Last September, in the tiny backyard of the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center, about fifteen people sat on lawn chairs and experienced the latest production by Bill Kranz's Celestial Theatre, a group dedicated to the forgotten subcult of black-light theater. Under cover of night, troupe members paraded before a bank of black lights clad in custom-made DayGlo costumes.
Dude in glowing mask
Features an opening ceremony with light-up art; 150 singers, dancers, storytellers, theater troupes, jugglers, magicians, puppeteers and visual artists; dancing; kids' and adults' art-making activities; and fireworks from 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Tuesday, December 31. Call 314-534-1111 or visit www.firstnightstl.org for tickets, priced from $7.50-$10 (with $2 parking available). Celestial Theatre presents "Spin Parade" in the Grandel Theatre Upper Ballroom (3610 Grandel Square) from 7-7:30 p.m. and "The Lightbenders" at Leon Strauss Park (near the intersection of Grand Boulevard and Washington Avenue) from 6-6:35 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.-midnight. Visit members.tripod.com/ ~celestial_theatre/CTindex.html for more info.
As music (Jefferson Airplane, Sarah Brightman, the Bangles) played and poetry was read, actors strapped into bizarre glowing, fluorescent costumes (hats shaped like pyramids, blinking lights, purple hockey masks) capered in the dark. The Fifth Fantasy, as the production was called, just got funnier and funnier. A man clutching a giant metal rocket ran at a bathroom mirror propped against a tree, trying to break it -- the rocket bounced off, and the crowd hooted.
In the '60s, hippies and pop artists embraced DayGlo colors, and black-light theater, with the right cocktail of drugs, might have come off as trippy. Now, a Prague theater group specializes in the form, with large-scale illusions, clever costumes and engaging setpieces. The Celestial Theatre, with its half-baked skits, stoner toys, Roman candles, strobe lights and buffoonish costumes, would require an audience hopped up on horse narcotics (or of very young children) to transport them to the land of dreams -- instead, it's the sort of thing that might result if the residents of an insane asylum decided to refilm Xanadu. It must be seen to be believed.