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Vaccines bring light to Sumter Little Theatre, hopeful for fall season

In place of the audience is a small blue light. It's a theatre tradition staff never expected would continue for an entire year.

SUMTER, S.C. — For the past year, the seats of the Sumter Little Theatre have remained empty.

In place of the audience is a small blue light put out by Theatre Technical Director Michael Duffy at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is our ghost light,” Duffy said, as he sat on a grey stage bench, the light beaming brightly over his right shoulder.

It’s a theatre tradition with a murky history, according to Duffy. The most common tale is that every theatre is haunted.

“It lights the stage for the ghosts to perform when the patrons and the actors are away,” Duffy said, “So, we follow tradition here and that’s why our ghost light has been lit since last March.”

He never imagined it would be lit for so long, calling the reality “heartbreaking.” His wife and the theatre’s Administrative Director Carmela Bryan agreed.

RELATED: Sumter art scene among those hard hit by pandemic

Credit: Kayland Hagwood
Michael Duffy

“We miss our audience; we miss our friends,” Bryan said. “We miss performing.”

With limited seating, they chose to go virtual until the coronavirus cases came down.

Still, signs advertising performances from the 2019-2020 season remain outside.

“We did not want to take it down,” Bryan said. “We don’t want to have empty spots because we will soon change this one to the new dates.”

There is a glimmer of hope for the Little Theatre. Coronavirus cases are trending downward, vaccines are now more available, and restrictions are loosening.

RELATED: SC governor drops mask requirement at restaurants, state government buildings

“With the vaccination rates and everything, we are extremely hopeful that we will come back…full time,” Bryan said.

Planning again for when the stage lights come on and the blue light can finally go dark.

“I know that eventually these lights will give way to the big lights and this stage will come alive again,” Duffy said.

To learn more about the Sumter Little Theatre or donate visit their website.

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