It will begin in pitch darkness. Then, shapes will begin to appear. Luminescent forms of familiar characters—people, birds, dinosaurs—will emerge in the void. They will dance, pantomime, fight each other, tell a full narrative through their actions and, of course, delight a full-house audience.
This is “Dino-Light,” an electroluminescent theatrical performance by Lightwire Theater. The Argyros started selling tickets for a 6 p.m. March 11 show of “Dino-Light” in early February and it promptly filled up.
Fortunately, for those unable to acquire tickets to the 6 p.m. show next Wednesday, The Argyros has added an extra 4 p.m. performance the same day.
Audience members of all ages can delight in the artistry of Lightwire Theater, though words are likely to fall short of capturing the ingenuity of creators Ian Carney and Corbin Popp and their talented ensemble of performers.
Each dancer—though that term also does not quite capture what it is they do—dons an elaborate costume. The actors dress in enormous behemoths of black fabric, wire, plastic tubing and recycled materials like fishing poles, dryer ducting and skateboard wheels. Each one is then lined with special electroluminescent wire known as “el wire” to glow in different colors.
These flexible, durable costumes
withstand scenes of combat and elaborately choreographed movement, never losing their glow and never breaking the delightful illusion onstage. With house lights turned down, the cast requires no additional lighting or effects beyond their costumes, which can range from small props and human-sized characters to 16-foot-tall dinosaurs.
“There’s certainly a visual wow factor, but the first thing we do theatrically is try to move you beyond the wow and towards genuinely caring about the characters you see,” Lightwire co-founder Ian Carney said. “That initial wow is only going to get you through five minutes of the show. To go all the way, you’ve got to love that dinosaur. We’re striving to create an emotional connect. Of course, we also try to put on a show that’s just really, really cool to look at.”
The show features no spoken dialogue, instead relying on the characters and the choreography to create an engaging narrative. This approach actually makes “Dino-Light” accessible to a wide variety of audiences. Instead of language, the performers rely on universal symbols and signals.
“When the dinosaur’s frightened, you’ll see a movement of fear, a decrease in brightness, lowering of the head, things everyone on the planet would understand as fear, Carney said. “You show it instead of speak it. It follows the old adage that if the emotion’s too big to say it, sing it; if it’s too big to sing it, dance it.”
Managing all of this emotionality is a big enough ask, but once the enormity and weight of these unwieldy costumes is taken into account, the whole show achieves an even more impressive level. Carney and his crew approach this physically as well as artistically, and also employ some serious engineering prowess to reach the final product.
“We’re not puppeteers. We come from ballet. We didn’t study puppeteering, didn’t look at black light theater. I guess we probably could’ve taken a lot of shortcuts if we had, but instead we just did what we thought looked right and felt right,” Carney said. “I don’t know what a puppeteer would’ve done. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that this thing looks and moves like a dinosaur.”
Reading what someone has written about such creations does not quite do justice to them. For those readers whose interest has been piqued, lightwiretheater.com features a plethora of vibrant photos and videos that better convey the effect of the live experience.
Tickets for the 4 p.m. performance may be purchased online at theargyros.org or by calling 208-726-7872.