Among the many well-known plays and musicals performed by NYU theater groups, it is easy to forget that some students on campus are producing their own works. One such project is the upcoming immersive theater piece “Shadows in the Streets,” conceived and directed by Tisch freshman Sarah Nichols.
Nichols has spent the last six months working with the Tisch Profunds Project, a program that awards grants to students who submit proposals for creating new pieces of theater. When Nichols heard about the program, she knew it would be the perfect way to get her piece off the ground.
“Shadows” follows the journey of four New Yorkers into homelessness, and the show’s immersive nature forces the audience to confront this often-ignored issue head on.
“I’ve always wanted to do an immersive show that has some sort of community outreach aspect to it,” Nichols, a native Texan, said. “Moving to New York, I’ve obviously encountered a lot more homeless people, and the problem has become much more evident to me.”
She said her goal is to create a similar awareness among theatergoers.
“I wanted to do something that provokes the audience to recognize these people and recognize that they have a story just like everybody else,” Nichols said.
The cast of four has been in rehearsal for nearly a month. Although the project is funded through the Tisch Profunds Project, the students working on it — including freshman Lauren Brahn and two guides who lead the audience through the performance space — have operated nearly independently.
Nichols also had help from a faculty mentor, but she is the primary creative force behind “Shadows.” When asked what it is like to be responsible for so many parts of a play, her laugh conveys the hours of effort she has invested in her project.
“It’s so hard,” Nichols said. “I’ve always been in the shows, so I’ve never realized how much work goes into it.”
Her tasks include working with photographer Brahn, whose photos of homeless people from around the city are featured in the play and bring in another level of reality to this immersive piece. “Shadows” focuses on the hinge moments in the lives of these four characters, the moments that are essential to their path toward homelessness.
“I’ve learned a lot about the characters as it has gone on that was different from my initial ideas,” Nichols said.
“Shadows in the Streets,” which plays April 11, 12 and 13 at 7 p.m. in the basement of Third Avenue North residence hall, is sure to present a nuanced and thoughtful look at homelessness and the people it affects.
“That’s what I hope this show does for the audience,” Nichols said. “That now they’ll go out and they’ll notice it, and they won’t ignore it anymore. Just like I can’t ignore it anymore.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 8 print edition. Dylan Jarrett is books/theater editor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.