Phil Funkenbusch was the Chief of Theatrical Interpretation for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency for ten years before coming to the ALPLM. He remembers, “I was sitting in a meeting, led by Bob Rogers and the BRC Imagination Arts team, at least 2 years before the museum opened as they story-boarded the two shows. "Ghosts of the Library" experienced major changes from that early meeting to what it was on opening day, now 15 years ago. BRC had met with historians, educators, writers, and people from the community to hear their thoughts, questions and ideas about content.”
In the fall of 2004, on his first day at the ALPLM, Phil watched the BRC team begin the installation of "Ghosts of the Library." This was all-new technology and unique for these kinds of shows at the time. The crew worked around-the-clock to assure this show would be a hit.
Over fifty applicants responded to Help Wanted ads in early 2005, with over thirty people attending an audition. Darroch Greer, the lead writer of the show, and "Ghosts" director Danny Hartigan ran the auditions. They were looking for adventurous people they felt could handle the rigors of learning and performing this new show. The process was both fascinating and fun! Seven actors comprised the original cast and rehearsals took place five nights a week for almost three months.
In January 2005, Ed MacMurdo arrived as the Attractions Coordinator and began the task of scheduling the actors for performances to run seven days a week, 362 days a year! “I studied for weeks under BRC’s leadership,” MacMurdo recalls, “learning how to best schedule the actors and develop an audience flow. We knew our initial attendance would be tremendous and it was important to schedule as many performances during the day as possible."
The show runs on a computer track – perfectly synchronizing lighting, projections, music and audio cues. It is tremendously difficult to learn. Sections of the show are rehearsed in 15 – 30-second intervals, and actors rehearsed each segment dozens of times until they became second-nature to them. The script is filled with interesting images, providing an experience that is still thrilling, powerful and quite moving after all these years.
For the "Ghosts" actor, focus and concentration are key to a successful performance. This type of show is unlike anything an actor will encounter; the combination of matching dialog to precision blocking while maintaining an emotional connection to the audience is strenuous on the mind. Actors are scheduled to have breaks after a few performances in order to “reset” themselves and return fresh to next show.
As of March 2020, over 70,000 performances "Ghosts of the Library" have been presented.