Aerialists and actors, live performers and video, in-person singers and blasting rock soundtracks all come together in Kerrilee Gore’s new-wave cabaret fusion, When the Lights Go Out. The lights in the Lobero Theatre won’t actually be completely off during this wildly entertaining, immersive theater experience, but the metaphor of a sudden shift into darkness does convey the thrilling and unexpected nature of what’s on tap. Begun in 2014 as something of an experiment in Carr Winery’s tasting room on North Salsipuedes Street, the show morphed into its present form last year when Gore and company discovered how effective and intimate a venue the Lobero Theatre can become when the audience sits onstage with the performers. After a break from creating this work that included both a role as talent director and coordinator of Santa Barbara Teen Dance Star and motherhood, Gore is back with her creative partner Jason Young to present what she is confident will be the most exciting thing she’s done yet.
From the beginning, the strength of When the Lights Go Out has had a lot to do with how well Gore does what she’s known for at Teen Dance Star, which is to attract talented people to work with her. Los Angeles–based dancer Jason Young is a great example. Since 2004, he’s been the supervising choreographer for all of Madonna’s tours. He met his wife, Valeree Young, on Madonna’s 2008 Sticky & Sweet Tour, and they have been working together ever since. In fact, Valeree serves as Madonna’s stand-in during the early stages of the rehearsal process, when Jason is getting the backup dancers up to speed. When Madge arrives, Valeree teachers her the steps Jason has created. The system seems to work quite well, as those who caught the recently concluded Rebel Heart Tour will attest.
Another key member of the creative team this time out is Lucent Dossier Experience featured artist Chanel Pepper. Pepper began dancing when she was just 3 years old, but it wasn’t until she discovered aerial dance through classes here in Santa Barbara with aerial savant Autumn Phillips that she broke through to performing for a living. Thanks to years of intensive training, Pepper was chosen as a lead aerialist in Dream Rockwell’s enormously popular and successful troupe. If you’ve been to Coachella, Burning Man, or any of a number of other special events featuring Lucent Dossier in the last few years, you’ve no doubt witnessed this woman’s breathtaking technique with silks and other forms of aerial equipment.
With people at this level of achievement returning, it would be easy to stop looking for new input, but that’s not how Gore operates. Even with a new baby in the house, she’s still always curious about who or what might come next in her ongoing creative adventure. This time out she has expanded the dramatic elements of the interactive preshow by bringing in Brian Harwell, a much beloved and multiple Indy Award–winning actor who has worked with virtually every theater company in town.
There are just four performances of When the Lights Go Out scheduled — two on Thursday and Friday, October 20 and 21, at 8 p.m., and two on Saturday, October 22, an early show at 5 p.m. and a late one at 9 p.m. Because of the relatively small number of seats available in this configuration of the Lobero, you’d be wise to reserve your place early. When the lights go out, you want to be where the action is. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to lobero.com or call (805) 963-0761.