Magic of Ghost Light is the Story and Characters
Lawrance Bernabo, Duluth News Tribune
October 12, 2012
Ghost Light has been billed as a suspense-horror play incorporating magical illusions. But the world premiere of Andy Bennett’s play, which opened Thursday night, succeeds way more because of the characters and the comedy than the special effects.
A century ago at the Zenith Theater, the Amazing Arcana (Jason Page) performed his final death-defying illusion. Wearing an ancient funerary mask that had the power to keep him alive, he was stabbed by spears. But that fateful night things did not go as planned, the Amazing Arcana died on stage, and the solid gold funerary mask … disappeared. Back in the present, the finishing touches on being put on the old vaudeville theater to reopen as a haunted tour, and a group of young tour guides are staying late into the night, waiting for an electrician to show up and stop the power from going out over and over again.
Irene (Victoria Main), manager of the haunted tour, and Casey (Sarah Diener) the tech director are getting the cadre of tour guides up to speed for the grand opening the following day. There is Freeman (Derik Iverson), who is the true believer in things that go bump in the night, Chad (Matthew Smith), and Jessie (Jessica Ilaug), the self-appointed arbiter of gender-exclusive language. Meanwhile, running the box office is Sarah (Lucy Habdas), whose sex appeal is surpassed only by her stupidity, while Rick (Luke Moravec) is working on the final touches of the restoration of the old place.
I had occasion to sit in on the first reading of Bennett’s script earlier this year, and while I have all sorts of interesting insights into the differences between that version and the finished product, none of that is of any value in this review of the show Julie Ahasay has directed.
Ghost light is what will-o’-the-wisp is called in some countries, but in the theatrical context it refers to a light that is left energized on the stage of a theater. Usually the exposed incandescent bulb mounted in a wire cage on a portable light standard that we see when we enter the theater, the primary purpose of the ghost light is to keep people from tripping over set pieces or falling into the orchestra pit. Of course, there are also a body of superstitions surrounding the ghost light in keeping with its name.
For the fictional Zenith Theater, think the large and cavernous Norshore Theater more than the Teatro Zuccone in which you find yourself sitting. There is no way all of the action could possibly take place on the stage set before us, so Ghost Light has scenes that take place off stage or behind us. Several times the action takes place in pitch blackness.
Ghost Lightrepresents the continuing evolution of the Renegade Theater Company’s interested in special effects, which was represented by rudimentary stagecraft in 2009’s “The Woman in Black” and expanded to explosions of blood in last season’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore.
The feats of magic and special effects are the handiwork of Sean Phillips, an illusionist from the big metropolis to the south. You will see sleight-of-hand and misdirection (or will you?), custom tailored for the production, aided and abetted by the use of sound and light. The goal is that these are not stand-alone tricks, but illusions interwoven into the play in a style appropriate to the time(s) and place.
The Zenith Theater certainly has one of the strictest admission policies you will find at a local venue, starting with the fact there is no late seating. Not only must viewers turn off cell phones and refrain from talking during the show, but “Once the show begins, you may not get up.” If an emergency compels you to leave during Act 1, you will not be allowed back in until intermission (plus, you must leave the theater during intermission). If you leave during Act 2, you will miss the end of the show.
I shudder to think what would happen to anybody foolish enough to walk out on both Act 1 and Act 2.
The act break comes just as things are beginning to get really interesting, and pick up after intermission right where it left off. When you leave the theater at intermission, you will discover that a pair of glass display cases, containing mementos from the Zenith’s heyday as well as several grisly objects discovered during the restoration project, have been uncovered for your edification and enjoyment as an additional part of the immersion theatrical experience.
This is a funny play, with way more laughs than scares, and you are guaranteed to jump more than once, but Ghost Light is not a comedy. In fact, I think it is a funnier play than Sex Change, the body-switching comedy Bennett wrote that Renegade put on in 2010. A large portion of that play featured the off-the-wall insanity that is the hallmark of Renegade’s Dink Tank Revues, while all the humor in Ghost Light is driven by character and circumstance.
Much has been made of Phillips’ illusions for this show, and while they are for the most part seamless and cool the way such things always are when they are done well, there is nothing so spectacular that it overwhelms the production and takes away from the characters and the story.
Actually, what I thought was the coolest part of the show was when a pivotal set of scenes in the second act were lit by nothing more than the small flashlights carried by the characters. You will end up caring way more about the endearing nebbish that Iverson plays than any of the special effects, which is as it should be.
There is not a program for Ghost Light, but available for purchase is a deck of Zenith Theater cards that allows each member of the cast and crew to recall the scariest thing that ever happened to them (Win: Jenna Kelly, Place: Julie Ahasay, Show: Katy Helbacka). There are also cards detailing the production’s blood recipe, haunted spots in the Northland, a donor list, and other scary tidbits (I am not sure, but I believe each card has a depiction of the Black Rabbit of Inle on it, which is definitely not a good sign). Mr. Wallace, owner of the Zenith Theater, greets you at the door with a random card from the deck (I got Sean Phillips, Illusions, while my wife scored an Emyli Gudmundson, Stage Manager/Props card).
As part of the immersion theater package, if you go online you will find a Facebook page devoted to “Zenith Theater Haunted Tours,” devoted to the place that is the “host of the greatest unsolved murder in our city’s history.” Photos of strange things found at the theater as well as strange and disturbing messages are posted as well. There is also a four-part installment of Max Creely’s online smash series, “Spirit Stalkers,” in which the “famous” ghost hunter takes his life into his own hands and examines the haunted Zenith Theater.
Given all these realistic trappings, you might be tempted to show up during the day at the Zenith Theater and take the haunted tour, but, alas and alack, this turns out to be an impossibility, because no matter what night you come to see Ghost Light, opening day is always tomorrow and tomorrow is always the anniversary of the death of the Amazing Arcana.
Ghost Light, Directed by Julie Ahasay was a show that kept the audience on their toes and laughing throughout the play. Julie kept the suspense high with turning off the lights and all of the background music and sounds the audience could hear. The audience was on high alert because they knew they would be scared at any second. Julie also kept the mood up as well with a lot of jokes that were perfect for that moment in time. The jokes were not predictable; they were edgy and a perfect balance of being scared but keeping the play funny. This takes the edge off of being scared throughout the play.
Julie’s special effects and magic tricks that were incorporated in the play were shocking. The scenes that had blood in them were really exciting, you couldn’t tell if it was fake or real blood. Also the magic tricks that were incorporated in the play were amazing to watch especially the first one when Amazing Arcana (Jason Page) disappeared on stage then reappear by the entrance. The whole audience was in shock and right then the tone was set for the whole entire play. Some audience members seemed to scream for no reason during the play. By doing a magic trick early, the audience had to be on their toes throughout the play, which set up all the great special effects and kept everyone eyes plied to the action.
John Freeman, played by Derik Iverson, is the hilarious nerdy kid who believes that there are ghosts and the legends of the Zenith Theater are true. Freeman is pretty witty kid, and the other characters give him a hard time during the play for his neediness. Freeman also had the best comebacks, as well as making him a lovable character in the play. Freeman died in the play which was hard to see since he was such a light hearted guy. He kept the mood light while the other characters around him didn’t know what was going on. He was the guy to make everyone laugh and unfortunately he died too soon. Which was hard for the audience members who connected to him the most?
The title of the play is called Ghost Light.
One of the reasons it is called this is because, back in the day theaters used coal/gas to light the theater before there was electricity lights, but the problem is that the theaters that used coal/gas burned were more susceptible to burning down. A lot of actors and audience members would die. So a lot of theaters would just do plays by one light instead of the whole lighting system. The theory is at night the actors would do their own plays because they were trapped in the theater forever. That’s why sometimes at the Zenith Theater there is a light left on stage. Ahasay incorporated this idea into the play. Another theme that was incorporated was to face your fear. Chad played by Matthew Smith, did just that. He put on the mask and killed Rick played by Luke Moravec who was finishing up the final touches of the theater. Chad had to do what was necessary and with the mask, real or fake, gave him the strength to dig deep inside of him and protect his other friends from dying.
To conclude Ghost Light is indeed a great show for its laughs and screams. A must see before Halloween.
Ghost Light was an unexpected thrill to behold! This Renegade Theater production succeeded in making the audience scream, laugh, and even shed a few tears. Playwright Andy Bennett did a fantastic job creating a story that had audience members shivering in terror and then laughing in relief.
Mystery has surrounded the Zenith Theater since the death of the Amazing Arcana (Jason Page) 100 years from the present day. The theater has been transformed into a haunted tour. The night before the grand opening, also the night before the anniversary of Amazing Arcana’s death, four teenage tour guides become trapped in the theater and must fend for their lives.
Freeman (Derik Iverson) is the awkward nerd who strongly believes the theater is haunted. Chad (Matthew Smith) is the brave heart who does not believe in the supernatural, but is determined to find the magical gold mask that the Amazing Arcana was wearing the night he died. Freeman and Chad are accompanied by the outspoken feminist Casey (Sarah Diener) and technology buff Jessie (Jessica Ilaug) in their fight for survival. These characters were well developed and drew many gasps and laughs from the audience.
Director Julie Ahasay and cast did a spectacular job bringing to life the odd and peculiar happenings that occurred in the haunted Zenith Theater. Audience members were kept on edge as the actors darted up and down walk ways, to and from the lobby, and from dark corners. . There was no boring scene. Having the action so close made it feel even more real.
There was one technical error during the first half of the production which was a disappointment. The projection screen was unable to be lowered completely. Audience members did their best to make out what was being projected. The play as whole had great theatrical elements such as oozing blood, fight scenes, and magic tricks. The lights were turned off many times, and audience members were left to sit in darkness and simply listen for the unknown. Of course this only caused more screams from the audience as loud bangs and shrieks echoed through the theater.
I would recommend this production to anyone in the mood for a good heart pounding thriller. It has the right amount of scare, action, and comic relief.
Ghost Light review (Thursday 10/18/12)
By Sara Hughes
The illusion filled comedy/action/horror/suspense/movie-like play, Ghost Light, gave the audience everything they could have possibly asked for. Selling out even on a Thursday night, everyone wanted to be a part of the experience.
The playwright, Andy Bennett clearly wrote Ghost Light with the vision of a movie in mind. Since Ghost Light was not a movie, but a play, it brought something more to the table no movie could ever bring. Ghost Light happened in real time, and it happened all around the audience. No movie has ever been performed in front of a live audience, some sitcoms yes, but those are nothing like Ghost Light. Ghost Light incorporated exciting special effects that would have usually been computer generated or created through editing if done in a movie. Incredibly talented illusionist, Sean Phillips created The Amazing Arcana’s (played by Jason Page) disappearing act in the beginning of the play. It was extremely impressive to the entire audience. Everyone burst with disbelief at how it was possible. It was a magic show within a play, and threw everyone off guard, in a good way. In addition, Ghost Light was a play set in a theater, which was performed in a theater. This allowed the entire theatre to be used as the set. The audience was surrounded by the play, action happening next to them, behind them, and in front of them, making it an experience unlike any they have ever had before.
Ghost Light skipped the “scene” aspect of plays and presented itself more like a movie in the sense that it never stopped. There was never a moment when the stage was empty for the sole purpose of rearranging set props or for a costume change. There was never a clear indication of an act ending either, everything kept moving, just like a movie. The only stop was during intermission and even that mimicked a commercial during a TV show. The play was interrupted at a high stress moment, ironically right when any TV show would happen to start a commercial break. This cliffhanger created suspense in the audience but also gave them a chance to talk amongst each other about the play. No one could wait to see what came next, and it was the topic of discussion out in the lobby.
There was one technical difficulty during the show but it only made the show stronger. During the video montage that represented 100 years of time passing to reach us to the present, the screen failed to fully come down from the ceiling. The crew was able to detach the screen and remove it from the stage. At the end of the show the screen was expected to have come down again to present the credits. Instead, the credits were projected onto the back wall of the stage. It was as if it were meant to be that way. The rolling credits paired with music were much like the ending of any movie. The screen would have been overkill. The projection against the back wall of the stage reminded the audience that they weren’t watching a movie at all, but were watching a play. The stage props illuminated by the projection created a memorable image, and lasting impression of the play.
The idea of a play mimicking a movie is something that was bound to happen sooner or later. Andy Bennett made note during a talk with a theatre class at UMD that it is important to give an audience what they know in order to keep them interested. He said that people know action movies, so he strived to give them an action movie. Society is used to the intense action and effects movies offer. They grow to expect nothing less. Theatre is expected to engage society like movies do. Playwright Andy Bennett and director Julie Ahasay took this into account and pursued gifting society an experience much greater than a movie, and did so phenomenally.
Pumpkins carved elaborately, spider webs and ghouls on every porch; Clearly Halloween is quickly approaching, as is the need to indulge in all forms of horror and thriller. The Renegade Theater Company’s cutting edge reputation lends itself to such a spooky time of year. Smartly the company decided to play off the spirit of Halloween by presenting the world premier of Ghost Light.
Andy Bennett created an engaging tale in the form of this vivid thriller. He successfully introduced a small group of characters to which most anyone could identify: the sarcastic boss, the nerd, and the feminist. The list goes on. Almost immediately the audience was placed into a situation that they knew—which made the play all the creepier.
Andy Bennett described himself as having a film-esque quality to his writing and directing, and it was most evident in Ghost Lights elaborate use of special effects. Loud gunfire that resulted in believably bloody victims, a slit throat that literally gushed blood, a creepy doll that rocked independently and cried blood—the show was filled with small touches like these that had a huge impact on the overall intensity of the play. Director Julie Ahasay was very true to the type of work one might expect from Bennett himself. The collaboration between the two was highly effective.
Slight of hand magic tricks also played a vital role within this play. Right away in the beginning of the play a magician VERY convincingly disappeared and reappeared across the room in a matter of seconds—a feet that was clearly not possible. The audience was left to wonder about the trick as the play continued, only to be met by more wondrous activities. Various disappearing and reappearing tricks occurred, involving both props and actors. Clearly much rehearsal time was spent making these tricks run so smoothly.
The interactive quality of the play added dramatically to the suspense of the overall experience. One of the actors took audience member’s tickets, two actors were seated in the audience to start of the play, and much of the play occurred in and around the audience. The actors were in the light booth at one point, which forced the audience to crane their necks to watch. Feeling as though there could be action on any side at anytime left audience member’s feeling anxious and squirmy.
All of the acting was exquisitely executed, but most noteworthy was the performance by Derik Iverson. His character was awkward, nerdy, a little bit girl crazy, and extremely genuine. Audience members rolled their eyes at many of Iverson’s jokes, laughed at many of his earnest moments, and cheered when he got the girl in the middle of one of the many black outs. His violent death was heart wrenching and simultaneously terrifying, as he was left to bleed on the floor (he also was fantastic at just lying still and playing dead for so long).
Ghost Light thrilled the audience, leaving them wondering about many of the tricks and effects. A very polished performance by both cast and crew, a well-written script, and fantastic direction all lead to one terrifying and enjoyable show.
Ghost Light Review
As we approach Halloween, the biggest want for audiences becomes horror; horror movies, scary stories….horror plays? Yes, Ghost Light, put on by the Renegade Theater this month, is quite a horrifying and gruesome play.
A century has passed since the Amazing Arcana mysteriously died during one of his performances, now it is said that the theater he passed away in, The Zenith, is haunted by his memory. As a new Haunted Tour is set up in the Zenith and about to become open to the public, a faulty wire is all it takes for this incredible thrill ride to begin. The illusions in the show were absolutely spectacular, and given the small “Black Box” feel of the theater, it really felt like the audience was experiencing this traumatic crisis with the cast. The play itself is astonishing. The plot twists and turns really surprised the audience in a very good way. About halfway through the play, it is revealed that the electrician, the ditsy security girl, and a friend have been terrorizing the group of employees who had to stay the night. However, their friend is insane, and under the disguise of the Amazing Arcana’s ghost, he kills two people. For a long time after that, the audience is to believe that the Zenith is not haunted, but in fact this is the act of three incredibly insane people. Yet, as the show continues, you are lead straight back to your original assumption. The Zenith is haunted all right, but the Amazing Arcana does not want to hurt these kids, he wants to hurt the maniacs who have tried to hurt them. The hero of the story ends up being the ghost of the Amazing Arcana. What an incredible plot twist.
The show was so tremendously and perfectly cast. It felt like each actor was really speaking realistically. Given the modest nature of the stage, it allowed the actors to portray their characters as real people, instead of loud and overdone characters one can often see on a larger stage. The short but adorable love story between Kacey and John was incredibly sweet. It reminded the audience of a time when they had a little crush on a friend. It was sweet and nerdy, much like the personalities of said characters. One of the characters claims that he never gets scared, that he doesn't believe in ghosts, yet it is interesting to see how his character slowly starts to believe and become frightened throughout the show. By the end, he is a changed man.
While the staging of certain scenes were hard to see from most seats, it was the only problem with the show. The writing was phenomenal, the acting; outstanding; the illusions; realistic and terrifying. All in all, this play was as close to a horror movie as one can get, but its better, because it’s real.
Ghost Light couldn't have been shown around a better time of year. As Halloween approaches and everyone gets in a spooky mood one couldn't ask for a better play. The play had suspense, horror, and comedy giving the audience more than enough entertainment in a night. The Thursday night show was even sold out so obviously people in and around Duluth enjoyed the show.
The Zenith Theater has been haunted since the death of the Amazing Arcana 100 years prior. The night before the grand opening for haunted tours some guides are trapped in the haunted Zenith Theater. The illusions throughout the show were spectacular and left you scratching your head in awe. The movie-like feel to the play was nice because of the minimal scene changes. The intermission even took place during a high suspense moment which lead to being the main discussion in the lobby. Any movie or TV show would go to a commercial break at this point in the show giving us another comparison for this play to a movie.
The cast from the play was wonderful. Freeman was the nerd that firmly believed the theater is haunted. He has an awkward personality but there is a lot of humor brought out of it. His death was actually a little scary and props to Derik for playing dead for so long. Chad doesn't get so caught up in the haunted aspect of the theater but is determined to find the magical gold mask. He is very interested in the girls and his flirting brings more humor to the show.
As an audience member you are on the edge of your seat the entire play. Things are going on all around. One moment all eyes are on the stage and the next turn to a scream coming from the entrance. The opening illusion kicked the suspense off immediately. The Amazing Arcana is on stage one moment and the next walks in the entrance talking to the crowd.
This play was incredible. The feel as if you're watching a movie keeps us up to date yet even better because it is still happening right in front of you. Everything was enjoyable. The cast was on top of their game, the script was well written, and the audience loved it.
The play Ghost Light is a humorous horror production set in a haunted theatre. It offers the audience an abundance of amusing charm, intermittent with suspense and interesting special effects for a one of a kind theatre experience.
The script is very well written. It is full of the playful banter one would expect between college friends who work together as well as very dramatic sequences. It also has an interesting plot twist in the middle of the play, which can be incredibly unexpected!
Also, the cast is astounding in their roles. They are all very appropriately cast and performed their roles exceptionally well. They are never out of character or appear to feel out of place with the character they are trying to portray.
However, what is truly spectacular about the play is its design as an audience inclusive, all around theatre experience. The cast moves throughout the theatre space, effectively breaking the fourth wall between them and the audience. The viewers are actively included in the play as well, being subjected to the lights randomly flickering out and hearing loud bands all around them in the darkness. Their reactions to these unexpected events heightens the intense atmosphere.
Overall, Ghost Light is a truly enjoyable experience and I highly recommend seeing it with a full house. It certainly intensifies the whole event.
Ghost Light, written by Andy Bennett, directed by Julie Ahasay, and performed at the Renegade Theater was promoted as a suspense-horror incorporating magic and special effects.
It was set at the old Zenith Theater, 100 years ago when kerosene lights were used to light the theater. The feeling of vaudeville started early when, even as the audience was filtering in, a man dressed in the old vaudeville style clothes and smoking a cigar would come out and sweep the stage then leave, then return again, and leave and again return for a third time. As the play began it was evident that he was a member of the play as he came out with Mr. Wallace, owner of the Zenith Theater. They were searching for the Amazing Arcana (Jason Page) who was late to show up for his performance.
The Amazing Arcana was to perform a final death-defying illusion this night. The most amazing illusion staged by illusionist Sean Phillips came when the Amazing Arcana was on stage climbing onto a platform behind a curtain which he was holding up and then amazingly within seconds he turns up behind the audience which left everyone in amazement.
While wearing a solid gold funerary mask that was to keep him alive he was stabbed by spears and died that evening. In the process the funerary mask disappeared which would be an object of obsession later in the play.
As the play jumped to the present the old Zenith Theater was undergoing renovations to reopen as a haunted tour. A group of young tour guides were to remain at the Zenith over night waiting for an electrician who was to show up to fix an electrical problem making the lights go on and off. Freeman (Derik Iverson), Chad (Matthew Smith), Casey (Sarah Diener) and Jessica (Jessica Ilaug) were the lucky crew to spend the night.The ditsy box office girl Sarah (Lucy Habdas) would become an interesting character as the night went on. Little did they know the suspense and horror that would haunt them this night.
This would become a night filled with comedy that kept the audience laughing through out the play with Freeman believing in ghosts and Chad giving him a hard time about these beliefs. Through out the play the lights would suddenly go out and the theater was left in the dark. This would be an integral part of the play. During these blackouts the cast would come out and perform while holding flashlights adding to the realism of a darkened theater and adding to the suspense of what would come next. Special sound effects were placed around the theater putting the audience on the edge of their seats awaiting the next bang and where it would come from.
The death scenes may have been the most convincing of all. Gunshots rang out with blood so realistic t truly looked as someone had been shot. Knife scenes with spurting blood and stabbings with objects left the audience stunned. The hunt for the diary telling of the whereabouts of the funerary mask was a gory, suspense filled drama with unexpected deaths and unexpected characters come to the forefront. Truly a play to see if you are seeking a suspense filled, intriguing edge of your seat evening.
With Halloween literally days away, there's no doubt the spooky holiday is on everyone's mind, from tick or treating children, to jack-o-lanterns, and even ghosts, yes, ghosts.
Andy Bennett's play Ghost Light, starts out 100 years in the past as the Amazing Arcana, preforms his best trick yet, avoiding death. With the help of a solid gold mask. However, during his one and only performance at The Zenith he fails at achieving this feat.
As the play fast forwards 100 years to present day, footage of hauntings and articles of mysterious events at the now famous Zenith Theater are shown on the screen. As the footage ends, the play is now set the night before the grand re-opening of The Zenith, as a haunted tour experience. This is where the audience is introduced to the most memorable character in the entire play, Freeman(Derik Iverson).
Freeman is the quirky, nerdy, shy boy that melts every girl's heart with his awkwardness, he is also the most profound believer of all the events, and is convinced the theater is truly haunted. Freeman is accompanied by Chad (Matthew Smith), the guy who is a non believer in anything paranormal, but is determined to find the golden mask-which apparently is hidden inside the Zenith. The two men are also joined by Jessie (Jessica Ilaug), the girl who knows all things technology and finally Casey (Sarah Diener), the feminist.
Due to an unfortunate situation with the fuze box, Freeman and Chad are forced to spend the night inside The Zenith awaiting the Electrician. This is when the action begins. Once Freeman and Chad are alone, unexplainable things start happening, the radio plays itself, the doll starts rocking in her chair(she even cries blood). Freeman is no doubt spooked, but feels better knowing he's not alone, he has chad.
The girls end up playing a trick on the boys and pretending to be ghosts of Arcana's creepy assistants, later reveal that they couldn't pass up the chance for a perfect prank, and turn this all night work-a-thon into a little double date, complete with alcohol and pizza.
Through a completely unseen twist, it's revealed that the ditzy receptionist, the electrician, and their psychotic friend, had actually invaded the Zenith in hopes of stealing Arcana's golden mask. In order to achieve this, a few lives were lost. This is where Freeman dies defending his friends and saving his crush, Jessie.
This play is sure to be a pleasing thriller from the start with incredible illusions,an amazingly talented cast and of course tons and tons of blood and gore. This play will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout it's entirety due to the fact that the play not only takes place on a stage, but all around you. The audience is left guessing as to where the next spooky event will take place. overall, the experience at Ghost Light was no doubt one of a kind. An incredibly well written hit! Andy Bennett and director Julie Ahasay made a great team, and produced a PHENOMENAL viewing experience!
Ghost Light Blog Review
Ghost Light is an intense, exciting play sure to keep you on your toes and guessing what is going to happen next. Andy Bennett's original play came off as a huge success, not only because of the magical death defying illusions and special effects, but also the close knit chemistry shown between the actors.
The play is begins 100 years ago inside the well-known Zenith Theatre. The Amazing Zarcana came into town to perform his new deadly illusion which includes a magical solid gold mask. During the illusion The Amazing Zarcana seems confident and excited to share his talent with the audience; even the Zenith owner is counting on Zarcana to save his starving theatre. Once the illusion begins something goes awry and The Amazing Zarcana is left dead with his solid gold mask missing. This mysterious trend of death continued into the future century which eventually led to the Zenith Theatre closing down. Now, the Zenith is ready to be re-opened to the public for an exciting tour of the haunted theatre.
The staff working around the Zenith is doing last minute preparations before the anniversary tour. Irene, played by Victoria Main, is the straight forward manager keeping her staff focused and ready for the re-opening with the help of Casey (Sarah Diener). Irene and Casey do however have some staff that are not the easiest to work with. Chad, played by Matthew Smith, is a ladies man whose love for his counter-part and masculinity exceeds his need for safety. Jessica Ilang plays an infatuated Jessie who freely states her obsession with Chad. Jessie may even feel threatened by the ridiculously sexual Sarah (Lucy Habdas) who has trouble even remembering her name let alone running the box office. Freeman (Derik Iverson) is the perfect tour guide for the grand opening and a star employee; the only problem is keeping his asthma and fear under control. Rick, played by Luke Moravec, is a handy man contracted to the Zenith to make sure everything is up kept and ready for the new opening. Chad and Freeman are told to stay back for a while the night before the anniversary. Work is not the only thing that ends up happening during that night in the Zenith.
The play is performed out of every corner of the theatre keeping the audience indulged in the suspenseful aspect of being caught in a haunted theatre. The audience does not know where to look next which adds an element of surprise into this carefully crafted play. The actors not only shine as stars alone, but as well as a group on stage. Their chemistry and communication skills are impeccable delivering every possible emotion range on the grid; this keeps the audience off balance not knowing what will happen next, and in this play that is exactly what makes the show a great success. The twists and turns navigated throughout the play keep the audience excited and involved. The special effects incorporated into this play were also a huge part of making this production amazing. Whether a gun went off or someone’s throat was being slit, either way the audience stayed captivated by these unique elements brought into the world premiere production of Ghost Light.
When deciding on something fun to do with the big kids consider seeing Ghost Light. Ghost Light is a perfect mix of comedy, horror, and a little seduction which never leaves a dull moment. Ghost Light may have originally had some skeptics, but after the performance the cast delivered this play will succeed larger than ever imagined. The key when seeing Ghost Light is to stay in the moment, feel every emotion the cast is portraying, and if everything goes correctly the audience will finally find out what’s making the Zenith Theatre go bump in the night.
Ghost Light is by far the greatest production I have ever seen. The balance of between scary scenes and funny one liners was phenomenal. The production was able to maintain a certain lightheartedness while still giving the audience some thrilling and startling moments.
The greatest asset of the production was their tremendous use of lighting and the timing used with it. The lighting was one of the biggest factors in creating the thrilling and scary moments. The timing of it to create the hooded characters to just appear out of nowhere was really incredible and awesome. I never knew what to expect when the lighting changed which kept me on the edge of my seat for the entire production. I really enjoyed how the actors were carrying flashlights at one point and those flashlights became the only lighting element used for a scene. It added an extra realism to it that really just catapulted the show to the next level.
Another great asset of the production was the cast itself. Every member seemed to have really great chemistry with one another on the stage. They worked well together and really played off of one another. The entire plot seemed to be something that was actually happening to this group of four really close friends. Nothing they said to each other or their body language towards each other seemed forced. I actually believed that this group of people could be really great friends outside of the show and that their bonds were deeper than just what they had to show for a production.
During one of the scene changes there was a malfunction in a drop down sheet or screen of some kind. The crew did a really nice job of handling it and dealing with the situation. It delayed the show for only a couple minutes and didn't appear to have any effect at all on the cast or the rest of the show. Great work by the cast and crew in overcoming the difficulties of that set piece.
The dialogue of the play flowed really well. The actors picked up on their cues really well and there were no awkward delays in lines. Everything felt really natural. I thought the people casted for each role was spot on. I could see each of these people being the same way outside of the production.
Sitting in the audience was a really neat experience because it felt like I was right there in the old Zenith theater sitting in the old chairs watching all of this action unfold in the characters lives. The small area of the theatre really added to the experience as well. If one audience member screamed or even gasped too loud it echoed and reverberated throughout the whole theatre. Every breath and noise from the audience impacted the performance in such a positive way.
The special effects were another really great element of this production. The opening scene immediately provided a great effect with the disappearance and reappearance of the magician. I don't think I'll ever be able to figure that one out! Another neat effect was the bleeding out of the baby doll's eyes. All of the extra special effects really added a lot of great value to the production as a whole.
Overall, I really enjoyed this production. I don't think I'll ever see another production this well put together and executed. This truly was a great experience and I am really looking forward to other productions the Renegade Theater Company will be putting on!
Ghost Light Review
A combination of laughs and horrors, Ghost Light never seized to employ the full emotional spectrum of its audience. A world premier production, written by Andy Bennett and directed by Julie Ahasay, was a sight to see. Taking place not just on the stage, but also all around the audience, this performance stood out in its attempts to make the audience feel as if they were actually in the theater that was the setting of the play. It was set in a fictional version of the Zenith Theater, one in which a world famous magician met his demise, setting the groundwork for several mysterious murders throughout the building’s history.
The cast was a motley crew of twenty-somethings along with their middle-aged manager, Irene (Victoria Main) who have been hired to renovate and operate tours of the Zenith. Chad (Matthew Smith) is a confident and cocky ladies man trapped in the Zenith along with Jessie (Jessica Ilaug), a tough girl, and Casey (Sarah Diener), a smart technician. Freeman, played by Derik Iverson, is a nerdy guy who is truly afraid of the paranormal. All of these actors did marvelous jobs portraying their character, captivating the audience with their performance. From romancing each other to being scared out of their wits, these actors utilized all the right emotions through face expressions and tone in their voices to greatly enhance this performance.
The special effects in this production almost equaled the quality of a movie or television show. With loud bangs, rocking chairs moving by themselves, gunfire, and gushing blood, this performance managed to spook the audience. Also, the lighting in this play was different from most. The lights flickered many times throughout and multiple times the audience was left in the dark nervously anticipating what would happen next. At times, flashlights used by the actors were all there were for lights/to see. This significantly increased tensions and anxiety in the audience. Shadows would appear as if out of nowhere, startling the entire audience. The show had marvelous special effects, definitely exceeding expectations, and then some outshined a very well put together play.
One comment to be made about the production that was undesirable was the seating arrangements. With so many seats to the side of the stage, it was very difficult to see the action on stage and exactly what was going on around them. The seating on the side was not raised gradually row by row, but was all the same height. This made it almost impossible to see certain things on stage because audience members were trying to look around/over others in front of them just to see the action on stage. Not only was it difficult to see the action, but also during the scenes were flashlights were used, it was blinding to these audience members on the side. With flashlights in their eyes they could definitely not see what was happening around them. A different venue may have been better for this play, but it would have been difficult to find because of how this production used not just the stage, but also all around the audience.
All in all, this play is definitely one to see. It was so amazing and pushed the envelope, which should become a Halloween tradition and performed across the world. Andy Bennett’s illustrious ideas made this play extraordinary, and very inclusive to the audience. With many comical parts suspenseful moments, this play definitely went outside the norm. A great show to see, although not for small children, this is a great opportunity for adults to have a festive and fun night out.
Ghost Light is an immersive supernatural thriller that keeps the audience guessing until the very end. Is the theater actually haunted or are other powers at play? That question will be asked over and over again as you strap yourself in to what could be the most horrific night of your life.
When one thinks of a play, they imagine sitting in a dark theater, watching the performance play out in front of them, never having to adjust position because the action is always focused on one point. Andy Bennett, playwright of Ghost Light, provides a different type of theatrical experience. Bennett, who has experience in both theatrical and cinematic writing, uses the surroundings of the stage to submerge the audience into a frighten state while dazzling their senses with sounds and special effects. The addition of blood oozing wounds and gun blanks made the audience forget that they were watching a play. An audience member actually started too shrieked in fear before she regained her composure.
Along with the special effects, many of the stunts were choreographed by an illusionist. Much of the play was an assault on the senses, overloading one to make it easier for details to slip through another. Actors would be in front of you one moment and the next, be behind you covered in blood or dressed in different attire. A good twenty minutes of the play was performed in total darkness. The darkness was only broken by the occasional light flickering to which revealed a clocked figure standing menacingly close to the audience or of two characters locked in a fierce life or death battle.
The actors in Ghost Light were not confined to the ordinary mindset of the stage because the entire theater was the stage. As the action progressed, more of the theater space was utilized and the more space the audience had to become aware of. There were moments when the entire cast was outside of the theater, acting only with their muffled voices.
The actors themselves seemed calm and natural, even with such a difficult play as this one. The occasionally stumbling over a couple of lines, contrary to the precedent, did not take away from the experience. If anything, it added more realism to the play because when people are nearly frightened to death, the last thing on their mind is proper grammar and annunciation.
The casting of the actors themselves was done very well. Staring a couple of UMD’s finest as the young tour guides, they merged into their roles with great ease. When you see the actors and how they move, you actually believe they are that character. There isn’t a massive man casted as the diabetic nerd or a nerd casted as the jock.
As far as the plot lines are concerned, Ghost Light rivals the twisting and turning of M. Night Shyamalan. Where is the mask? Why does the theater make people disappear? The second you think you have the situation figured out, a wrench is thrown into the system, jamming your entire hypothesis up.
When the lights came on, and the bodies were carted off to the morgue, the audience, white knuckled from gripping the bottoms of their chairs, slowly filed out. No final encore was given: The cast was not shown again. Their lives carried on in the script; some, ended there. This play is not for the faint of heart. You will scream; you will see blood; you will witness the powers of the unknown. It will be night you won’t forget for the rest of your life, and then after.
Ghost Light was a phenomenal play with bumps and bangs in the darkness. It was a thriller that kept the audience on their toes. The way they used the props was amazing, the trick boxes, the switches of characters, the illusions all great it made the audience think, made them question. The costume choices for the “ghosts” were perfect; to make them blend into the darkness and be very mysterious just gave me goose bumps. A great part of the play was when one of the characters did a monologue about the ghost light and why it always shines was amazing. The way that the character got into the part, how he showed so much emotion. The part where they were connecting with the ghost was one of my favorite parts. The way that they used the Ouija board and the tarot cards set the mood just right. But with every good part there is one part of the play that wasn’t that great. It was the part with the robbers, and how that one killed Freeman, it was awkward and it didn’t quite feel right, it didn’t quite fit in with the play. I don’t know how the director could fix that problem but they would the play could be even better.
Another sold out performance was held on Friday night in the small, cozy theater at the Renegade. However, the production put on Friday night was anything but cozy. The Audience filed in as the doors were opened and chose their seats wisely in anticipation of what the play Ghost Light had in store. As the ushers helped a few of the audience member fill the last couple seats available, the players were ready to get the show underway.
A certain frightful mood filled the air of the Zenith Theater as the lights dimmed down to darkness, with the bright ghost light glowing on the stage. The final warning of the fear that lies ahead was presented to the audience in the form of a recording over the loud speakers. Then, just like that the doors to the outside world were closed tightly and the show was off and running.
From the very beginning of the show, the audience was on the edge of their seats as they watched a magician with the stage name of the Amazing Arcana perform his last death-defying stunt. The only thing was, this stunt was real magic and Arcana’s disbelief in real magic was the cause of his death. His solid gold funerary mask that was supposed to magically keep him from dying vanished and Arcana died in front of his last audience. The legend went on to say that the spirit of Arcana would forever haunt the Zenith Theater.
Nevertheless, that is only the beginning of the story of Ghost Light. The rest of the show took its twists and turns as four teenaged Zenith Theater employees got locked in the haunted theater. They were left to fend for their lives working together to survive the night. The play not only took place on stage but throughout the audience. Using lighting to his advantage director Julie Ahasay had no trouble when it came to scaring the audience. The lights in the theater would go out conveniently during the times where the characters were afraid. Noises and screaming would fill the dark theater as the character panicked. When the lights came back on, there is no telling what was going to be on stage.
The actors of the play did a great job incorporating comic relief into this frightful rollercoaster of emotions. Chad (Mathew Smith) and Freeman (Derik Iverson) were a dinamic duo of humor with their conflicting personalities making the audience erupt in laughter throughout the night. Overall the acting in the play was on point and had no real noticeable flaws.
However, a few other aspects of the play could use some work. For an example, the warning recording played at the beginning of the show, starting playing, got near the end of the message, and then was restarted on accident so it played twice. Also, some of the sound affects were played at the wrong time by accident, which took away from the quality of some of the scenes.
Overall Ghost Light, by Andy Bennett was a must see play. The experience of this uniquely designed play was exciting and an intense rush from beginning to end. Just remember leave the children at home!
Ghost Light Review
As Halloween rolls around the corner, what better thing to do than have your breath taken away from a horror/comedy play. Ghost Light is a perfect mix between horror and thrill, and humor. One minute you’re screaming and breathing heavily, and the next you’re laughing hysterically. Andy Bennett did a marvelous job with this playwright. It is different than anything else that has ever played in the Renegade Theater in Duluth. This play won’t have you bored for one second.
The play occurs in Zenith Theater, which is haunted by The Amazing Arcana’s death 100 years ago. Four teenage tour guides get trapped in the theater the night before the anniversary of Arcana’s death and opening night. The nerdy, awkward boy, Freeman, believes strongly in the ghost stories and the belief that Zenith Theater is haunted. Although Chad, his opposite, doesn’t believe at all, he wants to find the gold mask. The workings between these these two characters had the audience laughing left and right. Casey and tech savvy Jessie, combined with the boys made the play even more great. The funny banter between the girls and Chad while he kept flirting with them was entertainment throughout the play.
While there was a good chunk of humor in the production, there was a lot of horror as well. This play has the audience on the edge of their seats. One minute someone would be on stage, the next, they would be somewhere in the audience. The play felt very real because of the characters going up and down the aisles, off the stage, and all around the theater. It’s as if you are a part of the show. The intermission kept everyone on edge as well. This influenced all of the chatter during the break. The special effects were amazing. The mix of gushing blood, the lights going on and off, and every other aspects of this play made it all the more enjoyable.
Only a few aspects of the play went wrong. Some of the sound effects were played at the wrong time, and the projection screen didn’t drop all the way down. Although the actors did their best to work around this.
Overall, Ghost Light was a perfect combination of screams and laughter and a must see for the Halloween season. There are no other plays out there like this one, and the experience you will have there is indescribable.
This page contains a single entry by Mark Harvey published on October 10, 2012 8:49 AM.
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