In the surreal landscape of Nightletter Theater the workings of the human mind emerge

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Nightletter Theater
Artistic Co-Directors: Arthur and Sydney Carson

Overview, Theory and Process:

Nightletter Theater was founded in 1980 and named after our first piece, Nightletters. We have created 15 original works and installations and have toured Europe and Canada. We have also received many awards and grants, including the National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, and the Hewlitt and Zellerbach Foundations among others.

Our work explores an interior world and transforms it into a richly layered narrative, visual and aural experience. We try to capture and expand the imagination of an audience that has become --through the influence of film -- capable of reading visuals, language, and sound as a single text. We want the audience to experience a theater in which everything is charged with felt import and to come away with a widened perceptual, philosophical and aesthetic perspective.

Although language is not our only medium  we have found various and unique ways of using it as poetry rather than spoken theater : through speaker masks, subtitles, film, rolling projections, singers and even in one piece digitally mixed with the voice of a cello. Both sculptural and projected Images are conjured to create evocative landscapes, once of a projected elevator on a rolling and unrolling screen in the middle of the audience. Sound is designed to envelop the audiences, sometimes literally by surrounding them from all sides and from above and below. Complex manipulations of language, objects, sound and projected imagery result  in an exploration of the landscape of the mind. One critic said of our work: "We all fall asleep in ordinary places, Nightletter's show(s) remind the viewer. That's where the strange, fertile life of the subconscious begins." SF Chronicle

ARTHUR CARSON has a BA in Linguistics and MA in English Language and Literature from the University of California at Berkeley, where he taught until recently retiring. Meanwhile he has been, at various times a poet, writer, director, musician of sorts, photographer, film maker, sound and special effects designer, and performer. Four books of his poetry were published in the 80’s. Recently he has been working as a video artist and was commissioned by the Oakland Museum and the Port Authority in collaboration with Sydney Carson to create a video installation for a new media wall at the Oakland Airport  where it remained on view for 3 years

SYDNEY CARSON is both a visual artist and a writer, involved in directing and performing, creating  sculpture, installation, performance art and experimental theater. She received a Ph.D. in English from the University of California at Berkeley and is a professor in the Graduate Writing Program, the Fine Arts program, and the Humanities and Science Division at the California College of the Arts in the SF Bay Area. In 1980 she founded Nightletter Theater, a non-profit organization, with Arthur Carson and CCA alumni Kevin O’Hare and Marty Malkani.


Nightletter would like to acknowledge the many talented, creative people who have worked with us. Marty Malkani and Kevin O’hare were at the very beginning of our history and many years thereafter. Among others that were part of Nightletter Theater are DeeDee Thomas, Vola Rubin, Margaret Fisher, Dave Simpson,  Julian Neff, Larry Neff, Lauren Elder, Cecile Pineda, Roham Shaikhani, Beth Donohue, Bella Warda, David Hyry, Archina Horsting, John Argue, Farhad Heshmati, Rip Light, Cynthia Moore, Jim Cave, Lyda Woods, Maria Gillardin, Greg Wilmarth, Ali Dagar, Leslie Alperin, David Heintz, Donald Day, Steven Dye, Vanessa Ng, Annie Hallatt, Maya Carson, Tamar Carson, Rogelio Giron, Kate Boyd, Michael Streichsbier, Leonard Pitt, Steve Mobia, Tannis Hugil, Geoff Hoyle, Hal Hughes, Emily Jordan, Mathew Owens, Clive Worsley, George Killingworth, Wendy Taylor, Louis Landman, Bruce Moody, Jason Teitel, Momo Casablanca, Adrienne Krug, Maya Halperin. Scott Hove, Ross Pasquale, Annie Kunjappy, John Polack, Jill Kjompedahl, Durand Ford, Katie Clancy, David Abad, Elizabeth Briggs, Susan Martin and Eric Heid.

We wish to thank the many federal, state, county, and city arts organizations and foundations for their generous support of our work: National Endowment of the Arts, California Arts Council, California College of the Arts, Ford Foundation, Alameda Arts Council, Berkeley Arts Fund, Zellerbach Family Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Theater Bay Area/CA$H


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