SARATOGA SPRINGS – Every theater has a ghost. Why else is it that the last thing done when leaving a theater is to turn on the “ghost light?” A “ghost light” is a standing lamp with a single bulb placed in the middle of the stage. It’s left on all night.
Some say it’s to provide illumination for ghosts to perform when the theater is empty. Others say it’s to keep ghosts away. There are the others – the buzz killer types - who miss the point and claim it’s merely illumination to prevent someone from falling off the stage into the pit. Those people are banned from Halloween festivities.
However you see it, ghosts, spirits and unknown entities have been an important part of theater lore. Even Shakespeare included three witches who predicted the future in his “Scottish play.”
That’s another theater superstition. In order to ward off misfortune no one is allowed to utter the name of that play within a theater Since you probably aren’t in a theater right now, I can tell you the name of the play is “Macbeth.” If you are in a theater – shush.
Theater’s fascination with ghosts is a logical way for theaters to connect with Halloween to earn some revenue during the Covid-19 shutdown. Several area theaters are offering ghost tours this weekend and next.
All are following social distancing guidelines by limiting size of parties in a tour and requiring face masks.
Proctors Collaborative is offering a ghostly event at both Proctors downtown Schenectady and at Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany.
Since Cap Rep already moved out of its former home and the new theater is still under construction, they have decided to use all of downtown Albany for their stage.
The theater company has joined forces with The Original Albany Ghost Tour’s Maeve McEneny -Johnson for “City Séance.” It’s an outdoor ghost tour of downtown. You will learn of the former, and maybe current haunts of Albany’s historical characters.
The tour is limited to 10 people a session and happens Friday at 7 p.m. Reservations are a must and can be made at capitalrep.org.
The Proctors event is titled “F.F. Proctors & the Case of the Missing Deed.” It’s part ghost tour and part scavenger hunt. The 90-minute search for a missing deed takes place Friday at 6 and 8 p.m., the schedule is the same on Saturday but an extra 4 p.m. tour has been added. Each is limited to 10 people, all must wear masks.
Even if the clues scattered about don’t lead you to the discovery of the deed, you will discover parts of the underground in Proctors Theatre. The layout takes you to places theatergoers rarely see. For reservations go to proctors.org.
One of the most famous sites in Saratoga Springs is also famously haunted. Television’s Travel Channel ranks the Canfield Casino number 4 in the Top Ten list of America’s Most Terrifying Places. The SYFY Channel has even done a feature on the ghosts that have been seen wandering the building.
This weekend and next, the Saratoga Springs Historical Society if offering guided tours of the building. Making them special is that they are led by actual eyewitnesses to the paranormal activities at the Casino.
The tours are about an hour and start every 20 minutes. The first begins at 6 p.m., the last leaves at 7:40 p.m. Reservations are necessary as are face masks and social distancing. Go to saratogahistory.org
Should you prefer the theater ghosts of Broadway, Playbill.com is offering a virtual tour of haunted Broadway theaters. The host is Tim Dolan, a Broadway performer who owns Up Close Walking Tours.
He will give a virtual presentation of the history of theaters where verified ghostly sightings have taken place. The sightings date back to 1893 and continue to the present. The 60-minute presentation is available 8 p.m. October 28 by going to Social Selects at Playbill.com.
While spirits and ghosts are often identified with scary and sometimes negative impressions - the idea of ghost lights in theaters today has a positive connotation. Even though Broadway theaters have been closed since March, the ghost lights remain lit. This is meant as a symbol of hope that live actors will soon be performing on Broadway stages.
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
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