“This was a senior tradition in theater. After our last performance of our last show, the director would invite all the seniors back into the theater after everyone had left and we would look at the ghost light and he said, ‘Right now is just a time for you to be with all the characters you’ve played here, so this is a time to say goodbye to them. So, we would go on stage and remember through action. We would go through different entrances or funny moments in shows and there was no end time. We would stay until we said goodbye.”
This would take place after the seniors’ last performance with their high school theater program in their Los Angeles public school.
The informant is 21, from Calabasas, and an actor.
This is a folk piece with a lot of levels. First and foremost, the concept of the ‘ghost light’ is a folk belief that a light must always be left on in every theater for the ghosts that haunt the space. Though not every theater has someone who died in it, most theater spaces are regarded as sacred by the community and the residence for supernatural beings/occurrences. The idea of everyone gathering around to stare into the ghost light is a way of symbolically channeling the spirits. It is interesting that the theater teacher prompted the students to say goodbye to the characters they played because it aligns these fictional characters with the actual spirits regarded by theater communities everywhere (symbolized in the ghost light). It could also be interpreted as summoning previous versions of oneself (the self that did perform these characters). High school is a very transformative time for many people, so summoning and saying goodbye to iterations of yourself over those years could be a very cathartic task for students before they leave for college.