The Ghosts of the Wells

The Wells Theatre was built in 1913 (for a detailed history of the theater, click here). It has been a silent movie theater, an opera, an adult movie theater, and, of course, the home of the Virginia Stage Company for almost 40 years.

So you can imagine that over the course of 100+ years, there seem to be people that loved this place so much they have decided to stick around.

Now you would think that 100 years would change a lot about how we do the shows, but in actuality there are a lot of things that haven’t changed at all. If you happen to be in the theater on a non-performance day, you might see some ropes hanging along the northern wall of the stage. The Wells is still rigged the same as when it was built, rather like a ship. We use ropes, pulleys, pipes (that are called battens) and sand bags to rig everything that flies in a show. To move a set piece in and out, you pull on the corresponding line.

Since this was rigged like a ship, the Wells used to use sailors as their fly men during shows. And one of those sailors never left. Over the years, many stories have been told about Ned the Stagehand, the sailor that haunts the fly rail, rigging, and backstage areas of the theater.

The second balcony in the theater proper is currently used as storage and work-space for our production team. It is also the home of a mischievous child that can often be heard laughing as the sound of his squeaky shoes goes running by.

When the Wells Theatre was designed, the artisan who crafted the plaster faces decorating the boxes and ceiling sneakily put his young daughter’s face on the house left box closest to the stage. That box is the final resting place of a spirit, dressed to the nines, who spends his eternity gazing at that particular plaster piece.

The leading lady of the Wells, The Woman in White, wanders the lobby, the dressing rooms, and the connecting hallway from the lobby to backstage while performing operatic arias, because the show must indeed go on.

We hope you've enjoyed this glimpse into the great beyond found at the the historic Wells Theatre.