I had never heard of black light theater. I don’t go to the theater very often and when I do the lights are usually on. But when I am traveling I like to do some things that I don’t do at home. The guide book stated that Prague in the Czech Republic was known for magnificent Old Town architecture, a thriving art scene, and black light theater. I thought it was worth giving it a try.
I remember black lights from when I was a teenager. At the Minnesota State Fair, you could buy fuzzy posters of dogs playing cards, Elvis, or maybe a tiger. Then if you had a black light in your bedroom, parts of the poster would glow in hallucinogenic colors while you listened to 1970s Aerosmith albums.
Black light theater works in a similar way, except the music is different. The play is a combination of mime and modern dance, so there is no language barrier. The actors wear costumes that glow in the dark under the black light. There are also others on stage but you can’t see them at all because they wear fuzzy black clothes, gloves, and masks. These hidden stagehands move props and assist the actors in performing stunts and controlling optical illusions.
I went to the black light theater called Ta Fantastika, near the famous Charles Bridge on Karlova Street, in the Old Town section of Prague. The show was called “Aspects of Alice.” It purportedly was an artistic and poetic take on “Alice in Wonderland”, but I couldn’t see the connection. In this play, the main character was a young woman, not a girl, and there was no Mad Hatter or other crazy characters. Maybe I am thinking of the Disney animated film, since I have never actually read the book by Lewis Carroll. I couldn’t quite pick up the story line.
The stunts were interesting at first. The young woman was secretly hooked to a wire at times that lifted her into the air and allowed her to twirl and fly around the stage. The stagehands moved candle lights and other props without being seen. However, the illusions quickly got repetitive and the odd organ and piano music grated on my ears.
I was starting to drift off during the second act. That often happens when I sit in the dark after dinner. Although it was an uncomfortable chair, my head was nodding. My attention lagged until the star of the show emerged from a giant day-glo apple with almost no clothes on. She performed the next few minutes of the show topless. I’m not sure how that fit into the Alice in Wonderland storyline. I never saw that in the cartoon.
I spent the rest of my time in Prague seeing the typical sights that the city is known for. I walked through the Old Town Square with the 14th century Old Town Hall and the 500 year old Astronomical Clock. From Karlova Street and the theater I reached the Charles Bridge (Karluv Most) over the Charles River.
I strolled through the Jewish Quarter (Josefov), shopped for typical Czech souvenirs in the Little Quarter (Mala Strana), and visited the Old Royal Palace, St. Vitus Cathedral, and the Golden Lane in the Castle Quarter (Hradcany). Since none of these places were bombed during World War II like other European capitals, the original architecture spans hundreds of years and many styles.
As I left Prague, I felt like I had visited EPCOT instead of a real major European city. There were crowds of tourists from all over the world, things were expensive, and the buildings and streets looked too perfectly preserved. Was I in an artificially generated tourist environment? I wasn’t sure…