By CLAUDIO MARTINO
Award-winning writers Erica Hunt and Julia Jarcho visited Brooklyn College to read excerpts from their publications and discuss the process of crafting literary works with Theater MFA students.
Both writers met in a classroom Wednesday night filled with students and faculty of Brooklyn College and read excerpts from their works. Among the pieces was Grimly Handsome, Jarcho’s most recent play, which has received a lot of media attention since its premiere because of how it explores the human psyche on an animalistic level.
Jarcho has been a playwright for over a decade now; her first production, Nursery, premiered in 2001 in Manhattan’s Cherry Lane Theater.
At the reading, Jarcho debuted scenes from a yet-to-be-named production she is currently working on that uses a sofa as the setting. “There’s a saying that in conventional theater there’s this expectation that everything will happen around a sofa,” she said. “I realized to my horror I may never have written a play with a sofa in it and I was determined in a sort of rage I guess, to write a play that entirely took place around a sofa.”
Hunt is an esteemed poet who has been writing since the ’70s. Her writings deal with language and the meaning behind it. “You want a coherence that goes beyond personal acquaintance. You want it to actually go beyond what your voice isn’t and actually have a life that travels,” she explained. She read through several of her poems, each more so than the last waxing philosophically about the worlds that exist inside words.
The discussion ended with Hunt and Jarcho describing what they felt was most influential in piecing together their own writings.
Hunt named two recent theater productions as inspiration. One was Fiona Templeton’s 1990 production YOU- The City, a performance in which actors took individuals around the lower Manhattan area while performing monologues addressed to a single audience member.
Toni Morrison’s production of Desdemona, a retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello using Desdemona as the focal character, also played a great role in influencing Hunt. “The language was just so beautiful,” she said. “It made me think about what it would be like to take familiar stories and amplify the parts that have always been in the margins and put them in the center.”
Jarcho credited New York City itself as being her inspiration. As a native New Yorker, she was influenced by the theater, particularly the works of Sam Shepard. “There was just a lot of that, and I loved that writing a lot,” she said. “I loved how haunted and sad it was, without being manipulative. I felt it was very powerful and free.”