Shawn Wright, one of Canada’s most recognized stage actors, is making his debut at The 2018 Charlottetown Festival with his compelling show, Ghost Light. As both the actor and the author, this is the first play he has written; and it has already won acclaim in both Toronto and New Brunswick.
A tribute to Wright’s mother
Shawn spent the final months of his mother’s life travelling from Toronto to her nursing home in the Maritimes to spend as much time with her as he could before she passed. During these visits, she would spin stories of her life during the commercial breaks of her favourite TV show, Murder She Wrote. Wright chronicled these stories and developed a hilarious and poignant story about the relationship between mother and son, growing up in New Brunswick the youngest of seven children, and, most importantly, as a tribute to his mother for giving him his love of life.
“She is the reason that I am an actor,” says Wright. “She used acting in community theatre as a break from motherhood. Since I was the youngest, I got to go with her to rehearsals. I was basically raised in the wings by a host of colourful theatrical personalities.”
Wright plays every character in the play, including his mother during different stages of her life. A blessed cross necklace given to him by her to wear on stage never leaves his neck.
“I love playing my mother,” says Wright. “For 80 minutes during the show I know that she is with me on stage.”
A success throughout Canada
It’s that connection that has made Ghost Light so successful when Wright performed in in New Brunswick and Toronto last year to sold-out crowds. He says people would line up after the show to talk to him and share similar stories of caring for their aging parents.
“By telling my story I am creating a safe space for people to get in touch with their own suppressed feelings around grief and give voice to it,” says Wright. “The show represents my generation of caregivers and how we deal with aging parents and death and how we maintain a sense of humour through it all. The show is filled with relatable hilarious anecdotes.”
A ghost light to remember
A “ghost light” is a theatrical term referring to an electric light that is left energized on stage when the theatre is unoccupied and would otherwise be completely dark. Aside from its obvious practical purpose, there are superstitions associated with it, as well. The light is meant to provide a warm welcome to the ghosts of the theatre to congregate on stage all night and recreate the best performances they played in life.
Wright says it was the perfect title for his play. “My mother told me that story when I was a kid and looking back now, I remember her being at her most beautiful as she told it to me.”
Shawn Wright is one of Canada’s busiest actors, often appearing at both the Shaw Festival and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Ghost Light is presented in partnership with Theatre New Brunswick. The published version had a book launch in Toronto this month.
Ghost Light opens June 28 in the Festival Loft, accessed through the second floor of the Confederation Court Mall. For tickets: https://confederationcentre.com/whats-on/ghost-light/