A story that needed to be told, by Shawn Wright
Shawn Wright, one of Canada’s most recognized stage actors, is making his debut at The 2018 Charlottetown Festival with his show, Ghost Light. Shawn is both the actor and author in this—the first play he has written.
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 comedic, poignant story about the relationship between mother and son.
Growing up in New Brunswick, the youngest of seven children, Shawn developed a love of life that he attributes to his mother. “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.”
It’s that connection that has made Ghost Light so successful when Wright performed it in New Brunswick and Toronto last year to sold-out crowds. He said that people would line up after the show to talk to him and share similar stories of caring for their aging parents.
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. Superstition has it that 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 has appeared at the Shaw Festival and Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
Ghost Light is presented in partnership with Theatre New Brunswick and opens June 28 and plays Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings at 7:30 pm until July 20, in the Festival Loft, accessed through the second floor of Confederation Court Mall, Charlottetown.