There are a multitude of reasons why this concept keeps reappearing to me as I plan lessons for my Theatre Arts students during these Coronavirus days, and I should’ve begun some of my earlier ramblings with this one, but, well, best laid plans…
You don’t have to be a Theatre aficionado to know something about the superstitious nature of stage ghosts. You don’t have to be an electricity expert to understand why we, as people, tend to want to leave lights on in the darkness. Drive downtown sometime, and notice how many high-rise buildings flip the switch on at dusk, how many businesses, restaurants, billboards, hospitals, hotels, and many more never completely go dark.
We find ourselves seeking that beam of light when we feel vulnerable.
We find ourselves comforted by a familiar glow.
Now, more than ever, it seems, we are all searching for that proverbial “ghost light” in one of the most shocking turn of events in recent history. I was listening to my daily radio broadcast, and one of the featured musicians spoke of just this. He said that we are, in effect, groping around in the dark as a global collective, desperately reaching for something, anything, to tell us that we will survive this and come out of it unscathed. The problem is, not everyone has.
It may not be our fate to contract this virus, but many are suffering in other ways that go beyond a medical ailment. Many suffer from a (hopefully) temporary loss of the practical and necessary side of things: employment, childcare, basic commodities.
BUT, here’s what we don’t need to suffer from—a loss of HOPE. A loss of KINDNESS. A loss of LOVE.
In Theatre, history has shown that playhouses traditionally have one single pole with a light source fastened to it, which, when placed on the center of the stage at the closing of each performance, is a safety precaution AND a talisman against darkness.
“I think the tradition itself is a beautiful and magical custom…as if we all unite at the end of the day to follow this one single act. It shows respect…and it’s an honor to do so.”Cristina D’Almeida, OnStage.com
Two weeks ago, Broadway, the “Great White Way” that has been a beacon of HOPE for me and so many others, did something rather unprecedented, and “went dark.” In the history of its presence in Manhattan, researchers said there was only truly one other time that this occurred; however, they also predicted the current darkness to be longer lasting and more financially devastating. This time, it wasn’t to honor the passing of a beloved director, actor, or stage technician—it was to protect audiences, cast, crew, and staff. Coronavirus has been given such media attention that it seems like we’ve been engulfed in darkness.
I’ve seen posts about shamrocks, red paper hearts, Christmas lights, teddy bears, and children’s artwork as suggested beacons. At St. Patty’s Day, it was a neighborhood challenge, for those on the homefront to those neighbors walking by, attempting to keep moving in an effort to shake off the darkness. I even posted about the concept of darkness and light as related to our HISD district motto: “Be the light.” We all could use a sunny corner in our hearts right now.
“ they grow in the darkness, I’ll head in the night – – they grow in the sunshine, revealed by the light – – still they grow.”￼L.B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert
I turn to one of my most beloved literary characters, a teacher/professor who looked at his own student, knowing that this young soul would have to face death, and though he kept the faith, this man was still unsure if this child would come out unscathed. He looked at his entire academy of wizards and witches, who all were gifted the tools of magic, knowing no spell could defeat fear. That they all needed a reason to hope. Why do you think they had a “Defense Against the Dark Arts” class? To prepare the next generation for what lay ahead.
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”-Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter Series-
We, as a people, need a ghost light.
The comfort that lies in this is that nothing will be permanently dark, that the doors will open again, and that, after a period of distance from the places, people, and experiences that we used to have, we will step back onto the stage of our lives, and the ghost light we needed so dearly during those times will transform into a memory of a torch we all carried in our hearts.
You are not alone. Your loved ones, your teachers, your friends are all serving as those ghost lights now, so when you feel the darkness trying to win, flick on the switch.
~Kindred Spirit~ 3.31.20