During my first days as a Purple Rose Apprentice back in August 2013, I spent a lot of time learning about The Rose; its mission, values, acting philosophies, and the daily operations that make the place go ‘round. A lot of what I learned came from conversations with Resident Artist and Apprentice Chief Michelle Mountain. Most of the time our discussions pertained to the subjects I mentioned earlier. But one afternoon, while talking about the history of the building and listing other fun facts, Michelle mentioned in a casual, cheerful voice,
“Oh, and we have ghosts!”
“…. Really?” I asked, smiling because I didn’t believe her.
“Oh yeah!” she remarked, furrowing her brow with conviction. “But don’t worry. They’re totally friendly. They just like to say hello from time to time.”
The topic of conversation then whimsically moved on to another fun fact without much pause.
Despite my disbelief, the ghosts of The Rose remained a small possibility in the back of my mind as I progressed through my apprenticeship. Then, one evening in early January, my doubt vanished completely.
I was in the attic space where we store costumes and props, looking for a pair of pants to wear for a session of aerial silk work. I started picking through the long row of hangers, slowly stepping further into the narrow space between the clothing rack and storage shelves. Not having any luck finding my size, I eventually arrived near the wall and stopped dead in my tracks. I froze, listening intently as the faint sound of a sigh crescendoed toward me.
When the sigh reached its loudest point I felt a shiver start at the top of my head and travel down my spine. I stood there, frozen, for just a few more seconds before darting down the ladder and running back to the stage where everyone else was warming up. Angie, the stage manager, took one look at me and said, “Nathan, why are you so pale? You look like you’ve seen a…”
“Ghost?” I said.
This encounter took place almost 5 years ago to the day, which is what inspired me to write this post. I guess you could say it’s my Purple Rose Ghost Anniversary. But I’m not the only one to have met a Ghost of The Rose. Just ask my coworkers Thomas Macias (Stage Manager), Adair Whalen (Administrative Assistant), and Julia Garlotte (Box Office Manager).
“I swear there’s a ghost that lives behind the door in the main office entrance toward the stairs,” says Thomas. “I see a shadow there at least once a month.”
“I met one of the ghosts a couple of months into my apprenticeship,” says Adair. “I was alone in the lobby, locking up for the night. I had just turned off all of the lights and was walking the length of the hall in the dark when I felt someone behind me. I knew that all the other apprentices were downstairs, and for one reason or another I was certain that it was our theatre ghost who had come up behind me. I didn’t turn around. I remember feeling like the ghost was curious, almost as if they were saying ‘You’re new. What are you doing here?’ I scurried downstairs and that was that. I like to think that the ghost and I met, said hello, and are on good terms.”
“I was on stage during the cemetery scene in Our Town – one of three dead people in the last row of graves,” recalls Julia, “when I distinctly knew that there was someone standing behind us on stage. This was, of course, impossible as no one else had an entrance back there at that time, but the way those platforms were made, you could feel/sense someone else’s weight on them. Being dead, I wasn’t allowed to turn around and look. Once offstage, the other two actors next to me confirmed that they, too, had exactly the same feeling of a presence standing directly behind our chairs. Probably just a spectator enjoying that night’s performance…”