GPAC’s ‘Ghost Light’ offers Halloween thrills while showcasing UNCP talent

Virtual performance showcases UNCP talent, offers chills

Tomeka Sinclair Features editor

PEMBROKE — The Givens Performing Arts Center is celebrating Halloween with music and storytelling in a special collaborative production entitled “Ghost Light.”

The virtual event will debut on GPAC’s website this month.

“Ghost Light” features musical performances by staff and faculty from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke Music Department coupled with local ghost stories collected by the Museum of the Southeast American Indian and read by UNCP staff and faculty, all filmed on the GPAC stage and made available through the GPAC website.

“This has been an incredibly fun and collaborative project,” said James Bass, GPAC executive director. “We were able to work with a number of talented people to create a visually spectacular performance.”

“Ghost Light” will feature flautist Sarah Busman, pianists Jae Won Kim and Mark Tollefsen and vocalist Katie DeFiglio, percussionist Joseph Van Hassel, electronic music by Andrew Beck, and readings by Mary Ann Jacobs, Nancy Fields, Lawrence Locklear, Phillip Bullard, Ashley McMillian and Tonya Elk Locklear.

Busman, who originated the concept of “Ghost Light” as performances to showcase faculty music talent, said she is surprised at how the idea has transformed.

“It was going to be this little thing, this little concert with just a couple people reading a couple ghost stories, and it’s turned into this super amazing thing,” Busman said.

Busman will be performing a piece by composer Nicole Chamberlain called “Lilliputian.” The original work was written for small instruments like a small piano, piccolo and music box. Busman is dressed as a doll and surrounded by large dress forms making her appear small.

“It has this real creepy doll vibe, like old children songs that have that creep-out factor,” Busman said.

Those ideas were brought to life visually by GPAC Technical Director Lenea Barela-Lewis. In addition to filming the performances, she also was responsible for the lighting and scenic design, along with Gary Tremblay.

Creating the visual effects for the “Lillilputian” performance was especially intriguing for Barela-Lewis.

“That was a very visually striking piece and it was just so much fun,” she said. “I brought out all types of colors and shapes.”

“Booger on a Bicycle,” read by Phillip Bullard, will also have unique visuals for audience to experience. In the scene, Bullard will be surrounded by bicycles propped up at different levels. Barela-Lewis uses a piece of lighting equipment called a gobo rotator to create movement on the set, so as Bullard reads in the foreground, there are bicycle spokes in motion in the background.

“That one was particularly fun to record,” Barela-Lewis said “It was just beautifully done.”

Barela-Lewis said “Ghost Light” will spook audience members in a variety of ways.

“Each piece was designed with its own theme and color scheme in mind,” she said. “Working closely with our set designer allowed me to blend our ideas of how each section should feel and what we were visually trying to convey to the audience.

“Every piece that we did just had a kind of different feel. There was just something that was a little eerie about this or a little eerie about that.

The ghost stories in the show were collected by Nancy Fields, director of the Museum of the Southeast American Indian at UNCP. According to Fields, the stories were curated from ghostly tales shared with her over the years, and they have eerie local connections.

“I love ghost stories,” Fields said. “I collect them, and as these were shared with me, I began writing them down years ago.”

Fields’ collection of local haunting tales became a perfect blend for the creepy classical music selections on “Ghost Light.”

Barela-Lewis said the performances will rival national symphonies or Broadway tours, with the talent and abilities showcased.

“I want people to see that we’re being innovative and collaborative on campus,” she said. “We’re all trying to work together to further our craft.”

“‘Ghost Light’ is a way to bring the arts together for an audience during a time when so many artistic ventures have been canceled,” Sarah Busman said.

The GPAC virtual season is only available on the venue’s website, and is free to the public. More content will be shared on the venue’s social media sites.

“I hope people watching it start hearing sounds in their house, and they start wondering what they are,” Busman said. “Was that creak from the door or was it something spookier?”

Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or 910-416-5865.