Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Young Actors Vie over Comedic Drama Honors

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Young Actors Vie over Comedic Drama Honors

Article excerpt

Byline: ERICA OPISSO, Staff writer

Judd Johnson, 28, of Gainesville has playwrights William Shakespeare and Peter Purnell to thank for his all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii.

Johnson's first-place performance of the 16th century playwright's Twelfth Night and Purnell's Scooter Thomas Makes it to the Top of the World earned him $1,000 at the National Society of Arts and Letters North Florida Chapter's Comedic Drama Competition. He will perform both pieces at the society's national competition in Honolulu on May 18.

Yearly competitions sponsored by the society are held to "encourage and support the arts by encouraging young talent," said Barbara Thornton, member of the North Florida chapter. The society works to discover young artists and holds competitions to create opportunities for their career advancement.

Seven other contestants from North Florida recently competed with Johnson in The Florida Times-Union's auditorium downtown, where they were asked to perform two monologues or soliloquies, one from an older Greek, Roman, or Elizabethan comedy and one from a contemporary comic play such as Miller, Wilde or Chekhov.

Contestants had to be between the ages of 18 and 30 and without personal agents.

Johnson, who is studying acting at the University of Florida, said while he feels stronger with serious pieces, he entered the contest for comedic experience.

"I push myself to get better and better whether I win or lose," he said. "I love the sense of pressure."

With strict silence required from the audience and applause forbidden, the eight contestants were allowed only a chair and six minutes each to perform both selections. They relied on their voice, facial expression and mastery of the piece and stage to impress the audience and three judges.

Barbara Akesson, an eight-year member of the National Society of Arts and Letters and judge for the competition, said she needs the contestants to "sell themselves" to the audience. …

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