Friday, February 5, 2010

The Ghost of The National Theatre...

Who will welcome Taylor Hicks and the cast of “Grease” as they move into the National Theatre in Washington, D. C., February 9-21?

Could it be the eerie apparition of John Edward McCullough?

The theatre’s website weaves a ghostly tale:

“EVERY RESPECTABLE THEATRE has a venerable ghost, and the National Theatre in Washington, DC is no exception.

“The shade of Actor John Edward McCullough, a popular American thespian of the 1800's, is said to roam the premises of the theatre in the dark of night.

“No longer thirsting for an audience's applause, the once famed star performer has taken on the lonely role of ghostly custodian and spectral overseer, checking to be sure that all is in readiness for the next performance.”

Legend says that John McCullough, a classic Shakespearian actor, fell into an argument with a fellow thespian over the attentions of an attractive actress. The confrontation led to shots being fired. John McCullough was dead, and theatre lore says he was buried in the dirt beneath the stage.

“SOON AFTER HIS DEATH, strange sightings of McCullough's restless spirit began. On the opening night of a new show, the silent ghost was reportedly glimpsed in various parts of the house, checking the props, scanning the scenery -- roaming abroad to make certain that all was in order before the curtain rose. Some reports have the apparition garbed as Hamlet, the first role he ever played in Washington. Others claimed to have seen the phantom attired for his most famous role, the ill-fated Roman centurion, Virginius.”

There is much more to the ghostly tale of the ill-fated John McCullough. Reported sightings place him roaming the stage and sitting in the audience. There is also a 1984 update when a rusty pistol, circa 1850, turned up in the dirt beneath the stage!

Might Taylor have company in the ice cream cone? Might theatre goers witness a new sighting?

Besides its sinister side, The National Theatre has a storied history with every American President since Andrew Jackson attending performances there. The Theatre’s website announces: “American Presidents attend the National free.”

“This historic playhouse was founded on December 7, 1835, by William Corcoran and other prominent citizens who wanted the national capital to have a first-rate theater. The theater's initial production was Man of the World. The theater has been in almost continuous operation since, at the same Pennsylvania Avenue location a few blocks from the White House. …The structure has been rebuilt several times, including partial reconstructions after five fires in the 19th century. The current building, at 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, was constructed in 1923, opening in September of that year.” (From Wikipedia)

Despite its name, The National Theatre is not a governmentally funded endeavor; instead, it is funded and operated by a private nonprofit organization.

Taylor and the cast of “Grease” will follow in the footsteps of greatness as the alumni of the National is a megastar roster. Just a few on the who’s who list includes: Pearl Bailey, Ethel Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore and John Barrymore, Warren Beatty, Sarah Bernhardt, Claire Bloom, George M. Cohan, Claudette Colbert, Lillian Gish, Julie Harris, Rex Harrison, Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn, James Earl Jones, Eartha Kitt, Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, Laurence Olivier, Annie Oakley, Robert Redford, Will Rogers, Rosalind Russell, George C. Scott, Sting, and Jessica Tandy. Winston Churchill once spoke from the stage.

As the people in the Washington area dig out from this weekend’s snowstorm, they can celebrate at The National Theatre with Taylor Hicks as Teen Angel, Ace Young as Danny, and the whole cast of “Grease” in the fun Fifties musical party!

Might they see the shade of John McCullough hand jivin'!

Grease” opens Tuesday, February 9th and plays through February 21st at The National Theatre just down the street from the White House.

For more about the ghost of The National Theatre, visit the website:

Join Taylor Hicks, the cast of “Grease,” and “others” for all the fun!


Gr8fulheart said...

Its like this: If Johnny decides to join Taylor in the cone, Taylor won't be turning gray from John's
I think Taylor will be just fine as long as he doesn't play in the dirt!
With the weather as it is, I'm hoping all will be able to attend 'Grease'. Everyone get out your shovels & make a pathway for Taylor & Company!!!

Anonymous said...

I am hoping that the only BOO'S heard at the National Theatre while Grease is being performed are the wailing BOO'S of Johnny's ghost making himself known to the cast.

I hear ghosts do not like cold weather as the winds billow their sheet like skin .........I think Johnny probably has on his Snuggie and is hibernating until spring.


caryl said...

I wanted to ask Taylor in my last interview if he had encountered any ghosts in any of the theaters he's played but since my question about the cast having any superstitions fell flat, I decided not to!

I actually saw the theater Taylor played in Chicago on an episode of Ghost Hunters. LOL!

san said...

My father loved to tell us ghost stories when we were kids.

I just couldn't resist this one!

If the weather doesn't clear up by Tuesday, Johnny could be roaming around alone. I hope not.

Everyone in the storm areas, stay safe and warm!

tishlp said...

How very interesting. Taylor is probably really enjoying playing in all the historic theaters around the country with this tour. Let's hope he doesn't have a ghost in the ice cream cone with him...there's not much room in there.

Pat said...

What an interesting story!! Thanks for sharing this with us! I live in the area, but have never had the opportunity to visit this historic theater for a play! I am sure Taylor is enjoying his time in Washington - even with all the snow we are having!