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Theatre & Dance and Anthropology alumna combines theatre with social activism

Stephanie Castrejon '16

Stephanie Castrejón ’16 came to The College of Wooster as a self-described shy student who had difficulties speaking up in class and realizing where she fit in on campus. Through the support of her professors, however, she was able to grow as a performer in the Department of Theatre and Dance, as a student, and as a person. In her career, she combines theatre performance with social justice, bringing stories of underrepresented groups to life on stage. 

Castrejón first learned of the College through Albany Park Theatre Project (APTP), a nonprofit theatre organization based in her hometown of Chicago. APTP is a youth ensemble that collaborates with the adult artistic team in gathering stories from the immigrant and first-generation communities and even includes a college counseling program led by Wooster alumna Maggie Popadiak ’05. Castrejón went on her first tour of Wooster with Popadiak and APTP, and later, as she narrowed down her search, did an overnight visit to the campus. Castrejón saw that Jimmy A. Noriega, associate professor of theatre and dance, taught a class called Theatre for Social Change. “I thought, ‘That looks so cool!’ And because of the work that I did back home in Chicago, I just felt very connected to the idea of doing theatre for social change,” she recalls. On the six-hour drive back to Chicago, Castrejón concluded that Wooster was the place for her. 

When she first started at the College, Castrejón dealt with the culture shock of moving from her largely Latinx, urban community to rural Ohio. As a first generation, Latinx student, Castrejón felt immense pressure to succeed but was scared to speak up in classes or share her experiences with others. She recalls how her professors, especially Noriega and Pam Frese, professor of sociology and anthropology, provided her with the encouragement she needed to succeed. Castrejón specifically remembers a meeting with Noriega where she expressed these feelings to him, and she recalls his response to this day. “He told me that I needed to be less afraid and shy and to speak up because there is no right or wrong answer, only great ideas that as artists and colleagues we share with one another,” she recalls. “No matter what institution I was at and how far away home is, I can make a difference and show others what I’m capable of.” 

Both at Wooster and beyond, much of Castrejón’s work combined her interests in anthropology and theatre, using the stories of real people and social issues to create art and raise awareness. As part of her Independent Study project, Castrejón conducted interviews with undocumented women in the Chicago area and wrote and performed a play based on their experiences. After graduation, she continued her work with organizations like APTP and Teatro Travieso/Troublemaker Theatre, a company founded by Noriega to use theatre to create positive change in the world.   

She also returned to Wooster on several occasions to work with the Department of Theatre and Dance, such as in the fall of 2022, when Castrejón performed in Noriega’s play CAGED. Focusing on the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that separated families at the United States-Mexico border and left thousands of immigrant children incarcerated in detention centers, CAGED received numerous accolades, and Castrejón and the cast of CAGED were invited to perform at an international theatre festival in Belgium in November 2022 and at the Kennedy Center American Theatre Festival in January 2023. 

“For me, that’s just so beautiful, letting those underrepresented voices come to life and be on stage. It’s one of my favorite parts of theatre,” Castrejón said.  

Cast, crew, and designers of "Alicia from the Real in Wonderland"

Castrejón with the cast, crew, and designers of “Alicia from the Real in Wonderland”

Castrejón again returned to Wooster in 2023 as a guest director for the spring play Alicia from the Real in Wonderland, a modern take on the classic novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. With this play, audiences saw a version of the story with an urban twist and themes of family conflict and growing up, something not seen in other adaptations of the story.  

“I was incredibly happy to be invited back as a guest director and add some fun to the stage,” Castrejón said. “Coming back to Wooster feels like everything has come full circle for me, and I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported me along this process.” 

Posted in Alumni on July 6, 2023.


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Related Areas of Study

Theatre & Dance

Scholarship and artistry in theatre and dance for those who are passionate about performance in all its forms.

Major Minor

Anthropology

Use problem-solving and research skills to explore and understand communities and cultures in every part of the world.

Major Minor

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