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The Art of the Magic Lantern at the Burlington County Lyceum of History & Natural Sciences

July 13 @ 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
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On Saturday, July 13, 2024, at the Lyceum of History & Natural Sciences in Mount Holly, NJ, we will present a day of Magic Lantern performances from 11 AM to 4 PM. Lanternists from all over the United States will be coming to perform their distinctive styles of Magic Lantern Theater, from historic to contemporary.

Performances by:

Terry Borton – Kennett Square, PA     Secrets of Top Lantern Hits – Some of the best Magic Lantern Stories by the best lantern illustrator, Joseph Boggs Beale.   Learn the secrets of his Magic Lantern Art and what made him so good!

 Maisie O’Brien – Philadelphia, PA     ‘The Artist” is an original short story about making mistakes and healing in better communication with the world, told through illuminated crankie theater, shadow puppetry, and song.  The Crankie is a sibling narrative art form to Magic Lantern Theater, using scrolling panorama wound up and inserted into a portable box theater.

Melissa Ferrari – South Pasadena, CA       ‘Relict: A Phantasmagoria” – is an experimental documentary performed with antique magic lanterns and hand-drawn animation. Invoking the history of magic lantern phantasmagoria as an exercise in belief and perception, Relict considers the zeitgeist of pseudoscience, fake news, religion, and documentary ethics collapsed within contemporary cryptozoology.

Larry Rakow – Cleveland Heights, OH     Larry has been performing the Professor Optix Magic Lantern Show for nearly 35 years in the US, Canada, and England. The program includes travelogues, temperance stories, songs, adventures, and humorous slip slides.

Matt Schnittker – Castaic, CA     Magic Lantern Slip-slides – The Victorian version of Dad Jokes on Tik Tok.

Joel Schlemowitz – Brooklyn, NY     A lecture on the history of Phantasmagoria –  Phantasmagoria was a form of horror theater that (among other techniques) used one or more magic lanterns to project frightening images –such as skeletons, demons, and ghosts– onto walls, smoke, or semi-transparent screens, typically using rear projection to keep the lantern out of sight.


What is a Magic Lantern?

The Magic Lantern, a remarkable 19th and early 20th-century image projection device, was a pioneer in casting visual spectacles of faraway lands, scenes from storybooks, and major news events. It was not confined to theaters and meeting houses, but also found its way onto the walls of family homes, bringing the world to your doorstep.

Professional Lanternists would slide images painted or photographed on transparent plates into the Magic Lantern projector and bring them to life using rudimentary special effects, narration, and theatrics. People would attend these performances in meeting halls and theaters.

What is Pre-Cinema?

Light is one of the ways you can most directly affect people’s emotions and tell them stories, whether it’s shadow puppet theater, a stained-glass window in a cathedral or a projected image.  Technologies evolved in the 19th and early 20th centuries through experiments in optics and physics that slowly but surely led to optical toys, projection devices and finally moving pictures.

In this exhibit and performance festival we are highlighting not only the history of telling stories with light, but also how artists are using old techniques and media in new ways.


July 13
11:00 am - 4:00 pm
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Burlington County Lyceum of History & Natural Sciences
307 High Street
Mount Holly, NJ 08060 United States
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