The Ghost Light Project

Mac McDonald

“Hey guys, it’s 5:30. I need you all to grab your phones or anything that makes light and come outside,” Director of Theatre Joe Huber said. The cast and some crew members of Arsenic and Old Lace grabbed their phones and followed Huber out the stage door. They stood in a circle with the lights on their phone lights facing the center. On January 19, 2017 at 5:30 pm, the day before Donald Trump was inaugurated as president, local theaters, including West Ottawa’s own theater, participated along with thousands of theaters across America in the Ghost Light Project.   


  Traditionally, a “ghost” light is left onstage in a dark theater so that people wandering around don’t fall off the front of the space. For the Ghost Light Project, theaters have used this symbol to represent walking into the unknown. Former President Barack Obama made America a safer place for diversity during his time in office. Many artists fear the future as President Donald Trump starts to change America from what many have grown up in.

  “In the theater, the Ghost Light is used as a marker of safety when the theater is ‘dark.’  It is a tradition that has great meaning and symbolism to many of us, but it also serves a very real function of safety,” Hope College Director of Theatre Michelle Bombe said. Thespians around America have been using the Ghost Light as a symbol of hope. The purpose of The Ghost Light project was not a protest, but a collective action for theaters to create light. “It´s a symbol for the light and warmth you feel in theater,”  Soph. Grace Bruins said.


  In West Ottawa Theatre, students and staff try to be inclusive. The theater is about understanding people who are different. “I believe that the WO Theater Department is made up of an extremely welcoming and inclusive group of individuals.  As actors, it is our job to understand the human condition and what makes people tick.  It is essential to be open to all types of people, diverse beliefs, and individual uniqueness. We celebrate diversity and welcome contrasting perspectives.  The Ghost Light Project just reminds us that the theater is a safe place in which people can explore their creativity, learn to collaborate with others, embrace their uniqueness and, hopefully, learn to be a better person along the way,” Huber said.


  The Ghost Light Project was initiated as a resistance against prejudice of any kind.  “I feel very safe at the West Ottawa Theatre because it’s a very safe and accepting environment where we can just be ourselves without fear of judgment,”  Soph. Ben Hoey said.

  In West Ottawa’s Ghost Light Circle, students joined together standing as one. Age, class, disability or lack thereof, gender, intelligence, race, religion, and sexuality were unimportant in the circle. No one was shunned or discluded.

  “During the Ghost Light circle, I felt a sense of unification and that everyone in our group was connected. This one simple act brought together lots of people throughout the country and brought us together as well,“ Hoey said. The theater has been known for being an inclusive and safe place for everyone.

  To many young artists, with Trump as president, the future of the arts seems uncertain. But many have hope that the Trump Administration can’t hurt them. WO Allum Paige Trujillo participated in theater at WO and is now a theater student at Hope College. “I do not fear what will happen to the arts under the Trump Administration. The Arts are part of our culture. They are deeply rooted in our daily lives. While the government has the power to impact a lot of things, I know that The Arts have survived again and again in history, and that will not change,” Trujillo said.

  Sr. Mitch Frauenheim has a similar outlook as Trujillo. “Art is a part of our culture. It will always be a part of us. No culture exists without music and art; it is always something that we will hold on to,” Frauenheim said.

Even though many artists don’t know what the Trump-administration is going to bring for them, the Ghost Light Project has encouraged thespians around America to protect each other and hope for the best.