Ghost Light: Reclaiming Theater in the Age of AIDS

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After every theatrical performance, a single work light is placed on the darkened stage. Although it has practical purposes, we also leave it for the souls who inhabit the theater. It is called the ghost light.

Ghost Lights: Reclaiming Theater in the Age of AIDS, an eight-part television documentary series, examines the impact of the AIDS crisis on the theater industry and community. It focuses on some of the 1,000+ theater artists felled by AIDS: telling their stories, showcasing their works, and inspiring new generations of artists who’ve lost mentors and guidance. It is not too late for these wonderfully creative lights to make at least part of their impact.

Episodes one through seven explore the first two decades of AIDS in the theater. Our final episode looks at today—how far we’ve come, what’s left to do, and how best to bring that heritage to a new generation. We’ll film the staging of lost or forgotten pieces by artists who perished from AIDS, from a missing masterpiece of Michael Bennett’s to an unpublished monologue by John C. Russell. We’ll also document the process of a NYC theater school mounting a classic AIDS drama which will weave throughout the episodes, bringing the documentary into the present and offering a living legacy.

We have shot 75 interviews so far to gather the seeds for our narrative. Some of the theater luminaries we’ve interviewed or who’ve committed are F. Murray Abraham; Priscilla Lopez; Matt Bomer; Charles Busch; Kristin Chenoweth; Graciela Daniele; Oskar Eustis; William Finn; Victor Garber; John Glover; Kathleen Chalfant; John Benjamin Hickey; Julie Halston; James Lapine; Judith Light; Craig Lucas; Joe Mantello; Andrea Martin; Robyn Goodman; Michael Mayer; Terrence McNally; Jerry Mitchell; Debra Monk; Anthony Rapp; Chita Rivera; Donna Murphy; Daphne Rubin-Vega; Paul Rudnick; Stephen Spinella; and Michael Urie. We have roughly 30 more interviews to conduct.

Our dream/goal is to find institutions open to contributing annually. We look to it as a patchwork quilt, composed of funds from generous friends who wish to keep the ghost lights burning.

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