Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull.
~ Rod Serling
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BEV SYKES, INTREPID REPORTER
17 July 2004
I used to love "career" books when I was a kid. I just devoured them: Sue Barton, Private Nurse; Cherry Ames, Army Nurse...a book about someone who asked questions for surveys; a female pilot, and other career type fiction books. The "career" equivalent of Harlequin romance novels, I suspect. There was probably some factory somewhere churning them out, like the one which produced all those Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries.
I feel myself the heroine in one of those novels this week, though. I am "Bev Sykes, intrepid reporter," zipping hither and yon, setting up interviews, sending e-mails, searching the Internet.
When I am assigned to do a feature story, I immediately go through the tortures of the damned. Im going to botch it. I wont be able to write anything coherent. Ill sound like an idiot when I do an interview, etc., etc., etc.
Well, all of those things may, in fact, be true, but nonetheless, Ive accepted the assignment, I have a deadline, and there aint gonna be nobody whos going to get this story written but me!
I havent quite accepted the amount of power I have in writing such a story. I havent quite digested the fact that my editor may toss out a story idea hed like me to handle, but that I am the one to choose the direction the story takes, and submit that idea to him for approval. I keep waiting for his ideas of what exactly he wants so I can fill in the gaps.
My assignment was to do a feature article on the upcoming Ghost Light Theatre Festival. This is a collaborative effort, begun a couple of years ago, between Acme Theatre, which is a group of teens, now, unbelievably, in its 24th year (Jeri joined in the second season, Paul and Marta a year or two after that), and a group of students at U.C. Davis.
The Ghost Light project started three summers ago when Tom Burmester, the son of Dave Burmester, the founder and director of Acme Theatre, needed a summer project and hit upon doing this festival. It succeeded so well they repeated it last year, and this year it gets a feature article.
But, as usual, Ive been putting off starting the research for the article because I wasnt sure what I was going to do. I should have just plunged in head first because after one brief interview with Dave at rehearsal for Romeo and Juliet the whole shape of it came to me.
A "ghost light" is a lamp with a single bulb that is left on stage when there is no one in the theatre. The practical advantage is that the last people out of the theatre and the first people in wont have to be in a totally blackened building and wont fall into the orchestra pit.
The historical reasons for its existence are many and varied and include keeping theatre ghosts away, it being a fire regulation in New York, that it was a requirement by Actors Equity, etc.
Whatever the history, the ghost light is a well recognized symbol of the theatrical world and much romanticized in movies about theatre.
I began my research for this article by interviewing Dave Burmester, who says that one of the special thing about this years Ghost Light festival is that Acme will be presenting two shows, Romeo and Juliet and Lady Windemeres Fan. Dave will be directing the first show, and an Acme alum, Emily Henderson, is directing the second. "Its the first non-Burmester directed show to appear on the main stage," Dave said proudly, of his protégé, now a student at Wellesley College.
Immediately the focus of the story came to me--that of blending the ideas of the ghost light and a torch which is being passed. Dave retired from his job as English teacher for the high school a couple of years ago, has had some serious health problems, and will soon begin to pull back from his involvement with Acme. The group has been such an important part of the community for nearly a quarter of a century and the question, logically, becomes: what will happen to Acme when Dave retires?
Though the issue of Acmes future is not the purpose for the Ghost Light Festival, this years festival is definitely a part of the answer to that question, so the leap from a "ghost light" to a torch being passed seems to be a logical one.
And, as I am always surprised to discover, interviewing people really isnt that bad. You essentially start with my grandfathers standard opener, "tell me all about yourself" and the interview kind of takes on a life of its own.
I wish I knew why I get such "performance anxiety" about these assignments. So far theyve always worked out much better than I ever anticipated.
Must Read Link of the day
Jeri, Joe Hayes and Stephanie Teal rehearsing for U.S.A.