In their respective roles as Becker, a character in August Wilson's "Jitney," John Tyler High School theatre students Precious Gregory, sophomore, and Aaron Rouse, freshman, channel the frustrations of a character whose life seems to be crumbling.

Soon after hearing their son has been convicted of murder, Becker's wife dies with a broken heart.

The play, which documents the lives of five cab drivers struggling to survive, is part of Wilson's "Century Cycle," a series of 10 plays that chronicle different aspects of the African American experience throughout the twentieth century.

In preparation for the August Wilson Monologue Competition, Gregory, Rouse and other John Tyler theatre students learned to connect with their own experiences and memories to understand how to deliver their performances.

As a result, six students from the school's theatre program advanced to the state competition, which was held at Southern Methodist University on Jan. 12. For their monologues, Gregory and Rouse were named alternates for the national competition.

Their performances are just a part of what is slated to take place during the Black History Program that will be held at John Tyler on Feb. 28.

While officials at the school are still working out some details of the event,

Assistant Principal Justin Simmons said it would be held on campus during school hours and will be open to the public.

Simmons said the school's fine arts programs would be represented and the experience would provide attendees a lively and creative way of learning about Black History.

For students in the school's fine arts programs, Simmons added that the event gives them the opportunity to perform for a large audience and receive the same type of support that's commonly seen at the school's sporting events.

"We want to just give them the opportunity to know they will be in front of spectators," he said. "...This is a melting pot and we're a campus where diversity is key."

Theatre students have been busy since coming back from winter break. In addition to having recently wrapped up preparation for the August Wilson Monologue Competition, students have also had to prepare for participation in the East Texas Academic Rodeo and UIL one-act play competition.

Both Gregory and Rouse said they think a lot of positive things can be gleaned from this year's program.

"It's a whole, long complete story to kind of tell what people back then would go through, how life was before and how it sometimes still is today," Rouse said of the monologues theatre students will perform.

"I'm hoping what people get from this is they have to fight for who they love and what they love," Gregory added. "No matter what's going on with them, they have to fight."


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