By Dawn Paul, Associate Editor
If you are in the arts, media, or entertainment here in Houston, it’s common to hear up-and-coming talent express feelings of Houston lacking a platform for them to truly shine. If you are one of those who share this sentiment, don’t pack up your bags just yet and move to L.A. Though it is true that L.A. and New York are known for entertainment, there are those who recognize that the talent in Houston is in need of a platform. Helping to create a prime stage that will help open doors for the up-and-comings are Diane Tribitt (D’Lyric Inspired, LLC) and Sonya Early (S. Nicole Speaks) of The Musicians’ Wives™. This fierce female duo has collaborated to create the Houston Monologue Slam™. This inaugural event held this past weekend welcomed a packed house and some of the most talented actors, poets, and singers in our city. I applaud Tribitt and Early, because they get it. They get that Houston’s talent can be overlooked and that Houston can be overlooked when it comes to entertainment. Instead of just talking about it, they have created this amazing opportunity for the talent in our city to be appreciated and gain exposure.
The Houston Monologue Slam™ was definitely a labor of love and had some strong support from Houston star power. Helping to bring some of the best local artists to this stage were actress, producer, and singer Charnele Brown from “A Different World,” Denise O’Neal, founder of Houston series “Fade to Black,” and Brenda “Bebe” Wilson, who has worked closely with The Ensemble Theater. Contestants were Calyria Reynolds, Rebecca Bernstein, Rhonda Young, Clay Pool, Tawanna Tarver, and Diamatina aka “I Am Royalty.”
With bringing great talent to compete, you have to be very selective about the judges. The Houston Monologue Slam™ brought judges (Rebekah Williams Threlkeld, Kerissa Arrington, and Barbara Starkes) who not only have a strong background in the industry, but who are also respected in entertainment and theatre as well. Contestants received feedback and constructive criticism from judges that was real, relevant, and genuine, helping them in their goals working towards a successful career in entertainment.
The Houston Monologue Slam™ was a two-round competition. During the first round, contestants delivered a short, but powerful monologue of their choosing. The judges would be the deciding factor after round one, after which three contestants moved on to the second round. The contestants were judged on voice/projection, physicality/movement, sensory/activity, originality, and personality. Round two or “The Grand Slam” required the finalists to perform a new monologue with a specific theme, and they were challenged to learn the monologue within a short period of time and perform that piece for the judges and audience. In round two, the audience served as the judges, cheering on their favorite performance. Surprisingly, this round ended with two contestants tying for 3rd place, ending with four instead of three contestants moving on to the finale. After the finale, Tawanna Tarver was crowned the gold as the Houston Monologue Slam™ winner, receiving a cash prize, a copy of her performance, and a spot in the next D’Lyric Inspired production, “Matters of the Heart.”
Tarver was born and raised in Sealy, Texas. She has always had a gift for the arts, performing as a vocalist since the age of 4. Tarver has been acting for over 9 years, having been seen in over 20+ plays and productions including “I Can’t Fight The Feeling,” “God’s Man and the First Lady,” “I’m Too Old For This Offer,” and “Over The Pink Cloud.” She was a lead in the D’Lyric Inspired production of “Girls Night Out – A Twist of Faith.” Tarver says, “I thank God for this opportunity, and I would like to thank my family, and especially my kids for all of their support.”
With Mayor Turner’s initiatives to bring more Hollywood productions and entertainment opportunities to Houston, the Houston Monologue Slam™ was right on time. Tribitt and Early collaborating for this competition is refreshing not only for Houston, but for the art scene, with more slams coming in the near future. A portion of the proceeds of the evening were donated to the Serenity in Sisterhood Scholarship Fund founded by The Musicians Wives™. This event welcomed a diverse group of performers to compete and be featured. Kudos to Tribitt and Early for a well-thought-out competition. Not only was it entertaining, but it was purposeful, bringing to light Houston talent is not to be ignored.