Arts and Entertainment | Theater

Student playwrights explain what haunts them

While researching ghost stories he could use to inspire his writers, Alex Katz, CC ’14, managed to thoroughly terrify himself. “I lost some sleep,” Katz said. From that promising beginning, Katz and fellow co-creator Lorenzo Landini, CC ’13, wove together five new stories of American haunting. The final product is “American Ghosts,” the semester’s first production from New and Original Material Authored and Directed by Students. NOMADS’ show, which opens this Thursday, consists of five individual plays, each responding in different ways to the question, “What haunts you?” Directed by Katey Howitt, CC ’13, “American Ghosts” includes Katz and Landini’s own plays, “Distant” and “Possession,” in addition to “Ward Seven,” by Krista White, CC ’14, “Edge of the Cradle,” by Kyle Radler, CC ’13, and “Cletus and the Magic Joint,” by Bijan Samareh, CC ’15. Last spring, NOMADS presented “SPEARS: The Gospel According to Britney,” a reinterpretation of Jesus’ life through the music of Britney Spears. This semester, the group wanted to try something different. “NOMADS has done the traditional three-act drama for the past few seasons,” Landini said. “This time, we wanted to give the writers something smaller, something they could get all the way around.” Before asking for submissions, Katz and Landini sent questionnaires to writers who had expressed interest in the project. The co-creators posed questions relating to the project’s theme, such as “What’s your favorite ghost story?” After receiving responses, they sent back “inspiration packets” to the writers. “They were Google docs with pictures, songs, quotes, ghost stories, images, anything we thought would resonate with that particular playwright,” Landini said. Katz and Landini arrived at their prompt, they said, because it would be open-ended enough to allow writers room for interpretation and personalization. “We didn’t want plays about internment camps or Abe Lincoln’s ghosts, necessarily,” Katz said. “We didn’t want the writers to prioritize an idea or message over their own voice or interpretation of haunting.” The show has a cast of 11, with most actors playing multiple roles. During the workshop process, plays were rewritten and perfected with the input and influence of the actors and creative team. “I wanted the actors to feel open enough to give me their feedback—about characters and about what was or wasn’t working,” Howitt said. Howitt and the co-creators said they enjoyed the intimacy of working with such a small group. “With a smaller cast, the audience can develop a relationship with each individual character,” Landini said. The creative team also aimed to create a cohesive relationship among the plays, by stringing them together with music and minimalist sets. With locations ranging from a dining room to an abandoned Walmart­­—and detours in hell and a graveyard along the way—“American Ghosts” promises to cover a lot of haunted territory. “American Ghosts” runs from Thursday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 1. Performances begin at 8 p.m. in the Glicker-Milstein Theatre. Tickets are $5 for general admission and $2 for CUID holders. Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Alex Katz's year of graduation. Spectator regrets the error. arts@columbiaspectator.com

Comments

Plain text

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Your username will not be displayed if checked
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Anonymous posted on

Alex Katz is a genius.

+1
+1
-1
Anonymous posted on

Alex is CC'14!

+1
0
-1