- Associated Press - Friday, November 4, 2016

ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) - Throughout history, theaters have notoriously been a hotbed for ghostly activity. From lingering actors who are never satisfied with their performance to founders and patrons who just couldn’t let the show end long after the curtain closed, every theater seems to have its own ghost story.

The prevalence of paranormal activity is acknowledged even in the way the theater operates. Many performance spaces leave one single light out on the stage throughout the night to ward off evil spirits or to lure in benevolent forces in hopes of fostering a positive artistic environment - depending on who you’re asking, of course.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival is no different, reported The Spectrum (http://bit.ly/2dZMwnJ).

Since the founding in 1961, the Festival has experienced its own share of lingering spirits, mischievous ghosts and cursed plays.

USF founder Fred Adams has never personally experienced any of the hauntings, but he’s well aware of the lore - especially the girl in the blue dress.

According to Adams, the girl either fell or threw herself from the balcony of the Braithwaite building, which used to have a theater on the third floor, while wearing a blue dress. Over the years, Adams said she was often seen quietly materializing in the theater or could be heard playing “Clair de Lune” on an old grand piano. But she disappeared decades ago after the theater space was remodeled into a suite of offices and classrooms.

Yet the girl in the blue dress wasn’t completely ready to leave the theater behind. Adams recalled an experience a costumer had with the girl in the blue dress in the late 1970s. Two seamstresses were working in the costume shop late into the night. One of the women decided to leave and the other responded she would too, but before she began to pack up, she suddenly heard a noise from the tunnel that connected the Adams Theatre to the costume shop.

“She looked up and thought it was the other woman,” Adams detailed. “But then she realized it was the girl in the blue dress and that she could see right through her.”

Ashley Pollock, public relations and information coordinator for the SUU College of Performing and Visual Arts, will still not return to the costume shop alone after an experience she had late one night. Instead of the girl in the blue dress, Pollock encountered the ghost of a previous costume shop director who worked in the basement room for years.

She attempted to ignore the repeated sounds of doors opening and closing by turning up the music.

“I had heard stories of her being there before so I was already scared, but I had work to do so I kept going,” she said.

Then the lights flickered.

“I put my stuff away and got out of there as fast as I could.”

The hauntings aren’t contained to just the costume shop, though. The tunnel that connects the Adams Memorial Shakespearean Theatre with the costume shop is also known for regularly hosting ghostly activities. Josh Stavros, USF media and public relations manager, explained the tunnels were used by actors to quickly move from the theater to the dressing rooms without being spotted by the audience. Actors would have to crouch in spots to avoid hitting their head on the pipes, which are as low as five feet in some spots, as they silently made their way through the dark tunnels as quickly as possible.

Students and staff have reported odd occurrences in the tunnel since they were built in the 1950s, Stavros said. Those on either side of the tunnel doors would see or hear someone and attempt to chase them before coming out on the other side to find no one was there. Others have allegedly heard the sounds of laughter emerging from the tunnels when they knew no one was down there.

“There are phantom happenings between those doors,” Stavros said.

The amount of unexplained events always seems to increase during productions of the Shakespearean drama “Macbeth.” The play is famous for carrying the “Scottish curse,” which alleges that speaking Macbeth’s name within a theater will result in a disaster.

According to Adams, something has managed to go wrong during every single run of “Macbeth” at the Festival. Previously, an actress playing Lady Macbeth broke her ankle and another actor missed his performance entirely as his car went off the road on his way to the theater.

“Right from the beginning of recorded theatre there was always accidents,” Adams explained. “From Lady M’s dying constantly in the show to sand bags falling unexpectedly onto someone.”

Actors saw the power of the curse firsthand during a 1980s rehearsal, Stavros said. While he wasn’t there himself, he’s heard the story countless times from other USF employees whenever the curse is brought up.

Lady Macbeth was delivering a monologue where she is attempting to invoke demons when a lightbulb popped exactly as she delivered the line “unsex me now.”

“The gel (a color filter used for lighting) fluttered to the stage and it just stopped everybody dead,” Stavros said. “The stage manager came out and decided to restart after the speech because everyone was so freaked out they didn’t want to do it.”

Adams himself refrains from saying the title of the play within the walls of a theater.

The reported hauntings have previously been investigated by Southern Utah Paranormal, a local ghost hunting organization. Member Todd Prince said the group has witnessed some interesting activity in Adams Theatre, the Randall Jones Theater and the Auditorium Theatre.

No strange sightings or occurrences have occurred yet in the new Engelstad or Anes theaters, according to Stavros.

Adams believes these occurrences are inevitable in a theater.

“They’re a gathering place where people experience great moments together,” he said. “Some people who are no longer here gathered for years and now their children or grandchildren are coming back. I know if 50 years from now when my grandchildren are all grown and married and starting to bring their children, I’m going to be delighted to come back and just check up on them and see how they’re doing.”

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Information from: The Spectrum, http://www.thespectrum.com

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