We had our annual college-wide communications last week at the college (we're now a four-year state college, by the way!) and I was struck by the ominous feeling I always encounter in empty auditoriums. In our case, we've always met in the bleachers of a rehearsal stage in the supposedly haunted Wilson Center for the Arts.
Why do empty auditoriums tickle the old fright instincts in me? I suppose it's a couple of things. It's the odd juxtaposition of the absence of vitality in a place designed, by natural right, to be bursting with it. It's the echo of footfalls against the high ceilings and the shadows of scaffolding and set design, thrown at odd angles against the walls.
It's also the idea of masquerade. It's the fact that, even when filled with people, the natural paradigm of dramatic theatre is to lie, to be something one is not, if only for just a little while. Sure, there's freedom in that idea. But there's more than a little menace too, I think.
At any rate, like abandoned sheds and attics and closets and pools of open water and shuttered houses and dark tracts of woods, empty auditoriums are yet another place that kind of freak me out a little bit...