Noah Racey in "Ghosts."

Islander stars in Seattle play

It’s been called “a dirty act done publicly;” it “grabs you by the throat and never releases,” and it disturbs.

After its first performance in 1882, “Ghosts” was banned in the playwright’s native Norway. It was too upsetting to watch.

“It’s naked and honest,” said actor Noah Racey. “It’s a powerful, powerful play.”

Racey, who grew up in Seattle, returns to his stomping grounds to play Pastor Manders in Henrik Ibsen’s play “Ghosts.”

The show runs Sept. 22 – Oct. 16, Thursdays through Saturdays, 1:30–7:30 p.m., at ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery at 4711 California Ave SW, Seattle. Tickets (ranging from $17 – $37.50) at www.artswest.org, 206-938-0339 or at the box office. “Ghosts” will be presented in the round, meaning audience members will be seated on all sides of the stage.

Racey, who has called Orcas his second home for the last 30 years, is known for his many talents, including an extensive Broadway career in shows like “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Never Gonna Dance,” “Curtains” and many more.

The production is the first time in three years that Racey has performed in Seattle, and he credits his return to the genius of Mathew Wright. Wright is the artistic director at ArtsWest and the director of the upcoming show.

“I am blown away by him,” said Racey. “I’m totally humbled by the rehearsal process, how much knowledge he has about Ibsen in general.”

“Ghosts” caused outrage when it was first performed in the late 19th Century. Ibsen, known at the Father of Modern Drama, was a social critic and agitator for women’s rights.

“It scared people,” said Racey about the play. “It says so many things about the church and society and new age righteousness. It is just amazing.”

“Ghosts” follows widow Helene Alving in the wake of the death of her philandering husband. When her son returns from working in France, she hopes to keep him from following in his father’s footsteps, but he finds that she may be too late.

“We’re hoping people will leave wanting to discuss it,” said Racey. “It should make people say, ‘Where was I just taken?'”

It features John Coons as Oswald; Paul Shapiro as Jacob Engstrand; and Sophia Franzella as Regina. The leading lady of the play is Seattle actress Suzanne Bouchard.

“She is a powerhouse,” said Racey. “She is the centerpiece of the show … she sets the tone and comes at it with a ferocious talent and electricity in her performance.”

Racey met Bouchard and Wright when he was choreographing “Cinderella” at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle in 2004. Bouchard played the evil stepmother and Wright was the assistant director.

So “Ghosts” is somewhat of a reunion for these old friends.

As a director Wright has created an environment that allows the actors to ask questions and talk about their process. With a long history in the arts, Racey has watched productions struggle when actors put up defenses and are unable to communicate their apprehensions.

“That is the antithesis of acting,” said Racey.

Whereas exploration, Racey added, leads to a richer emotional landscape where an audience can truly travel to new dimensions.

With rich experience as a music and dance man, Racey said that every time he is on stage, whether performing a drama or a tap number, there is an element of “otherworldliness … a time when you create the world that people can come into.”

“It’s all one thing,” he said. “It’s about telling the truth.”


Racey is teaching voice and dance classes Oct. 3-5 on Orcas. Email Grace McCune at gracemccune@hotmail.com for more information.