With the Ghostlight Project, theaters aim to create a light for dark times

Did you know that theaters in America are never completely dark? A single bare bulb called a “ghost light” is left burning when everyone leaves. It’s there for any and all of these reasons: tradition; safety (so no one falls off the stage or into the pit); ghosts (every theater has ghosts); because (maybe) it was once required by the Actor’s Equity Association, so it’s also sometimes called the Equity Lamp.

That name takes on another meaning next Thursday, Inauguration Eve. At 5:30 p.m. in each time zone across the U.S., rolling from Eastern to Central, Mountain to Pacific, theater artists and communities will come together to light a light and make or renew a pledge for social justice — to stand for and protect the values of inclusion, participation, and compassion for everyone regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, (dis)ability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. It’s a yes to equity and a no to intolerance.

The Jan. 19 event is the launch of the Ghostlight Project, a new resource for theaters, arts communities and individuals nationwide. Learn more about it here.

In New York City, a group will meet on the steps of the Public Theater. Times Square will draw artists and workers from the Broadway community. At Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, Mu Performing Arts, Sandbox Theatre and others will gather under the marquee on West 7th to create a human “ghost light.” Bring your smartphone or a flashlight and “light up” at 5:30 p.m. Ghost lights in Park Square’s outer vestibule and in the Boss Lobby will be turned on and will remain on beside the theater’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion pledge. There will be a group sing of Holly Near’s “We Are a Gentle Angry People,” followed by coffee, cocoa and pledge making in the main lobby.

Mu Performing Arts executive director Randy Reyes is on the national steering committee. According to a Facebook post by Reyes, other host theaters in the Twin Cities are Penumbra, Pillsbury House, Mixed Blood (with 7th House Theater) and Stages Theatre Company in Hopkins. Minnesota theaters listed on the Ghostlight website are Lyric Arts in Anoka, Winona Senior High School Drama, the Commonweal in Lanesboro and Theater Latté Da. We’ll fill you in on more details as we learn them.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were participating theaters in 42 states.

Cantus has a new ED

Photo by Ben Watkins
Joseph Heitz

The men’s vocal ensemble Cantus has a new executive director. Iowa native, lifelong musician (he’s a horn player) and arts leader Joseph Heitz comes to the Twin Cities from Washington, D.C., where he was director of external relations at the University of Maryland’s DeVos Institute of Arts Management. His experience at the DeVos, which works with cultural organizations worldwide, includes securing support from national and international funders for programs that foster arts organizations’ sustainability; communications and marketing; and launching a new website.

Heitz previously held positions at the Boston Symphony and Wolf Trap Foundation. He knows music, he knows business, and he’s thrilled to return “home” to the Midwest.

In a statement, Cantus Board Chair Wendy Holmes praised Heitz’s “intelligence, experience, and knowledge of the music and cultural fields.” Heitz praised Cantus – an organization he has “long admired” – for its reputation of artistic excellence and “unique collaborative process,” which he was drawn to as strongly as its musical product.

Heitz starts his new job on Jan. 25. He takes over from Jocelyn Hale, the Loft’s former ED, who served as interim director when Mary E. Lee departed after nearly seven years.

Cantus is well into its 2016-17 season. Currently on tour, the group will be back in the cities at the end of March for a series of “America Will Be!” concerts exploring the fight for equality here at home. FMI.

The picks

Now open in St. Paul’s Hamline Midway neighborhood: Can Can Wonderland. Remember when your parents used to say “Go play”? This 20,000-square-foot playground in a former American Can factory has an 18-hole, artist-designed indoor mini golf course, vintage arcade games, two stages, craft cocktails, beer, food and a soda fountain. Minnesota’s first arts-based public benefits corporation (the plan is for the art to create income), thought up by people behind the Walker’s artist-designed mini golf and the Soap Factory’s Haunted Basement, it’s for all ages and a good fit for the up-and-coming Creative Enterprise Zone. The Pi Press has already dubbed it St. Paul’s Coney Island. 755 Prior Ave. N., Ste. 4. FMI.

Opens tonight (Friday, Jan. 13) at Theatre in the Round: Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge.” Something to sink your teeth into: Miller’s classic tragedy about forbidden desires, jealousy, betrayal and violent revenge. From the start, you can tell this is bound to end badly, and you can just sit back and enjoy it. Miller wrote “View” in the 1950s, at the height of the McCarthy era and during his own affair with Marilyn Monroe. Directed by Allen Hamilton. 7:30 p.m. FMI and reservations. Tickets $22. Weekends through Feb. 5.

Saturday at the Cedar: Dan Newton’s Café Accordion Orchestra. You’re doing something right if you’re asked back twelve years in a row. For his twelfth annual concert at the Cedar, accordion master Newton and his sympatico band will play music from their latest release, “CAO 10,” and sing-alongs, with lyrics projected on a screen above the stage. Their play list combines music from Parisian dance halls and cafes with American and Gypsy swing, movie themes and Latin rhythms, all played with an effervescent joy. All ages. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8. FMI and tickets ($18 advance/$20 day-of).

Courtesy of Dan Newton
Dan Newton’s Café Accordion Orchestra

Sunday at a movie megaplex near you: “Singin’ in the Rain.” The one with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, on the big screen. This is the 65th anniversary of the MGM musical. Go here, click Buy Tickets, and enter your ZIP to find the theater near you. Also Wednesday, Jan. 18.

Monday at the Dakota: Paul McCandless and Charged Particles. What other jazz artist plays the oboe and the English horn? And the bass clarinet, soprano and sopranino saxophones, and a bunch of folk flutes? A co-founder of Oregon and confrere of Paul Winter, McCandless brings a lifetime of accomplishments to the Dakota: four decades of musical excellence, performances on more than 200 albums, four Grammys, and collaborations with musicians including Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Wynton Marsalis, Gary Burton, Al Jarreau and Béla Fleck. He’s out with the Bay Area trio Charged Particles: Jon Krosnik (drums), Murray Low (keyboards) and Aaron Germain (electric bass). Expect artistry, lyricism and forays into funky fusion. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25).

Hot tix

On Wednesday, March 8, Patti Smith and her band will play “Horses” at Northrop. For real. Tickets ($40-55) go on sale at 10 a.m. today.

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