Lightwire Theater is making theater cool again

UPDATE: Due to leaks in the theater from rapidly-melting snow, The Center has had to cancel this show. 

JACKSON, Wyo. — Ian Carney wants his theater experience to feel like watching Disney’s original Aladdin. You know, the Robin Williams version.

The magic of that movie, Carney says, is that it was cleverly crafted for audiences of all ages. “I remember watching it as an adult with a 10-year-old, and we were both laughing hysterically for very different reasons.”

Carney’s innovative, illuminating Lightwire Theater should work much in the same way. Kids will love it. Adults will, perhaps, spend too much time figuring out how the heck it works, but the hope is that they will, eventually, give in to the magic and be totally transfixed.

Lightwire Theater is coming to Jackson and The Center stage with the first show light Carney ever produced, Dyno-Light (formerly Darwin the Dinosaur), this Thursday, March 12.

Lightwire Theater looks like magic, but is actually art and engineering and theater and dance all in one. Characters come to life with wires illuminated by fluorescent neon lights on a pitch-black stage. The wires are orchestrated by puppeteers who are dancers, performers, clowns, and athletes, and who are completely visible as people on stage. They wear all black, “ninja outfits,” Carney says, so all the audience can see is the light they carry.

Dyno-Light was Carney’s first idea. In its original iteration, the show told the story of a lonely professor who builds himself a dinosaur companion. But, as dinosaurs do, the creature quickly develops a predatory instinct. So the professor gives it a heart, and the two quickly become best friends.

The story was just 10 minutes long. In the feature-length production, the two friends get separated. The story, then, is one of adventure, of discovery, and of reunion.

“[The dinosaur] is this new, living thing,” Carney says. “Young things don’t understand hate. They only understand love… That lack of wisdom is really kind of a beautiful thing. He goes on a journey and meets a lot of cool characters.”

Lightwire is the sum of all of Carney’s experiences. He was a dancer, like his mom, but his dad is an art professor at Tulane, Carney spent hours in Tulane’s art classrooms sculpting and creating. In each Lightwire production, Carney designs the characters and, with a small team, sculpts and engineers them. Then he choreographs the whole show and teaches each performer how to make his creations come to life.

Everything about it is cool, Carney says — but it’s more than that. You don’t sit through a whole performance for “cool.” Carney’s goal is to allow audiences to have moments of cool, but be totally transfixed by the story. That has always been theater’s purpose, Carney says — to provide relief, education, entertainment.

“I like reminding people that theater was the IMAX of the 1920s,” Carney says. “When bombs were falling, people went to the theater. It took us to a different world, it shocked us.”

Lightwire is Carney’s way of bringing theater into the 21st century. He’s given up on trying to convince people that ballet is cool — it’s just not for everyone. But “we have something that maybe will make the theater cool to all these people,” he says. “Live art is the place to be. It’s not a movie, it’s not Twitter, it’s not your phone. This is where the cool stuff happens.”

Don’t miss Lightwire Theater’s Dino-Light Thursday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available at

Community Partner:

Center for the Arts

The Center is a hub for the artistic, cultural and creative activity in Jackson Hole, Wyoming We are fueled by innovation, inspired by collaboration and proud to share our 78,000 sq foot campus with

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