgh where he was born, chronicling more than 100 years of the African American experience. In 1990, he moved to Seattle, where he lived until his death in 2005.

“I found it so pleasing that MIHS had two students in the finals and it was wonderful that they completed this project during Black History Month,” Melgar added. “August Wilson is often called the modern-day American Shakespeare. He did so much for the African American identity in his plays.”

The top three winners from competitions in eight states will compete from May 3 through 6 at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway.

“This was a wonderful accomplishment for both Josiah and Jahari and a celebration of the work of August Wilson,” said Mercer Island Schools District Superintendent Dr. Gary Plano. “We’re proud of their work and look forward to supporting Josiah when he performs again in New York.”

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