The tension in a divided American community hit a climax with the inauguration of the new president. As Trump took office, many of the disenfranchised marched to defend their power, which they fear will be revoked in this new political era. The American theater community, on the eve of the inauguration, enacted its own protest. On January 19, the Ghostlight Project lit up theaters across the country, when at 5:30 p.m. in each time zone, members of the artistic community convened to turn on a collective “ghostlight” (created by flashlights and phones) to symbolize a light in the darkness. In Santa Barbara, they stood in solidarity in front of the Lobero Theatre, offering the community at large a safe harbor from intolerance in all its myriad masks.
“When our theaters go dark at the end of the night, we turn on a ghostlight,” said event emcee Charles Donelan (who is also this paper’s executive arts editor). “This offers visibility and safety for those who might enter [the theater]. This tradition is tonight’s inspiration. Like a ghostlight, the light we create tonight will symbolize our values of embracing diversity … and the belief that through our actions, positive change is possible.”
Attendees made personal pledges for continued action to create art spaces that are both safe and brave, which included the promise to inspire audiences to attend and participate in the theater; to engage in creative collaboration that inspires connection and community; to not react to the negative, but appreciate the good and emphasize, pursue, and speak the positive; and to fight for and embody human kindness and human rights (no matter what gender identity, race, political party, religion, or sexuality).
Santa Barbara’s artistic community proudly pledges to continue its commitment to inclusion, participation, and compassion — on and off the stage.