As a child, the theatre was a magical, mystical place for me. Filled with the smells of grease paint, popcorn, set-building, and that gentle musky, moldy odor of costumes and curtains that needed airing, it harkened to something deep and primal in my soul. Perhaps, that is what is meant by being “bitten by the bug.”
One of my most embedded memories, though, is of the first time I was present when the stage manager turned on the ghost light. As a child, sitting in the House seats waiting on my mother to pick me up, I felt that I was witness to the inner-chamber of the mystical, magical base of what is Theatre.
There may have been others present, but in my memory it was just the ghost light and me. I know the Stage Manager was there, he had turned off all of the House lights and snapped the ghost light on, but the minute he did…it was just the Ghost light and me.
Where and when the tradition of the ghost light began is, well, foggy at best. The generally accepted provenance is the superstition that theatres are inhabited by ghosts and the light fends them off. In the Historical Dictionary of American Theatre: Beginnings, James Fisher observes that the ghost light “comes from the days of gas-lit theatre and refers to dimly lit gaslights used to relieve pressure on gas valves.” There are also stories that during Prohibition, the ghost light was there to keep both the revenuers and the black-market-retailers from falling off the stage and down into the orchestra pit, should one or both be running through the theatre. Many theatres were located in areas where back room liquor was sold. They did not want to be sued for injuries, as the pit was often ten-feet below the stage.
No matter the origin, the dim glow of that light, has been a part of the theatre experience for all who work and act upon the stage. It is a beacon for those of us with grease paint in our veins, and a love of creating magic in our hearts.
For this writer, being blessed with the opportunity to turn on the ghost light at The Star Theatre at Eagles Point is the height of my life…and I have lived quite some life.
I look forward to seeing you onstage, backstage, or in the audience, as we create a magical, mystical place in Eaton, Ohio. I promise to keep the ghost light glowing, and the ghosts away.
Break a leg,
Director, The Star Theatre