Once upon a time there lived an emperor named Wang-Pang from the House of Ming in China. One fateful day Liang, the emperor’s only and much – beloved son, died. The emperor loved his son dearly and was devastated by his loss. In the emperor’s court there lived a magician anemed Mang-ti who promised to bring the emperor’s son back to life for him. To do this Mang – ti used magic that we would today call ‘blacklight’ magic or manipulation. Each time that the emperor wanted to see his son,, men in low-level dim light, dressed all in black, so as to be effectively invisible to the naked eye, would move Liang’s body to bring it seemingly to life. Mang-ti trained his helpers everyday in the manipulation of the figure, so as to be truly imitative of the emperor’s son. So, just as before, Liang was once again the light of his father’s life, and the emperor was again able to converse with him and lived happily ever after.
Or so the story goes.
Like so many other important findings, black light theatre probably was born in China, but perhaps in another way. In those olden days Chinese artists used candlelight to perform silhouette shows over white cloth screens. By the end of the 16th century the silhouette technique had migrated to Japan and was used by the Japanese puppeteer Uemura Bunrakuke, leading to creation of the ‘Bunraku Theatre’ (文楽). In this type of theatre, three men dressed in black clothing would manipulate a puppet about 1.5m tall. And, as in the story of the emperor and his dead son Liang, they would move the puppet legs and arms.
In 1885, Munich actor and stage manager Max Auzinger discovered the black cabinet trick. He used this in his show, “Indian and Egyptian Miracles,” like a magician. In the early days if cinema, when cinematic techniques were in their infancy, many artists (among them George Malige), used the ‘black light technique’ to express the images they had in their minds. The modern black light theatre was born in the 1950s, mainly through the French avant-garde artist George Lafaille, who is often called ‘the father of black light theatre’. Many Czech puppeteers, from the ‘Salamandr’ and ‘Spejbl and Hurvinek’ groups, saw his performances in 1955 and took this invention back to their native country. The first family group of black light theatre in Prague was founded in 1959 by Mr. Josef Lamka and Mrs. Hana Lamkova. One year later in 1960 Mr. Jiri Smec left this group and founded his own theatre. And let us not forget the giants of the stage: Stanislavskij in his famous ‘Blue Bird’ performance also used this trick. Following the invention of the ultra-violet lamp, during the ‘hippy’ era of the 60s and 70s, it turned into a fashion trend among young people who were looking for new colors to represent the term “freedom”. In these times of the ‘new’ type of theatre, total darkness was needed together with a massive amount of black material and black paint to provide a black background, as well as ultra-violet illumination for all the other fluorescent (visible) colors. The ultra-violet illumination, also called ‘black illumination’ because it provides an ‘invisible’ light source in full blackout conditions, together with the darkened theatre halls covered with black materials, provided this special type of theatre with its name – ‘Black light Theatre’.
This 21st century is a time of rapidly developing technologies and the black light theatre medium is more than ready to reveal all of its wonders to the world. Today it is ready for use on a multimedia platform. There are many facets and applications to this type of theatre ranging from a straight-forward puppet show to a full multimedia presentation. You can only have what you can dream. Imagine yourself immersed in a world of lights, magic and fantasy and experience it for yourself.
Let it begin.
In the early age of “Black Light Theatre” two different styles existed: Black theatre and Luminescent theatre. Original Black theatre did not use UV bulbs and luminescent paints. This older theatre system used front light line only, to fool the onlookers’ eyes. After the the Second World War, Mr. Frantisek Tvrdek (more about himself in “Stars”) saw promotional Phillips UV bulbs spot, and he like painter was absolutely fascinated about this new technology. He took a trip to Holland for UV bulbs, not for tubes. After he returned, he had a new problem: no UV paints. He started experiments with different materials like quinine. The first use of UV technology should have been in Spejbl and Hurvinek theatre, but it came short of their expectations because of insufficient UV bulbs. Presently, both styles like Black theatre and Luminescent theatre are used together. UV tubes and luminescent paints give an original face to this type of theatre. The light lines and technique assist in putting you at the destination.