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Summer Theater Films Ghost Light Documentary in Place of Cancelled 2020 Productions

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Nick Busciglio '21
15 November 2020

Due to COVID-19 precautions, Passaic Valley Summer Theater (PVST) cancelled their highly anticipated mainstage play Beauty and The Beast and their junior production Moana. In response, PVST cast and crew decided on an entirely original idea, filming a documentary called Ghost Light.  

Ghost Light from Passaic Valley High School on Vimeo.

The documentary was brought together by Ms. Juliana Arrabito (Stage Manager), Mr. Rob Lavagno (Artistic Director and Editor), and Ms. Maggie Letsche (Director). Together, they decided to cut the documentary using video submissions sent in by students. The documentary includes no voice over narration so the students can, as Mr. Lavagno puts it, "put on a show from the performer's perspective, told 100% through their stories."

The filmmakers sent out a list of questions for students to answer on camera. This made for a raw, inside-look into each of the students’ performances. Twenty-three students sent in over two hundred videos, leaving the filmmakers with a lot of creative freedom. 

Ghost Light is centered around the kids who make up the theater program and their journey to the stage. It starts with them reliving their first time acting to what they want to accomplish in their futures. It is about how the theater community is coming together to make something beautiful in these trying times.Opening shot of the Ghost Light Documentary

The documentary features actors and actresses from the main stage and junior productions. Since it was all virtual, students from further outside the community were able to get involved. A student from Vermont proudly starred in it. This was something the filmmakers were very excited about; they have never had the chance to do something like this before. 

The title of the documentary, Ghost Light, was chosen to give hope to the theater community. A ghost light is a single bulb left burning on the stage whenever the theater is dark. “No matter the student, where they were from, or their personal background, we all have found ourselves in the theater,” said Mr. Lavagno.

The whole theater program was on pause, but PVST was there shining its light to give hope to those who needed it most. As Noah Fuchs says in the final line of Ghost Light, “Be true to yourself, you are exactly who you are meant to be."