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Theatre Critic

December 2001

As an actor wannabe, I enjoy the fact that there are several community theater groups in my city that have allowed me to appear in their productions. I have grown very accustomed to the notion that every theater somehow has a resident ghost no matter how recently the theater was built.

One theater actually is an old church that sits on the edge of a historic district full of very stately old mansions. The stage is built over the area where the choir and minister once sat, but the original pews still are in the former sanctuary and serve as the audience's seats. This theater is known for performing original scripts.

This theater boasts (literally) that it has four ghosts. I have been shown a snap shot supposedly of one of the ghosts. I could see that the camera's lens actually had refracted light from a window to cause a blur/shape in the picture, but I said nothing as the theater's owner was so excited about it.

As I have a knack for memorizing things quickly, the theater's owner called me one Friday to take over a role from an actor who had been in an accident and broken his leg. The play had several more weeks in its run. The play was simple but well written and full of humorous scenes. My character was not a major one, but was on stage for most of the show. I had to sit at a table in a diner set for many scenes and act occupied though never part of the main action.

One night toward the end of the run I was going through my normal routine on stage of drinking (cold) coffee and pretending to read an old prop newspaper when something caught my attention in the audience. The first pew in the audience was four feet from the stage so it rarely had anyone in it. This night, however, I saw a woman in the darkness sitting on the far-left side of that pew. I thought this odd as the audience was small that evening and most had opted to move to the center of the old sanctuary to have a better view of the stage. I adjusted my position so that I could have a better view of this woman without appearing to look out at the audience. I could see she had her hair in a bun and was wearing a very high necked dress, but it was too dark to see her face or much detail of her appearance or face.

My character's lines came at that moment so I jumped into the argument taking place in the scene. When my small part of the scene was finished and I (in character) returned to the chair in a huff over the action happening on the other side of the stage, I turned slightly to see the woman again. Now I could see that she was smiling. When the lights came up at our curtain call, however, she was not there.

For the next four performances, that woman was in that pew. I began to look for her whenever I was on that corner of the stage. She always was smiling at the performance but gone for the curtain call.

After seeing her for the fifth time, I mentioned her to the manager who stayed at the lobby entrance and took tickets. She gave me an odd look and asked if the woman had been in Victorian clothing and had her hair up in a bun. I said she had. The manager then clapped her hands and said that I had seen the most famous of the four ghosts as this woman seems to truly enjoy watching productions and appears in the audience whenever she likes a show.

The next several performances had good audience attendance; thus the front pew was in use. The woman was not there on those nights, but as soon as the attendance dropped and the pew was not in use, she was back. Oddly, no other actor seemed to see her even though I would tell the cast exactly where she was seated.

On the last night of the show, a post performance champagne reception was planned in the church's basement area that had been converted into a restaurant. As the audience and we danced and had a merry time, I happened to catch a glimpse of the stairway that lead from the lobby/narthex of the building down to the basement. I saw the woman standing at the top of the stairs looking very sad. Someone passed in front of me and the woman vanished in that moment.

No one knows for sure who this woman is though some have determined that she was an actress that once lived in the area. I never felt scared or threatened by this woman. Sadly, I have been in three more productions at this theater, but have not seen her again. Maybe those shows were not to her liking?

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