by John Cech

Brief sound clip

The "wow" you just heard was made by a young neighbor of mine at a recent performance of a remarkable show called "Luma" -- which takes place in a completely dark theater but that is really all about light.

In the opening section, invisible performers dressed entirely in black, like Japanese Bunraku puppetteers, juggle glowing batons. These basic, familiar arcs of light quickly become more complex and unusual, until, suddenly, a cluster of these short dashes of irridescent red and blue have configured themselves into a kind of human stick figure. The stick man is now set in motion across the stage, and he promptly looses the light halo that makes up his face, and has to go in search of it. This symbolic human being makes his appearances throughout the performance, to add comic touches and to connect with us, other essences who are also on our own journeys, sometimes in the dark, too. One is tempted to speak about Plato's cave, and the struggle for enlightenment that the ancient philosopher argued was our life's task. "Luma" can take you in those directions, especially when it starts playing with primary forms, turning the simple lines of triangles and squares into ever larger, evolving shapes, like the giant tetrahedrons from a geometry class of the imagination -- the one we dreamed about being in, instead of dutifully doing our proofs.

And then there is the pure, utter beauty of what Luma does -- sometimes with off-the-shelf lighting fixtures -- flash lights, light strips, plastic globes illimated from within -- sometimes with objects or light sources that can only be described as magical, unknowable. In one section, long parralel lines of light become the waves of an undulating sea. In another, a diaphous cloud of light drifts over the front rows of the audience to the amazement of both children and adults.

Marlin, "Luma"'s creator, says that he hopes his audiences, especially children, will take away with them a sense of the night sky, full of wonders, which we hardly notice any more because of the glare of our cities. But we see it again here, in all its mythical, philosophical, playful wonder.

Copyright 2003 John Cech

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Thursday, 17-Jul-2003 15:43:51 EDT

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."