On Monday, May 7 in New York City, August Wilson’s famous plays were brought to life through a monologue competition for high school students.

Organized for the fourth time by LEAP (Learning through an Expanded Arts Program), the event is meant to honor the legendary playwright, who depicted many aspects, both comic and tragic, of African-American lives throughout the 20th century.

This nationwide competition introduces high school students to Wilson’s work and to the world of theater and arts in general.

“It involves seven cities, and New York City has six schools that are participating. We had 250 students and among them 18 have been selected for the semifinal, after which three others were chosen to compete for the final on a national level,” explained LEAP founder and Associate Director Alice Krieger.

After the semifinal two weeks ago, Moise Morancy of Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School, Brittney Lopez of Manhattan Repertory Company High School for the Theatre Arts and alternate (third place) Siddiq Saunderson of Edward R. Murrow High School were selected to compete at the final competition among students from Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle and Chicago.

For about two hours, students delivered emotional performances full of incredible maturity for the jury and the audience. Each student had to choose his or her piece carefully and put a lot of research into their role.

Though none of the New York City students won the final competition, they said they enjoyed the experience.

Brittney said, “I appreciated each moment of this competition since the beginning.” When asked where she finds the strength and confidence needed onstage, she said: “I try to think about mothers who have lost a child to gun violence. I had the opportunity to interview mothers who have to go through this pain. So I think hard about this suffering, and I say to myself that if I am not true [onstage], I am letting them down.”

Although he acknowledged slight disappointment, finalist Moise told the Amsterdam News, “This was a great experience. I thank LEAP and my teachers for this opportunity that I had.”

For 34 years now, LEAP has been providing nationally recognized arts programs to more than 2 million New York City students through school residencies, after-school activities, teacher training and parent workshops.

“LEAP’s mission is to improve the quality of education in public schools through a hands-on, arts-based approach to teaching the academic curriculum,” the organization said in a press release.