Archive for the 'Haunted Theatres' Category
After an interesting day auditioning, I set off back to the hotel, walking with an increasingly heavy bag and new shoes. My shoes had started their life quite well, but in the New York heat, the rather raw internal seams and stitching started to take their toll on my left toes, my right heel and on the whole of my good nature. Needless to say, by the time I reached the hotel, my good nature had temporarily vanished. Fortunately my room was cool and above all peaceful, which cannot be said for the rest of the hotel, which suffered from the malady of a nightly âdiscoâ with a mind-numbing incessant, thumping beat, which destroyed any opportunity and inclination to have anything resembling an intelligent conversation.Once my feet and body had cooled down and the two pain-killers I had taken had pulled my raging headache down to manageable proportions, I escaped the wall of sound outside of my room and found myself back on Broadway.
Times Square, resembles a giant video-game. Somehow it works; maybe because there is more space and maybe because the Americans really know how to make âtrash-flashâ work. New Yorkers seem more friendly, polite and articulate than Londoners â certainly I have met nothing but kindness and openness in the three days since we arrived. So much for New York being fast; everyone seems to have more time to ârelateâ, - unlike London where the aggression level seems much higher - and folk seem more miserable.
Walking through Times Square, my thoughts turned to my long time friend and musical director David S. who had sloped-off after auditions, to see âCurtainsâ at the Al Hirschfeld theatre.
No sooner had he crossed my mind, but David, who had had a great time at the show, appeared in front of me, âNow isnât that strangeâ said David, âI was just trying to ring you, but I couldnât get throughâ
I think that most people experience similar occurrences on an almost daily basis. I certainly do and I think that it is possible that when two people are thinking of each other, that they become almost magnetically attracted. Itâs either that, or their narrowing proximity, brings the other person into each of their minds. Whatever the reason, it occurs too frequently for me to simply discount it as co-incidence.
There is a touch of âliving the dreamâ about walking on Broadway, especially on a warm summers evening â certainly David and I felt it, as we searched for an eatery that did not involve a meal around twice the size of one we would find in London. We eventually found one and David set about a corned beef sandwich the size of a dinner-plate, whilst I contented myself with a ice-cream float (all I needed, as I had eaten, whilst David had been at the show)
After the corned beef and ice-cream float feast, David and I stopped and watched a street-artist drawing a caricature (see Martin Beck below)* of a little Japanese girl. David who at one time was a conductor with the DâOyly Carte orchestra, suddenly remarked that during the performance of âCurtainsâ earlier that evening, the image of Ella Halman in the part of Katisha from the Mikado had sprung into his mind.. âShe was there on stage in her full Japanese costume â it was that vividâ he recounted.
David went on to explain that Ella Halman had sung with the DâOyly Carte and had performed the part of Katisha in the Mikado at the:-
Martin Beck - Al Hirschfeld Theatre
The Al Hirschfeld Theatre is located on the south side of West 45th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues. It is marked as the Martin Beck Theatre on The Broadway Map
The Martin Beck Theatre (Later renamed to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre) was opened in 1924 by the famous vaudeville impresario Martin Beck. Amongst his many vaudeville accolades, Martin Beck discovered the illusionist Houdini in 1899 who was performing rudimentary magic tricks in St. Paul, Minnesota. Beck convinced Houdini to focus on his âescapeâ routines and gave him his start in Beckâs chain of Orpheum theaters. Although the business relationship with Houdini would sour in later years, Houdiniâs brother, Dash, later wrote that Houdini owed all his success to the âAstuteâ Martin Beck. Although Beck was voted out of the presidency of the newly âPublicâ Orpheum circuit in 1923, Beck remained a potent force in theatrical circles. He opened the impressive Martin Beck Theater on Broadway in 1924, the only theater in New York on which there was no mortgage.
The theatre has continuously operated as a successful Broadway venue for over eighty years.
In 2003 the theatre was renamed to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, whoâs namesakeâs 100th birthday followed his death in that year. Al Hirschfeld, a famous American caricaturist (see Japanese girl above)*, is best known for his simple black and white satirical portraits of celebrities and Broadway Theatre stars. The Al Hirschfeld Theatre includes an on-going show of his works.
Opening Night Cast
The Mikado of Japan
Further confirmation was found:-
New York City Broadway Theater Guide
The Al Hirschfeld TheatreâŠâŠ.was the Martin Beck Theatre. There is more research to be done, but I am late with this weekâs Almanack entry and there is little chance of me completing my detective work until I return to England this week-end - so I thought it would be interesting if I present the facts as they continue to emerge, rather than waiting until the final full picture is known.
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It would seem to me that the spirit of Ella Halman had contacted David as he sat in the theatre where she had performed, in a vision so strong that he said it was as if she was actually on-stage that evening.
Although a young man, David had adored the work of Ella Halman and her husband Radley Flynn and had contacted them when they retired to Penrith in Cumbria. Ella outlived Radley by 17yrs and died in Penrith in 1995, at the age of 88yrs.
Ella Halman and Radley Flynn together
After corresponding for a few years, David finally represented the DâOyly Carte at Ella Halmanâs commemoration service, after having formed a strong bond with her, during her last years.
David would probably not have mentioned his vision to me, if we had not watched the little Japanese girl in Times Square.
My feeling is that Ella Halman wanted her contact with David to be âprovenâ and not dismissed as mere imagination.
I feel that David and I have been chosen by Ella to prove it.
Letâs see what unfoldsâŠ
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The Palace Theatre in London, has three ghosts. The first two, Ivor Novello and Anna Pavlova, are still famous names today; but the third spirit is perhaps less well-known to the general public, yet according to the theatre manager is the only ârealâ oneâŠ
âŠIt was early 2006 and we had moved our production of âWhistle Down The Windâ into âThe Palaceâ for a West-End season. âWhistleâ is itself a very spiritual piece, as are many of the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber, even if itâs present musical incarnation, a collaboration between ALW and Jim Steinman (of Meatloaf fame) has taken the original story from Barnsley in the North of England and re-planted it in âElvisâ country around Memphis and the Mississippi..
It was quite late one evening, just after one of our technical rehearsals. The cast had either returned home, or were helping to prop up the bars of the various Soho watering-holes behind the theatre. Iâm never in a rush to leave a theatre after rehearsals or a performance â I like to stand or sit quietly and feel the energiesâŠ
âŠI was leaning over the orchestra pit-rail, looking at the empty stage, when I had the distinct sensation that someone was with me. At first I didnât bother to turn, thinking that a member of the cast or theatre staff had joined me, but hearing no comment, I glanced to my leftâŠ
âŠfor an instant I saw a man watching the stage. Then he disappeared.
I looked down into the orchestra pit. Our musical director was pottering about with his keyboards, but I knew it was not a reflection or optical illusion, as I had D in my central vision, at the same time as I saw the apparition. Not only that, but I experienced a familiar âTangy-Twangâ; a feeling like an electric thrill running through my body, but especially in my lower stomach and in my third-eye area.
It was hard to recollect what I had seen; the mental image began to fade, as quickly as I had perceived it - âfeeling-seeingâ would be the closest to describing a man who was smart and who had authority; a man who was aware of me, but who (like me) was leaning over the pit-rail - just watching the stage.
The next night, D (the MD) and I met at a function in Park Lane. D, who upon occasion dips his toes into the spiritual world, was at first only mildly interested. When the prospect of Anna Pavlova and especially Ivor Novello becoming spirit allies to the production was raised however, Dâs interest increased somewhat. âWhat did he look like?â he
âWhat did he look likeâ The question was quite difficult to answer. As a dancer and choreographer, most of my visual-experiences are quite physical in the way they manifest inside me â in short, I âSee-Feel.â But I tried to answer his questionâŠ
âHe was leaning over the pit rail â just watchingâ
âHe was smartly dressed, in a dark suit with a white collarâ
âHe wore cologneâ
âHe seemed big or at least strong.â
âHe had curly hairâ
âHe was important â He was a Boss.â
âNo, I donât think it was Ivor Novello. I think it was a theatre manager.â
. D is a great fan of Ivor Novello and of musical and theatre history. (and his impression of Gracie Fields singing âSallyâ is part of theatre legend) So my last statement came as something of a disappointmentâŠâNot Ivor NovelloââŠ. Dâs eyes de-focussed and his attention turned to Hayley Mills, the original girl in the film âWhistle Down the Windâ who was the star guest of the eveningâŠ
On the other hand, I had become more excited than ever about the apparition. I realised that my spontaneous âI think it was a theatre managerâ, had unlocked a âFelt-Truthâ inside me.
The next day I went to see the theatre manager. âSo youâve seen himâ said L. I followed her into her small office, where she showed me cuttings and articles. âAnna Pavlova and Ivor Novello are only legend,â she said âThe real ghost is Charles Morton.â
âThe Palace started life in 1891 as the Royal English Opera House, but by 1892 had been sold, redecorated and renamed the Palace Theatre of Varieties. Charles Morton was the manager. For Morton this marked the height of his career. Having made his name and fortune in setting up music halls, including the Canterbury and the Oxford, he was at last running a West End theatre. He was a hardworking and fit man, who rarely ate meat and rarely smoked (unusual in those days). At the age of 83 he was still running up to the top dressing rooms of the Palace two or three times a night.
As the review states âHe was a hardworking and fit man.â I had received such an impression of strength and fitness from the spirit that it further convinced me that I had sensed his presence. L then went on to describe how he normally is sighted in the dress-circle. âA woman complained that there was a man, sitting on the lap of a female member of the audience!â she related, âbut what she was seeing was the transparent image of Charles Morton, superimposed over the lady, who was presumably unaware that she was being sat on!.â L was really pleased at my sighting and I was equally pleased that she hadnât thought I was a total weirdoâŠ
After L and I had finished talking, I wandered down to the lower bar, which is below street level and wandered along a long corridor, full of photographs and illustrations of some of the many productions that have opened (and closed) at the Palace.
Then I found itâŠ
It was the word âWatchingâ that clinched it for me.
The term âclairvoyanceâ literally means âClear Seeingâ Originating from 17th century French, it is often used as an umbrella term for psychic awareness. Although I often get an impression of âseeingâ a spirit, it is much more a physical impression â or what I call âSee-Feelâ. What I did at the pit-rail, was first to âfeelâ that someone was with me (that was indeed my first impression) and then to turn and see the apparition. My âseeingâ moment however, was very fleeting but had with it, the impression of a man of considerable importance and most of all âStrengthâ.
So I had âseenâ Charles Morton, but like being in company with someone with a large personality, I had also âfeltâ his presence. Clair-sentience means âclear-feelingâ and this instance, together with most of my encounters with the spirit world, was very typical of the awareness process I go through.
I receive most of my spiritual impressions as a combination of Clairvoyance and Clairsentience â a sort of spiritual sense crossover. Many people experience sense crossover, finding that they can âhearâ paintings and even taste music.
In other words, I am a spiritual synaesthete (a synaesthete, is a person who involuntarily experiences a crossing over of the senses) So there!
Note: Iâve put two new audio answers for Clairvoyance and Clairsentience in the FAQ section http://www.soulmerlin.com/faq.html
Around 1977 I was booked as choreographer for a production of Aladdin that was due to open at the Beck Theatre in Hayes (Hillingdon) Middlesex. http://www.ents24.com/web/venue/1708/Hayes/Beck_Theatre.html
It was the day before the grand opening and time was running out; so I (young, ambitious and stupid) elected to paint the stage-floor overnight, so that it would resemble a grassy glade, rather than the platform of a school prize-giving ceremony.
The final dress rehearsal ended at 10pm and the stage manager prepared me for my overnight stay, telling me to stay within the confines of the stage and dressing room areas, as the rest of the building was covered in âelectric-eyeâ security. I have always found adventures such as this, to be really exciting and so, after locating the dressing room where I would eventually sleep and collecting paint, brushes and rollers, I set straight to work.
I must have been working for around an hour, when I became aware of a sensation. I worked on for a little while, but the sensation was growing. It seemed to start right at my pubic bone, curving upward and going at first back to my lower vertebrae; then upward and forward toward the centre of my chest. I knew that I was being watched.
I remember feeling quite scared and unable to move, but I fought the feelings down and continued to roll the green paint onto the floor. Then the goosebumps happened; my whole body tremored and shivered and I could hardly move. I carefully turned my head, just a fraction and looked out into the auditorium â and there they sat.
Through the corner of my eye, I could see two dim, hooded figures, sitting at the back of the auditorium. I continued slowly painting and wondering if the stage manager had come back â but I knew he hadnât. Eventually I could take it no longer; I decided to âcall it a nightâ and headed down to the dressing room area below the stage.
Once below stage, my fears subsided. I made a cup of coffee and settled down for the night on a beaten-up old settee, with my feet sticking out into the cold-air and my head cricked at a sharp angle. I pulled an old bit of black âtatâ over me and tried to get to sleep as best I could.
I woke suddenly to the sound of footsteps on the stage above me. Just two steps and then silence. I remember my heart rate going up, the goose-bumps returning and the sensation in the pit of my stomach. Then the footsteps happened again â and again â and again - all through the sleepless night.
The worst moment was the last. It must have been near dawn, (although Iâm not sure as I was under the stage and I have never been able to wear a wrist watch), when the footsteps came right up to the stairs leading down to the dressing room area â and stopped. âPlease, please donât come downâ I thought. Perhaps the spirits understood just how scared I was and took pity, as the footsteps did not descend the stairs â but I was very glad to see the cleaners arrive.
âtill the next time
I first met Sir Lawrence Olivier when he was patron of the (1)National Theatre of the Deaf, which I was attached to as resident choreographer. It was around 1970 and Sir Lawrence, his triumphant performance as the Moor in Othello not that long behind him, was sitting around half-way back in the stalls, intently watching our performance of âThe Odysseyâ.
Sir Lawrence was also battling cancer, but it was hard to tell because he was so strong. The company was just turning professional, thanks to the actors union Equity granting membership to the deaf actors and actresses. In those days, Equity ran a âclosed shopâ; a âcatch 22â situation, where you had to have an Equity card to get a job, but could only get a card, by having a job - if you see what I mean. This resulted in all sorts of schemes and âwheezesâ; would-be professionals would take jobs as strippers, alternative comedians, club singers etc, in order to obtain the coveted card. Not only that, but a probationary period of around 40 weeks, then had to be achieved, before the new member could take a lead part, or a West End role. I can remember that the Hexagon Theatre in Reading, had to give up their plan of having the glamour model Samantha Fox, as the lead in their Christmas pantomime because she lacked the little red card that looked so like the little red driving licences we had back then..
But back to Sir Lawrence. Night after night he would sit and watch our performances, his spectacles glinting in the half-light of the auditorium. I often wondered why he was so involved - after all as a Patron, a simple annual visit would have been enough. I eventually came to the conclusion that he really was âtakenâ by our use of âsign-mimeââŠ
The relationship of Sign-mime to normal deaf sign language parallels the relationship of poetry to prose. The symbolic everyday deaf-sign gestures are simplified and then made more visually beautiful and expressive. As a young performer, I was fascinated with deaf sign-language and found I had a natural ability for it. I expect it had something to do with my expressive dance and mime training, much of it from the fundamental training I had received from the work of Rudolf Laban. Even today, some of our performances are âsignedâ by a visiting interpreter, for the benefit of deaf people in the audience. One of our regular âsignersâ is (2) Paul Whittaker. Paul is profoundly deaf, but has enough residual hearing and skill, not only to complement the performance, but also to enhance it.
Sir Lawrence watched and watched, hunched forward in his seat, in full concentration. His relationship with the deaf actors was also very good, but one remarked that, if he was such a good actor, why was he so hard to lip-read? It was true; if you look at Olivier in one of his many films, you will see that he hardly moves his lips; the beautifully spoken lines are totally formed, modulated and delivered from somewhere deep inside his mouth, entering the world through remarkably still lips. It made me think that, if deafness was the ânormâ, Sir Lawrence would have been lucky to have made the chorus, never mind the status of leading actor-legend of our time!
At the end of Sir Lawrenceâs three-day visit, we all lined up âroyalty-wiseâ on stage, and he walked along the line, shaking hands and having a brief conversation with each one of us in turn. Eventually he came to me; I was impressed and aware of how strong he was. He stood in front of me, his shoulders so broad in the dark blue blazer he was wearing, that they made him seem rather smaller than his 5â10â height. âThank youâ he said through unmoving lips, âWeâll work together again.â I was thrilled â until I found out that heâd said the same thing to every member of the cast line-up!
And there the story of my brief association with Olivier might have ended â a pleasant reminiscence from my rather long career, except for an occurrence at spiritualist church a few months ago.
We had reached the part of the service, where the visiting medium gives messages âfrom beyondâ to members of the congregation. Eventually she came to me. âI have an actor hereâ she said; âhe was a famous Shakespearean actor, the most famous actor of his timeâŠ.he played all the major roles in Shakespeareâs playsâŠhe sayâs he is going to work with youâŠ
I am the Owl and the Echo
(1) The National Theatre of the Deaf was founded by Pat Keysall, the presenter of BBC televisionâs âVision Onâ. I first met Pat, when she was director-presenting an episode of the series, in which I played the Sorcerer in a dance version of âThe Sorcererâs Apprenticeâ. I was to meet Pat, a few years later, when she needed a choreographer for her newly formed Theatre of the Deaf performing company. I always admired Patâs simple and sincere approach to her work. She never disguised the fact that the performers were profoundly deaf and she brought out performances of surprising quality, from initially untrained deaf people. I followed her lead by refusing to stand, just out of the sight of the audience and wave my arms up and down in time with the music, to give a bogus impression that they could really dance to the music. Of course deaf people can dance, but their sense of rhythm comes from an internal drive and is distinct and separate from dancing to music. It could be considered that they dance to the rhythm of emotion and of life.
Patâs son Mike McGurk was the drummer in the companyâs small orchestra and together we experimented with sound-to-light converters, where his drum beats were translated into rhythmic light pulses, which we incorporated into our stage-lighting plot.
Sadly the attitude toward deaf people at that time was cosmetic, in the sense that they were encouraged to âfit inâ with hearing society, by appearing ânormalâ. Many schools banned sign-language, even between the deaf pupils themselves, and in consequence, severely hampered their interaction and communication with each other. Deaf children were discouraged from shouting or talking too excitedly, so that ânormalâ people would not be offended by the âstrangeâ sounds they made. I was disappointed with our first review, where the theatre critic, obviously wishing I had been standing in the wings and drilling them to stay on the beat (of something they couldnât hear) wrote: âAnd the choreography was regrettably crude.â What an idiot.
(2) Paul runs an organization that you may be interested in contacting and supportingâŠ.
Last weekâs visit to the North-West, was very nostalgic. I first went to Blackpool, with âJosephâ around twenty-five years ago. I can remember that things were more extravagant then â we would probably say âtastelessâ and a bit âtrash-flashâ nowadays â and yet I feel a sense of confinement, a feeling of a âlack of freedomâ, when I compare todayâs life-style, to those times.
Here are two spiritual stories from âJosephâ.
Peter Lawrence (left) with Mike Holoway (Joseph) and Adoring Fan
Photo by Mandy Andrew
Our first âBlackpool Jacobâ was Peter Lawrence. Peter was one of the most delightful, outrageous â and spiritual people I have ever met. When Peter eventually passed away, a new actor was auditioned to play the part. One night Matt, a previous company member, brought a friend to see the show when we were performing at âThe Grandâ theatre in Swansea. Mattâs friend happened to be a clairvoyant, who thoroughly enjoyed the show, but asked; âWhy were their two Jacobâs on stage?â
It would seem that Peter had not really left usâŠ
Last Septemberâish, the Joseph Company visited the Edinburgh Festival Theatre. At the end of one performance, P approached me and whispered, ââŠDuring Caanan Days, a young boy took hold of my hand.â I was at first slightly irritated, as we often have a bit of restlessness amongst the local choirs, who perform on-stage with us, but then P continued: âthe invisible childâŠwhoever it wasâŠtook hold of my right hand. There are no children on that side!â.
Indeed there were no children to Pâs left â only a 10â drop to the centre of the stage. Now P was a sensitive lad, who played Benjamin and who being very talented, was at once a suspect for possible âromantic delusionâ. But noâŠfor the next three or four nights, P consistently reported his supernatural experiences. âA little girl took my other hand.â
I must admit to being rather excited at this stage; theatre ghosts have occurred several times during my career and each time has been a learning experience and this particular unfolding âeventâ had a ring of authenticity about it:
It seems that the Festival Theatre was built upon the burned-out ruins of the Empire Theatre, (note: 12th June 2007 ~ exact details of the blaze, its causes and the resultant damage are awaiting verification ~ see comments 3 & 4 at end of post) which was destroyed on May 11th 1911, in a fire that started during a performance of âThe Great Lafayetteâ, an American Illusionist. Lafayette, employed two children, a boy and a girl who were also midgets; the boy was the girlâs understudy and together they played many parts throughout the performance. During one of the elaborate illusions, an on-stage horse âshiedâ, upsetting a brazier which then set alight to the scenery; subsequently reduced the whole theatre to ashes. Lafayette and nine members of his company, including the two children, perished in the blaze.
A group of us, who I will call the âPsychic Circleâ, held an âon-stageâ sĂ©anceâŠ.I can remember asking P to choose the on-stage space to hold the âmeetâ; P chose âback-stage-leftâ in the wings.
I opened proceedings with an excerpt from the Gospel of St, Mary, and welcomed the two spiritsâŠ
We were sitting in a circle; Myself, P, (sound No2) D (The Butler), S (Apache Girl), A (Jacob No2) R The Baker) and JâŠthe events that followed were delightful:
At first P whispered that âtheyâ had arrived and were cuddling up to him, on either side. Then P whispered âtheyâre goingâ. Almost at once, G, on the opposite side of the circle, remarked that he sensed two children playing around him. (It was as if they had run over from P, to go and play with G). I forgot to say that P had also played a âOne Potato â Two Potatoâ game with the invisible pair who then went to D, who also played the same game - seemingly with thin air. We all left the seance in a very happy moodâŠ
P (when he felt their presence backstage) asked the children why they stayed âearthboundâ â he received an emphatic âbecause we like it hereâ.
On the last night, P said goodbye to the two children âAlice Daleâ and âŠâJosephâ. Yes, Joseph! Not only that, but his surname was âCoatsâ â Joseph Coats.
I am the Owl and the Echo11 comments