In the theater, there is an age-old tradition. At the end of a day full of rehearsals, performances, workshops, etc., the last person to leave the theater space grabs a lone light, places it on the stage, and turns it on. The light is left on, until the next time someone is in the space.
There are many stories surrounding this tradition. Some people think of it solely as a safety precaution, so no one accidentally falls off the stage and breaks a leg, or worse. Some people insist it is for the spirits that remain in the theater, leaving a courtesy light on for them. Some feel it is a more sacred tradition, honoring the space. It is often talked about, but regardless of opinions, it regularly is practiced.
Hearing this may sound odd. Admittedly, as someone who has been involved in theater and the arts for the majority of his life, I won’t deny the oddity of the practice. However, I think the ghost light has become something bigger these days.
Regardless of the belief, or the origin of the ghost light, the implication is simple: We will return. Setting it out so the next person doesn’t trip, or honoring the space, none of it matters without a return, and so we will. We don’t know when exactly, and we don’t know what it may look like. But the arts, the theater, concerts, the community, the experiences will continue.
At Elm Street, we have lived by some notions lately: When we talk about community, we don’t limit it to a place. Also, we believe our connection transcends distance. In a world where we’ve been asked to be socially distant, to protect one another, we have to rely on our connection.
There are still many unknowns, but that doesn’t preclude us (especially Elm Street) from continuing to build community. We are offering many online ways to learn, connect, keep the arts moving, and continue to build our community. We still can lean into each other, and I would encourage you to do so.
Also, we’ve kept the promise of return, because we had our 2020-21 season reveal party (virtually, of course), and announced an exciting lineup of theater, concerts and more. When we can be together again safely, Elm Street will be here to celebrate with you. It’s our way of fulfilling the ghost light promise.
By Christopher Brazelton, contributing writer and executive director of Elm Street Cultural Arts Village.