A ghost light is typically a bare light bulb on a plain pole that illuminates the stage when the theatre is not in use. The obvious reason for a ghost light is safety; the ghost light sufficiently illuminates the stage so that the edge of the stage and set pieces may be avoided by the first and last cast or crew member on stage. Legend has it that a burglar successfully sued a theatre company when he broke his leg falling into the orchestra pit. That said, this is theatre and there must be drama! Theatrical performances are surrounded by a very superstitious culture and few theatre people would deny the existence of theatre ghosts.
Ghost lights date back to the time of Shakespeare, and likely before that. Legend tells us that a candle would be left burning on the stage to dispel the ghosts of past performances, especially if the performance had gone badly. While some now say the ghost lights scare away the ghosts, others argue that the lights allow the ghosts to perform at night when the theatre is empty. To this day, many theatres reserve two seats for the ghosts for every performance and two seats remain bolted in the open position for the ghosts in a famous London theatre.
During the COVID pandemic, ghost lights saw a resurgence as theatres around the globe turned on ghost lights, a symbolic glimmer of hope that theatres would not remain dark. They were the sole illumination of so many stages for almost two years.
Today, ghost lights are being extinguished as the stage lights come up. The Highlands Summer Festival is delighted to be able to bring up the stage lights in the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion this summer for our exceptional 2022 season.