Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ghosts: From Ancient Lore to Modern Media: Banging On The Keyboard

By Natalie Lifson

       Ghosts, apparitions of the dead who can walk among the living, are a universal concept that has existed from ancient history to modern popular culture. The concept of a ghost relies on the belief that a human’s soul exists
separately from a human’s body; upon death of the body, the spirit will escape and walk among the land of the living, unseen by alive people but often able to influence the world around them.

      Ghosts have featured as prominent figures in various cultures throughout history that had little to no contact with each other. This can be attributed to the fact that the concept of ghosts exist as a way for humans to cope with death. When a loved one dies, the idea that you will never be able to talk to them again or look at them again or speak to them again is traumatic; but if ghosts exist, then there is hope that you can encounter your loved ones again beyond the grave. Ghosts offer the possibility that death does not have to be a permanent goodbye. Therefore, the existence of ghosts was very attractive and developed into a universal concept.

      For example, the ancient Mesopotamians believed that ghosts returned to haunt the Earth only when they had unfinished business to attend to, as did the Indians. They would wander the Earth, lost, until they gained closure. In India and Egypt, ghosts could be formed if the deceased’s loved ones did not perform the proper burial rights. In Chinese lore, the annual Hungry Ghost Festival, the one day a year in which all ghosts walked among the living, celebrated benevolent ghosts. Families would prepare feasts and offerings for dead relatives to honor them and ask for them to offer protection and bring good luck. In addition to Mesopotamian, Indian, Chinese, and Egyptian ghost mythology, Greece, Rome, Ireland, and Scotland, among others, have their own individual legends of ghosts buried in their rich histories.

      In addition to firmly held beliefs in ghosts in various different cultures, ghosts have existed as a subject of intrigue in stories from the age of the Renaissance and Romanticism to the post-modern era. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, first performed in 1609, Hamlet comes face to face with the ghost of his dead father, who has returned from the dead in order to avenge his death and move on from the land of the living. In 1843, Charles Dickens penned the famous A Christmas Carol in which Ebenezer Scrooge comes face to face with the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. In the 1930s, Casper the Friendly Ghost was developed and expanded the consumers of ghost stories to a younger audience.

      It wasn’t until the post-modern age that ghost stories began to take off as a phenomenon in popular culture. Modern ghost stories tend to incorporate aspects of myths from various different cultures and religions; rather than sticking to just one, writers tended to pick and choose. Between 1980 and 1990, popular films such as Ghostbusters, Field of Dreams, Heart and Souls, The Fog, and A Nightmare on Elm Street used ancient lore to bring ghost stories to popularity all over the world. More recently, movies such as The Sixth Sense and The Others, television shows such as Supernatural and Ghost Whisperer, and children’s cartoons such as Danny Phantom and Scooby Doo illustrate the current exhaustive reaches of ghost mythology.

      Today, a new ghost story that follows the pattern of modern lore in media but establishes its own captivating canon, is stealing the stage at the Strawberry One Act Theatre Festival on 6/13, 6/15, 6/16, and 6/20. Banging on the Keyboard by Crystal Cabae follows a young man who can see dead people cope with the apocalypse. Banging on the Keyboard manages to combine the popular genres of ghosts and of the apocalypse to tell a story that is fresh, intriguing, and funny.

      Even today, the idea that ghosts could possibly exist is fascinating. There are thousands of internet forums in which people speculate and investigate. Mediums with booming businesses will charge people money to “communicate" with their dead relatives. Even individuals who don’t believe in ghosts love to speculate as to their existence; because the truth is, there is so much we don’t know about the world, and while there is no proof that ghosts exist, there is no proof that they don’t. 

By Crystal Cabrae
Directed by Angelica Cabrera

Featuring: Joshua Brooks, Angelica Cabrera, Hunter Hathcock, Eliza Gill, D’Angelo Adams and Cory BooDoo

A dark comedy that combines the intricacies of interpersonal relationships, the supernatural and the apocalypse.

Thursday, July 13th at 7pm
Saturday, July 15th at 7pm
Sunday, July 16th at 9pm
Thursday, July 20th at 7pm

Tickets: $25 Online, $27 at the Box Office
Premium Seats: $30 Online, $35 at the Box Office

At the Theatre at St. Clement's
423 West 46th Street, NYC
Between 9th & 10th Avenue
For tickets click here.  

Natalie Lifson, Writer

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