Burlington County hosting magic lantern performance festival and exhibit

Special to The Sun
Magic lanterns were devices that projected images from painted or photographed glass plates or slides onto walls or screens. The devices first appeared in Europe in the late 1600s but they would become increasingly popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Take a step back in time and marvel at the beauty and atmosphere of 19th century entertainment during Burlington County’s Art of the Magic Lantern performance festival and exhibit.

The performance festival will be held on Saturday, July 13, at the Burlington County Lyceum of History and Natural Sciences in Mount Holly from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will feature multiple magic lantern shows created by artists from across the nation.

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The festival is being organized by the Burlington County Parks System as a companion to a special exhibit of magic lanterns, magic lantern slides, stained glass art and other pre-cinema storytelling and animation devices, including zoetropes (a spinning circular device with multiple drawings or photographs that appear to move) and stereoscopes (an early precursor to 3D and virtual reality).

The exhibit will be on display from Thursday, July 11, through Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Workers House Gallery in Historic Smithville Park in Eastampton. A reception will be held on Friday, July 12, from 5 to 7 p.m. and will have a giant interactive zoetrope.

The reception will also feature a raree – a form of puppet show displayed in a portable box – performed by Joel Schlemowitz, a Brooklyn-based filmmaker and magic lantern collector and performer. Schlemowitz will also deliver a lecture at the July 13 festival about the history of Phantasmagoria, a form of horror theater that used magic lantern projections to portray ghosts, skeletons and demons.

Schlemowitz is also scheduled to perform a lantern show at the July 13 festival, along with the following artists:

  • Terry Borton, a Kennett Square, Pennsylvania-based magic lantern performer and historian who founded the Museum of American Magic Lantern Shows
  • Maisie O’Brien, a Philadelphia-based artist and performer specializing in crankie theater (scrolling panoramic art)
  • Melissa Ferrari, a South Pasadena, California performer who uses antique magic lanterns and hand-drawn animations.
  • Larry Rakow an Ohio-based magic lantern expert who has performed for nearly 35 years across the United States, Canada and England.
  • Matt Schnittker, a California resident who works in the entertainment industry as a technology manager. He has been credited on several animated films, including “Zootopia,” “Tangled,” “The Princess and the Frog” and “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”.

Admission to both the magic lantern performance festival, exhibit and exhibit reception are free of charge and among the hundreds of events, programs and activities created by the Burlington County Parks System.

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