On Thursday night, I arrived at the Palace Theater about a half an hour early for that evening’s dance rehearsal – I thought I might take a few minutes to warm up before the dancers got there, plus sometimes it is nice to have the stage all to yourself. All alone, just me and the stage, I suddenly remembered that I wasn’t alone at all—in the midst of my warmup, I had forgotten about the ghost. Anyone that has ever spent any time alone in the Palace can affirm this; you may not see it, but you know that poltergeist is there.
My dear friend David Glowacki, who for many years was our tech wizard up in the booth for shows such as Blithe Spirit, Annie and You Can’t Take It With You had many a run in with our mischievous, yet benevolent apparition. It seems our ghost took a perverse pleasure in wreaking havoc on David’s work. Every so often, after David would have everything set for the show, things would go haywire—all light settings would be lost, sounds disappeared, and spots would just stop working, sending David off, frantically trying to bring things back online. Like I said, the ghost was a benevolent one, and never did anything during an actual production, and seemed quite content to torture us during dress rehearsal week.
Last Christmas, on the day of our opening for our version of A Christmas Carol, I came in to finish up some last minute changes to the set, mainly constructing and hanging the huge, beautiful clock that was built and painted by Nicole Hart. The ghost was in prime form that day, with scissors falling of the stage, tape rolling off onto the floor, and somehow winding up way under the stage, and the lights went off several times, leaving me in total darkness, trying to make my way back to the switch.
“What are you doing?” I asked. “We have a show to put on, this is opening night.”
I couldn’t help but wonder what the deal was. But then I realized that it was about Sheila – the ghost really loved Sheila Cardano, whose vision it was to resurrect this theater, and once again fill it with life. I wonder how many years the poor apparition languished here, all alone, wandering about the cold, empty space. But that all changed with Ms. Cardano, who brought warmth and light to what had to have been an almost unbearable emptiness – there are few places more sad than an abandoned theater. I realized, that was why the ghost was giving me a hard time about this show. Ms. Cardano, a few years earlier, produced and directed a supremely beautiful version of the Dickens’ Christmas classic (I actually played Scrooge for her), but now, with Sheila retired, the ghost took our plans to stage the same show as an affront to its theater’s grand matron.
“Look, I get it,” I said. “I miss her too, everybody does. But like you, her spirit permeates every inch of this stage…she will always be here. But look, these kids have worked so hard on this show. It’s opening night, let them perform, will you?…this is what it’s really all about, right? This is what Sheila worked so hard to build for them, isn’t it?”
With that, the ghost left me alone, and I was finally able to hang the clock, and go home to rest up for opening night. Of course, the ghost had one more bit of mischief left, as ten minutes before the opening curtain, one of the strands holding the giant clock broke free, and was left hanging by one thread, ready to crash onto the stage.
“Really?” I asked, and I swear I heard a little giggle. Thankfully, my buddy Ethan Watson was on hand to save the day by hanging the clock with just under three minutes before the curtain was set to come up.
After that show, I feel me and ghost have come to an agreement. It finally realizes that Amy Watkins and I are not trying to replace Ms. Cardano, only to carry on the beauty and work that she and her family, especially Clelia, started years ago. In the shows since last winter’s Christmas Carol, Effervesent Elf, and now this year’s winter show, Christmas in New York, the ghost has been fairly tame. But I always know it’s there.
An odd thing happened this fall. For the last couple of years, I have been diagnosed with an aggressive set of cataracts in both eyes. As of this summer, I was almost totally blind in my right eye. However, this fall, our own brilliant Dr. Shepherd performed surgery on both eyes, and as of my last post-surgery checkup, I once again have 20/20 vision.
But there’s more…
I’m not sure how, but after the surgery, I seem to have much better peripheral vision, and that I can detect and sense light much better than before. I noticed this working in the booth as we rehearsed for the show. Where I once could only sense the ghost was next to me (especially in the booth, as I think this is its favorite place to hang out), I now catch glimpses of light, escaping just as I turn to see it. I know the ghost loves me now, but I have to admit it still creeps me out sometimes, especially at night, when I’m all alone in there. Even so, I wouldn’t change a thing, and I don’t think the Palace would be the same without it.
Merry Christmas ghost…and thank you.