The Power of The Piano

By Jonathan Gougisha (Senior)

Senn High School junior, Lawren Carter, stood center stage on Broadway this year after finding herself victorious in the Chicago August Wilson Monologue Competition.

At the age of 17, Lawren Carter impressed many with her powerful monologue, achieving first place over 700 students in the Chicago competition, a $500 scholarship, and a performance on the Broadway stage in New York.

Lawren Carter poses after her monologue performance (courtesy DNA Info)
Lawren Carter poses after her monologue performance (courtesy DNA Info)

August Wilson is an American playwright and Pulitzer prize winner who wrote a total of 10 plays involving the experience of African Americans. Carter performed a segment of one of Wilson’s shorter pieces entitled The Piano Lesson. The play involves a very strong female character that holds on to a family heirloom, a piano, and begins to argue with family about what to do with that piano that she wants to keep. Carter discovered that the character’s debate could connect to her life, and she found that connection through her father.

Carter’s largest inspiration in her performance was her father. Her father was a former gang member who was shot several times, which resulted in the decapitation of his leg. From that point he had a prosthetic leg which was passed down to Carter after his death. The prosthetic leg then led to the emotional connection Carter had in performing the play.

“I made it more of my monologue,” said Carter, “to get the true feeling out of it.”

Carter fist saw the connection between The Piano and her father’s prosthetic leg after a late discussion with her mother before the competition. Her mother told her to imagine that people were trying to take the prosthetic leg similarly to how people in the play tried to take the piano.

Carter then mentioned a person that has helped her throughout the competition. One of which was Lead Theatre teacher in the Senn arts program Joel Ewing.

“We worked on where to pause, what to think during those pauses, and how to emitionally connect to the character,” said Ewing, “she was really connected, emotionally, to the character.” He then described the performance as “really phenomenal.”

This was Senn’s first time entering the competition, so many were surprised at the outcomes.

Principal at Senn, Susan Lofton, described the play that Carter performed as both “incredible” and “robust with feeling.” Lofton was very pleased that the students in the Arts were capable of so much.

“It posed as a real challenge,” said Lofton, “but they brought a nice intellectual understanding to these parts.”

Students in the Senn arts program managed to withhold the top spots in the Chicago competition, but in the end Carter took first place.

“In the future I want to perform something I am not so connected with,” said Carter. “I want a challenge.”

Carter left with more enthusiasm towards acting, and will remain a very important part of the Senn Arts program.

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