Keepin’ the Light On
Kathryn Lopez has always been involved with the arts, originally entering that realm through dance. She also sang in the choir and took part in high school productions, but Kathryn knew that she ultimately wanted to be a dancer. “I love our leads, but I personally love being in the ensemble,” said Kathryn. “It is lots of fun.” In her early 20s, Kathryn was part of a dance company in Oakland where she set up and ran their nonprofit. It was there that Kathryn gained experience in directing and writing shows. Her path then led her to Brentwood where Kathryn taught ballet at East County Performing Arts Center for 15 years, as well as helped manage their incredibly popular Nutcracker performances.
In 2012 Kathryn started working with Helen Dixon of Liberty High School’s theater department assisting with choreography, which then led her to collaborating with Bart Schneider of Edna Hill Middle School on their choreography as well. After working with the local Brentwood schools, Kathryn realized just how much she enjoyed interacting with the young children. “Even though I was dancing in Oakland, I shifted my focus when I became a teacher,” said Kathryn. “I actually became a high school history teacher at Liberty because of my interaction with those local programs. I loved working with the younger students so much and started to focus my attention more to the arts in our local community.”
Ghostlight Theatre Ensemble opened its doors in 2018, and Kathryn initially joined on as their secretary. Then when the treasurer moved on, she took over that position. When the last Artistic Director decided that their season had come to a close, Kathryn filled that role and continues to do so today. “I love working with the community, and I love working in the arts. I have been for my entire adult life. It’s everyone coming together for a common purpose, and that makes it fun.” Ghostlight Theatre Ensemble offers the local community an opportunity to participate in multiple plays and programs throughout the year. They have summer programs for performance (ages 7-15), as well as technical theater (ages 10-15). “For the performance camp we just did Wizard of Oz,” said Kathryn. “We had 45 performers this time around. For technical camp, kids learn lighting, sound, special effects, and operation of a show. They were phenomenal.” Most of Ghostlight’s shows are geared towards ages 16 and up; however, there are times where a show will require a younger cast as well. “It depends on the show. We try to create opportunities for everyone; however, it can be a little tricky to do anything during the school year since Brentwood has such an active arts community within the schools. We’re working on it because there is definitely an interest.”
Kathryn invites the entire local community to come out and enjoy all of the hard work of the Ghostlight Theatre Ensemble cast and crew. Their next show is Murder on the Orient Express, opening September 30 at El Campanil Theatre in Antioch. “We had to switch our productions to that location because the schools weren’t renting out their theaters during the pandemic, and many still are not or they’re using them.” Kathryn also hopes to bring The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) to downtown Brentwood in January. “It’s a comedy and a lot of fun. We invite everyone out to our shows! Without our community, there is no us. We don’t exist without the support of our community; that’s who we create shows for.”
The most difficult obstacle for Ghostlight is finding an available location to perform. “We would love to keep our shows in Brentwood, but El Campanil was the only theater open. We’re competing with school performances, weddings, you name it. I have great ideas for future shows, but we just have to figure out where.” Kathryn’s hope for the future of the company is to have a home theater, or even a few home theaters to rotate between. Regardless of where they end up performing, Ghostlight Theatre Ensemble will continue to shine and provide unique opportunities for the local community. “It truly takes a community,” said Kathryn. “I don’t just mean monetarily. Everyone who acts in our shows, spends time doing props, directing, choreographing, serving on the board. Everyone is important, and I’m so grateful for all of the support we have received from the city of Brentwood. It all works together.”
By: Michelle Lassle Photos by: Ron Essex Photography