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America’s Got Talent Semi-Finalists to Bring Classic Children’s Tales to LMC Mendel Center Mainstage

Lightwire TheatreFebruary 3, 2014

Lightwire Theater Present The Ugly Duckling and the Tortoise and the Hare

BENTON TOWNSHIP, MI – Classic children’s tales are coming to the LMC Mendel Center Mainstage when The Ugly Duckling and The Tortoise & the Hare are literally brought into a new and brilliant light through the use of the electroluminescent puppetry in a stage presentation created by Lightwire Theater and Corbian Visual Arts and Dance. The dazzling visuals and poignant choreography will take the stage on Saturday, March 15, at 11 a.m.

Lightwire Theater brings its cutting edge technology, moving sculpture, and dance to this unforgettable theatrical experience. Silent, life-sized puppets are worn and operated by performers who dance to music ranging from pop to jazz to classical. The glowing character outlines will mesmerize both children and adults in the darkened theater.

“Many may remember Lightwire Theater as being a semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent in 2012,” stated Laura Kraklau, LMC executive director of marketing and communications. “When I saw their performance, I knew their show would be perfect for audiences in southwest Michigan.”

Hans Christian Andersen’s classic The Ugly Duckling has helped generations of children understand one of humanity’s universal struggles. Lightwire Theater brings this classic story to the modern stage offering hope to us all as we root for the ugly duckling who exemplifies resilience and heroism along the way to becoming a beautiful swan.

Aesop’s fable “The Tortoise and the Hare,” now more than 2,500 years old, continues to drive home the time-tested adage, “Slow and steady wins the race.” Ridiculed by the hare, the tortoise challenges him to a race. They set off and the hare takes a commanding lead but allows himself to be distracted with many modern day activities; texting, video games, and the paparazzi, of course. The tortoise continues to trudge along at his methodical pace and wins the race due to his discipline and fortitude.

Tickets for Lightwire Theater Presents The Ugly Duckling and The Tortoise & the Hare are $15, $18, and $22 through the LMC Mendel Center Box Office at (269) 927-1221 or

Following the show from noon to 2 p.m., enjoy meeting some furry friends along with a “kid friendly” lunch buffet. The “Pet Party” is $10 for adults and $8 for children ages 3 to 12. Reservations must be made one week prior to the event. 

Special rates are available for groups of 10 or more. For information about group rates, pre-show party options, and other special arrangements, contact Mike Nadolski at (269) 927-8109 or   

Lightwire Theater Presents The Ugly Duckling and The Tortoise & the Hare at the LMC Mendel Center is sponsored by Channel 16 WNDU and is underwritten in part by the Gast Young Peoples’ Performance Endowment.



The LMC Mendel Center Box Office is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and one hour before show time. Tickets may be purchased in person, by phone at (269) 927-1221, or online at The Lake Michigan College Mendel Center is located just 40 minutes from Kalamazoo and South Bend on the Lake Michigan College Napier Avenue Campus in Benton Township, Michigan, one mile east of I-94 (Exit 30) and one mile west of the US 31 Bypass (exit 24).




Corbian Visual Arts and Dance
The show’s creators Ian Carney and Corbin Popp met while dancing in Twyla Tharp's Broadway show Movin' Out. Becoming fast friends through their mutual love of art, theater and technology, Corbin showed Ian a product called EL wire and their creative partnership took off.

EL wire is electroluminescent wire powered by batteries and is used mostly to illuminate walkways, signs and instrument panels on cars. Carney and Popp quickly built rudimentary versions of the two main characters of Darwin the Dinosaur, Professor Henslow and Darwin. Then, with the help of their wives, Eleanor Carney and Whitney Popp (who are also dancers), they began to build the rest of their puppetry-based creatures and flesh out the original story.

Relocating from New York City to New Orleans, they continued the creative process. It was here, in the Katrina-ravaged city, that the show began to take shape. The result, after years of engineering and development is Darwin the Dinosaur. Truly unique and visually dazzling, Darwin, recipient of the prestigious Jim Henson Foundation Grant, is an innovative theatrical experience lauded by audiences and critics all over the Americas and Europe.

Lightwire Theater
Ian and Eleanor Carney founded Lightwire Theater and, in conjunction with Corbian Visual Arts and Dance, began pre-production on their first project, The Ugly Duckling and The Tortoise and the Hare, in January 2011. Using Corbian’s signature electroluminescent puppetry, Lightwire Theater has adapted the two classic tales for the stage.”

Stephen Charles Nicholson, after relocating from New York City to New Orleans for the first Darwin tour, continues his involvement with Corbian Visual Arts and Dance and now Lightwire Theater on this production.

Corbin manages to amaze everyone with his boundless energy. He may push pencils by day as a dental student in Mesa, AZ, where he now lives with his wife Whitney and their daughters Zoe and Addison, but somehow he manages to wire electrical boxes, build ducks and offer sound advice on many aspects of the new project after hours, on weekends and from that other dimension to which many of us suspect he has access.


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