Raleigh, North Carolina
Our exploration of sites around Raleigh continues, and we’re super excited to be partnering with Raleigh Memorial Auditorium for a series of investigations to examine the unusual experiences encountered there throughout the years.
Most know Memorial Auditorium as the Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts that stands on East South Street, but talk about transformations! It was the site of the Governor’s mansion from 1813 to 1865 and Raleigh's first public school in 1876. From 1913 to 1930, the site served as an auditorium and municipal building. Much of the building was lost to a fire, but when rebuilding began in 1932, they incorporated a fire station directly under the stage and officially named the building Memorial Auditorium in honor of soldiers that died in WW1.
The transformations haven’t stopped. Since then, Memorial Auditorium has seen several major renovation efforts, the latest resulting in the addition of Meymandi Hall and Fletcher Auditorium, built on both sides, making Memorial Auditorium the Performing Arts Center we know today.
Each of these historical phases hold stories of their own, and we will share those in greater detail with you over the course of next year. For now, we seek input from former employees, performers, and patrons alike to add to the experiences reported by current staff. If you’ve had unusual experiences at Memorial Auditorium, we ask that you complete our Unusual Experiences Survey.
Investigations at this location:
One perk of investigating certain sites is having the ability to explore places not generally accessible to the public, including basements and attics. Such is the case with Memorial Auditorium at the Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts. It’s easy to get enthralled with the grandeur of the place, not to mention the performance happening before your eyes. But have you ever thought about what is going on behind the scenes?
Before the audience even comes to take in a performance, and long after the performers take their final bow, the theatre is abuzz with life. From various technicians and stagehands, to costume designers, house managers, and a variety of volunteers to help make things run smoothly. Although carefully camouflaged, some of this work is viewable in plain sight to the watchful eye.
As an example, lighting technicians are responsible for the lighting operation of a live performance and work to create the desired atmosphere. Although Memorial Auditorium has a room in the back that serves as the lighting booth, most don’t know that this room has stairs leading to a bridge that spans the length of the auditorium, all the way to the catwalk above the orchestra seating. With its overhead lights turned off, this area is often not noticed by the people sitting below.
The history of theatre catwalks, such as this one, can be traced back to the 19th century with the introduction of gas lighting. They were built above the stage to allow technicians to access the lights and adjust them as needed throughout the performance. By the 20th century, with the advent of electric lighting, catwalks became more sophisticated. They were used not only for lighting but also for sound and special effects, becoming an integral part of the theatrical experience.
The Ghost Guild holds a deep appreciation for theatre. The venues themselves, the performers, and all of the folks who often go unrecognized. We thank you for the hours spent building sets, hanging lights, sewing costumes, operating the boards, and creating the magic. Bravi!