At 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Ashland, and in each time zone across the country, people will gather outside theaters to launch a social justice initiative called the Ghost Light Project.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Oregon Cabaret Theater will both take part.
The Ghost Light Project is being organized by live theaters across the nation to let people know their theaters will be a safe space for anyone who feels threatened by the policy positions of the incoming Trump administration or by hate crimes.
“This project was brought together because of the election and the incredibly ugly rhetoric during the Trump campaign, and the policies that are being suggested,” said OSF Community Producer Claudia Alick, who is on the steering committee for the Ghost Light Project and an organizer for the local event.
The project aims to activate theater makers and individuals to advocate for and protect vulnerable communities, including immigrants, people of color and the LGBT community. The name of the project was inspired by the tradition of leaving a safety lamp illuminated on stage in an unoccupied theater to prevent injury from a fall in the dark. Such lamps are known as “ghost lights” because superstition holds that they allow ghosts to perform at night in the vacant theater.
Alick said the event has no set agenda, rather the emphasis is on coming together in a positive way.
“This is going to be a community-led gathering,” said Alick. “Our tagline for the event is ‘Be a Light.’ That’s what we want, to create a safe space where dissent is not only tolerated but is invited, a space where community engagement and collective action are cultivated.”
Originally called the Sanctuary Project, the Ghost Light Project came together when several theaters around the country came up with the idea of activating a network of communities to support one another and work for social justice. They sent invitations for other theaters to join them, including OSF, who reached out to Oregon Cabaret.
The event is intended to be the initiation of an ongoing commitment by institutions and artists to work for justice and equity in the coming years. Alick said she is pleased that inclusion and social justice are part of OSF’s core values.
“I’m actually feeling really good, because all the work we do is already responding to this. In many ways, Bill Rauch is the vanguard in terms of making sure this large institution was actively focused on community health,” she said.
Those who wish to participate are invited to gather prior to 5:30 p.m. outside OCT at 241 Hargadine St., at the corner of First Street. The lighting of lights will be a central symbolic feature of the event. Gatherers are encouraged to bring any source of light, such as a cigarette lighter, flashlight or mobile device that can be turned on or “lit” when the moment arrives.
For more information, see the Southern Oregon Ghost Light Project on Facebook.
Angela Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at email@example.com.