This weeks JR Clancy Rigging Report brings us yet another Superstition that we theatre people take to heart, the Ghost Light. While the Ghost Light has a practical use while the stage is dark, there is a deeper meaning behind it.
Most theatres have a ghost. This fact is known from high schools in Iowa to The Majestic Theatre in New York City. Fortunately for those uneasy about being greeted by a supernatural cohabitant, there is a method of keeping these ghosts at bay that has been around for many years: the Ghost Light. Typically the Ghost Light is turned on before the theatre is closed for the night and left on center stage. This illumination has the power to keep the ghosts in hiding and the theatre safe for the living who may dare to enter.
The Ghost Light has a practical use as well. Backstage can be a dangerous place in the dark. There can be scenery, platforms, chairs, and many other items left on stage to be tripped over. There is also the danger of someone falling off the stage and into the seating or the orchestra pit. The Ghost Light provides enough light for a person to find the lighting control switch and navigate safely around the stage.
As technology has advanced, and energy efficiency takes hold, some theatres have replaced the ghost light with computer-programmed lighting or occupancy sensors. While this new technology may save energy, the question remains, will the ghosts again have free reign on our performance spaces?
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