Thespians are, by their nature, a superstitious lot. After all, what is theatre if not ritual—for that is, of course, exactly from what it is descended. And from its Paleolithic origins born in fire, music, chants, masks, and dance, down to this day, where actors call upon muses of fire, opening night magic, and strict rules governing the mention of a certain Hibernian-based drama, actors will religiously adhere to peculiar behaviors that bring the desired results of effective performances, good reviews, and long runs.

"Break a leg!" they say before the curtain rises on opening night; it's bad luck to say "Good luck!" And if you make the mistake of saying "Macbeth" in a theatre (some say during a run of that play and others say at any time), you must exit the theatre, turn around three times, spit over your shoulder, and ask permission to re-enter.

So, it's no surprise that on occasion theatres would be a conduit for communication between this world and the next. And what better time to act out these spiritual connections than the holiday season, when saints, the undead, and ghosts of Christmases past rule the shadowy hours and long nights.

To this end, multi-talented local scenic designer Michael R. Duran has penned six frightful ghost stories, all based on experiences he's had in theatres he's worked, including the Bonfils, Loretto Heights College, and the Steamboat Depot Arts Center. Collectively called Ghostlight, the stories are directed by Everyman Theatre Company's Richard Pegg and performed in monologues by six actors over two acts.

Photo of Lindsay Goranson as the Stage Manager
Lindsay Goranson as
the Stage Manager
Photo: Everyman Theatre Company
Lindsay Goranson sets up the evening as the Stage Manager, explaining the nature of a theatre's ghostlight (that naked bulb on a pole stand that is left burning downstage center when all the grid and house illumination have been shut down) as well as the night life of theatrical craft people (who are often left to work in the bowels of a theatre during the wee hours after a production).

Then, as Gorenson describes one late night session in which she and a friend search a dark theatre for the source of a baby's crying, her tantalizingly deliberate pacing and growing sense of dread preys on our imagination and adrenal glands, stirring our worst fears.

Photo of John Samson as the Director
John Samson as the Director
Photo: Everyman Theatre Company
Before we've had a chance to recover, John Samson, as the Director, gets out of his seat from where he's been taking notes and begins to describe a violent nightmare he had concerning a young woman he'd never met. Samson's earnest, deadpan delivery leaves us expecting the worst to happen, which, of course, is what happens.

Photo of Linda Button as the Costumer
Linda Button as the Costumer
Photo: Everyman Theatre Company
As the Costumer, Linda Button describes one particularly lonely setting where, late one night, she was preparing wardrobes modeled on antique dolls that replicated long-deceased antebellum personalities. Terror fans will at once have a sense of where this is going, but Button's perky, matter-of-fact storytelling leads us down the primrose path until it is too late to escape.

Photo of Emily Paton Davies as the Actress
Emily Paton Davies as the Actress
Photo: Everyman Theatre Company
Next, Emily Paton Davies, as the Actress, lavishes theatricality upon us, setting us up for the oddly egocentric karmic payoff to her startling tale of playing Elvira, a ghost in Noel Coward's Blythe Spirit. Suffice it to say, the incident involves a mirror.

Photo of Guy Williams as the Actor
Guy Williams as the Actor
Photo: Everyman Theatre Company
Then, with a touch of joyful insidiousness, no doubt picked up while playing Charlie Manson last year, Guy Williams, as the Actor, tells us a horror story worthy of Stephen King, in which he and some friends break into the top floor of a former orphanage and use a Ouija Board to contact souls who perished in a fire there years before. A different sort of conflagration ensues.

Photo of Missy Moore as the Scenic Artist
Missy Moore as the Scenic Artist
Photo: Everyman Theatre Company
Finally, Missy Moore's fluent conversational style and impeccable timing draw us to a Scenic Artist who is hired at the last minute for a summer stock production in a theatre converted from a haunted old train station. During the course of the run her disbelief in spirits is completely turned around, as she makes friends with and entertains various "visitors." That is, until one night...

A compellingly performed and well-written exploration of that which makes us shiver, shriek, and shrink, Ghostlight is sure to keep you squirming until the lights come up. It runs through November 20th. 303-346-8943.

Bob Bows


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