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OSU theater department providing a light in the darkness

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Sherée Greco holding up her version of the sign that attendees of the Ghostlight Project can make. Courtesy of Beth Kattelman

The Department of Theatre’s version of an eternal flame, a ghost light, will remain illuminated in the lobby of the Drake Performance and Event Center to symbolize the pledge made by Ohio State students to promote inclusivity.

In theater, a ghost light is the one light that is left on in an otherwise completely dark theater. It was originally mandated by the Actors Equity Association to enable actors or crew members to find the lighting control console and to prevent accidents.

The ghost light, which will stay lit for the rest of the semester, was turned on during a ceremony held by the OSU Department of Theatre in January. The department joined numerous programs and theaters across the country in participating in the Ghostlight Project. The project encourages theater organizations to make a pledge to promote inclusivity within their communities.

Sherée Greco, production manager and stage management adviser in the Department of Theatre and organizer of the Ghostlight Project at OSU, said that while ghost lights can serve a practical purpose, the one in the lobby of the Drake is symbolic.

“There is a tradition in theaters to have a ghost light on in the theater when no one’s in there,” Greco said. “It’s always been a light on to provide a path in the darkness, (and) a beacon of light.”

Greco saw information about the Ghostlight Project on her Facebook news feed, and wanted to bring the event to OSU because she felt it would help students who were fearful after the outcome of the presidential election.

“I felt that people were just really disheartened about the results (of the election),” Greco said. “There were a lot of people afraid, especially in terms of country of origin and sexual orientation and how they would be viewed and treated in the country. I think I felt empowered to take some kind of peaceful action and help others participate.”

Karie Miller, president of the graduate student syndicate in OSU’s theater department, was recruited by Greco to help organize and promote the Ghostlight Project on campus. She said she felt it was necessary to participate because she believes all people deserve equal access to the arts.

“No matter your class, race, ethnicity or gender identification or sexuality, there shouldn’t be a barrier to experiencing the arts,” she said.

Miller said that although she has limited influence on what OSU does regarding the promotion of inclusion campus-wide, she can control the feeling of the environments she is a part of.

“I can impact the way my students feel in my classes or how my peers feel in our shared events or coursework or other spaces that I’m occupying,” Miller said. “I can affect the way those spaces feel and how inclusive they are just by being active, present and engaged with both the people in the room and the world around them.”

Abigail Johnson, a third-year in theater and president of Alpha Psi Omega, the undergraduate theater honorary, was also asked by Greco to help with the Ghostlight Project. She said she wanted to participate because she believes people should not be judged on the things they cannot control about themselves.

“I thought it was important to show the people that I care about that I’m willing to be there for them, and it doesn’t matter to me their background or anything like that,” Johnson said.  

Johnson also said the OSU Department of Theatre promotes inclusivity by opening auditions for its productions to all people across campus regardless of their major or minor. She added that some directors in the department aim to produce shows that go against “the norm.”

Greco said everyone in the department was appreciative that members of the OSU community participated in the event.

“It was so nice to come together, for even 20 minutes, to have a safe place,” Greco said. “We did a moment of silence, where we asked people to ask themselves what are their next steps, what is their commitment personally, professionally, out in the world, wherever that is. I think it meant a lot to people to be a part of something larger.”

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