Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Laser show illuminates Platts planetarium

By Jessica Landman

The small hallway in Hawkins Hall leading to the planetarium was decked out in the Halloween spirit for Fright Night Laser Light Show at SUNY Plattsburgh’s planetarium.

 Fake spiderwebs covered the walls and the small statues dressed up like skeletons and witches. The alcove of the waiting room to the left had a photo wall set up with spiders in spider webs framing the purple background. 

At the end of the hallway, there was an open door leading into another dark hallway. At the entrance were skeletons and gravestones, a red light was emitting from somewhere just beyond the sight line of the doorway.

The inside of the planetarium was no different, sharing the same spooky spirit as the outside. Small statues surrounded the room representing different Halloween characters, such as a mummy and a witch. Sat in the first two seats of both the rows were miniature blowup astronauts.

Displayed on the planetarium’s dome was an orange screen, the bottom lined with a spooky forest filled with spiders in the trees, bats flying in the air and jack-o-lanterns floating across the ceiling. 

Then, the room began to darken as the images above started to fade. A sound as if a door was creaking open and footsteps marching around the room as the introduction to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

The words that jumped out of the ceiling, written in a sharp, red and white font, read “Fright Light,” indicating the beginning of the show. 

The hour-long program featured many well-known songs, including “The Monster Mash,” “Godzilla” and “The Purple People Eater.” Laser images spread across the curved screen, illustrating the stories that were told through the music.

Later in the show, horror movie characters, such as Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, accompanied by their theme song and their story told through the flashing lights. 

The presentation ended with popular songs, like “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and “Frankenstein.” 

The show was put together by the North Country Planetarium staff. This staff is made up by Director Lisa Beth Kissner and students from various backgrounds and majors. 

One student, Zahra Burroughs, said that she has been a member of the staff for close to a month now. Learning how all the planetarium equipment works takes a lot of time and practice, therefore, Burrough’s contribution is selling tickets for right now, but she hopes to be doing much more soon.

This is a completely student run organization, besides the director. They support the local astronomy club and courses here at Plattsburgh.

With COVID-19, the last show presented at the planetarium was in February 2020. After the campus re-opened, the planetarium was only used for astronomy classes. This summer they hosted workshops for local school programs and alumni events. 

The staff has begun a soft opening of the planetarium after the shut down and that started with the events that have taken place in October. The events within the last month have been the first time that the planetarium has been open to the general public for shows since the shut down.

Planning a show like this is no easy feat. Kissner said, “This show, I would say, just the planetarium part, like the machinery, probably took around 8-10 hours. The decorations and everything else they did, I would put another 15 hours on that.”

It paid off, however, for the community that came to enjoy the laser light show. One family that attended was Holly Kusalonis, an employee at SUNY Plattsburgh in the expeditionary studies program, and her family of four. 

Kusalonis said, “I thought it was great,” followed by the agreement of her children. They particularly enjoyed the music that was played. 

The North Country Planetarium staff has planned several other events that will take place in the first weekend of November. They are also in the midst of planning their first astronomy related show in the near future as well. More information about these shows or the planetarium in general can be found next to the planetarium offices in Hudson Hall. 

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