Friday, October 30, 2009

Thrills and Chills

There's a chill in the air, leaves are falling, fields of orange pumpkins along the road. It's that time of year again...Halloween. For anyone that knows me, you already know that this is my favorite time of year. The idea of dressing as a ghoul or goblin has always been fascinating to me and the art of creating monsters and effects is what got me involved in theatre. Because our current show is a good old fashioned ghost story, I decided to share some of the strange and interesting occurrences that happened during the last few weeks as we got ready to open, The Woman in Black.

Now it is no secret that our building is old and has seen better days (more about that in a different segment). It is also no secret that this theatre was built on what used to be a slave cemetery. Rumor has it that all but one body was found when the cemetery was relocated to another neighborhood close by. I can't say that this is true or not, but it has been said on more than one occasion. Let me also say at this point that I have never seen nor heard evidence that makes me a believer of the paranormal. I find the ideas and stories interesting and entertaining but I guess for the time being you can classify me as a skeptic. I can also say that in the three years I have been working here, I have never seen or heard anything that I would classify as unexplainable. Again, this is an old building with a lot of history and stories.

All of that being said, here are some events that have been reported and experienced over the past few weeks. The odd creak and bump has been reported by no less than three people during rehearsals at night and by a staff member during the day. One person described noises "like footsteps" walking across the stage. At the time, there was no one else in the building.

Having been here for three years, there are noises and subtleties of the building that you learn along the way. I know that there is a light switch backstage that upon turning on, makes a loud buzzing sound that can be heard on the other side of the stage. Somehow it is connected to some sort of panel downstairs in the basement causing it to make noise, don't ask me why it's that way. I can't explain what would make the noise quieter one day. Whatever the reason, I appreciate the quiet now.

For those who are superstitious and familiar with theatre lore, you know about the "ghost light." Every night at the end of rehearsal, a light is plugged in on stage for practical safety reasons, but also because it is considered bad luck for a theatre to "go dark." Some may say it is also a courtesy to the spirits in the building. One night last week as we wrapped up our dress rehearsal, our crew head, John, plugged in the light as usual and we locked up and went about what was left of our evening. The next morning when I came in, the ghost light was off and it was still plugged in. I checked the bulb, thinking it had burned out but that wasn't the case. It has since worked fine and I can only recall this happening one time in my tenure.

Speaking of lights, our stage manager has had two light bulbs blow up at her station backstage. Two bulbs, two different fixtures. We also had a headset stop working suddenly, one minute it was fine, the next it wasn't.

Finally, on Monday morning of this week, I arrived and started going through my list of "to dos" from the previous night's rehearsal. I was onstage and Nancy and Jackie were in the front office. Suddenly, there was a loud crash followed by some sounds I can only describe as "rustling." Nancy was quick to come into the auditorium, thinking I had fallen off a ladder. She said it sounded like it came from on stage and from where I was at, I said that it sounded like it came from the light booth. I figured that because of all the rain the night before, part of the roof had collapsed or something fell on it. As it turned out, a stack of soda and water in our storage room had fallen over on the floor. A stack of soda that no one was near and had been that way for several days.

There you have it. Chalk it up to an old building, everyday stuff or maybe The Woman in Black.