The curtain fell for the last time on January 26, 2001
on Theatre West’s production of "Arsenic and Old Lace," which also had been
Jack Coyne’s last directorial piece before his death Christmas night, just
one day before the opening of the play.
While the cast and crew at Theatre West have had many other closing nights
throughout the years, this one was very different. This time as they all
left the theatre, a new light illuminated the stage and will continue to do
so. As the patrons left the theatre for the night, the cast and crew
gathered on the Jack Coyne stage to raise a glass and offer a toast to their
departed Artistic Director, mentor and friend and to say one last goodbye.
It was at this time that the "Ghost Light" was plugged in and will remain
lit each night when the stage is empty.
Most that were in attendance had seen a "ghost light" before on a stage in a
movie, but didn’t really know the significance of the lamp. Matias Bombal,
KBCH radio personality, friend of the theatre and a local expert and
historian on movies and theatre offered an explanation of the theatrical
tradition of the "Ghost Light." "Historically," said Bombal, "the Ghost
Light has a two-fold purpose for the theatre. One is to keep the stage
illuminated at a low cost for the comings and goings of theatre personnel
when a show is not being conducted. Secondly, it is considered good luck to
always have the stage illuminated." The "Ghost Light," was simply made by
Dennis Gibson, Technical Advisor and Treasurer for Theatre West. "It’s just
several pieces of PVC pipe fitted together with the electrical lines running
up through the center and a single bulb fixture at the top sporting a clear
glass bulb," said Gibson. "The light stands about seven feet high and will
be set center stage and lit whenever there is not a play being shown on
stage." Gibson continued.
"In the past we had never really needed the "ghost lamp" because Jack
(Coyne) kept an apartment at the theatre and he was always our "light." But,
now that he is gone we felt it was a fitting time to start the tradition
here as well as provide a special tribute to Jack," Gibson added.
Jack Coyne and his partner Mark LaRocque bought the building that houses
Theatre West and the Jack Coyne Stage in 1977 where they ran a business
called Panache Antiques. Jack and Mark first invited Theatre West to
use a portion of their building in 1986. The first performance was
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum by Stephen Sondheim. It was in 1989 that former Broadway actor, Jack
Coyne, and his by this time late partner Mark, donated the property to
Theatre West and Coyne became their Artistic Director.
A statement provided in every program given to patrons as they enter the
theatre states, "Theatre West provides it’s members and the
community-at-large opportunities to act in our productions, work behind the
scenes on sets, costumes, sound, stage set-up and in publicity, as well as
greeting our audiences at our performances. There is always room for someone
new to join our thespian circle - perhaps you?"