WICA to ‘shine a light’ on intolerance

Theater, music and film have long been mediums used to start dialogues on social issues and politics.

Continuing that tradition of activism, Whidbey Island Center for the Arts (WICA) is joining a national movement Thursday evening to “shine a light” in the midst of what WICA executives perceive as challenging times for vulnerable communities.

The movement, called The Ghostlight Project, makes a call to action to theaters across the country to shine a beacon of light on the night before the presidential inauguration. The project invites theaters of all sizes, from Broadway to high school theaters, to join in on the act to symbolize a collective resistance to “intolerance.”

“January 19th is a moment of gathering within a larger resistance to intolerance at all levels,” the Ghostlight Project’s website says. “We aim to activate a network of people across the country working to support vulnerable communities. This is not a substitution for protests or direct action, but rather a pledge for continued vigilance and increased advocacy.”

Spotlights will be lit at 5:30 p.m. at theaters in each time zone across the country. WICA staff and executives will attend, as will officials from Whidbey Children’s Theater. The WICA event will be held outside of its performance building. It’s free to attend and open to the community.

The movement pledges to advocate for the inclusion of all communities, regardless of race, religion, immigration status, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability. The website doesn’t explicitly mention president-elect Donald Trump, but it suggests these communities are facing difficult times now as the inauguration looms. The name originates from the American theater tradition of leaving a dim light on in a darkened theater, which some say is to honor the ghosts of past performers, while others believe it’s for safety reasons.

“I think there is a lot of fear in our country right now, and while the Ghostlight Project could have the appearance of a stance against Trump, I see it as a call to be vigilant and to never become complacent,” WICA Executive Director Stacie Burgua said. “To me, it is what we are for, not what we are against.”

WICA executives say they haven’t heard any negative feedback from staff members or the community regarding their involvement in the Ghostlight Project.

The movement advocates for ongoing vigilance during the coming years, either through donations to organizations that advocate for at-risk communities, community service or dialogues with elected officials. WICA hasn’t indicated how it will continue to advocate for tolerance, but executives say they are soliciting pledge ideas from their customers and staff.

“I would say we are steering away from the political stance, and really concentrating on the inclusiveness their mission outlines,” WICA Programming Director Deana Duncan said. “Performing art institutions and artists are often beacons for progression, tolerance, and activism. I think that’s why this project is hitting home with so many of us.”

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