Ghost Light Project: Theatres gather Jan. 19 'to be a light'

Ghost Light Project

On Thursday, Jan. 19, theatres around the nation are leaving a light on for anyone who is feeling disenfranchised on the eve of the presidential inauguration. And while organizers say The Ghost Light Project is not a direct response to the recent election, it is specifically timed to coincide with the final night of the Obama administration.

Theaters from Broadway to community theatres to high schools are scheduling short, symbolic and simultaneous gatherings across the country to ‘create light’ and support vulnerable communities through what organizers are calling “the challenging times ahead.” As of Friday afternoon, hundreds of Ghost Light events have been scheduled in 43 states.

Inspired by the tradition of leaving a “ghost light” on in a darkened theatre, artists and communities will make or renew a pledge “to stand for and protect the values of inclusion, participation, and compassion for everyone, regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Ghost Light Project“January 19th is a moment of gathering within a larger resistance to intolerance at all levels,” national organizers said in a statement. “We aim to create brave spaces that will serve as lights in the coming years. We aim to activate a network of people across the country working to support vulnerable communities. This is not a substitution for protests or direct action, but rather a pledge for continued vigilance and increased advocacy.”

Organizers define a safe space as “a place where diverse opinions, dissent and arguments are not only tolerated, but invited.”

Most (but not all) events will take place at 5:30 p.m. regardless of time zone. Attendees are encouraged to bring flashlights.

The primary Denver community gathering will take place at the Greek Amphitheater in Civic Center Park. Organizer Meghan Anderson Doyle hopes Denver’s theatre community will always strive to create brave spaces that will serve as lights in the coming years. “Bring a light, be a light,” she said.

Curious Theatre Company is encouraging supporters to gather at 5:15 p.m. outside its theatre at 1080 Acoma St. for a short ceremony. “Curious Theatre has long been committed to diversity, inclusion and conversation about important issues,” said organizer Jeannene Bragg.  “We’re proud to be part of The Ghost Light Project to celebrate and reaffirm our commitment to equity and spaces for brave art-making.” Neighbors, artists and audiences alike are welcome.

Those who have work or family commitments at that time are asked to light a light wherever they are at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 19.

A Ghost Light 800 3The Edge Theatre had previously scheduled a one-night-only reading of John Moore’s recent New York International Fringe Festival play Waiting for Obama for Jan. 19 as a fundraiser for the Denver Actors Fund. The play (pictured right) attempts to offer a humanistic and evenly represented look at the issue of gun safety and its ongoing impact on American families.

But after the recent election, the creative team decided to gather one last time to read the play specifically on Jan. 19 because, they said in announcing the event, “in all likelihood, all meaningful dialogue on the issue of guns led by anyone in a position of real power ends on Jan. 20, at least for the next four years. But the mass shootings, in equal likelihood, will not.”

Organizers are now aligning the event with the larger Ghost Light Project initiative by incorporating the basic message into pre-show activities. Social hour is at 6, and the reading starts at 7 at 1560 Teller St. Free. No advance ticketing. Just show up.

Here is a roundup of other events being organized in Colorado:

  • Community College of Aurora, 16000 E. Centretech Parkway. Organizer: Stacey Ryfun D’Angelo
  • The Lincoln Center, 417 West Magnolia, Fort Collins, 5 p.m. Organizer: Kate Austin-Groen

Any other local schools and theatre companies that still want to organize a Ghost Light event are asked to email state coordinator Gavin Lodge, a Broadway veteran and graduate of Green Mountain High School and CU Boulder, at gavin.k.lodge@gmail.com.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

Saheem Ali, one of the national organizers, says he has been asked about the need for (and value of) such an inherently symbolic evening. “To that I say it is not merely necessary, but essential,” he wrote today in an essay for HowlRound. “The act of expressing something out loud has significance. Protests and public proclamations are important because they demonstrate solidarity and a firmness of belief. … On Jan. 19, the theatre community will reiterate and reaffirm, to ourselves and the world, our humanistic stance in the face of hateful and divisive rhetoric: All are welcome.”

Moving forward, Ali said The Ghost Light Project will become a resource for theatres, arts communities and individuals to identify and create meaningful action steps, or to continue social justice work that is already underway.  Examples of future initiatives might include creating a volunteer team to do monthly community service projects, developing experts on key issues that affect vulnerable communities and becoming a resource hub for that issue, and more.

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