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LJ Idol week 6: Ghosts


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.@@@


Spoooooky. So you really saw a ghost? Freaky.

She's the only one I've ever seen, but yeah. I tend to 'feel' ghosts more than anything, apparently I'm not very sensitive. I still say hello to Lucie when I'm there, and in fact tend to say hello to most theatres when I walk in, just on general principle.

Love this entry... its interesting... and well written.

I think I saw her too.

When we were doing She Loves Me (were you there for that show?), I was trying to help the women dress during a quick change, and one actress saw the reflection of someone in the mirror and was telling the woman that the costume looked really dated. I asked the actress who she was talking to and she pointed. And I looked and saw this woman by the fly rail. I turned because I didn't recognize her but there wasn't anyone there. I turned back to the mirror and the woman was there, but now she was looking at us. Then the actress and I both got really cold, even though it was summer at the Stern and the women were dressed in furs.

At the same time, Meg walked over and said she thought her blood sugar was dropping because she was freezing. I handed her the diet coke and while she was drinking, the actress asked Meg if she knew who the woman was standing by the rail. Meg looked at both of us like we were crazy because it was a guy (I think it was Rick?).

The cold went away and I looked back and the woman was hazy. The actress and I both looked at each other, blinked, and then I said, "oooh, that must've been lucie." That freaked out the actress a bit who said that she didn't want to ever work another show in the building.

That sounds like her. I can't imagine anyone being afraid of Lucie, she just wants to see what is happening in her theatre. Though I hadn't heard many stories of her being that present to people, so very cool for you.

This makes perfect sense since they seem to be mostly attracted to high emotion.

Great post!

Thanks! I watched our crew put out the ghost light last night and was inspired.

Is the ghost light a theatre tradition or just for this one?

Great entry.

Not every theatre has a free standing light, some places just have one light switch that never gets turned off, but referring to it as the ghost light is pretty universal.

Thanks so much!

Oddly, you get used to it. Only one theatre I've been at has ever had a ghost that seemed up to no good, usually they're friendly.

Thanks for reading.

Wonderful. Especially the part about Lucie liking to watch every show.

That was how I was able to find out who she was so quickly, as soon as I compared notes with other staff members it turned out most of us have seen her at some point, and always at different shows.

Thanks so much.

Thank you!

BTW your icon is fabulous.

It took me until the comments to understand that 'put out the ghost light' meant put it out on stage, not turning it off.

I think it's going to be a long day.

Oh dear. Well I hope your day was shorter than you feared. I try to remember that some turns of phrase I take for granted don't necessarily mean the same things to everyone else.

Thanks for reading.

I loved this! Theaters are the perfect places for ghosts, and I love the whole idea of the ghost light. Very nicely done!

Just about every major theatre has its ghost, if you know who to ask for the story. Thanks so much.

Enjoyed reading this! Every good theatre needs a ghost. *firm nod*

And ghost lights are, indeed, very cool.


I find myself occasionally feeling suspect of newer theatres that haven't acquired their ghosts yet, like they aren't finished.

The image of the ghost light onstage in an otherwise dark theatre is one of my favorite things.

Thanks for reading!

: ) I wish I had your experiences - I think hehe. Nicely done.

Hehe. Luckily the theatre ghosts I have come across have always been very nice - and most theatre ghosts I know of are friendly.


I wondered if you would write about a theater ghost. :)

I think theaters are all haunted because theater people always say that's where they feel the most at home. You pour yourself into the show, and that kind of commitment is hard to let go of. :)

Heh - all the ghosts I've met have been at the theatre.

I think that's another good point, I spend more of my time and energy at the theatre than I do in my apartment. It makes sense that folks would stay where they felt the most attached.

Awesome. Great entry!