Black light theatre

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Black Light Theatre (in Czech černé divadlo) or simply Black Theatre, is a theatrical performance style characterized by the use of black box theatre augmented by black light illusion. This form of theatre originated from Asia and can be found in many places around the world. It has become a speciality of Prague, where many theatres use it.[1]

The distinctive characteristics of "black theatre" are the use of black curtains, a darkened stage, and "black lighting" (UV light), paired with fluorescent costumes in order to create intricate visual illusions. This "black cabinet" technique was used by Georges Méliès, and by theatre revolutionary Stanislavsky. The technique, paired with the expressive artistry of dance, mime and acrobatics of the performers is able to create remarkable spectacles.[2]


Black light theatre HILT - Theodor Hoidekr - film "Dream" - WEB OF THIS BLACK LIGHT THEATRE

A key principal of Black Light Theatre is the inability of the human eye to distinguish black objects from a black background. This effect results in effective invisibility for any objects not illuminated by the 'black light'.[2] The second optical principal behind Black Light Theatre is the effect of UV light on fluorescent objects. Black lights actually emit as much light as 'normal' lights, but at a frequency that humans cannot detect. While most objects either absorb UV light or reflect it back at the same frequency at which it came in, fluorescent objects absorb UV light then re-emit it at a longer wavelength than human eyes can detect.[3] The combined effect is that designers can make some objects appear as bright as if the room were fully lighted, while making other objects appear as dark as if the room were completely dark.


The 'black box trick' of using performers dressed in black in a dark playing space has been in use for millennia, starting with the jugglers performing for the emperor in ancient China.[4] Japan developed this technique in its Bunraku Theatre by having puppeteers wear black in order to place complete emphasis on the puppet.[5] In modern theatre the black box trick has been adopted up by Russian director Stanislavski, film director George Melies, and various French avantgarde directors of the 1950s. Among these directors, George Lafaille became an earlier pioneer of black cabinet.[2] But all these directors used the simple trick of black cabinet just for few moments during their performances mostly to make something on the stage disappear.

The father of Black Light Theatre, author of the principe of black cabinet as is used nowadays (placement of spot lights, placement of uv lights, selection of black velvet as the best material to absorb residual light on the scene...) and even author of the name "Black Light Theatre" and so the creator of the 1st Black Light Theatre in the World is Mr. Jiri Srnec. The very first performance of the ensemble, which had already brought international attention, took place in 1959 in Vienna. The real debut for the ensemble, however, was its participation in the Theatre Festival in Edinburgh in 1962. The performance, held in a sold-out festival arena was awarded by tumultuous ovation, which opened the way for Jiří Srnec Black Light Theatre to the world stages. Many more performances in Europe, America, Australia, Africa, and Asia followed. By now, the theatre organized about 300 international tours and participated in 77 theatre festivals. Under the artistic leadership of Jiří Srnec, the ensemble was applauded both by the audience and the critics. He has been acknowledged by the Czech President – on 28 October 2011 Jiří Srnec, the founder of the Black Light Theatre, was awarded the highest state decoration (Credit of the State in the Field of Culture and Arts Medal). Srnec Theatre belongs among the most important representatives of the Czech art in the world.[6] After international acclaim gained by Srnec Theatre in the late 80s new groups using the technique of black box appeared starting the new wave of this theatre style.[7]

By the late 1980s Prague's National Black Light Theatre company (the company registered mark, not connected to the original National Theatre) was taking the unique Black Light Theatre style on tour throughout Europe.[8] Prague has become the home of black light theatre because it is the only city in the world where around 10 black light theatre companies has grown up. Since 1989 the political situation in the Czech republic has changed all Black Light Theatre Prague companies take their most popular shows on world tours.[1] [9][10][11]

The latest group of black light theatre is Black light theatre HILT Prague.HILT THEATRE WEB The group performances are based on modern music and dance choreographies. As the first black light theatre they have involved live singing in their productions. HILT theatre was founded in 2006 by Czech dancer, choreographer, director and music composer Theodor Hoidekr. In 2009 HILT Prague has represented the Czech republic on the biggest Asia theatre festival Bharat Rang Mahotsav in New Delhi, India as the most successful theatre group of this festival next to 60 other productions from all over the world.TIMES INDIA ABOUT HILT

Modern dance in black theatre[edit]

In 1989 the Image Theatre was founded by dancer Eva Asterova (former member of Pavel Smok's famous Czech ballet company) and Alexander Cihar. They brought new aspects into black light theatre effects such as modern dance and non-verbal acting. Under the hand of Eva Asterová, the theatre's artistic director, Image seeks to produce an individual look of at a scene’s signature. The audience also often becomes an integral part of the performance. The repertory of the Image theatre is composed of its own devised works. Apart from Eva Asterová there are also other authors cooperating repeatedly on Image Theatre's performances such as Josef Tichý, Petr Liška, René Pyš or Zdeněk Zdeněk. Sice the beginning Image Theatre had presented 10 different performances [12] and in each of them they came with some new black light technique effects. Magic poetics, playfulness, and humor are the most important trademarks of this ensemble.

The Image theatre has 22 years experience in Prague’s black light theatres scene. Apart from regular performances in Prague, Image also performs internationally (Korea, Hong Hong, Macau, Israel, Turkey, India, Lebanon, Greece, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Hungary, Slovakia, Cyprus).

Black Light Theatre today[edit]

BLACK LIGHT THEATRE HILT - from the show The Painted World

Nowadays there are many companies of black light theatre also out of Prague (Hungary, Germany, USA) trying to make shows similar to black light theatres in Prague. Prague scene has changed its face to the style of 20th century - modern dance was involved, costume designs have become more effective, black light theatre shows have become more musical. Prague is still home of black light theatre - hundreds thousands of tourists visit their shows every month.

HILT - the black light theatre of Theodor Hoidekr was the first ever who has involved live singing into black light show. The most popular HILT´s black light theatre musical show was "Juliet´s Dream" premiered on 14 February 2012 in Prague. HILT is working on new style of black light theatre - all the members are experienced in black light theatres all over Prague. Its founder and director Theodor Hoidekr was originally dancer who later started to work with black light theatre style. His experiences comes from Prague, Slovakia, Germany, Malta, Greece, South America, India [13]

Since 8th April 2015 HILT performs the new show "Phantom" that is the world first black light theatre version of the mysterious phantom figure. The black light theatre HILT starts the new part of their history in theatre Royal Prague.

In Performance[edit]

Fluorescent costume under UV light. Created by the artist Beo Beyond

The effect of Black Light Theatre allows invisible performers to move visible props, turning the objects into independent participants in the theatre at the same level as the human actors.[2] Furthermore, the appearance of objects and actors in a performance can be sudden and can occur anywhere on stage, even within a few meters of an audience member.[11] In order to achieve this effect it is necessary to create an intense field of UV light throughout the entire playing space. Because the intensity of light emitted from a typical 'black light' source diminishes significantly with increased distance from the source, covering an entire theatre space with UV light requires either that the 'black light' sources be spaced as close as one meter apart or emit much more light than a typical 'black light'.[14] Another important consideration is that, since most of the space is completely dark, and the form is heavily dance based, a single wrong move by a single performer can negatively impact the entire production. For this reason performers train extensively specifically for the Black Light Theatre environment.

Contemporary Black Light Theatre often includes many highly technical devices, in addition to the standard 'black light' technique. Such devices can include "flying" performers, large video projections ,[15] and even massive puppets.[2] These technical devices serve as a significant factor in Black Light Theatre's worldwide popularity; since its most important devices are entirely visual, audiences throughout the world can understand most Black Light Theatre performances.[16] The intended result is a theatrical work that combines grand spectacle with beautiful and moving art.[2] Major companies currently producing Black Light Theatre include Srnec Theatre, HILT, Ta Fantastika Theatre, Image Theatre, Metro Theatre, and All Colours Theatre.[16]


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