There is a Broadway stage tradition known as the ‘ghost light’a single incandescent bulb that shines on the stage when the theater is otherwise dark. That constant light serves two purposes: practically, it helps anyone backstage or on stage see where they are; but more importantly and symbolically, it serves as a reminder that someday, the actors, the set, and the performances will be back.
On March 11 of 2020, one of the most painful results of our decision to close the school due to the oncoming pandemic was the cancellation of the seventh and eighth grade’s production of Seussical, the Musical. On March 13, that show did not go on, and Belmont Day’s beautiful Palandjian Arts Center stage went dark for a very long time. While we do not have a ghost light of our own at BDS, suffice it to say that if we did, we would have turned it on that March day as a promise that the stage would be alive again with our talented young performers.
This past week, our sixth graders took to that stage and opened the curtain on a new performance and what seems like a new age. With casts of seven or eight students each, the students gave us multiple performances of “Frankenstein Slept Here.” As it happened, the performance I attended included a visit by first graders who joined me in front row seats! The play, complete with all of your favorite monsterswerewolf, invisible man, the bride of Frankenstein, mummy, vampire, Igor the Humpback, and Dr. Frankenstein herselfwas a hilarious hit. And you haven’t truly experienced theater until the peals of six-year-old laughter have surrounded you.
But more than that, it was a momenteven as rising infections and the Omicron variant seize headlines and our headspaceof a safe and delightful return to something we remember from before the pandemic. It was a chance to switch off the ghost light, for the actors to rediscover themselves, and for another aspect of community to be restored. It was a moment of hope, and theater, I find, is quite good at delivering hope to its audience, no matter the show.
I couldn’t help but imagine the symbolic ghost light of this pandemic’s demands that continue to both stretch us and keep us on hold due. Indeed, in the realm of education, we have turned on the ghost light and changed the way we must teach and learn to accommodate the unwelcome guest of the pandemic. Yet, as I reflect on the past four months of school and how teaching and learning are starting to resemble what we knew them to be before March 2020, it seems we are slowly getting closer to turning that ghost light off again.
All of which is to say: it was good to be back in the theater for more reasons than I might have imagined when I took my seat with my first grade friends. And bravo to our wonderful sixth grade actors and their outstanding directors, Mr. Parsons and Ms. Dempsey!
A note to the reader, if, perchance, you find yourself reading this on Saturday, December 11, I wish you a very happy palindrome day (12.11.21)! Your next and last chance for a palindromic date will be December 22 and then there will not be another one until the next decade.