A group of MTSU liberal arts students got a firsthand look — and perhaps a glimpse at a future career path — when award-winning playwright John Morogiello recently visited campus for a special guest artist performance.
The MTSU College of Liberal Arts’ Department of English and the Virginia Peck Trust Fund sponsored the free public event, held Tuesday, April 11, in the Tom H. Jackson Building. Morogiello performed select scenes from several of his plays with assistance from MTSU senior theatre major Delaney Keith.
English professor Claudia Barnett said she usually hosts performances with theater professionals like this to give students an alternative look if they choose to continue their journey on the road to acting or producing plays.
“I often try to bring in someone who is different from me in terms of how we write, how we approach writing,” Barnett said. “I love John’s work. It’s extremely clever.”
Barnett, who teaches courses in playwriting, said holding events like this may spark interest in the many students who are thinking about writing and producing plays.
With the semester winding down and students declaring, dropping and changing majors, Barnett said she believes bringing in a professional such as Morogiello provides a hands-on example for her students.
Among Morogiello’s works are “Engaging Shaw,” “Blame It on Beckett” and “The Consul, The Tramp, and America’s Sweetheart.” He and Keith performed brief pieces from four of his works ranging from comedy to drama; each scene had a distinct tone that reeled the audience in as the afternoon progressed.
For Keith, performing with a playwright like Morogiello “is always a valuable experience to me,” she said.
“John has written several successful plays, which made me slightly nervous to work with him, but he was great to work with,” Keith added. “He had specific ideas about the characters and what he wanted from them, which was nice.”
As her time at MTSU comes to a close, Keith said her passion for and devotion to acting will not.
“My future plans are to stay in the Nashville area for about a year doing theater and film, and then move to a bigger city like Chicago or Los Angeles,” she said.
“As long as I am doing theater and acting, I know I will be happy.”
Morogiello noted that his favorite scene performed for the intimate audience of around 50 spectators came from his play “Civilizing Lusby,” which hasn’t yet been produced.
The play revolves around a tragedy with jokes, and playing a 21-year-old character was really fun for the veteran writer.
Morogiello and Barnett, an award-winning playwright in her own right, met years ago at a theater conference and reconnected in hopes of spreading wisdom at the university about what it takes to be a professional wordsmith and/or performer.
“Find someone who could support you … and it’s just not emotionally, but financially as well,” Morogiello advised, listing a handful of cities around the country — New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. — that he feels actors can realistically make a living solely on their craft. Having a “go-to” job or funding source also is important while chasing the dream, he added, because becoming a successful actor or playwright isn’t cheap.
— Jayla Jackson (firstname.lastname@example.org)