On Thursday, January 19th, The Graceland Theater Department participated in the Ghostlight project. The goal of the project, as stated on the project’s website (https://theghostlightproject.com), is “to create a ‘light’ for dark times ahead, and to 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 or origin, immigration status, (dis)ability, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”
The project was designed so at 5:30 on the 19th, groups would gather at theatres and hold a ceremony to publicly commit to this goal.
It is called the Ghostlight project because it is tradition to always have a bare bulb light on a stand (called the ghost light) which is lit and placed on the stage when the stage/ theatre not in use. This is for safety (if you have not been backstage or on a theatrical stage before it can be hazardous in the dark. Theatrical spaces change frequently and therefore are very treacherous for those unaware of changes.)
All over the country, people gathered at 5:30 in their respective time. At Graceland University, more than 30 people gathered in the Shaw Family Auditorium. Members of all different departments of Graceland University and the surrounding community were present. The event was live streamed. Before participants entered they filled out a sheet that stated “I AM” and “I FIGHT FOR.” Each participant was asked to bring a source of light. The lights brought to the Graceland event ranged from cell phone flashlights, headlamps, an electric lamp, and so forth. The ceremony started with theatre professor Tracy Salter. She gave opening remarks and welcomed international student Nathalie Varli to give her thoughts on the event. Nathalie spoke powerfully about how this may be a United States event but as she said it is “not just about America.” She expressed how all over the world there are values and causes people should remember and commit to.
The Graceland Theatre Department’s commitment at the event was WE ARE the Theatre Department, WE FIGHT FOR the world’s stories.
After more comments from Professor Tracy Salter, the ghost light was lit on the stage and all present were asked to light their lights. Those gathered were invited to come forward and read what they had written on their paper if they wished. Standing on the Shaw stage gathered in a circle around with the ghost light and the lights of individuals created a solemn sense of unity and understanding. All those gathered had different causes on their hearts, but everyone was united in their commitment to their individual values.
The Ghostlight project put out a “How-To Kit” which gave a suggested script with which organizers could work. A very powerful portion read, “Like a ghostlight, the light we create tonight will represent our commitment to safeguard – it will symbolize safe harbor for our values and for any among us who find ourselves targeted because of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, (dis)ability, gender identity, sexual identity or dissident actions in the coming years. And our lights will also symbolize hope – a belief that through our actions, change is possible.” This captures the essence of the purpose of the project. No matter what lies ahead, all the individuals involved in the project have personally committed to their cause(s).
At one point in the ceremony, Professor Salter shared some wisdom she had received from her mother- that a tiny bit of light can destroy total darkness and the opposite is false.
At the end of the ceremony at Graceland, the song “Everyday People” by Sly & the Family Stone was played to complete the ceremony. Although the ceremony only lasted about 15 minutes, those who had gathered seemed to feel a sense of unity and power from the ceremony.
For more information on the ghost light project go to https://theghostlightproject.com.
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