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Black light creates dazzling theatre
A light shines through the darkness at Immanuel Christian School.
The Black Light Theatre troupe has been an institution at the Transcona school since 2003, originating as part of the Clueless mystery dinner theatre before breaking off onto its own.
Every performance takes place in the dark, with windows and cracks under doors sealed off with black paper. The troupe, which has 11 performers between Grade 7 and Grade 12, rhythmically manipulates props that glow under the light, creating dazzling effects.
Props vary from electric blue ribbons to a 10-foot-tall Goliath that is felled by a performer in the role of David as glowing words of support flash up across the stage.
Costuming creates extra challenges that traditional theatre does not, as performers dress entirely in black, even wearing masks, as features like teeth, eyes, and blonde hair are visible under the black light.
"Lots of teamwork goes into it, because they need to count on their teammates in the dark," said Charlene Van den Akker, who directs alongside husband Charles.
"They need to be aware of everything around them, and that’s why we do trust exercises," added assistant Jen Verhelst.
Van den Akker said the school has been extremely supportive of the program, which meets every Wednesday from September to April.
"When Clueless was done, we had students come to us and ask if we could make this an extracurricular," she said. "I talked to the principal and it’s been an extracurricular at ICS ever since."
The group is currently preparing for its annual production, set to be held in the school gymnasium at 215 Rougeau Ave. on Mar. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free, but a donation box will be set up at the door.
The troupe will then take its show on the road for an eight-day tour of Alberta schools for the third time in its history.
Van den Akker explained the group adds new pieces every year while rotating out older ones.
This year’s production will feature four or five new pieces out of approximately 20 in all.
"We have a couple that we do every year, because if we don’t, we’ll get ‘Why didn’t you do that one? That’s my favourite’," she said. "We had a lot new last year. Some years there are more than others.
"It also depends on the turnover. If we have a lot of turnover, we spend a lot of energy teaching them the old ones we’re going to keep."
Van den Akker added existing routines have also undergone changes from year to year, keeping the same piece of music, though the choreography may change.
She added the group enjoys travelling to schools to perform and do workshops. Those interested in a visit from the troupe can contact her at 204-224-5373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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