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Tuesday, April 24 News

Dinosaurs shine in Westport Playhouse spotlight

A shining troupe of dinosaurs took center stage at the Westport Country Playhouse and captured the imagination of young fans Sunday.

The show, Dino-Light, was presented as part of the playhouse's Family Festivities Series of programs. Remaining presentations are: "Sleeping Beauty Dreams" on Feb. 9, "Diary of a Worm, a Spider and a Fly," March 9 and "Seussical" on March 23.

"Dino-Light" was created, choreographed and directed by New Orleans-based Corbian Co. founders Ian Carney and Corbin Popp, and features five puppeteers performing on a darkened stage in costumes rigged with electro-luminescent lighting.

The show is reminiscent of Blue Man Group in terms of lighting effects and fluidity.

The Family Festivities series "is one of the best things about winter here," said Kathryn Gloor, the playhouse director of development. "It's a great way to introduce kids to live theater."

About "Dino-Light," Gloor added, "It's super cool. They had performed here two years ago, doing `The Ugly Duckling' and `The Tortoise and the Hare.' They are so theatrical and interactive. You know they're a great group when our staff are calling each other to say, don't miss the 4 o'clock show."

One of the players, Johnathon Whalen, described the dinosaur costumes used in the show. "We build the mechanical structures then come back and simply draw in El wire, the essence of the characters. Some characters are strictly puppets while others are puppets attached to costumes.

"The lights run off batteries and each performer controls the dimness and brightness of their costumes," he said. "Ian and Corbin found and bought the El wire online, came up with a backward leg design and starting fleshing things out from there."

The show, Whalen added, "is basically a Pinocchio story. The main character, Darwin, is created, given a heart, taught to love and makes friends along the way. At the end, he has to battle an evil dinosaur named Brutus."

Carney and Popp are trained in classical ballet, according to Whalen, and the cast is "a mix of modern dancers, a cheerleader and even a trapezist. We all have a different movement vocabulary," he said. "It's physically demanding and keeps us in shape. We do 200-plus shows per year nationally and internationally, plugging into different shows and casts."

While the performance is designed for a young audience, it has humor that adults appreciate, added Whalen.

Lily Kamvar of Westport said of the show: "We love the playhouse. It's terrific for the kids. We came to all the Family Fest shows last year. And they always have pre-show themed activities that get kids into the spirit."

For more information about the future presentations in the Family Festivities Series at the Westport Country Playhouse, call 203-227-4177 or visit www.westportplayhouse.org