Pittsburgh International Children's Theater show uses darkness, light
When the theater falls dark and the giant, illuminated puppets come onto the stage, they will tell two popular children's stories in a compelling way with no dialogue: The movements, the dance, the facial expressions and the characters' interaction with each other communicate the stories to the audience.
In “The Ugly Duckling & The Tortoise and the Hare” — playing on several stages in the greater Pittsburgh area, starting Sunday — the silent, but life-size, puppets mime the two stories, with a background soundtrack of recorded music.
The audience in a pitch-dark theater can see the puppets' glowing skeletal outlines and other markings, lined with electro-luminescent wire. Performers wear and operate the puppets — kind of like Big Bird — to create a show with cool visual effects, tour manager Stephen Nicholson says. The show is a production of the New Orleans-based CORBiAN Visual Arts and Dance's Lightwire Theater.
“Basically, what it looks like is half-cooked spaghetti that glows in the dark,” Nicholson says about the puppets, including the ducklings and the mother duck. “We perform completely in the dark. We, as performers, disappear into the darkness and the characters emerge.”
The show, presented by Pittsburgh International Children's Theater, begins with a 12-minute intro of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” followed by the main story, “The Ugly Duckling, which is about 45 minutes long. The simple play seems mesmerizing to children, says Nicholson, who also plays the mother duck character.
“They get very, very excited about the darkness, and about the way we're telling the story,” he says. The kids “have this kind of release into, one might call it, primordial darkness. Their imagination begins to fill the voids in our costumes. ... There's allowance for the imagination to run wild in the darkness and fill in. Darkness is sort of our biggest asset.”
Although the play has no words, the stories are narrative-driven, Nicholson says, and have powerful messages. The moral of the story is clear: Slow and steady wins the race for the tortoise-hare portion, and appearances can be deceiving for the duckling story. He might seem ugly now, but that's because he's a misplaced swan, not a duck, and he grows up to be beautiful.
“Audience members are leaning forward in their seats, so they want to be drawn into what's happening with these characters,” he says.
“We hope that the children, in particular, will see this character having a difficult time, who's up against feeling left out … but he still has an optimistic nature,” Nicholson says.
Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7824.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- PennDOT team decides what spells trouble on vehicle license plates
- Pirates get journeyman Ishikawa off waivers; outfielder Marte injured
- McIlroy, world’s No. 1 golfer, injures ankle playing soccer
- Fayette County man injured in WV fireworks mishap
- Alvarez homer triggers winning outburst for Pirates
- Alle-Kiski farmers: Crops weather heavy rain
- Woman shot at Kennywood Park in ‘freak accident’
- La Scuola d’Italia Galileo Galilei touts Pittsburgh’s Italian heritage
- Westmoreland County on pace to surpass record for drug-related fatalities
- Crane tips over, smashes into roof of building at Pitt
- ‘Iron Dog’ draws four-legged competitors from across the region