Students, faculty ignite ghostlight to promote inclusion on eve of inauguration


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Students and faculty raise lights at the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday as part of the nationwide Ghostlight Project. The movement aims to demonstrate the role theater has in providing a safe space in the face of oppression.

Catherine Kim, Reporter

More than 150 students and faculty simultaneously lit flashlights at the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday as part of a nationwide movement to support inclusion the day before President-elect Donald Trump assumes the presidency.

The demonstration was part of The Ghostlight Project, in which 728 theaters across the country shined lights at the same time to show support for diversity and compassion. The name of the movement refers to an exposed light bulb on a pole that is always kept alight on a theater stage.

At Northwestern, the event was organized by the theater department, the Wirtz Center and the Waa-Mu Show in response to the divisive rhetoric that surfaced during the 2016 presidential election, said theater Prof. Jessica Thebus, one of the event organizers. The programming included a group rendition of Carrie Newcomer’s song “If Not Now,” the lighting of the ghostlight and a reading of the U.S. Constitution.

After the lighting, representatives of the theater department, the Wirtz Center and Waa-Mu all publicly committed themselves toward building unity and compassion in the community.
Theater Profs. Linda Gates and Elizabeth Son said their department would create workshops and take students to live performances that expose them to underrepresented voices.

Thebus said the theater community will continue to gather around a ghostlight every third Thursday of each month at 5:30 p.m. to promote inclusion on campus.

The constantly illuminated ghostlight symbolizes the theater’s commitment to be a safe place from judgment or oppression, said theater Prof. Rives Collins, who also helped organize the event.

“In the same way that the Evanston lighthouse has a long history of guiding ships to safety through the rocky waters of Lake Michigan, so too can this ghostlight event serve as a beacon of hope as we navigate through the future,” Collins told The Daily.

Thebus said with a new administration coming into the White House, it is important to remind the community that in the theater, everyone is free to express themselves and be true to their identity.

Collins said he hopes participants walked away knowing that they do not have to face the future alone.

“I am a storyteller,” Collins said. “I fight for empathy. Empathy says I want to represent (others) with understanding and respect, and I want to walk in their shoes.”

Communication sophomore Liza Alrutz, who attended the event, said she was eager to help spread the word about the movement because she saw it as an opportunity to help on her “home ground.”

“There are dark times ahead but we have literal lights and metaphorical lights,” she said. “That’s what a lot of joy is for me — finding light in other people and being able to share my light with other people.”

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