Photo courtesy of Hoover Library Theatre.
The LUMA: Art in Darkness show combines light, color and motion in an effort to mesmerize the audience and stir their imaginations. The show comes to the Hoover Library Theatre April 21-22.
Michael Marlin ran off and joined the circus at age 18 and spent a year tending a herd of elephants.
Then he made a living as a professional comic and juggler, performing in Las Vegas, before ditching his career and moving to Hawaii, where he lived in a treehouse with no electricity or running water.
So it’s probably no surprise that a traveling show he created 20 years ago is rather on the unusual side. He’s bringing that show to the Hoover Library Theatre on April 21-22.
It’s called LUMA: Art in Darkness. The show takes place in the dark and uses a combination of light, color and motion in an effort to mesmerize the audience and stir their imaginations.
Seven shadowy figures move around the stage and use rhythmic gymnastics, dance, magic, puppetry, physics, ultraviolet light and high-tech, colorful luminous objects to create multitudes of illusions.
“It’s completely different than anything we’ve ever done” at the Library Theatre, said Matina Johnson, the fine arts coordinator at the library. “It’s a light spectacle … It’s just a very different show. It’s a little bit of everything.”
The show has been seen in 15 countries on five continents, Marlin said in a phone interview from Hawaii. He brought it to Mobile years ago but it has never been performed in the Birmingham area, he said.
“It’s a show about light in the dark,” Marlin said. “Every light needs a dark to stick itself into to stand out.”
His intent with the show is to create the same sense of awe and wonder that people feel when they see the night sky in all its glory for the first time, he said. Not many people in cosmopolitan areas get to experience that because the world is so lit up with artificial lights, he said.
If you look at the United States from satellite images, its easy to see that “the dark is a rapidly disappearing resource,” Marlin said. “It’s fun to be in the dark. We all have those really fond memories of playing in the dark under the covers.”
But love for light in darkness is not something that only children have, Marlin said. It stays with people throughout their lifetime, he said. Almost everybody loves holiday lights and fireworks, and even people who have had near-death experiences talk about going toward the light, he said.
“It’s this unusual fascination that never goes away,” Marlin said.
And it’s a global phenomenon, he said. In all the countries where he takes the show, “everybody has the same kind of ooohs and aaahs experience around it.”
The idea for the show was born in the early 1980s when Marlin was working in Las Vegas as a comic/juggler and took a friend on a camping trip in the Arizona desert, according to the Luma Theater website.
The friend had grown up in the vicinity of New York City and had never seen the marvels of the Milky Way like that, Marlin said on his website. In a moment of play, Marlin picked up a burning branch from the fire pit and brandished it about, creating a storm of sparks that rose into the sky, he said.
Then when Marlin was living off the grid in Hawaii, he and “a bunch of street-performing jugglers, clowns, misfits and madmen” would venture onto the lava fields at night for adventure and entertainment. He noticed how the other people were hypnotized by the red glowing light of the lava and attracted to it like a moth to a flame, he said.
That inspired him to get back into show business, using dark as his canvas and light as his paint. He created the LUMA show in 1996 and has continued ever since, stopping only for a 15-month hiatus about three years ago, he said.
The show changes over time as he tries to keep it fresh and incorporates new light technology into the presentation, he said. The current cast includes Canadian rhythmic gymnastics champion Melissa Staroszik as the captain and director of operations. Marlin serves as the producer and artistic director.
He loves the way adults can watch his show and, because it’s in the dark, not know what they are seeing and how it’s done and be puzzled by it. And it’s rewarding the way people seem to remember the show so well years later, he said.
“It’s a tremendous privilege to have the opportunity to bring a gift into the world that people remember in their hearts.”
As of this writing, there was only one ticket left for the two LUMA shows scheduled at the Library Theatre, but tickets sometimes are turned back in to be resold, and the theater keeps a waiting list. For more information, call the Library Theatre box office at 444-7888.