“Enlightenment of Buddha,” by Manick Sorcar, an extravaganza of dance, drama, and magic amid various forms of intelligent lighting, life-size laser-animation, and 3-D laser effects in space, captured the 2005 ILDA Artistic Award (the industry equivalent of Hollywood’s Oscars) for “best use of lasers in a live stage performance” in March, at the 2006 annual conference of the International Laser Display Association in Rimini, Italy.
Describing himself as an engineer-animator-laserist, Sorcar is the author of three university texts in lighting, and CEO and president of Sorcar Engineering (Denver, CO), an electrical-engineering and lighting-design firm, whose projects include the lighting designs for Denver International Airport, Colorado Convention Center, sport centers in Japan, and numerous stage shows. Sorcar is also an accomplished animator.
All characters in Sorcar’s production were live actors except for Mara and his magic, which were created using a variety of lasers, including three 3.5 W argon-krypton lasers for color graphics, two 2.5 W Nd:YAG lasers, and one 100 mW Nd:YAG laser for graphics and effects. All of the lasers were programmed through a set of computers to project in a predetermined, coordinated manner. The magic involved a wide variety of characters and applications, including wild pets (running skeletons of dogs and cats), ghosts, lightning bolts, and rays of enlightenment. The “Enlightenment of Buddha” story takes the audience to India in 600 B.C., where a meditating Siddhartha Gautama (whom the world would later know as Buddha) sat under a Banyan tree in Gaya, India, closed his eyes, gathered all of his senses, and began to meditate. Peace was elusive, however, because the fiercest of demons, Devaputra Mara, set out to ruin the young monk’s meditation.
The task was challenging, Sorcar said, because the live performers had to interact precisely with laser graphics. Perhaps the most challenging was the last scene, in which the frustrated ghosts (live performers) with waving flames in hand set the whole forest afire-all of which was created with lasers. In this dramatic scene, the audience saw a peaceful Lord Buddha meditating with his eyes closed, totally undisturbed-amid the surrounding of a burning forest full of flames of ghostly fire (see figure).
“Enlightenment of Buddha” was first performed last October at the Denver Center for Performing Arts, Colorado, for the 25th anniversary of the Asian Pacific Development Center. Attended by many dignitaries from across the country, it was praised by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and received rave reviews from the press and media.