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Ghost Lights: Reclaiming Theater in the Age of AIDS

  • Kieran Turner, Director/Producer
  • Christianne Tisdale, Producer

Poster of Ghost Lights written in orange.

About the Project

What happens when you go in search of your legacy only to find it was stolen by an insidious plague? While rehearsing one of the greatest stage dramas ever written, a group of acting students confronts firsthand how the theater community courageously battled the scourge of AIDS.

GHOST LIGHTS: RECLAIMING THEATER IN THE AGE OF AIDS, a six-part docuseries, explores the impact of the AIDS crisis on the theater industry and its vibrant community, navigating the toll the disease took during the last two decades of the 20th century. It spotlights some of the 1,000+ theater artists felled by AIDS, sharing their lives and work, and inspiring new generations of artists and theater lovers who are coming of age during a new plague, Covid-19.

AIDS not only robbed us of many talented individuals, but it decimated our culture—theater being one of those hardest hit. Because its actors, dancers, directors and writers worked in an ephemeral medium that was pre-internet, social media and a camera-on-every-phone, their primary creative output was rarely captured and preserved. Countless audiences have lost lifetimes of amazing work; surviving and emerging artists have lost mentors, guidance, inspiration—and so much more.

Featuring interviews with over 150 theater artists, memorable archival footage, and new stagings of works thought to have vanished forever, all while introducing the next wave to their absent mentors, Ghost Lights endeavors to restore a legacy lost, and celebrates the lives and work of those who were ripped from us much too soon.

“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” — Banksy