Archive for Monday, September 28, 2009

Science grows a heart in ‘Darwin the Dinosaur’

September 28, 2009


Dinosaurs duke it out with light sabres — with the help of electroluminescent wire — as part of “Darwin the Dinosaur.”

Dinosaurs duke it out with light sabres — with the help of electroluminescent wire — as part of “Darwin the Dinosaur.”

Parents may be amazed by the new technology: electroluminescent wire that glows on stage to create an alternate world. Children, though, usually go for something else.

“Kids just love the light saber fight,” Ian Carney says.

Carney is co-creator of “Darwin the Dinosaur,” a show produced by Corbian Visual Arts and Dance that will be presented at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday at the Lied Center on Kansas University’s West Campus.

The show tells the story of Professor Henslow, a famous scientist who creates a dinosaur — Darwin — and brings him to life. Over time, the dinosaur learns about the world and its creatures by interacting with them. Eventually, his heart evolves to the point that he can feel empathy for other animals and people.

Carney and Corbin Popp, the other co-creator, met while performing on the Broadway show “Movin’ Out,” and they bring their dance background to the stage — even if children don’t realize it.

“What we like about it is we come from ballet backgrounds. We’ve been doing that our whole careers,” Carney says. “This was a way to bring dance, which is our first love, to kids, and you hit them sideways with it. They don’t know they’re watching what they’re watching.”

That’s partly because of the cool special effects. The lights in the theater are turned off, and the dancers/actors on stage wear puppet costumes covered in that electroluminescent wire, also called EL wire. It is a thin, flexible copper wire coated in a phosphorescent substance that glows when AC current is applied to it.

Carney says parents often are interested in the technical nature of the show, approaching him afterward to talk about how it works. But kids mainly are interested in the light show and the story — including that light saber battle between dinosaurs at the end.

“Our favorite animated movies were the ones like ‘Aladdin,’ where a 7-year-old can be sitting there laughing and so is the 40-year-old, but for totally different things,” Carney says.

And, for the record, Carney says the name of the dinosaur — Darwin — doesn’t imply the show has a pro-evolution or anti-creationist message.

“The show really has no agenda like that at all,” Carney says. “I like the name because of how a person evolves in that sort of way. We used it from that perspective, never dreaming it would be an issue.”


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.