When Mike Pence took in a performance of the Tony-winning Hamilton in New York City, it stirred the cast to deliver a post-show statement asking the vice president-elect and the rest of the incoming administration to uphold the rights of all Americans, including the minorities onstage.
It also inspired a grassroots—and potentially viral—movement among theater professionals. The Ghostlight Project, taking place January 19 in front of participating community theaters at 5:30 p.m. in each time zone on the eve of the inauguration, was born of a desire to affirm that performance spaces will remain bastions of—and advocates for—free expression and full inclusivity.
Lysander Abadia, artistic director for Las Vegas Little Theatre Black Box, is helping coordinate the Vegas effort and says the threat of a conservative presidency is more philosophical than direct. “There might be a sense of producing theater that is more acceptable to a large audience instead of one that would provoke an audience or introduce them to subjects they might not have encountered, which to me is the very existence of theater.”
The local theater organizations slated to participate are LVLT—which will also host reps from Nevada Conservatory Theatre, Cockroach Theatre, Speeding Theatre Over 55 and Sin City Opera—and Majestic Repertory Theatre, which will stage a Black Lives Matter-themed performance at Alios on Main Street. Abadia is hoping to rally all the local theater companies in a show of unity, but some are abstaining for various reasons. TSTMRKT playwright and performance artist Ernest Hemmings sees a well-meaning but flawed strategy, and has opted for another course of action. “For our part, we’ve been blatant in calling out the alt-right and the incoming Trump administration for a couple of years—in public, online and onstage, without the cloak of righteousness. We just do it.”