“Truly magical moments that play creatively upon our age-old fascination with the wonder that is light”
– SF Gate
“If you still get a metaphysical kick out of fireflies, the northern lights, shooting stars, and screen savers, you’re encouraged to attend”
– SF Weekly
“Offers a little something for everybody in the family”
– Fort Collins
“I was completely mesmerized by the creativity that went into the production of LUMA”
– Chris Callas
“LUMA pulls more tricks than a magician out of his hat”
– Sara Willcocks
“A light show that is as beautiful as it is dramatic”
– The List
- SF Weekly – Everything is Illuminated by Frances Reade
- Luma, Lincoln Center, Fort Collins Review by Tim Van Schmidt
- LUMA Light Show Dazzles by Chris Casillas
- Lightning in a Jar by Robert W. McDowell
- More Than Tricks by Sarah Willcocks
- The List by Gareth Davies
OK, so a lot of us don’t really like hippies. The problem, though, is that every now and then they’re right. Health food, yoga, and even the Grateful Dead have survived years of derision only to become acceptable pleasures within the clearheaded, cynical straight world. Recalling the humble pie we’ve all occasionally eaten with respect to this easily maligned subculture, I ask you to tune in, turn on, and reconsider … the light show. Judging from those laser spectacles soundtracked with Pink Floyd and the irritating predominance of glow sticks, it might seem wise to avoid any nexus between illumination and, like, illumination, man, but there’s where you’re wrong, because the performance art of Luma is rad. Created by a man named Marlin who claims to have been “birthed on a live volcano next to a glowing lava flow,” the show transpires onstage, conducted by acrobats, contortionists, and other circus types bearing, wearing, and wielding all manner of high-tech light-emitting devices. If you’ve sanded away your sense of wonderment, stay home, but if you still get a metaphysical kick out of fireflies, the northern lights, shooting stars, and screen savers, you’re encouraged to attend.
And now for a new definition of “light entertainment”: Luma. At the Lincoln Center on September 29, the performance troupe that uses lighting effects and movement to dazzle the eye made light of the situation on stage- both literally and figuratively. On the one hand was the sack full of creative ideas using light as an artistic medium. On the other hand was the friendly and even humorous environment created by the troupe to give the art some context.
First of all, it must be stressed that Luma is not a dance performance as such, and that was underscored by an appearance at the beginning of the show by Luma creator Michael Marlin. Marlin began in show business as a successful juggler and his introduction to Luma- juggling and joking- was as much about easing the audience into the situation as it was about the show itself. Indeed, Marlin’s juggling, while serviceable and even fraught with drops, wasn’t as important as the wit he displayed, making the audience laugh and cheer before the curtain itself had even parted.
That wit then extended into the performance as the troupe members took the stage in the darkness to unveil various encounters with light- white light, colored light, spotlights and flashlights. It all began with the formation of “The Lumen Being” a figure made out of “sticks” of light that reentered the stage often throughout the performance. The stick figure gave a friendly and innocuous presence for everyone in the audience- an all ages crowd at the Lincoln Center- to relate to while the art of performing with light effects became somewhat more abstract at times.
The show consisted of two halves and sorted through 25 pieces, each one fairly short and pretty much working one theme, or lighting effect, at a time. This included a piece with umbrellas, lit from the inside with muted colored lights. Another piece featured bright bursts of sparks coming from random spots on the darkened stage.
Some of the best effects of the evening were the most grand. For example, one piece was based around three enormous flags that reacted to the light in various ways while being twirled by troupe members. Another was the whipping of colored light ropes across the entire width of the stage, an effect that initially made the audience involuntarily gasp with delight.
While some ideas were grand, and others were as simple as juggling with lit implements, most of the evening was couched in easy-going thematic set-ups that made it accessible for everyone, young to old. One of the longest pieces of the evening created a seascape where various fish and undersea life cavorted. Another piece simply followed the herky jerky dance motions of “robots.” Nothing in the show made the mind work too hard and the stage movement was kept fairly uncomplicated- separating Luma from what a dance company might do with some of these ideas. It was all aimed at keeping the audience ENTERTAINED, not “enlightened,” so to speak.
Just as Marlin managed to bridge the gap between the stage and the audience with his gregarious juggling in the beginning of the program- and at the start of the second half- he also included the audience in the event by some simple, yet effective tricks. The first was, he encouraged audience members to take out their cell phones, flip them open and hold them aloft- which scores of people did, turning the entire Lincoln Center into a merry multi-colored landscape. Then, toward the end of the show, the troupe propelled lighted beach balls out into the performance hall, looking like lighted globes happily bouncing haphazardly around the room. (And it was a special trick indeed for the troupe to COLLECT the balls from the audience after some time.)
As the troupe took their bows at the end of the show, they climaxed the event by popping off streamers into the crowd- another little surprise to delight. Luma, while not teasing the brain in any significant way, was pleasant all of the time and even spectacular part of the time, offering a little something for everybody in the family.
This past Friday I went to Hatfield Hall to see LUMA, having no idea what to expect. I had read the descriptions of the performance, which said that the performance focused on using lights in the darkness. According to Michael Marlin, the creator of LUMA, he had been doing this for over fifteen years.
I was completely mesmerized by the creativity that went into the production of LUMA. The acts were all well rehearsed and it was amazing that they were able to do so much in the darkness. It was fascinating that they could this with nothing to see but the props they used.
I was also amazed at how the performance was not affected by the poor seating I had. I could say I had one of the worse seats in the house, but it didn’t matter because everything was visible and hard to miss.
Throughout the entire performance, they had a “body” that they had created at the beginning of the show with glow sticks to represent its arms, legs, and head. The body reappeared in various different acts to either be the comedy relief or for transitions into new acts or continuations of a current act.
There were a variety of scenes that stood out for me. I especially enjoyed their rendition of an underwater scene, which included fish, a clam, a hammerhead shark, and a jellyfish. It was just amazing to see the variety of colors used, and the scenes flowed perfectly into each other.
They simulated an EKG machine with a process most people have been familiar with since kindergarten, where you play with jump ropes to make a sinusoidal wave, but instead they had vertical “beats” instead of the usual horizontal on the ground “snake”. As this act was winding down, and the heart was slowing in beats, the body came back out and after the lines went “flat” and the body fell apart, which was very cool.
Another way they surprised the audience was one scene which involved the use of pyrotechnics. I’m a huge fan of fire, and this definitely added an additional bonus to the program.
The performers made a point to involve the audience as well. After the intermission, Marlin encouraged the audience to turn on all their cell phones, flashlights, and whatever light making device they had to go along with the performance.
They also threw balls into the audience, which seemed to startle everyone in the main part of the auditorium. They encouraged everyone to hit the lighted balls around while they used that time to prepare for the next act. And to finish the show, they threw their juggling rings into the audience.
Overall, the entire show was unique; every act was different and displayed something new. It was amazing how there was such variety in what they did.
Last Friday night, The Carolina Theatre in downtown Durham was ablaze with bright, multicolored ribbons, rivers, hoops and starbursts of light. Together, these fabulous lights and special effects – including twirling DNA spirals, pulsing neon EKG lines and magnificent indoor fireworks that spouted confetti – comprised LUMA: Theatre of Light.
The audience happily bounced to the beat of the classical, jazz and other mellow music selections that creator and artistic director Marlin chose to provide a backbeat for three separate suites that, in turn, explored the wonders of Natural Light, Artificial Light and Metaphysical Light.
Inspired by astronomy, fireworks, lava flows and physics, the highly imaginative juggler and magician known only as Marlin invented a new theatrical art form that can mimic most things and even duplicate cellular multiplication.
LUMA combines the latest lighting technologies, various physical performance disciplines and the colorful creations of famous kite designer and performer Marc Ricketts to create a one-of-a-kind theatrical experience. Marlin, who has been developing LUMA for 10 years, was joined on stage Friday night by Jessica Fueger, Rising Gnisir, Sarah Grace and Gretchen Miller. These four versatile performers danced with a variety of objects that reflected light colorfully, changed color under black light, etc. They juggled hoops and other objects, and they manipulated a variety of puppets of varying sizes. They also performed on trapeze.
By combining natural and artificial light, Marlin hopes to discover the metaphysical light within. Ever the emcee of this three-ring circus of light, Marlin also enjoys creating a carnival-like atmosphere to the spur sale of the light sticks and curled segments of iridescent plastic string that can be used to lasso objects and pull them closer to you.
LUMA’s imaginative and highly expressive ways of dancing in the dark, Gretchen Miller’s kinetic choreography, Miller and Fueger’s work on the trapeze and Kira Maerlyn’s elaborate black-on-black costumes were real crowd-pleasers Friday night. Seven-time Tony(r) Award winner Jules Fisher also served as creative consultant to the company.
LUMA provided a fascinating and never-to-be-forgotten two hours of effervescent comic sketches for children of all ages. My favorite numbers were the dog-eat-dog (or rather fish-eat-fish) world of the electric aquarium, the stick figures making like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and every segment in which “soft” fireworks or kites were employed. Trying to describe most of the magic that Marlin worked here would be like trying to describe what happens when you catch lightning in a jar. Marlin not only controls the lightning, but also unleashes it brilliantly, earning extended applause and inspiring awe from a very appreciative audience.
How the five performers manage circus tricks in the pitch black is anyone’s guess. Using glow in the dark balls and tubing, the invisible performers create an eye opening show of light. Hosted by Marlin, a one time busker from Houston, he amiable delivers the flashy opening by showing us just how many ways it’s possible to juggle three orange balls. He’s spot on with the quip: “I guess you are waiting for something else to happen.” But then we are plunged into the darkness and Marlin’s theatre of light starts to glow. The worlds of natural, artificial and metaphysical light are the inspiration as the stage illuminated with fireflies, fireworks or tropical fish. A neon matchstick man brings unexpected humour as his conception and disintegration are depicted. Also impressive is the geometry scene-three dimensional solids turn in space making the performance area look like a giant screensaver. The soundscape, ranging from a classical orchestra to a lone cackle of manic laughter adds to the mystique. Out of the dark, Luma pulls more tricks than a magician out of his hat.
It’s true- some of the best experiences in life happen in the dark. LUMA is the theatrical equivalent of the aurora borealis, as six shadowy figures present a light show that is as beautiful as it is dramatic, a Fantasia with torches, the music ranging from classical to contemporary. The most interesting dance sequences are the less literal, more abstract ones, such as those involving fluorescent geometric figures and lengths of glowing rope, though the ‘underwater’ sequences with black light puppets will keep children entertained too. It’s witty clever, unusual and though hardly intellectually challenging, very pretty and great fun.