Making small talk with local theater crews can be tough going, but one question always seems to get a shutmouthed gang chattering: “Any ghost stories here worth knowing about?” Crew guys (and the occasional girl) become positively babbly when given the chance to tell a choice bit about a phantom producer, composer, or director.
Or, every so often, a performer. Even if most of the crew’s stories don’t concern actors, I love to imagine bits of their ghostly essence left behind, some magic sparks floating by that my castmates and I just might be able to breathe in and use onstage.
Those actor-ghost-sparks were of an especially starry caliber at Dayton, Ohio’s Victoria Theatre. Heavyweights like Carol Channing and Faye Dunaway once graced the stage, one of the oldest continuously run in the US. Backstage posters (above) hint at some of the stars of past, and make for fun pre-show perusal.
But beyond the posters, the celebrity meter gets even higher. Victoria alumni also include the likes of Edwin Forrest, Harry Houdini, Al Joson, Mark Twain, Sarah Bernhardt, the Marx Brothers, Fanny Brice, and many others. This view…
… is what Carol Channing herself saw as she descended that staircase, singing, “Hello, Dolly!” Do these actors’ ghosts peer down on their performer-descendents from these ornate boxes?
Or are they backstage, gleefully moving props or whispering encouragement?
Ask a stagehand. He’ll know.