Lightwire Theater

Lightwire Theater Brings Unusual Holiday Show to Robins Theater

WARREN, Ohio — The creators of Lightwire Theater were working as dancers in a Broadway show when they got a bright idea.

Ian Carney and Corbin Popp, and their wives, Eleanor and Whitney, wound up creating a new art form with electroluminescent wire and a pitch-black stage.

Their shows are a magical form of storytelling that combine dance, puppetry and technology.

Lightwire Theater will make its Mahoning Valley debut Saturday when the troupe comes to the Robins Theater in Warren for three performances of its “A Very Electric Christmas” show. Shows will be at 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

“My husband was dancing in the Twyla Tharp-Billy Joel production of ‘Moving Out’ on Broadway when he was introduced to  ‘el’ [electroluminescent] wire by Popp,” said Eleanor Carney. “We thought it would be cool to ‘erase’ the dancer and create characters [out of electroluminescent light].”

Their idea proved to be a hit and led the founders away from the dance field and into something totally new.

Their first show was ‘Dino-Lite,’ which premiered in 2007. Since then, Lightwire Theater has created shows with a sixth on the way next year. All of them are family friendly and about an hour long.

The act got its break in 2012 when it appeared on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” and reached the semifinals.

“Overnight, 11 million people saw us,” Carney said. The troupe later won top honors on Tru TV’s “Fake Off.”

Each Lightwire Theater show has original characters and storyline but no spoken lines.

“A Very Electric Christmas” is the tale of a young bird named Max and his family, as they journey south for the winter. Max, the baby, gets blown off course and ends up at the North Pole.

“It’s the story of how the baby makes it home,” Carney said.

The show appeals to everyone from grandparents to small children. “It spans all ages,” Carney said.

She and her husband started their careers as ballet dancers and worked together in a production of the holiday staple “The Nutcracker.”

While “A Very Electric Christmas” has nothing to do with that classic ballet, it does pay homage to some of its characters.

“The bad guy is the Rat King,” Carney said. “But instead of the battle scene being like the one from ‘The Nutcracker,’ we do it like ‘The Matrix.’”

The show also has dancing toy soldiers, caroling worms and performing poinsettias.

It’s set to a score of holiday standards ranging from Nat King Cole to Mariah Carey to  Tchaikovsky.

A Scene from Lightwire Theater’s “A Very Electric Christmas: show.

The Lightwire Theater founders do everything themselves, from creating the characters, to building the costumes.

“I never thought in a million years that I’d be strapping these costumes together,” Carney said. “We do everything, including the electrical work, ourselves. It’s not run by computers, but performers, and it takes a while to teach the dancers.”

While the show is “wordless storytelling,” the company takes pains to create and develop characters. It’s necessary if you want a show with staying power, Carney said.

“It’s cool to look at, but coolness gets you five minutes,” she said. “It’s got to have substance. It’s a great story that is character-driven.”

After each show, the creators like to take a moment on stage to explain who they are and answer audience questions about how it’s done.

“It’s a lot of duct tape and plumbing supplies, making [props and costumes] out of uncommon things,” she said.

Lightwire Theater uses just six performers to portray the 40 characters in “A Very Electric Christmas.”

Carney said they refer to the cast as ninjas, because they are silent, quick and move in the dark. “When you are not lit up on stage, you are assisting someone,” she said.

For ticket information, go to robinstheater.com or call 234 437 6246.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.