There’s an old tradition in the theater world that there must always be an electric light left burning on stage whenever a theater is left dark or unoccupied. It’s called a ghost light.
With COVID-19 forcing theaters from coast to coast to the close their doors, the ghost light’s illumination casts a plaintive glow that serves as a reminder of what artists and audiences are missing. But its light also acts as a beacon of hope.
The brainchild of actors and educators Blick and Cristen Monson, Nomad Theater Company lives by the motto, "Theater That Moves" -- literally. Featuring original works in site-specific locations, the organization aims to create an immersive theater experience, performing plays in the actual location in which the play is set.
So, for Nomad, the ghost light is metaphorical. But it was no less devastating when the coronavirus forced them to pull the plug on the very first season.
“It was nerve-wracking and scary and there was a lot of uncertainty” Blick confessed. “We had a lot of success with our first two shows. We’re really filling a niche in the theater community. We were actually lucky enough, we’d just finished our second show, 'The Art Show' at the McLean County Arts Center. And then a week later, the shelter-at-home went into effect.”
“Immediately after that show we would have started planning for our next show in early May. But we were forced to pause and sit idle. A lot of creatives will relate that that is hard to do.”
It was a frustrating experience for a theater group that was just getting started and trying to make its mark on the local arts scene.
“To be forced to stop and have uncertainty about the rest of the season, it was a scary thing, for sure,” Blick said.
Then, inspiration struck. Nomad Theater Company embraced its mission with a new fervor -- and a new project.
“Our mission was to bring theater to people outside a traditional location. So, we thought that since people can’t go to see theater, a great goal would be to bring theater to people,” Blick explained, and The Ghost Light Project was created.
“It's a really a good fit for us, to bring theater into your home now, since we’re staying at home. It fits with the mission.”
Blick and Monson put out a call via Facebook to entreat their writer friends to craft short monologues about people sheltering in place in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown. The performances air at 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays on Facebook Live on Nomad’s Facebook page. Recordings of the performances are later posted to YouTube.
“Monologues work best for actors who are performing from their homes,” Blick said. “There’s a lot of different character perspectives with something that is relevant to today. And it’s a way for us to not sit idle, and to still collaborate, one monologue at a time.”
“A lot of us in the community were already in shows, or had a show we were looking forward to doing in rehearsals and we had to stop that," she added. "As artists, we felt this void. And with the uncertainty of how long this is going to last, this is something that fulfills that need to be creative and collaborate. Even though it’s virtual, we’re still making connections with the community.”
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