Most theatres I have worked in have their own ghosts. Whether or not they have names or stories, no theatre I have worked in has ever felt totally empty.
Perhaps ghosts are attracted to all of the emotion that happens in a theatre. Every new show engenders emotions that are poured into the space. Not only the cast onstage, but the audience watching, go on a communal journey nightly. Depending on the show the final result can be laughter or tears, anger or joy. But the one thing it never is, if we as theatre artists do our job correctly, is neutral.
One of the first times I had to lock up at the Lucie Stern Community Theatre I was finally leaving the auditorium after finishing some paperwork. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a woman sitting in the back row of the theatre, wearing a light grey dress, with her hair done up in a turn of the century fashion. When I tried to look for her directly, she was gone. I hadn’t recognized her so I asked around the next day. That’s how I found out I had seen Lucie, however briefly. She still likes to watch every show that comes through the theatre she helped to build.
Maybe it’s all about the make-believe. On stage reality is made up of paint and plywood, and very few things will pass muster if you get too close to them. It is accepted that when you go to see a show you need to suspend your disbelief, allow the truths of the storytelling to carry you past the Styrofoam rocks and the windows to nowhere. When you go to the theatre you bring your belief with you, and I think it affects everything in the space, part of the show or not.
When I got to college one of the upperclassmen gathered all of the freshmen together to tell us about Buddy. He had been a tech student there in the 70’s who had died of leukemia during his sophomore year. Now he had adopted the lighting grid, cove four specifically, as his territory. Everyone said hello and goodbye to Buddy. There were a lot of stories about doors opening with no one behind them, or lights flickering, or a gel frame that had been sitting on shelf suddenly falling to the ground. Buddy was playful and curious; he wanted to still be a part of the group, to still help put on a show.
When a show is done, at the end of the night, the last person in the theatre puts out the ghost light. Typically it is a bare bulb on a stand that is placed in the center of the stage. (It’s there for safety, so the first person to enter the next day doesn’t have to make their way across the space in the dark.) As a stage manager I am frequently the first person in the building, and the last one to leave. I see the ghost light lit more often than most people. It has its own magic.
I love that we leave a light on for the ghosts to see by at night, so they can explore each new set we load into their space. I hope that they come out to sit around the light and tell their own stories of encountering us, when we get out of their way.
@@@This is my entry for week 6 of LJ Idol – the topic is Ghosts. As always, I'll post a link to the poll on Friday once it is up. Thank you for reading.@@@.