Haunted Memories of the Old Lyceum, part one

The original Lyceum Theatre stood at 314-316 F Street, downtown. Built in 1913, it was demolished in 1985, to make room for the Horton Plaza parking complex. Between 1981 and 1982, the San Diego Repertory Theatre produced shows in the 400-seat, little gem of a theater. Actors recall the Lyceum as one of their favorite spaces. They also have some... haunting memories.

Douglas Jacobs, co-founder of the Rep and a "skeptic" about things paranormal: "I was working alone one night" - rehearsing for the Rep's Death of a Salesman - "and heard something like a billiard ball bouncing down the concrete balcony stairs. Funny thing, though: the stairs were carpeted.

"That's the only genuinely bizarre thing I saw or heard. But from the first time I went into that space, the air seemed 'enriched,' as if I could feel the moves of past performers on the stage, like a violin that had been played by many wonderful players. A palpable texture. I have never been in a theater with such a strange range of atmospheres, both good and bad."

During technical rehearsals for Salesman, in the final graveyard scene, Jacobs felt "a hand of death come up out of my chest and grab my throat. The play? The theater? Who knows?"

On Demolition Day, Jacobs and others paraded the Rep's 14-foot tall, Ghost of Christmas Future - from A Christmas Carol - in front of the theater. It held a sign: "Ghost of the Lyceum - Homeless."

"The ghost made the evening news," Jacobs recalls.

"The demolition crew said the theater would crumble like a house of cards. And I suppose much of it did. But the proscenium arch, like a pair of old Titans in a wrestling lock, refused to come down for hours and hours."

To be continued...

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