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Ghosts come out in Bremerton for 'Blithe Spirit'
Brit-supreme Noel Coward’s haunting 1940’s piece debuts on All Hallows Eve at BCT; What’s Up goes ghost hunting.
Rumor has it that the Bremerton Community Theatre is haunted.
In its latest production “Blithe Spirit,” which opens Halloween Night, a ghost appears, on stage, when the lead character, a martini-drinking British mystery writer (played by Raymond Deuel), Charles Condomine invites an eccentric paranormal medium and a few friends over for a seance. He’s seeking to learn the language of the occult in research for one of the characters in his new book.
But much to Charles’, and his second wife Ruth’s surprise, the medium Madame Arcati (Katrina Baxter Hodiak) really does conjure up a ghostly spirit — that of Charles’ first wife Elvira, who is seven years beyond the grave.
In pale shades of blue, the ghost of Elvira (Debora Lascelles) mischievously taunts and torments Charles, reminding him of their days and nights together, while he tries to keep it together with Ruth (Diane Daniels).
The show, a Noel Coward comedy, was all the rage when it first came out in London at the height of World War II. It held the reign of most consecutive performances of a non-musical in the West End for more than 30 years. And it was made into a major motion picture in 1945.
Now, it debuts fittingly on Halloween at BCT, directed by Bruce Hankins.
Fitting because even before this show, the BCT building under the Warren Avenue Bridge on Lebo Boulevard in Bremerton has long been rumored to be haunted by unexplained paranormal phenomenon and ghostly presence.
Constructed in 1976, the theater, itself, is a Frankenstein of sorts.
Its auditorium seats are hand-me-downs from Seattle’s Music Hall while the curtains and backstage rigging system came second-hand from the Orpheum Theater. The pipe organ in the orchestra pit underneath the stage is a 1921 relic that was originally installed in the Liberty Theatre in Pasco. Upstairs, the costume and prop shop is a smorgasbord of antique-ish wardrobes, props and accessories that have been donated to the theater over its 60-some-year history.
All of it, plus the 32 years of BCT performances in the current building, combines for quite a bit of history in one room. Which gives the place quite an eerie atmosphere — especially standing alone on stage in darkened silence.
“I have to have the lights on whenever I’m in the auditorium,” said BCT-regular, producer Steve Goupil. “And usually the radio too.”
Earlier this month, I went on a ghost hunt with Goupil and another BCT-regular, actor Diana George, along with investigators from two local ghost-hunting groups — Kitsap Paranormal Investigators and The Brothers Paranormal.
From midnight on into the morning hours, we spread out throughout the building in small groups, quietly keeping watch for any kind of paranormal phenomenon. It was straight out of that TV show “Ghost Hunters,” only in Bremerton, and in full color instead of night vision.
Sometimes boring. Sometimes just black.
But first, of course, George and Goupil shared some of their stories to set the mood.
Both say they’ve spent many hours, and after-hours, in the bowels of BCT, rehearsing, building sets, organizing props, cleaning house and such. Both say they’ve had personal experiences with a ghostly presence, both together and on separate accounts.
George said her first experience was during the first show she was cast in at BCT. Late one night, during rehearsal, she was making her way from the stage to the backstage area. Approaching the door between the two, she reached down for the handle and the door opened for her.
No one was on the other side, she said. No one else was even near that door.
One night after a different rehearsal, Goupil said he was working late on a set on the stage when he felt a presence casually walk past him. It was so casual that he didn’t pay much mind, thought it must be someone from the cast, until he looked up and no one was there. Again no one else was around.
“They’re here now,” Goupil said, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes, sharing stories on that same stage on the night of the ghost hunt. The investigators were all sitting and listening, silently, sporadically flashing pictures at strange angles on digital cameras.
“I can always tell when they’re around because my eyes water profusely,” Goupil said amidst the tension.
At that moment, midway through his sentence, KPI investigator Jeanne Lewis took a photograph in Goupil’s direction, which revealed an orb over his left shoulder — one of the more compelling pieces of evidence from the entire evening.
But of course, the highly-debated “orb phenomenon” could easily be some sort of obstruction on the lens or reflection of light in the field of the picture. Or evidence of a supernatural presence.
I’m not sure, and the investigators’ report is still out, but I do kind of like the idea of a ghost cast, forever in the show.
SEE THE GHOSTLY "Blithe Spirit" opening Halloween Night with curtains at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 21 at the Bremerton Community Theater, 599 Lebo Blvd., Bremerton. Info: www.noelcoward.net, www.bremertoncommunitytheatre.org or call the box office at (360) 373-5152.