“Kurt was a vlogger in the early days of YouTube, where he screamed about video games he hated. But he’s left that behind him, finding a wife and keeping his character’s anger in check. Until one night where he is visited by a shadow person… who won’t stop tickling his feet.”
NJIT’s Theatre Arts and Technology teased the 2021 fall play on its website. “Chasing the Ghost” was written by Ashley Lauren Rogers, an award-winning writer, and is directed by Janelle Zapata Castellano, a producer, director and actor as well as guest artist at NJIT. The play will take place in the Jim Wise Theater, Kupfrian Hall, from Nov. 10 to 13 at 7 p.m., as well as on Nov. 14 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be pre-ordered online.
Castellano and another theatre program alum, Jazmyn Arroyo, founded the theatre company “Step1 Theatre Project” back in 2015. They both know Rogers because she submitted to be produced by their company during their first work. “We were so excited to put on her work!” Castellano remembered.
After that, they continued to work together until Rogers invited Castellano to a reading of her new play “Chasing the Ghost” a few years ago, when she thought, “When I read it, the show had this school written all over it.” That’s why she decided to send the piece to NJIT’s Artistic Coordinator Louis Wells, hoping he would want to direct it. “Little did I know he would want to bring my company on board and us all as guest artists!” Castellano said.
The play not only caught her attention because it reminded her of the theatre program here, but especially because it asks the audience questions about accountability. “It makes you wonder about your own past and how it may affect your future,” she explained. At the same time, it encourages its viewers to be a little more empathic with the people you meet online. “Yeah, there’s a ghost tickling someone’s feet — that is funny,” she admitted. “But there is a lot of tragedy in this play.”
Compared to last year, some things are working differently this year — mainly because of COVID-19. Auditions and rehearsals have been held with everyone wearing masks at all times; everyone is hand sanitizing, and the cast is physically distanced as much as possible. When creating the schedule, more time needed to be considered to be prepared for potential issues relating to COVID-19.
Castellano mentioned that they even came up with an emergency plan: filming rehearsals. The performances themselves will be without masks, which is why the cast and crew have to show up with a negative COVID-19 test. “That’s nerve wracking!” she admitted — and it’s also part of her biggest concerns: the health and safety of her collaborators. “We’re in a new world and we have to take care of each other and ourselves,” she said.
Nevertheless, she is grateful to be able to present “great art on campus” thanks to vaccines and testing. “I am most excited about just presenting this show,” Castellano said. It’s a show told from a different point of view, just over an hour long. “But it really catches you by surprise,” she promised.