“Light/Dark”—which opened last night—explores one of the most crucial aspects of any theater performance: light. 

Sponsored by the Department of Theater and Dance and directed by Professor of Theater Davis Robinson, “Light/Dark” experiments with the role of light in theater, poetry, dance and science. Robinson produced the show with his longtime friend, Tony Award-winning lighting designer Chris Akerlind.

“We found this play, ‘Middletown,’ which we both really liked as being something that is very open. [It] lets you focus on the people and how they’re affected and the references of lightness and darkness,” Robinson said.

Robinson and Akerlind worked with students in Robinson’s class, Theater Topics: Action, Light, and Meaning in addition to students outside of the class who work for the department.

“Middletown” tells the tale of a seemingly average American town and how its residents interact with one another in their daily lives, which often intersect in unforeseen ways. Those involved with “Light/Dark” have taken great liberty with the show’s scenes in order to more deeply examine and emphasize the power of light. 

“Most of the time, a playwright will give you her or his play and then there’s a great deal of sense of respect for that,” Akerlind said. “In this, the entire company are the writers in a weird way so we’re not subservient to some writer, even though the event sort of revolves around one play that shows up a lot. That’s the spine of it, but it’s not the totality of it.”

Monique Lillis ’17 plays Mary Swanson, a woman who just moved to the town. 
“It’s really exciting to devise your own play because you get to try out a bunch of pieces and see how they fit together,” Lillis said. “There was a lot of material we tried at the very beginning of the semester that just got scrapped because it didn’t fit in with the show or it didn’t go with our final idea of what we wanted.”

The cast and crew—in total 12 actors and 10 stagehands—have been working up to 20-hour weeks for the past month.

For audience members, the experience begins before the show starts. Robinson and Ackerlind chose to begin the narrative in the lobby, where attendees will be greeted by shadow puppetry. From there, showgoers are led up Pickard Theater’s back staircase on a tour of the exposed theater, where multiple lighting elements will set the stage. 

“And then when the actual journey begins, it really is a journey. They need to go up those stairwells so that they enter the space and see it from three floors up and see all three floors activated at the same time,” Robinson said. 

From there, the audience will be seated very close to the stage. The show both begins and ends with elements related to black holes, which Robinson connects to “life and death and bigger and bigger issues.”

While the show presents light one way, audience members as well as the cast and crew are likely to have different interpretations of its meaning.

“Your initial thought is that light is good and darkness is bad, but one of my favorite images that didn’t make it into the final cut was one of the guys sitting in the woods just encompassed by the darkness but feeling really at home,” Lillis said.  “[It showed] the idea that darkness can actually be warmth as well as welcoming and that some things stay in the dark and are secret and better that way and sometimes how light can be so harsh.”

“Light/Dark” runs for 75 minutes and will be performed in Wish Theater. Tonight’s and tomorrow night’s 7 p.m. showings are sold out, but a limited number of tickets will be available at the door. The portion of the show located in the theater’s lobby will begin around 6:40 p.m.