Constituent Spotlight: Morgan Brown
High school student’s hidden talent takes her to Broadway
When high school student Morgan Brown signed up for the forensics team, she had no idea that she’d end up on Broadway.
“Everyone was signing up for forensics, so I walked into the meeting thinking I was joining the debate team,” said Brown, a senior at Southland College Prep High School in Richton Park.
She quickly discovered that forensics was not debating, but oratory performance—a combination of public speaking and theatrical presentation. Or, as her coach Cheryl Fraizer metaphysically describes it—“the sport of the mind.”
Within a few years, she developed her talent to the point where she qualified for the National August Wilson Monologue Competition, named after the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright. The regional winner travels to Broadway to for the final round of the competition.
“My sophomore year I did the August Wilson. I made it past the first two auditions and then made it to the final,” said Brown, a resident of South Holland. “Being in the Goodman Theatre, I think that shook me, so I choked. I didn’t make it to the finals, I was heartbroken.”
Morgan put that experience behind her, and continued to compete, opening her mind to unconventional speech choices.
“As young people learning to communicate, we aren’t exposed to a lot of public speaking. And there aren’t a lot of African-Americans that do speech activity. A lot of people expect African-Americans to do African American pieces. I want to do something that’s way out of the zone of what people expect me to do. I want to connect with people all over universally. It’s a shock when you do something different.”
Morgan’s risk-taking and tenacity soon paid off. In 2013, Morgan and dramatic duet partner Alexus Newums staged a reading of Katori Hall’s Saturday Night/Sunday Morning, and won the State Championship in their event. The accomplishment was huge for a school and team that were only three years old.
Rejuvenated, Morgan again qualified for the national August monologue competition. This time, she made it all the way to Broadway. Her award included a $500 prize, a partial scholarship to University of Illinois Chicago and an all-expense-paid trip to New York City.
“When I saw the stage, I was in awe! I was so taken in and so appreciative. I felt a true appreciation for this opportunity.”
Brown did not win the final competition, but she says there were no tears.
“I realize how much I’ve grown when I’m appreciating the moment of being there. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity!”
As a member of the first graduating class of Southland Prep High School, Morgan says she will always have fond memories of her school and speech team.
“I’ve seen so many of my peers grow, and I’ve seen my own growth. I’m so amazed. I had a great year and we proved so much and accomplished so much. I’m walking away just proud. I know myself, my value, and my worth, and how much I work.”
Teacher Cheryl Fraizer, who has coached students for 29 years, says Brown has proven to be a strong force for the team.
“I consider Morgan one of the foundations of the speech team. She along with (forensics partner) Alexus helped put the school and the team on the map in only our third year. That’s phenomenal,” Fraizer said. “The team members have certainly made a legacy.”
Brown’s hard work and intelligence have also won her acceptance into the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, one of the top business schools in the country. Although she is not pursuing acting as a career, Morgan says her love for performing will always be close to her heart.
“I’ve developed a passion for acting that I will never give up. Even though business is my career choice, when you have a passion for something, you can’t just throw it away for your career. I will always be eating, living, and breathing speech and theater.”
Brown has also learned that when you try something new and unfamiliar, you may discover a hidden talent.
“I just thank God I walked into that first meeting not knowing that speech is my second family.”