Stage Fright: Students tell tales of superstition and the supernatural in Fine Arts
By Oliver Joszt and Erin Ludwig
There is an old adage that says, “Every good theater has a ghost.” Rider’s Yvonne Theater is no exception to the rule.
“Ghosts have been haunting the Yvonne Theater as far back as I can remember,” said senior Zach Aguanno, vice president of Alpha Psi Omega.
As far back as any theater major can recall, the Yvonne is believed to have three live-in ghosts: Bill, the little redheaded girl and the lady in red.
Although the origins of the ghosts are disputed among fine arts students, there is a general consensus about who they are and what they do.
People have been known to see the lady in red hanging around the curtains. According to Aguanno, when all lights are off, you can see her red dress in the blue curtains. However, known for her awful attitude, she is no Casper the Friendly Ghost.
“The lady in red has a slight malicious intent,” said Aguanno. “She has been known to push people while they are in rehearsal.”
Then there is the redheaded Irish girl, who hangs around in a very unusual place: a men’s bathroom behind the stage.
“When people washed their hands in the sink they could see her in the mirror behind themselves,” said Aguanno. “She scares the crap out of people.”
According to alumna Kerry Bowers, Bill used to work in the Fine Arts building and committed suicide by hanging himself in the basement of the Yvonne. Ever since then Bill has been known to have a little fun with the people working on the plays.
“He’s responsible for all the technical mishaps in the theater,” Bowers said.
Some people had firsthand experiences with Bill’s devious ways. According to Aguanno, Bill enjoys fooling around with equipment during rehearsals.
“A CD will be ready to go and Bill will start spinning the CD faster than it should, and it won’t play,” said Aguanno.
However, Bill is such a fervent lover of the theater that he won’t joke around during performances, according to Aguanno.
“The only time weird technical mishaps occur are during rehearsal and never during shows,” he said.
To many students, these ghosts are as much a part of the theater department as the theater itself.
Surprisingly, the basement of Fine Arts has almost as much mystery surrounding it as the ghosts of the Yvonne do. The basement, blocked by a door with a sign that reads ‘Keep closed at all times,’ is composed of a series of dark passageways that always seem cold and windy. One passageway leads to a small, cramped space with a rope hanging in the air.
According to Tharyle Prather, the technical director for the Yvonne since 1979, the basement was built as a source of ventilation for the building.
Once known as the Fine Arts Center, it was built in 1966 and created a home for Theater ’59, the drama program that had previously been forced to perform in barns and classrooms.
As technical director, Prather spends countless hours in the Yvonne by himself and remains skeptical about the ghosts’ existence.
“I live in the theater; it’s like a friend,” Prather said. “I’ve been here all hours and I have never seen a ghost.”
Other staff members are also doubtful that the ghosts exist. Fine Arts secretary Laura Luck has worked in the building since 1995 and has yet to see anything supernatural occur in the theater.
“None of the rumors are true,” she said.
Legends about ghosts inhabiting theaters extend back centuries. Dr. Patrick Chmel, chair of the Fine Arts Department, said that superstitions have abounded in theaters since before time.
Early actors often relied on superstition for the success of a show. This led to the development of modern traditions such as the phrase “break a leg.” It’s possible that the short distance between superstition and the supernatural may have helped students believe in the ghouls of the Yvonne.
“It’s a very short leap from a mind that’s superstitious to a mind that believes in ghosts,” Chmel said.