Stretched across the back wall of the stage, there is a piece of cloth, the cyc (pronounced /ˈsyke/). On a November night in 2016, it was lit an orange-brown tone. In front of it, three silks hung from the ceiling. It was Stage 32’s first play of the school year, The Tempest.
As they closed up the first act, Stephano, a drunk (played by Nick Boozan) was grabbed by the hand by Caliban (played by Orlando Grant) and was quickly spun around.
Orlando Grant and Nick Boozan with the bottle
“There was a loud crash and a bit of panicking,” said James Pacheco, who was on the tech crew at the time. The bottle had slipped out of Caliban’s hand and shattered on the stage. “This definitely wasn’t in the script.”
Some may see this as an honest accident, but those who were backstage believe that it was the fault of Stage 32’s theatre ghost.
The bottle wasn’t the only unusual thing to happen that night.
“It was just after intermission when Molly [McCreedy] came up to me and asked ‘Hey is your walkie talkie working alright?’” said Pacheco. It wasn’t until after the show, when Molly told James there was a “little girl’s high pitched voice squeaking in the background of the walkie talkie.”
“I wasn’t aware of this…” said Erin Galligan Baldwin, the director of Stage 32. “we will just have to take Molly’s word for it.”
It may have been Erin who summoned the ghost. She was talking to the cast of The Tempest one rehearsal, listing off plays she hoped to do in the future, – when she said the one, horrendous, dreadful, absolutely appalling word: “Macbeth”
In any other context, saying the name of that play would not be a problem, but you’re never supposed to say it in a theatre. If you do, according to theatre folklore, you risk putting yourself and those around you in great danger. “It’s like saying ‘Beetlejuice’ three times,” said Pacheco, “you’re just not supposed to do it.”
How do you avoid this? You refer to it as ‘The Scottish Play’.
But some aren’t as superstitious as others. “I don’t believe in the curse of ‘The Scottish Play,’” Galligan-Baldwin said.
Erin believes that the bottle broke for a more simple reason: “I think it broke because it was glass… you shouldn’t have glass on stage.”
During the end of the 2017-2018 school year, Stage 32 installed a ghost light for the theatre. It sits in the middle of the stage every night and is dimly lit, which furthers the suspicion that the spirits are among us.
“Ghost lights are traditional in theatres… it’s there for safety reasons,” says Galligan-Baldwin. “The folklore around ghost light is it invites the ghosts of the theater in to perform when we’re not there.”
Erin does believe in some forms of ghosts, though.
“I like to think of ghosts in the theatre as not just ghosts of people,” said Galligan Baldwin, “but ghosts as characters.”
She compared movies to live performances: “the movie is exactly the same every time you see it; the play is a collective experience.”
Erin hopes to have Stage 32 perform The Diary of Anne Frank sometime in the future “Will the ghost of Anne Frank be here? Was the spirit of Shakespeare with us when we performed Lear?” she asked.
“Embodying characters brings them alive again.”