Cirque Productions illusionist creates scenes through black art techniques

Sunday, December 13, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST
Chair climber Andrey Moraru balances on chairs during a run-through to check lighting for Cirque Dreams: Illumination on Saturday in Jesse Auditorium. Two shows will be performed Sunday, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

COLUMBIA – Martin Lamberti creates illusions, not magic tricks. The props and scene designer, comedian and veteran illusionist will perform in "Cirque Dreams: Illumination" at Jesse Auditorium on Sunday.  

Lamberti describes his work as black art, a specific type of optical illusion that uses dark rooms and ultraviolet lighting.

“Back in 1981, I was working at a nightclub in Mexico and there was a black art company close by,” Lamberti said. “I became friends with them and learned how to create some scenes and props myself.”  

Lamberti used these skills in his shows, eventually joining the Cirque Productions team. Like many illusionists, he creates his own scenes. 

“If we need something to appear gradually or pop, I can usually figure out how to make it work and build it myself,” Lamberti said. “It’s not like you can just call up a neighborhood black arts store. You have to learn to do it by yourself.” 

Lamberti, who helped design a scene in which a subway seems to appear and disappear in a matter of seconds, created a black art scene in which all sources of outside light must be turned off or shut out.

“In this scene, I can see the crowd, but they can’t see me — like a one-way mirror," Lamberti said. "It’s a combination of lighting and optical illusion. Different ultraviolet lights ‘pop,’ appearing and disappearing from what looks like plain darkness.” 

Lamberti said the lighting is one of the most complex aspects of the setup process. 

“There is such a great deal of lighting effects,” Lamberti said. “Our whiz technician comes in to the venue, meets with some of the local technical crews, and they work and work at rewiring and reprogramming everything. What you would think would take a few days to complete, takes them a few hours.” 

Besides the illusion scenes, there are aerial acrobats, contortionists and dancers. All of those acts require specific setup as well. 

“The show is certainly more technical than your average musical,” Lamberti said. “We have things and even people up in the air at some points. There is a lot of engineering involved because people’s lives depend on it for a lot of the scenes.” 

But for those who do care about the musical aspects of the show, there will be a multitude of tunes. 

“A lot of times, I think people assume there will just be Yanni music or something,” Erik Alden, director of marketing for Cirque Productions, said. “But, the show includes hip-hop, rock 'n' roll, pop and even some more dramatic songs for the ballroom dancing. It’s just that, instead of the usual dancing breaks in a show, there are acrobatic breaks.” 

There will be two shows on Sunday, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are available through the University Concert Series at 882-3781. 


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