Inside the World of Lightwire Theater

Co-founder Ian Carney talks about “America’s Got Talent” and what people can expect from the Christmas show.

The New Orleans-based Lightwire Theater may not have won “America’s Got Talent,” but they did inspire a moment of sincerity from judge Howard Stern, who after watching them declared, “You’re everything that makes America great.” It is hard not to smile watching Lightwire’s dancers – who wear puppet-like costumes outfitted with electroluminescent wires and perform in the dark – bring to life tales of colorful creatures for children and adults alike. Lightwire takes residency at the Joy Theater Dec. 12-22 for Lightwire: A Very Electric Christmas before embarking on a tour in February. Ian Carney, a Broadway veteran and the group’s co-founder, talks about the show and “AGT.”

What can people expect from the Christmas show?  For those people who have seen us at the two shows locally at the Contemporary Arts Center [Darwin the Dinosaur and The Ugly Duckling] they’ll see something different. The people who haven’t seen us or are familiar with us from “America’s Got Talent” will get a chance to see us live. Although the creatures look really cool on TV, live is a whole other thing. People don’t understand what they’re looking at. We’ve had cops called on us outside Audubon Zoo [during a rehearsal] because creatures were running around in the dark – people were slamming their brakes.

It was an exciting chance for us to give back to the city, to do a show we want to be a tradition at the Joy and do a Christmas show that’s different, while still having root in the classic Christmas things but trying to take a left turn whenever we can. Our background is ballet, so there’s certainly a nod to The Nutcracker, but it’s certainly not The Nutcracker. It’s got holiday standards, but it’s not bombarding you with Christmas music the whole two acts.

How did the exposure from “America’s Got Talent” affect what you do? It increased demand for what we do, and that’s a good thing. The difficulty is … we build everything in-house. The complicated electrical systems, we do them here. There’s also training new people on how to deal with this stuff, because the wire itself is very temperamental; it doesn’t want to do what we do to it. … If the electrical system goes, there’s no character. When I was dancing on Broadway, you could smile and dance your way out of it.

But the good part about our medium is the sky is the limit. When you create a world like we create, there’s really nothing we can’t achieve. Birds, fish – you own the space because it’s all blackness. We try to envelope the audience in the world a lot more.

We’ve been to Bogota, Denmark, Russia three times now, Toyko, Hong Kong … the show had a whole life and enabled us to do a lot of traveling and avoid one thing that really separates us as people, which is language.

We’re so happy to be able to be home in New Orleans and hire New Orleans people to do our shows. The support of our community has been wonderful. I had to leave New Orleans to dance on Broadway, but I don’t have to leave New Orleans for this. There’s no other city on the planet like this one. We love that we can stay here.

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