Thursday, September 18, 2008

I met the ghosts last night

They were looking pretty healthy, especially since some of them had not been around since 1849. The youngest of them had not walked the earth since 1904. But they were active, energetic – you might say they were “in good spirits.”

All right, I’ll stop!

Last night was the first rehearsal for “The Landmark Society’s Ghost Walk “ (sm). It’s our 15th year of presenting this night time walking tour. Our event’s not like other ghost walks you may have experienced. Ours is like a progressive evening of short plays. You follow a lantern-bearing guide from one outdoor setting to another, encountering actors portraying Rochesterians from the past – each with a “true history, gory story” to relate. Yep – all true, and (mostly) all gory events from the darker side of our history.

I produce the event, which includes researching and writing the scripts. A story doesn’t get into our Ghost Walk just because it’s gory. If you want that, you don’t need a historic venue - just check out your favorite news portal for today’s events. The Landmark Society’s Ghost Walk stories also have a connection to what’s affecting our lives today. Religious fanatics, who think nothing of taking a life in the name of their belief system. Trying to keep pace with scientific advances. What happens when personal pleasure is put ahead of public responsibility (no, not talking about John Edwards – or am I?)

Of course, all performed in an entertaining, exciting, moving format. Research proves that what we learn through narrative (stories) stays with us longer and in a more meaningful way than a lecture, or reading an article (or blog entry?)

Which brings me back to the ghosts.

Okay, the actors.

We have a great crop of 13 actors this year. Some experienced with The Landmark Society’s Ghost Walk; others new to our performance format. The experienced “ghosts” tried to fill in the neophytes on what to expect. That they will perform their scene 12- 14 times each evening, as a new group of tour goers arrives about every 5 minutes. That they will be outside, on a porch of an historic house, no matter what the weather on those October nights. That it is “street theatre” – you never know what outside distractions may occur, be it an ambulance screaming up adjacent East Avenue, or a neighbor’s dog getting out of the house and joining you on your porch, looking up at your adoringly as you perform. That last one might not have been so bad if it hadn’t been a bulldog in his Halloween costume – a pink tutu.