Date:   10/20/2000

The American Magic-Lantern Theater

Thrasher’s Opera House is proud to host The American Magic-Lantern Theater - the nation's only theater company recreating the gay nineties ancestor of today's movies – on Friday, October 20, 2000 at 7:30 p.m. Spirits will soar as the Magic Lantern Theater The Victorian Halloween Magic-Lantern Show! Instead of a sound track, a showman and singer/piano player create a mixture of boisterous good humor, moving stories and stirring music.  And instead of canned special effects, audience participation sparks the mood of fast-paced fun – with people blowing on horns, banging on tambourines, and joining in sing-a-longs.  

This was all part of the magic-lantern shows of the 1890s. It's not a magic show, but a Magic-Lantern Show -- a popular form of Victorian theater entertainment.   This is the only company in the country that presents authentic re-creations of this fascinating form of entertainment. The magic lantern was the first slide projector and was the forerunner of our movies and television. The one used in A Victorian Halloween Magic-Lantern Show, manufactured in the 1890s, is a magnificent three-foot-high machine made of mahogany and brass, with two projectors. "Our re-creation," says Terry Borton, producer and chief showman of The American Magic-Lantern Theater, "appeals to a wide range of modern audiences, both to adults and to kids age six and up." The magic lantern was invented in the 1650's.  By the 19th century, it had become a pervasive form of entertainment and instruction and was used in theaters, churches, fraternal lodges, and at home by adults and children.  In fact, the 1890 Sears Catalog had more pages of magic lanterns and slides for sale than recent catalogs have VCR’s and videos.  

Professional shows (such as the one to be held at Thrasher’s) combined hand-painted slides projected on a full-sized screen with live narration, live music, and lots of audience participation.   Cinema is a direct outgrowth of the early magic-lantern show.  Terms such as ‘dissolves’, ‘pans’, ‘close-ups’, ‘cross-editing’ and ‘camera angle’ were all lantern techniques, and many of the early movies were simply magic-lantern shows put on flexible film. The slides for the lantern were all hand-painted in the 1890's on three-inch glass plates. Most were delicately rendered, but many were cartoons.  "People today think of the Victorians as being straight-laced," says Borton.  "But they enjoyed a very broad brand of humor.  Their animated comic slides -- like the goblins and giant fleas that suddenly invade the beds of a sleeping gentlemen -- are outrageous and get belly laughs every time."  

The Victorian Halloween Magic-Lantern Show will feature many scary tales including such thriller classics as Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven, Little Orphan Annie, The Pied Piper and The Parade of Ghosts and Goblins. The sponsors who are making this special event possible are Condon Companies, Dartford Historical Society, American Bank, Annabelle’s Garden, and Heidel House Resort and Conference Center.  

The Victorian Halloween Magic-Lantern Show will appear at Thrasher’s Opera House, 506 Mill Street, Green Lake, on Friday, October 20 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and are available at Green Lake State Bank, Knowledge Emporium and Thrasher’s Opera House Corporation Office (next door to the opera house) and Ripon Drug or by calling Thrasher’s Opera House at (920) 294-4279 or (888) 441-0140.

For more information on Magic-Lantern Shows, visit:



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