Thursday, December 17, 2009
Each semester, Dr. Jack Sullivan, professor of English, takes his ENG 363: The Drama class to see a half-dozen shows in New York City. As part of the experiential course, students meet with actors after the shows and discuss the performances over dinner. In addition, they are assigned to write essays and reviews about the performances.
This semester one of Sullivan’s students from ENG 363 took the assignment one step further when she submitted a cover letter and two of her reviews for publication on an arts and culture commentary Web site. Julie Morcate, a junior English major and a Baccalaureate Honors Program Scholar, recently had her first theater review published in the Broad Street Review.
Morcate didn’t even realize her accomplishment until being tipped off.
“My boyfriend actually told me he saw it online and said, ‘Congratulations, you’re a published writer,’” remembers Morcate, whose review of the Broadway show Memphis is posted online.
Morcate came across the publishing opportunity when she met the director of a theater company called Egopo at an event in Philadelphia. The director told her that she had read a review of the company’s production of Spring Awakening on Morcate’s blog. She suggested that Morcate submit her review, where she compared and contrasted Egopo’s production with the one in New York, to the Broad Street Review for publication.
“That’s the one that I was so proud of. It really illustrates how modern productions rely too much on spectacle – you know, flashy,” Morcate said. In comparison, Egopo’s productions are more natural because they usually have one set and rely on emotions as components of the story, she added.
An avid reader who is also interested in theater from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, Morcate said she enjoys writing about productions that focus on human interest and relationships. Through her reviews, she tries to examine what the play reveals about humans, their environments and different cultures.
“I’m more of a humanist. I don’t like how technology has changed the beat of our society,” she explained. “Everything is fast now and more artificial.”
Morcate, who is president of HerStory and a contributor to Venture – both literary magazines at the University, said she discovered her passion for writing when she took a journalism and creative writing class as a sophomore in high school. However, it was not until she took a course in experimental prose with Dr. Mickey Hess, assistant professor of English at Rider, that she “learned how to write with no boundaries,” she said.
Last spring, Morcate took ENG 323 – Workplace Writing: Reviewing and Publishing with Dr. Mary L. Morse, associate professor of English. That semester, she learned how to write art reviews and developed the blog to post her work.
Sullivan said Morcate should be very proud of her recent accomplishment.
“Julie is incredibly mature. She has a very seasoned sensibility. She’s a reader. Therefore she’s a sophisticated writer,” Sullivan said. “She’s also very modest. She doesn’t trumpet her accomplishments. When she told me that she was recently published, she said, ‘I just thought that’s what English majors were supposed to do.’”
While her dream job is to become the main theater reviewer for The New York Times, Morcate said she plans to write reviews as a hobby. In the future, she wants to teach English as a second language in another country and eventually work at a university as a professor. Next semester, Morcate plans to keep a blog when she studies abroad in Spain.
Sullivan, who runs similar trips for some of his other classes, including AMS 214: American Drama, said the goal of the course is two-fold — to help students to appreciate and experience Broadway culture and also to open the doors for his students who are interested in working in the field. Some of his students have landed internships and eventually jobs in the theater industry.
“I think when you get a student to publish their work, it not only gives them the experience to see their byline in print and empowers them to become a writer, but it also shows editors that they have the discipline and the savvy to do this,” Sullivan said. “It’s very hard to get published, and now it’s even harder because of the economy. Someone who has more clips is more likely to become a writer.”