Channelling mom, Ghost Light writer/performer calls the spirits to Prairie Theatre Exchange stage

Taking his mother on a sort of posthumous tour of Canada, Shawn Wright has brought his one-man play Ghost Light to Prairie Theatre Exchange in Winnipeg. In the play, he embodies his larger-than-life actress mother. So CBC Manitoba asked some theatre students about their own life lessons from mom.

Winnipeg theatre students share life lessons from their own moms as Shawn Wright's play opens at PTE

Shawn Wright is the writer/performer of Ghost Light, a one-man play that honors the life lessons his mom taught him. The candles on stage represent the spirit of Wright's mother, Regina. (Leif Norman/Prairie Theatre Exchange)

Mom's going on a road trip — posthumously. 

That's part of the premise behind Ghost Light, the latest show at Winnipeg's Prairie Theatre Exchange.

For New Brunswick-born playwright and performer Shawn Wright, the play's name has a symbolic meaning that has also created an open invitation to his deceased mother — who was an amateur actress in her hometown of St. John — to finally get her professional acting debut. 

In the theatre world, a "ghost light" is a light left on backstage. On a practical level, the light is there for safety — but some more superstitious theatre practitioners say the light may also welcome a ghost in a theatre to the stage.

"The symbolic meaning of 'ghost light,' for those of us who work in theatre, is that it's an invitation to the performers who have passed away to come back and relive all of the great roles they played in life", said Thom Morgan Jones, artistic director of Prairie Theatre Exchange.

Admittedly, the combination of spirits — and a late actress mom — may seem like an unlikely pairing of things rolled up into one play, but that's precisely what Ghost Light delivers to audiences.

"I think [Shawn] is able to bring her back to life for a little while, be able to spend time with her," said Jones. 

He sees Ghost Light, and the lessons that Wright shares with audiences from his mom, as a bit of a balm for Winnipeggers.

"I think we need it. [The world is] so dark right now, you know, in the news … and obviously I couldn't have known that when we programmed it," Jones said.

"[The play] is an invitation for us to all be a bit more courageous about leaning into kindness and empathy, and as Shawn's mom would say, 'how to be the star of your own life.'"

The play opens at Prairie Theatre Exchange on Jan. 22 and runs until Feb. 9, 2020.

Ahead of the opening, CBC Manitoba caught up with four Winnipeg theatre students to tell us about the life lessons that they learned from their own moms.

Mom says not to focus on the material things: Devin Lowry


Emily Stark says mom taught her that nothing's impossible


Mom says put yourself in someone else's shoes: Kinsey Donald 


About this article:

The local marketing and communications team for CBC Manitoba seeks out new and innovative ways to take the public broadcaster into communities and grow audiences. Prairie Theatre's production of Ghost Light was sponsored by CBC Manitoba. To win tickets to watch this production, tune into CBC Radio One's Information Radio weekdays from 6:00 - 8:30 a.m. on 89.3 FM / 990 AM.

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Lindsay MacKenzie

community engagement producer

Lindsay MacKenzie has spent more than a decade engaging with communities and making space to hear their stories. As engagement producer at CBC Manitoba, she is the trailblazer behind initiatives such as remote newsroom bureaus and a community advisory board. Since joining CBC in 2012, she has been apart of newsrooms in Ontario such as Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton, London, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Windsor, and Winnipeg, Manitoba.