Lighting Up an Electric Christmas

More than one theater company has made use of aluminium in for props and set designs.
16 December, 2016
Using electroluminescence, one group of American performers are lighting up the holiday season.
The Victoria Theater in Singapore was among the December destinations for "A Very Electric Christmas," a show designed and presented by the Lightwire Theater company based in the United States.

While the Lightwire experience is popular during the holidays, it is just one of the touring company's shows that rely on electroluminescent artistry – in other words, a kind of puppetry through light.

Their designs and set creations incorporate lots of recycled aluminium, including everything from election signs to fishing poles. There are a lot of clothes dryer vent ducts, plumbing supplies, and anything else that can be fitted with "el wire," which is soldered into the set sculptures so that their light illuminates the main characters.
"The process of building Lightwire Theater's electroluminescent characters starts with the creators and the cast," the team explains. "They build everything themselves from the ground up, with each sculpture taking nearly 200 hours of intensive labor." A video on the website introduces guest to the craft process.

That team began with four people: Dancers Ian Carney and Corbin Popp, who met on Broadway while working together on Twyla Tharp's Movin' Out. They both loved art and theater, but also technology, and saw the possibilities of their own shows bathed in light. Along with their wives Eleanor and Whitney, the four launched the Lightwire Theater from their home base in New Orleans. With five different shows designed to be child- and family-friendly – but needing tour managers too – the team quickly expanded.

The result, as is the case with "A Very Electric Christmas," is a memorable theater experience based entirely on light and motion. The stage and set themselves are jet black, so what the audience sees are birds that fly, poinsettias that dance, and the all-important Santa's workshop as if they were neon signs.
The eight artists who perform in "A Very Electric Christmas" are, in some cases, the same people who built the entire show out of recycled materials. When they do, they also design all of the costumes the same way. Delighted audiences never really notice the human actors nearly as much as they see their dance routines – and the occasional holiday battle between good and evil – outlined in bright el wire.
In Singapore, guests will see the story of Max, a young bird flying home for the winter who is blown off course and separated from his family in a snowstorm.

He ends up at the North Pole, where Santa's elves are busy putting the finishing touches on the holiday. The misadventures of his journey to get back home are the heart of the story, as he encounters heroes and villains and heart-warming friends.

Other Lightwire Theater productions include beloved fairy tales and fables, including the Aesop story of "The Tortoise and the Hare" and "The Ugly Duckling" by Hans Christian Andersen.

There's also a show entirely about dinosaurs called "Dino-Light," which was supported with grant funding from the Jim Henson Foundation,which honors the legacy of the famous creator of the Muppets to advance the art. Lightwire Theater also participates in art installations, with projects that allow guests to create their own wall graffiti in light and other interactive displays.

They've also appeared on American and French talent TV shows, introducing the art of electroluminescence – and their recycled theater sets and costumes – to ever widening audiences who remain mesmerized by seeing the stories in light.

They have also performed in China and Hong Kong – and now it is Singapore's turn next.
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