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'Darwin' show aims to dazzle kids into loving theatre

I had a good interview that you can read here with Ian Carney, one of the creators of theDarwin the Dinosaur show coming to Ruth Eckerd Hall on Saturday. I especially loved how subversive he is, using a glow-in-the-dark blackout show with eye-popping creatures to show today's jaded kids how magical live theater can be.

The show was created by Carney and Corbin Popp, two ballet dancers who met while dancing in Twyla Tharp's Broadway show Movin' Out. They struck up a friendship over their mutual love of art, theater and technology, and when they came across a product called EL wire everything fell into place. An electroluminescent wire is powered by batteries and used to illuminate walkways or to decorate an area or cars. The possibilities seemed endless. Together with their wives, who are also dancers, they began to develop puppetry-based creatures and a story.

The cast wears black, so when the theater lights go dark, the neon piping becomes the outlines of their creations, technologically dazzling visuals that the audience appreciates even more when the humans reveal themselves at curtain call.

Here's where the subversiveness comes in. He knows kids these days are plugged into video games and special effects and 3D movies so a live stage show can be pretty tame to these kids. "Cool only gets you five minutes," Carney said. "We knew that the lights look cool, but if you care about the characters you can surf that cool for a long time."

Ah, there's the rub. Even a spare stage with no set can be riveting theater if it's a good story, good script and well acted.

The wordless show uses music ranging from Annie Lennox to Henry Mancini to classical music to tell the story of Professor Henslow, a magical scientist who creates Darwin, a dinosaur in need of a heart that changes him from a beastly, prehistoric creature to one that gives and receives love. The best treat is when the lights up on and the actors stay on stage and reveal, at right, how they make the characters come to life.

"For the kids, we are up against every kind of video game, movie, television show, and the last thing they have time for is a human experience of actually being there live when something happens," Carney said. "If we can get them to continue to come back to the theater and realize this is a special place, that is our noble goal."

If you go

Darwin the Dinosaur

This glow-in-the-dark adventure takes the stage at noon Saturday at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Tickets are $10.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma

Posted by Sharon Wynne at 6:00:00 am on May 20, 2011