(top) Karen Carpenter holds the poster she filled out after the Ghostlight Project.
Political turmoil, divisive rhetoric and rumors of Russian involvement transformed the social landscape of America after Donald Trump became president-elect. Tweets, Facebook trends and protest movements seemed as numerous in population as the Baby Boomers, never yielding to opposition or missing any opportunities to be heard. Impressively, the influence and seemingly shared ideologies spanned over several members of virtually every social group, uniting millions under one cause: to let the president-elect know that they would not tolerate any backsliding in regards to social equality. Thus making possible the telling of this story and how it relates to one such movement called The Ghostlight Project.
At the college I currently attend, Independence Community College, we gained a new artistic director named Karen Carpenter last year. Karen is a renowned producer, director, and teacher. Three days before the Inauguration I was informed that our theater department would be hosting an event known as The Ghostlight Project. Apparently, we were the only theater in Kansas to host this event! In regards to the theaters role in this project, Artistic Director Karen Carpenter said, “The Theater has always been a place of inclusion, where many voices can be heard, and are recognized with respect and compassion. We are glad to participate in this national gathering, to offer our theater as a place for all, to make of it a brave space of inclusion, connection and community”. Curious to learn more, I went to The Ghostlight Project’s website. The event would be held at participating theaters all across the United States at exactly 5:30 pm in each time zone on the night before the Inauguration. According to The Ghostlight Project’s website, those present would make a pledge to uphold and defend…
“THE VALUES OF INCLUSION, PARTICIPATION, AND COMPASSION FOR EVERYONE
REGARDLESS OF RACE, CLASS, RELIGION, COUNTRY OF ORIGIN, IMMIGRATION STATUS,
(DIS)ABILITY, AGE, GENDER IDENTITY, OR SEXUAL ORIENTATION”
On January 19, 2017, at 5:30 pm, you can bet that I was in attendance at The Ghostlight Project held in front of the famous William Inge Theater on I.C.C.’s campus. We were told to bring flashlights for the reading of the pledge. Beings that I didn’t have one, my college librarian, Sarah Owen, let me borrow one of hers. I excitedly clutched the small, pink flashlight ready to be a part of something bigger. Students and faculty alike were in attendance, all talking about the event and why they were there. I recognized students that were involved in band, choir, theater, debate, and some that weren’t involved in any groups on campus at all. I saw English professors, theater professors, tutors and adjuncts as well as members of the community. This was a group of diversity. Members of the LGBTQIA, African-Americans, women, men, young and old, and various religious backgrounds were present. Surrounding me were people from all walks of life, from various backgrounds and substantially different upbringings. Even though each person was substantially different from the next, everyone was gathered for the same cause: to stand up for one another.
Karen Carpenter began with explaining what the event was for and dedicated the William Inge Theater as a safe space and place of inclusion. We listened to quotes from Martin Luther King in regards to peace and equality, and ended with Terri Goodner Barbera beautifully leading us in the song, This Little Light of Mine. When asked what she thought was the most interesting aspects of the project was, Karen replied “One of the most interesting aspects of the project to me, is that 728 theaters across the nation participated.” Karen taught me that a ghost light is a light that is left on in theaters as a way to provide light and safety for those navigating the theater after hours. Symbolically, a lamp was turned on by all present as we shined all of our flashlights at it.We collectively lit the lamp as a beacon to others to indicate the Theater is a safe space where all are welcome, while using this lamp as the source of our pledge. The lamp was adorned with a beautiful, hand-painted lampshade made by professor Bridget Carson that bore the words “Be the Change”. The event ended with everyone going inside the theater to fill out posters that had “I am___, I Fight For____” on them. I wrote on mine, “I am Loud, I Fight For Those Without A Voice.”
(below) several I.C.C. students and faculty hold the posters they made for the Ghostlight Project.