A musical based on ghost stories that novelist William Faulkner used to tell his family will debut at the Jim Wise Theater on the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) campus.
Michele Rittenhouse, assistant director of the theater arts department at NJIT, adapted the musical, “The Ghosts of Rowan Oak,” from a book that retold the ghost stories. That book was written by Dean Faulkner Wells, Faulkner’s niece. The music was composed by Robert Felstein, NJIT choral director, and directed by Bill Gile, producer and creative director of the theater arts department at NJIT.
In the musical, the ghost that inspired Faulkner’s novels becomes a muse for Kate, the play’s main character. The ghost shows Kate what it takes to become a writer -- “the emotional and physical investment of writing from the heart,” said Rittenhouse.
“The play is about a woman’s struggle to become an artist,” she added. “Some of the material in the play -- Kate’s artistic journey -- is based on my journey to become a writer. But it’s the same journey that I imagine Faulkner went through.”
The ghost stories in the play are set on the front lawn of the Faulkner estate. Kate, the author and director of the adapted ghost stories, rehearses a troupe of actors -- her students -- for an upcoming Faulkner Festival. A film crew from New York that includes her former boyfriend, Richard, arrives to film part of her play for a documentary.
Richard tries to take over and rewrite Kate’s play until Sam, the real ghost shows up. Sam has been the muse for great writers of the Rowan Oak area and has picked Kate for his protégée. Sam puts Kate to a test. If she fails, she and her friends face death. But if she succeeds, she will learn how to become a real story-teller.
The play is made possible by The Rutgers-NJIT Theater Arts Program in conjunction with the Jim Wise Gift Fund for Musical Theatre at NJIT. Seven NJIT students and two recent graduates will perform in the play, which runs March 1-4 at 7 p.m., and March 5 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 for general admissions and $5 for students and senior citizens. Call (973) 596-3457 for information or visit www. theater.njit.edu.