Discovering Broadway with AWMC Finalist Iliana Mendez

by:  Iliana Mendez at 05/14/2013

August Wilson Monologue Competition finalist Iliana Mendez, a student at Brighton High School, shares her story about discovering theatre and performing on her first Broadway stage.

Iliana Mendez, center, with Antonio Stroud, Naheem Garcia, and Derek Lindesay

My main goal for this competition wasn't winning (though it would have been a bonus if I did.) After my parents divorced, I rarely get to see my father. My father had no idea about my passion for theater and what my interests were. When I told my father about this competition, he told me "I want to see you, mama. When is it?" Just those two sentences made my year. My father who I only got to see 5-8 times a year wanted to see me perform—wanted to see do what I love to do. And he came to see me and I cried. My father was about to cry as well! He told me that he has never seen me shine like that . . . It was one of the major things to happen over there. The fact that my father got a glimpse of what I expect my future to look was absolutely one of the most important things to happen.

The overall experience was surreal! I got so close to almost everyone on the trip! I made amazing friends from New York, Chicago, LA — everyone, really! I learned about their states and how. Things work over there which I found really interesting. When I lost, I was extremely let down and disappointed in myself.  I felt like I wasn't good enough (yeah, dramatic!) but the amount of support I got from the people over there amazed me! I got support from the contestants from New York, Seattle, LA, Chicago, and Pittsburg and I honestly felt a whole lot better! That was my first actual rejection and I realized that entering this field,  I was gonna face many disappointments. This was my first taste of it!

This experience basically confirmed my love for theater. This was my first year in theater and I already accomplished more than. I thought! I was a National Finalist! A WILSONIAN SOLDIER! This confirmed my destiny, honestly. I love performing and I love shining on a stage where everyone can see me do what I do best.

AWMC changed my life! Thanks to the Huntington and Kenny Leon for bringing this competition! It really helps people find themselves, even through a 2 minutes monologue, students are finding themselves. I already have someone who is interested in entering the competition next year at Brighton!


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One of the most extensive and admired programs in the country, the Huntington’s Education Department serves more than 10,000 students, teachers, and community organizations each year with student matinees, state-wide Poetry Out Loud and the August Wilson Monologue Competition

This blog will feature updates from Donna Glick, Director of Education, Meg O'Brien, Manager of Education Operations, Alexandra Truppi, Education Manager for Curriculum & Instruction, as well as students and community members who have been involved the Huntington's programs.

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