For the past few months I’ve been consumed with one event: GhostWalk. It’s an annual event that I organized last year for the first time with a contingent of volunteers. Then in 2020 I found myself needing to manage the bulk of it myself. That included directing, script writing, props, costumes, sets, stage management and even threw some acting in there.
It reminded me of watching my kids create their own home performances. They tackle each theater-related job along the way: costumes, makeup, fliers & tickets, acting, concessions, script writing, and directing. Once they even created a website.
And so GhostWalk felt like my kids’ production. Only bigger.
What is GhostWalk?
Normally the GhostWalk happens the first weekend of October. It’s an event presented by and benefitting our local SullivanMunce Cultural Center: a museum, art center and genealogy library. The GhostWalk is an homage to our town’s history. Groups take a walking tour through our community of historic homes and businesses. During the tour they learn true stories from residents’ pasts, brought to life by actors at certain stops along the way.
The history often has an element of fright and generally takes place before the 1950s. Past tales have been about train wrecks, solders killed overseas, a monkey that escaped from an animal testing facility, and so many others. I acted in the GhostWalk for six years until I was asked to lead it more than a year ago.
GhostWalk 2019 was a blast. It was a lot of work but with more than 100 volunteers and two paid positions it was manageable.
The curse of 2020
GhostWalk 2020 has been different. The museum was closed for months during lockdown, art classes were halted, a major fundraiser during the summer was cancelled. As the months drew closer to fall I went from figuring out how to run the event safely to figuring out how to have an event at all. Walking as a group and even performing as a group of actors from different households seemed like a bad idea.
So instead we decided to go virtual. I invited families from the same household or “bubble” to perform together. When that wasn’t an option performers were kept apart as much as possible. Last year I found a place for everyone who wanted to participate. This year I had to factor who wanted to participate, who was in their “bubble,” and what scripts might have the right roles to fit available cast.
Each script is researched and based on facts from newspapers, personal anecdotes, magazines, etc. Our town is small and most of our history isn’t available online. So the best way to find these old stories is by using the museum’s microfiche machine. August was a whirlwind of research as I scrambled to write more scenes to fit the available performers with safety being top of mind.
I recycled a few old scripts with some new content. Volunteers wrote two other scripts, and in the end I created three totally new ones, which is quite a joyful task for a theater geek / historical fiction lover like myself.
Leave it to the Pros
We mercifully hired a professional to film and edit the material. He adapted my stage direction for film, adjusted lights, managed sound, and threw in a few voice overs. My main contribution at that point was staying out of his way and running the fog machine.
In the midst of the process I felt like my daughters must feel when creating a show for the thrill of it. My list of tasks was long but exciting. The video will be completed soon and the link will be posted here. (see the promo below!) Because it’s truly a community effort to create something like this we decided to make it free for viewing with the hope that residents, friends and families will be willing to donate what they normally would have paid for tickets.
Change seems to be the only constant for 2020, but it’s also forced us to explore new ways of doing things that we might have resisted in the past. Who knows, we might keep some of the elements of GhostWalk 2020 and incorporate them in the future.
Check out the promo here (and yes, that’s my Little Red Riding Hood sticking out her tongue):