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      The Ghost Light by Gabe Hakvaag. Hakvaag just completed coordinating, directing, and acting TUNE IN TO RADIO HG this past weekend.

      ghost lightThere are many, many traditions (some might call them superstitions) in the backstage world of theater. But having just closed the Tune In To Radio HG festival, I’m thinking about the traditions around the closing of a show.

      The Post-Mortem is a meeting with the production team to discuss what worked and what didn’t work. Tradition states that we drink a toast to the departed show.

      Strike is the removal of the show from the theater. Everything from props and costumes to lights and scenery and sound gear is struck from the theater, leaving a bare stage.

      Finally, the Ghost Light is put on the bare stage. We leave the ghost light to ensure the theater itself is not “dark.” A dark theater has no show in it.

      Now the meanings and practical purposes of these traditions vary from company to company, but you are probably clever enough to notice by now that all of these traditions are about death. Morbid, perhaps, but because theater is a living art form, one that is “live” in front of an audience and “dead” when it is gone, I think it is important to remember why “live” theater is different from seeing movies or watching television.

      Live Theater is created by the company along side our audience. We experience each performance together; travel through a story together; experience the emotions of the characters together. Along with music and dance, theater depends on this living relationship between performers and audience.

      When a play ends, marking it as a thing that has passed away is also important. It reminds us to value the performance, remember it, and note how it may have changed us.

      Just as a traditional wake is meant to allow us to remember, miss, and look forward to the future, closing a show should also be marked this way. A theater company will always remember past shows (hopefully with pleasure, but you know there’s always that nightmare show) while looking ahead to what’s next. Hopefully, learning something from each experience and taking something from it with us into the future.

      So if you ever enter the Warehouse Theatre after I’ve closed a show, you may find a clip light on a music stand glowing on the darkened stage. The ghost light marks the passing of a show, but keeps the theater alive for what’s coming next.

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