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Lux Eterna — a theatre of sound and light
“We are creating a New Theatre, a theatre of synthetic forms,
a theatre in which the Artistic Sound and the Artistic Light
will acquire a new meaning.”
From The Declaration of Principles of The Theatre Lux Eterna
Olena KRUSHYNSKA who has seen a performance of the new theatre shares her impressions and talks to Danylo Fridman, Lux Eterna's founder, director and conductor, who offers his views on what his theatre is all about.
The first Ukrainian theatre of Light and Sound presents its performances to the public in the Planetarium in Kyiv. There are no actors — only laser beams, changing lights and music. The premiere was called Without Gravitation.
There was no stage, no props no actors. In the central hall of the Planetarium where at other times lights playing on a curved ceiling show the movements of planets and stars, a mesmerizing show of laser beams, display of changing lights, holography and music unfolded in such a manner that within minutes I totally forgot about all my worries and mundane concerns. I was transported into a Cosmos of Light and Music and was fully submerged in it.
It would be absolutely futile even to attempt to describe the show — the only way to fully understand what it was all about is actually to see it. After all, you cannot describe either light or music in words; consequently, you can only attempt to describe emotions or impressions.
Both were overwhelming. I felt myself carried away into a world of pure emotions evoked by the combination of light and music, in which I dissolved completely. Probably a similar state can be reached in a deep meditation. I must say the return to the rude reality from this trip was a bit shocking.
As a matter of fact, this theatre of light and music was founded in the city of Uzhgorod back in 1982. Later it moved to Budapest, Hungary, and recently it came to Kyiv. It seems to be the only “repertory” theatre of its kind in the world. “Artistic Sound and Artistic Light create a work of art in its own right”— such is the basic concept of this theatre.
Danylo Fridman, who usually signs his name as freedanman, kindly agreed to answer questions aimed at making the basic premises and ideas of Lux Eterna clearer.
Mr Fridman, you call your show “theatre” though “laser show” seems to be a more appropriate name for it...
Any theatrical performance is a show but our show is based on approximately the same principles as any other drama performed in the theatre is. We present to our audiences not just an arbitrary though impressive sequence of laser and light effects — the sequences are carefully developed images of light accompanied by music, and each of the images is itself an entity that can live its own life and yet interact with other images. I would even risk a parallel with the ballet, in which movements and gestures performed to music are designed to render emotions and even tell stories. All of these movements are carefully trained and are never arbitrary. In combination with music they produce the desired effect. But no matter how gracious and light the ballet dancers are they are subject to the law of gravity whereas in our shows which we call Without Gravitations we are free from the pull of gravity.
We feel ourselves to be among the pioneers who blaze the trail for others to follow. Ours is art of the future. The origins of the art of light and sound can be traced to the Nineteen twenties but at that time the then technology could not provide yet the solid basis for further development. The works of the Russian composer Aleksandr Skryabin, the art of Malevich, the poetry of the early twentieth century poets were my sources of inspiration. We can consider Skryabin to be our predecessor — he experimented with combining music and light effects. Today the state of technology is such that it gives us almost unlimited possibilities for creating and developing the art of light and sound.
Is it what your theatre Lux Eterna doing?
Exactly. The combination of light and sound is capable of producing emotions that hardly any other form of performing art can. Incidentally, it has turned out that the play of light and the sound of music the way we present it, can have a therapeutic rather than just a soothing effect.
Light effects still lag behind music in its capacity to produce emotional impact, and it is not all easy to reach the right combination of light and sound. Even an hour-long show takes a lot of time and effort to produce. I do not know of any other shows similar to ours. Anyway, we are the only one such theatre in Ukraine. In Moscow, they have Sergey Zorin’s Optical Theatre but their actual light and sound show includes some texts displayed on their screen plus a slide show. There are laser shows in Europe and in America but they include mostly laser graphics and animation, that is laser used as a tool rather than an artistic medium in its own right.
Your theatre has been in existence for more than twenty years. So it has already come of age as an art form, but has it reached maturity yet?
I think it’s for our audiences to judge. I had been toying with the idea of creating such a theatre for quite some time before this idea came to fruition in the city of Uzhgorod in 1982. The director of a local community centre agreed to rent the premises for our project and we got down to work. We faced challenging technical tasks of creating a screen and assembling the equipment. We had a lot of problems with finding the materials and apparatus that we needed but somehow, with the help of some factories and enthusiasts from the Department of Physics of the local university, we did create what we wanted. We borrowed the laser equipment from the University but we had to look for such important things as lenses and mirrors, for example, everywhere, even at dumps.
I believe the situation with the equipment and technology has radically changed since that time?
Of course it has. Now we use computers which we did not have back then; we use sophisticated laser equipment of our own, not borrowed. But in fact, we are now experienced enough to produce a good show even with simple flashlights. And we continue to explore the possibilities of laser as an instrument for creating images and producing artistic effects. The piano or the flute has been in existence for hundreds of years but every new generation of composers and musicians discover something new and make these instruments produce sounds never heard before. We do something similar.
Who are the people in your theatre? What kind of the backgrounds do they have?
Let’s begin with me. I was educated as a historian but worked for some time as a light director in an amateur theatre. Taras Vortnyak and Atylla Kuruts, Lux Eterna light engineers and directors, are graduates of the Department of Physics of Uzhgorod University. Sashko Kasyan, a light enginner and director, is a postgraduate student at Kyiv Shevchenko University. Yevhen Khalaf is a musician.
I find your choice of music excellent. Who actually chooses music to accompany the show?
Up to quite recent times it was me who was doing the choosing, but now we’ve started to write our own electronic music and we are working on a new show which will have music written by us. We hope it will be an important stage in our development.
What we see during the show — is it all saved in the computer memory and then just displayed, or do you actually control or perform all those light effects during the show?
We start developing some show from a basic concept. We write “a libretto,” we know what technical possibilities we have and we figure out how to use them to carry out our ideas. We choose the music we want, we combine the chosen music with light effects and then we rehearse, and rehearsals take quite a long time. Members of our Light Orchestra — that is Lux Eterna performers, have each their parts to play and during the show they play their own “light roles.” The “orchestra” is “conducted’ by the conductor but every performance differs from all the other performances of the same show. It’s like with any symphony orchestra — every performance of the same piece of music differs slightly from any other performance by the same orchestra of the same piece of music. A lot depends on the mood of the performers and on the reaction of the audience, on the general atmosphere of the show.
The planetarium seems to be an ideal place for performing your shows, but did you think of any alternatives?
The hemispheric dome of the planetarium does suit our intentions very well. It can achieve a close approximation to the sky at night and people have been known to be gazing at the starry firmament for ages. The flat screen would be a poor substitute for our shows. If we could have a cloud hanging low above the earth in a fixed position for an hour or so onto which we could project our light beams in, we would opt for that too, but so far it is not technically possible.
Is your theatre considered to be amateur or professional? Or in other words — do you earn enough money to be an independent entity?
In the Nineteen eighties, my theatre was probably the first theatre in Ukraine which became financially independent from the state and was self-sustained. Tourists flocked to see our shows. Today we have to carry out other projects and collaborate with other show business shows to keep afloat. The sale of the tickets covers only a part of our expenditures. We hope we’ll find a good investor or a sponsor who will make it possible for us to concentrate solely on developing the art of light and sound.
I know that you organized several light-and-sound shows in some of the old castles in western Ukraine. I wish I had seen any of those shows. Could you say a couple of words about them?
The first light-and-sound show was held at the Mukachiv Castle. The show was held when the darkness had fallen. The sky was sprinkled with stars and adorned with the crescent of the moon. We turned with a request for help to the local military authorities and they provided us with several dozens of soldiers who, together with actors and actresses from the local theatre re-enacted the scenes of battles and of life in the medieval times. We used quite simple means of creating light and sound effects — some pyrotechnics, some torches, some ventilators which fanned sparks from the smouldering live coals. But no dialogue was introduced into the show — pantomime, action and the light created convincing images and scenes.
Similar technique was used in other castles with fireworks and bonfires thrown in for good measure. We are planning new shows of similar kind and we shall introduce smells too — we’ll use freshly cut grass, flowers and petals, and other things that will produce the desirable olfactory effects.
Photos have been provided by The Theatre Lux Eterna