In the middle of "Night of the Living Dolls," a fashion show staged at Nocturnal last week, the lights went out.

Models froze onstage. And my heart sank. After all, this was the first event this student arts collective, Metanoia, had ever produced. Something was bound to go terribly wrong.

But this was no backstage disaster. The blackout was simply part of the show and a way to demonstrate the skirts worn by designer Rachelle Waldie's two models, which were printed with stars and planets, glowed in the dark.

This is the prescient polish that sets Metanoia apart from other student groups and other local creative collectives in general. Formed a year ago as a core group of 10 or so motivated students from area schools--the Art Institute of Portland, Portland State University and Pacific Northwest College of Art--Metanoia has gained enough collaborative confidence to finally put on a group production that feels, well, all grown up.

And the name?

"When a group gets together on a project, there's this energy, this extra sense that's more than just the individuals. That's metanoia--'the mind beyond,'" explains AI web-design student Daniel Chapman, one of the group's founders. "When people watch a show like this, they feel that energy and connection, too."

Metanoia counts budding fashion designers among its members, but everyone plays a part. In fact, "Night of the Living Dolls"--the collective's debut effort--was the brainchild of Kacie Snell. A Digital Media Production major at AI, she wanted to produce something complex enough to involve all Metanoia's members--around 60 at peak times.

Over the past year, Metanoia's fashion foot soldiers built a website, designed and printed promotional materials and show programs, designed and sewed the clothes, rounded up models, figured out lighting, sound, music, video and show choreography. They also secured a site, promoted the show and planned an after-party.

"We didn't know anything about putting on a fashion show," Chapman says. "It was a lot of talking to people."

Those people included stalwart fashion supporter Stella Farina (of the PDX Fashion Incubator), parents who donated not only supplies but also much-needed cash, and the good people of Nocturnal. "They really gave us a chance on this," says Chapman.

And what a chance it was.

The show's clothing ranged from highly technical period garb (Somnium per Animus' Elizabeth Robinson and the '50s-inspired ensembles by Alyson J. Clair) to futuristic, all-white, zippered his-and-hers outfits (Sara Vale Rapp and Monica Silva) to madcap circus costumes complete with leg warmers and tutus (Alison McMillan and Ginger McCabe). The freshness and diversity of the gear onstage suited a group with at least one major in every arts discipline in town.

Most importantly, you could tell the event was one of those "fun and educational" moments that come all too rarely in our school days. But you couldn't help wonder if putting on such a show proved exhausting.

Will Metanoia crack under the commitment?

Far from it.

The next event, already planned and tentatively titled "Projections," will involve digital and video projections of artwork submissions. Chapman explains: "There will be a set format, but artists can use the format however they want. An apparel designer could film the designs and then project them, or project light on live models."

Hear that? He's already brainstorming.

The show is set in the far future (Fall 2004) but, adds Chapman, "I assume it will come up a lot sooner, because we know a lot more now than we did then."

Watch out, Portland. I think we've got a few new live ones.

To learn more about Metanoia or to get involved, visit or email chappyd23@metanoia