BWW Blog: Monica Furman - How We Put On the Only Ghostlight in Orange County (For Less than a Broadway Show Ticket)
If you've been living under a theatrical rock, you may have missed the Ghostlight Project, a national movement to pledge or reaffirm diversity and equity initiatives by artistic communities that launched on January 19, 2017.
With over 837 theatrical institutions, groups, and companies participating by creating light at 5:30pm during each time zone, it came to a surprise for me and my co-conspirator Addison Turner how our Ghostlight was the only one in Orange County. Even more surprising? It cost us less than $30.
Let's break it down to see how community organizing in theatrical communities can be impactful for the members and not for your collective wallet. Chapman University's Coalition of Artistic Students in Theatre (CAST) decided to launch our own Ghostlight Project because we were so inspired by the movement's action statement:
"Gathering outside of theaters on the eve of the Presidential Inauguration, people will join in a collective, simultaneous action, together creating "light" for challenging times ahead. Inspired by the tradition of leaving a "ghost light" on in a darkened theater, 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, (dis)ability, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation." -theghostlightproject.com
CAST represents student-produced creative work within the theatre department and we are constantly striving to create opportunities for all voices to be heard. We also create these opportunities on a little to no budgetary plan, a skill which is incredibly useful in the "real world" when self-producing work. For our particular Ghostlight, we decided to make it budget-friendly as well.
We chose to host the Ghostlight Project outside on the steps of our university's Waltmar Theatre, with permission and support from our department chair. We sent out a call for speeches, poems, or any theatrical work to be read out loud during our event. The Ghostlight Project's national leaders also provided a free and accessible tool-kit as well as other helpful downloadable resources that came in multiple languages.
One of our biggest dilemmas was...the actual ghostlight. We were unable to access one from a theater on campus and buying one was out of the question. Addison went on the public Ghostlight Facebook group to look for inspiration, which is where she found another participant that used a plaque with a push button; we loved this idea because it allowed anyone to create light when they walked past the plaque. After searching online, we price-estimated this plaque anywhere from thirty to sixty dollars. Fortunately, the folks at Blue Ribbon Trophy/LaserWerks in Orange County graciously donated the plaque, a final estimate of fifty-two dollars, after hearing our story about participating in The Ghostlight Project. The actual pushlight itself cost $6 for two, the flashlights for people to shine at the event were priced at $16 for around twenty minis on Amazon, and the cake mix and gluten-free snack options cost $6. The printing of any signs and posters didn't cost anything as they were included in the campus resources to our disposal as students.
The night of our event, we were pleasantly surprised to welcome people outside of our student community--professors from different fields all over campus and local community members. One such member was David Albulario, the Artistic Director of New Heights Production, a 501 c-3 theatre company in the area. "After living in New York City for 11 years, I recently moved back to Orange County to open New Heights Productions (www.NewHeightsProductions.com). Looking for a Ghostlight event somewhere nearby, I realized that the ONLY ones participating in Orange County were the theater students at Chapman University aka CAST (Coalition of Artistic Students in Theatre), so I showed up at their event and was warmly welcomed by Monica Furman and Addison Turner," said Albulario. "I was inspired by the spirit and enthusiasm of this group of college artists and their understanding of the importance of theatre in social activism. Their engagement in this movement reconnected me to the compassion and vitality of the Broadway and Off-Broadway community in New York, and reminded me that we will ALWAYS be stronger together."
For less than $30, CAST created a space where theatre students and others in the Orange County community could come and talk to others about the issues they have found disturbing and uncomfortable, both in the past and currently, while planning on actions they would take in the future. January 19th was not the end for the Ghostlight Project, and it certainly wasn't the end for CAST's participation in the event. We plan on hosting monthly Ghostlight Gatherings, where we elevate spaces for diversity and equity, whether it's through a play reading, a panel, a discussion, etc. For February, we are showcasing Black theatre artists that are underappreciated or never taught in canonical discourse in honor of Black History Month. We are currently putting weekly extensive biographies and works of Black theatre artists on our bulletin board inside of the Department of Theatre for all to have the access and opportunity to learn more about these vital artists.
A few of our Ghostlight signs made at the event.
Addison Turner and I with our mock Ghostlight, donated by Blue Ribbon Trophy/LaserWerks in Orange County.
The start of our Ghostlight event at Chapman University.