Article Written By Sarah Joseph
Photo Courtesy of Erin Keating
In the midst of the clamoring dinner of Colket, the clear voice of a well-spoken, passionate woman captivated me with her impressiveness. Senior Erin Keating took me through a journey of her college career. Keating is double majoring in creative writing and literary studies with a concentration in gender studies. She finds that these majors coincide well as “what I learn in literary studies applies to my writing and better improves my writing.”
In her freshman year, her passion for writing and literature was evident in her British Literature class. Dr. Ken McGraw, the professor of her freshman class, saw potential in her.
“Erin is definitely unique. She is a distinguished and accomplished writer, an overall brilliant student who was very interested in the course materials.” McGraw said when asked about Keating. Four years ago, he recommended that she pursue her interest by applying to the the Fulbright Summer Institute and she did just that. Her three weeks in London ignited her love for Shakespeare as she learned at the Globe Theater Shakespearean acting, directing, and reading.
Her Sophomore year took her back to England as she was accepted into the Virginia Program at Oxford, where she spent 6 weeks exploring and discussing Elizabethan literature and other such readings. “In comparison to the fast pace of the Fulbright, I had 6 weeks in England. It was more of a local experience. I loved the Bodleian Library. It has such a great atmosphere.”
As she described her Junior year to me, I thought she was superhuman. Her Junior year was a whirlwind. In the fall she began to explore independent studies, as she found that she “wanted to pursue things [her] own way.” She directed and researched Lysistrata, a Greek comedy about women of Athens and Sparta refusing the marital bed in order to put pressure on the men to stop the war. (Fun Fact: The 2015 Chi-Raq film was a modern version of this play set in Chicago concerning the gang violence prevalent in Chicago.) Keating directed a few women in doing a stage reading of select scenes. The research she completed was showcased at the University of Miami, Ohio at the undergraduate classics conference. Keating also completed an independent study of prose poetry, undertaking an intense self-directed course of the literary definitions of poetry. From this she created a whole portfolio of poetry. This was just her fall semester.
Her spring semester was spent in Washington D.C., where she interned at the Smithsonian’s Discovery Theater, a live theater designed for children and middle schoolers. Here, Keating helped write and direct shows based off of the Smithsonian museums, all while engaging with the children. The show she helped write was for Earth Day which was meant to empower children to care for Mother Earth. In the summer, she continued to work with children as she interned at the Shakespeare Theater in New Jersey. She introduced youth to Shakespeare by helping middle and high school students put on Beowulf and The Tempest, respectively. Keating also worked as a dramaturge to provide research to help actors better understand the show. This internship combined her love of research and teaching, assisting her in deciding on her future as a professor, just one of the possibilities for Keating.
As she finishes her first semester of her senior year, she reminisces on what she has done and what is to come. “I have a Pathways Grant which has helped me to work on a play that I am writing. It is a feminist adaptation of Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, and Two Gentlemen of Verona. What is interesting about these three plays is that they are all taking place within the same city. I will be overlapping the plots and looking at the women’s perspective. I have been working with Alpha Psi Omega, the theater fraternity. I am really excited to see how this plays out this spring, especially as it is planned to be performed in the new outdoor amphitheater.” In regards to her plans for after graduation, she is still deciding. “I have begun the process of applying to graduate school. I am thinking about becoming a professor and getting a MFA in creative writing and a PhD. However, I was thinking about looking into jobs for practical work experience and getting more involved in the writing community such as editing and publishing.”
She already has some experience as the managing editor of the national literary magazine based in Roanoke, Roanoke Review and the editor in chief of Roanoke College’s very own literary magazine On Concept’s Edge. Keating also gives back to the community by working for the Pathways Grant for the Keeley Healing Arts Program at Carilion Clinic: Poems in the Waiting Room. She works on a staff that creates pamphlets with poems for local clinics to brighten the days of those waiting in the dreaded waiting room.
Erin Keating may be done with Roanoke Colleges soon, but she’s nowhere near done with the momentum she built along her way to now. Her academic advisor, Dr. Srikanth Mallavarapu would agree, “Erin is a remarkable student in many ways. She excels in both creative and scholarly activities. She is systematic, hardworking, and highly motivated. She has a bright future ahead of her.”