Giving Voice, the documentary following the 2018 August Wilson Monologue competition, does exactly what its title suggests.
By presenting several finalists and their journey throughout the year, the film (now streaming on Netflix) allows audiences to discover more about performance and the potential pool of talent we’ll see in the years to come. Here are five ways Giving Voice lends its power to spotlight the talent of the future and more.
A Peek Into the Lives of Student Performers
The movie goes beyond the preparations and rehearsals ahead of the main event. It explores each contestant’s connection to performance, often filmed in their own home, complete with posters (and even a few Playbills). By doing so, the documentary enhances the audience’s understanding of these real-life characters, whether it’s their experience growing up Black in a white neighborhood or finding their love of performance after joining Toastmasters.
The Competition Itself
By highlighting the August Wilson Monologue Competition process itself, Giving Voice showcases just how deep the pool is for the up-and-coming generation of performers. This event happens every year, and thousands of students compete. From the regional tryouts to the finals at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway, the annual event is a grueling demonstration of what it takes to be successful on the stage, and the documentary does not hold back on what it’s like to go through that process.
The film seeks to more deeply explore the realities of Black performance and artistry from underserved communities in America. For example, the high cost of private drama coaching often means talented young artists never get their shot.
Veterans Lift Up New Talent
“You guys, you’re my future,” says competition Co-Founder Kenny Leon to the finalists. It’s an earnest reflection of what this competition means to the established professionals looking to support new talent. Leon doesn’t want to see these finalists just win and move on—these are the performers who could be in a play he’s directing next year, the year after, or a decade from now. Similarly, Tony and Oscar winners Viola Davis and Denzel Washington talk about how August Wilson created a legacy of works for African-American performers that can withstand interpretation for generations to come.
Celebration of August Wilson
The use of archival footage from interviews and speeches by the playwright grants audiences a look into the mind of Wilson. “Our purpose throughout the making of the film was to not only show the excitement and nervous thrills of a theatrical competition, but to intersect that with why August was such a singular and vital artist,” says director James D. Stern. In addition, the students all share their personal journeys discovering Wilson and how they came to select the pieces they’re performing.