As contestant after contestant entered the room with the three judges, Avery ’17 awaited anxiously for her turn to perform a monologue from August Wilson’s play, Radio Golf. Finally, when her three minutes to act came, her nervousness disappeared. During those three minutes, she did not think about all of the pressure on her. She simply performed.
Avery was selected to be a Los Angeles Regional Finalist after participating in the semi-final auditions for the August Wilson Monologue Competition, which was hosted at the Center Theater Group in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, Dec. 13. She was first selected to compete in the semi-final auditions after being chosen out of 153 other competitors in the preliminary auditions on Saturday, Nov. 8. Avery will be competing in the Regional Finals held at the Mark Taper Forum on Saturday, Mar. 2.
The August Wilson Monologue Competition, begun in 2008, is designed to give high school students from Los Angeles a chance to honor August Wilson’s work. Wilson was a Pulitzer prize-winning American playwright who wrote about the lives of African- Americans in the twentieth century. All students in 10th grade, 11th grade and 12th grade are eligible to participate in the competition. Competitors must perform a monologue from Wilson’s Century Cycle, a series of ten plays for which he won two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama.
Avery decided to participate in the Monologue Competition after Khanisha Foster, who works with the Center Theater Group, Performing Arts Department Head Anne Scarbrough and performing arts instructor Gleason Bauer approached the members of Drama Ensemble about auditioning.
Avery chose to portray Mame Wilks, an ambitious and independent wife from Radio Golf, Wilson’s last play from his Century Cycle.
When preparing for roles or auditions, Avery tries to understand how to bring her own life experiences into the character. In order to memorize her lines for the preliminary auditions, Avery studied her monologue even while waiting in line at the DMV. Everywhere she goes, Avery tries to find new aspects of her personality to add to her role.
“‘How does [this character] speak to my life? How can I use my life to shape my monologue?’ I think about my monologue and think of a different way to do it, really integrating Avery into the character,” Avery described.
Scarbrough thought that Avery’s performance at the competition was excellent and is excited that Avery will be moving on to the semi finals.
“Avery shows a really mature layer of understanding of [Radio Golf] and the character she’s playing. I’m super proud of her,” Scarbrough said.
Avery’s love of theater developed when she started participating in skits at family holidays.
“My older sister would direct me and our families into skits pertaining to the holiday…I wouldn’t be myself without [theater] in my life,” Avery said.
When she saw her sister, Schuyler Avery ’12, play Roxy in Marlborough’s production of Chicago, Avery realized how magical theater was.
“There’s something about live theater that has everyone on their toes…I just had to participate in theater,” Avery explained.
Avery said that coming to Marlborough has helped her to grow as an actress. She explained that Bauer has taught her many new angles and skills she can use when approaching a new character.
Avery feels both challenged and encouraged by the theater opportunities she has taken at Marlborough, including her role as Jack in this year’s production of Into the Woods.
“I really loved being in Into the Woods. Into the Woods was incredibly challenging for me because I don’t think of myself as a singer, and it was definitely a hurdle that I had to overcome,” Avery said.
Bauer described Avery as a risk taker and said that she has enjoyed watching Avery grow as an actress at Marlborough.
“She is pretty unfiltered in her willingness to follow her own creative impulse. For many girls, a lot of the work they are doing is to gain access to their creativity. She does a great job of accessing [her creativity] and taking risks. She’s not afraid to take risks and possibly fail,” Bauer explained.
For Avery, laughter is an immediate response of approval from the audience so she enjoys being able to take on humorous roles.
“I like playing funny characters or characters that invoke laugher or smiles,” she said.
Avery described her happiest moment in her acting career as when she played a bodybuilder named Helga at an improvisation show when she was a fourth grader.
“My dad was in the audience laughing, and I think that was the happiest moment when I heard my dad laugh,” she recalled.
Avery manages to balance her School workload with both her rehearsal schedules and volunteer work at the Skirball Cultural Center, a museum dedicated to preserving Jewish heritage.
“It’s such an honor to go to Marlborough, so you have to honor the education you are given and balance that hand in hand with the Marlborough theater program,” she said. “There’s no reason to complain about [homework]. You simply do it.”
Avery, despite viewing acting as an uncertain profession, said that she does want to pursue acting.
“It makes me nervous to say it, but I want to be an actor,” she said.