October 2021
Remembering the Past, Preserving Tradition
Ghost Talk 2021: the dead are live again

On October 31, November 1 and 2, the courtyard and grounds of Suze’s Prescott Center for the Arts will transform into a joyful, colorful fiesta for Ghost Talk 2021, an annual event that the community has come to count on for family-centered entertainment, spooky Halloween antics, celebration, cultural awareness and fun.

The show began 14 years ago as Ghost Walk, a series of historical ghost stories performed live through a community collaboration to benefit youth in the Quad-Cities community. The original idea and subsequent event were a collaboration between the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic Foundation and the Sharlot Hall Museum. Jodi Drake was the founder and writer of the local stories with historian Parker Anderson. In those early years, the Prescott Fine Arts Association (now Suze’s Prescott Center for the Arts) was drawn into the event through writers, actors, props, and costumes. So naturally when a new home was needed in 2008, the WYGCF committee approached the Art Center for a new home.

Ghost Walk then became Ghost Talk. The dedication of committee volunteers like Laura Norman and Sally Jackson from WYGC and Karen Murphy, Dee Toci and Linda Miller of PFAA coordinated the transition. From 2008 to 2016 Karen Murphy wrote and directed the production and credits a long list of many people and associations over the years with the success of this annual event, along with actors and volunteers numbering in the hundreds, too many to mention by name.

At the theatre the show must always go on, pandemic and all. GT2020 coordinator and longtime enthusiast Tina Boden-Blake and her team of directors, writers, performers and costumers delivered it to the community despite the national shutdown, assisted by technology to create an entirely online event of short films presented through the theatre’s website.

Self portrait by Sylvia Ximi

Everyone in the arts community is grateful to return in person this year. Leading the GT2021 Committee is talented writer, director and graphic artist Sylvia Ximi, who has chosen to use the celebration of Día delos Muertos (Day of the Dead) as the centerpiece for this year’s event, which features a presentation on the history of the celebration and an altar for the community to honor loved ones, as well as activities, games, raffles and films for the whole community.

Art reflects the culture it lives in, often allowing safe spaces for the processing of complex emotions. This year with the passing of so many during the pandemic Día de Los Muertos offers a chance to honor and celebrate life in the face of tragedy and grief.

The heart of the Día de los Muertos holiday dates back thousands of years in Mesoamerican culture as a festival and celebration to honor loved ones and friends who have passed. Día de los Muertos is not a Mexican version of Halloween — the fall season and shared tradition of costumes and parades are the only similarities. Over time the practices of Día delos Muertos have been adopted by others, influenced by religion, and continue to preserve ancient afterlife beliefs and traditions.

Illustration by Joseph Paul

In the Mexican tradition the veil between the spirit world and the everyday world dissolves on Day of the Dead, and the souls of the dead awaken and return to the living world to feast, dance, and celebrate with their loved ones. Each year the living build ofrenda altars and decorate them with candles, marigolds, special tokens and food offerings to honor the spirits and celebrate their lives. The marigolds placed on altars and graves during this celebration symbolize the fragility of life, their pungent scent and bright color thought to lure souls back to the festivities.

The sugar skulls and skeletons associated with this holiday represent departed souls, decorated with bright colors and flowers to celebrate their lives and influences.

Along with this heartfelt celebration of life, GT2021will feature its usual ghostly stories and antics to celebrate Halloween. Brandon Gabaldon will lead the production of this year’s ghostly short-film contest. These spooky but family-friendly (PG)films will show in the theatre prior to the feature films, Disney’s Coco and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

You may contribute to the altar by bringing a framed copy of your loved one’s picture to the Suze's PCA office through October. The staff will be happy to make a copy to preserve your original.

The SPCA youth program and this event depend on the community for financial support through sponsorships and public fundraising. If you would like to be a part of this event as a guest, sponsor or volunteer, visit the Ghost Talk 2021page on pca-az.net, or call the box office at 928-445-3286 for more information.

Suze's PCA would like to extend its gratitude to Karen Murphy for her tireless dedication to Ghost Talk and to her amazing costuming over the years. We will miss her as she moves this month to Ames, Iowa to be near her precious grandsons.

Laine Murphy is a local writer covering the arts in Prescott.

Photos by Karen Murphy

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