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Better to light a candle: Camden's Waterfront South Theatre stands with the national Ghostlight Project

On the eve of the inauguration, artists and audiences at theaters across American take a stand for freedom of expression

A half-dozen theater patrons and professionals made a circle just below the stage.

"Turn on your flashlights," said Ray Croce, interim artistic director of the  South Camden Theater Company. "Shine them into the darkness."

The brief but heartfelt gathering at the Waterfront South Theatre was organized on the eve of President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration as part of the Ghostlight Project.

"More than 700 theaters from all 50 states" hosted similar gatherings 5:30 p.m. local time Thursday, noted Robert Bingaman, the company's board president.

The national event "symbolize our values" of "greater inclusion, participation and compassion in our theaters and our communities," Bingaman added.

Those who are worried about the unpredictable new president's impact on artistic freedom "are not being drama queens," said Croce.

The director of Waterfront South's current production -- an edgy drama about addition called Water by the Spoonful -- Croce declared, "we're not going to be silent."

Theater subscribers and Camden neighbors Brian McCollum and Carol Olenschlager said they felt it was important to support Ghostlight.

"The election was very divisive," noted McCollum, a retired systems analyst.

Added Olenschlager, a retired insurance company manager, "I don't think there's any civility" in the current political climate.

Ghost lights are a venerable tradition/superstition in which a single lamp is left on at all times in a darkened theater; Waterfront South has one in its lobby at Fourth and Jasper streets.

Thursday's event, Bingaman said, symbolizes the necessity of maintaining theaters as "safe harbors" for everyone.