America's Only Authentic 1890's Magic-Lantern Shows


Who We Are


Current Schedule


Book Us!


General Info What's New

Traveling Theater -- Our Magic Lantern Repertoire
Traveling Magic-Lantern Theater -- "Remarkable . . . You'll be enthralled."

The American Magic-Lantern Theater

A Traveling Theater of Magic-Lantern Shows

Our traveling magic-lantern theater offers thirteen different shows, most with several versions, plus custom shows to fit your special needs. All shows can be presented in any language in the world using our very successful Translated Format. (See below.)  All shows in our traveling theater are about 75 minutes running, time (1-1/2 hours with a 15 minute intermission), or can be presented in any shorter length -- e.g. one hour, 30 minutes for fairs and festivals, etc. All shows appeal to adults and children six and up. We often do a show during the day for school kids (usually our Patriotic Show), and a different show in the evening. (See “Combo Offer”) We also feature a special Kiddie Show for ages 4-8.

Pictured below are sample magic-lantern slides, painted in the 1890's, and used in our traveling magic-lantern theater. Beneath each picture are three buttons.  Push the first two and you will hear a very brief audio-only selection of the "Drama" and "Music" for each show. Push the third be taken directly to our booking page. (To get a good cross section, try Halloween, Christmas, and Spring.) For these buttons to work you will need a Real Audio Player which can be downloaded free from their site. Click here for Free Audio Player

To preview a live show, please see Our Schedule.  Or, to order a brief composite video of our shows, click here.


And now, Ladies and Gentlemen . . . . we are proud to introduce . . .

The Repertoire of our Traveling Theater


Halloween Magic Lantern Traveling Theater
Featured at the Playhouse in the Park, Cincinnati; and Getty Museum (CA)

Halloween Show

Also "Young Children's," "Early"and "Fair" Versions

“An incredible experience . . . If they come to your town, don't miss them. They're a living national treasure.”—National Public Radio

Ghosts, goblins, spooky tales, and GIANT BUGS in Victorian beds! Includes Poe's "The Raven," bizarre comic pieces like "The Specter Pig" (a fat porker returns from the dead to haunt its butcher) and ghoulish music hall songs like "The Worms Crawl In." During the grand finale -- "The Parade of Goblins" -- the audience calls up animated monster slides with its chants.

Young Children's Version: Less Bizarre, more Boo!

Early Version:  A Pre-Show for September!

Fair Show: A short show suitable for multiple presentations in fairs and festivals. Can be used any time of year.

Featured at Lincoln Center, NY; and Minneapolis Art Institute (MN).
Christmas Show

(Also "Xmas in July,"and "Sing-Along Carols" )

“Visually stunning . . . It’s a show that’s not to be missed . . .  Totally unique.”—Kimbal Theatre, Williamsburg, VA

Evokes the wonder and laughter of a Victorian Christmas. Includes such classics as "The Night Before Christmas," "The Little Match Girl," and Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," plus gorgeous illustrated carols like "O Holy Night." Christmas Day ends with a comic parade of animated toy slides -- accompanied by the delighted shouts, stomps, and squeals of the audience!

"Christmas in July" Version: We'll create a Victorian Christmas in July, . . or May, . . .  or September, . . . or . . . .

"Sing-Along Carols" ~ A show, plus a session of "Sing-Along Carols," illustrated with antique slide illustrations on screen. Invite your local choirs to join the show!

“Our audiences were delighted to see an alternative to the standard Holiday programming. Both shows played to full houses." Montalvo/Carriage House Theater (CA)

New Years Traveling Show, First Night Trraveling Show
Featured at First Nights in Hartford, CT; Mobile, AL. Full length show at Brooklyn Museum of Art.

New Year Show

A favorite for First Night or anytime in January!

“One of the most intriguing of [New Year’s] celebrations.”—New York Times

Celebrate an 1890s New Year! The "Magic-Lantern Crystal Ball" predicts the future. A "Mummers Parade" dazzles with animated jokes. "Little Britches" meets his New Year's angel. The New Year's baby is "The Sweetest Little Feller" ... until he cries all night. And, of course, a spectacular "Auld Lang Syne" finale.

"Super, Super, Super!"—Oneota First Night

Valentines Magic Lantern Traveling Show
Featured at Ivoryton Theater (CT); and The Adirondack Museum in NY.
Valentine Show

Also "Victorian Wedding" Version

"Full of fun -- sometimes humorous, at others melodramatic, . . .  even tenderly sentimental."The Hartford Advocate

Love -- its joy, pain, and comedy. Chant the chorus of "Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight" as Bessie saves her lover by silencing his funeral bell. Tremble to the melodrama of "Miss Kitty's Road to Ruin." Join in sing-longs like "Mighty Like a Rose" and "The Red River Valley." And provide the sound effects for a fair maiden's rescue by ... "Our Fireman!"

"Victorian Wedding" Version: Authentic Victorian Show for your wedding party. Love's tender. Love's a laugh. Unforgettable.

Featured at Lakeside, OH;
and The Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C.

Patriotic Show

(Especially Appropriate for School Matinees,

In-School Performances and Patriotic Holidays)

"Excellent -- historical, informational, fun!"—Third Grade Teacher

“Wonderful feedback from staff and students”Washington School (CT) PTO

Captures the rowdy patriotic passion of Americans 100 years ago. Includes illustrated sing-alongs like "Yankee Doodle," and "The Star Spangled Banner"; stirring stories like "The Man Without a Country," and the comic tale of a manure-splattered American genius and his home-made flying machine. Plus an animated Uncle Sam!

School Matinee/In-Shows -- Arts-in-Education Version: This Is Our Most Popular School Matinee and In-School Show. It covers 300 years of American history in story and song -- entertainment integrated into the curriculum. Appropriate anytime, but especially for Constitution Day, Veterans Day, President's Week, and of course the Fourth of July. We can do this show in theaters or in schools while on the road with any of our shows. Further Information.
Spring Magic-Lantern Traveling Theatre

Summertime Version Too

"An incredible experience. . .You're transported to

another time and place."Cincinnati (OH) Art Museum

A light-hearted celebration of the season.  Cheer as "Sally O'Casey and her parasol do battle with a randy billy goat.  Weep for "Maud Muller's" lost chance at love.  Join in singing "Froggie Would a Wooing Go."  And howl as animated cats sing "Opera."

"An experience unlike any other. . .electrifying"The Observer  (AZ)


Magic Lantern Touring Shows on College Campus

Campus Residencies    Performances and Residencies at Colleges and Universities

“Absolutely wonderful -- a marvel of sound and light. . .and of the dramatic, witty (and even downright scary) story-telling powers of the magic lantern showman!”University of Iowa                                                              

We have given many performances and/or residencies at college and university campuses around the country, making connections with everything from the Drama Department, to the Film Center, to the Art Department.   We've also to performed School Matinees with college classes observing and then discussing afterwards, or participating in workshops on acting and music.   Our academic credentials (Harvard doctorate) and academic interests (two books published, another on the way) make us fit easily into a campus environment. For more on a full list of possibilities, and past campus performances, click here.

Young Children's Magic Lantern Traveling Show
Featured at Academy Theatre (PA), and Ridgefield Playhouse (CT).

Nursery School Show

"Nothing but rave reviews"—Old Salem, NC

Especially for ages 3-6. Features such classic Victorian stories for young children as "Alice in Wonderland," "Peter Pan." and "Beauty and the Beast," plus songs like "Old McDonald," and "Row, Row Your Boat." Try out old-time children's games, see old-time "real life," and, of course, laugh at old-time animated comics. Lots of sing-along, lots of participation, lots of fun. One hour. NEW!

Sea Magic Lantern Traveling Show
Featured at the Tenn. Williams Theatre, Key West, FL; and Children's Festival, Singapore.
Sea Show

Also "Riverside" and "Lakeside" Versions

"Irresistible. . .a feast of fun. . .mesmerizing. . .Go see!"The Martha's Vineyard (MA) Gazette

Dramatizes the adventure, the comedy, the mystery, and the majesty of the Age of Sail. Features "The Wreck of the Hesperus"; sing-along sea chanteys; dancing sailors, and a ferocious animated sea battle between English and French frigates. The audience takes sides. BOOM!

"Riverside" Version: Tailored to riverside communities. Includes a steam-boat race, "Huck Finn," and "Shenandoah."

"Lakeside" Version: Tailored to lakeside communities. Includes Hiawatha's battle with a giant lake trout, and the story of how the Magic-Lantern saved the Adirondack lakes.

Featured at the "Big E" (MA);

and the Spring Festival, Texarkana, TX.

Any Show, Any Time of Year. Film Festival Version Too.

“Young and “still young-at-heart” were absolutely captivated by your Magic Lantern programs."—Texarkana (TX) Arts Fair

"One of the most unique and entertaining offerings during our four-day film festival. . .one of my personal highlights."Programming Coordinator, Maryland Film Festival

A special version of each of our shows (Halloween, Christmas, Spring, etc.) that we've created to fit the environment of a Fair or Festival, where there are large numbers of people, and many competing attractions.  We usually perform 3 or 4 short shows a day, each of about a half-hour.  The shows are fast-paced, high energy, and designed to fascinate a wide range of people, from three-year olds to seniors. Please inquire about specifics.

Civil War Magic Lantern Touring ShowFeatured at CW Reenactment, St. Angelo, TX; and Rylander Theatre, Americus, GA.
Civil War Show

"Uncle Tom's Cabin" and "American Panorama" Versions

Typical audience comments from a survey conducted by
the Hayes Civil War Reenactment in Ohio:  

“Wow!”  “terrific,” “fascinating,” “very professional,”  “amazing,” “fantastic,” “very educational,” “wonderful,”“spectacular,” “absolutely wonderful,” “superb!”

Dramatizes our greatest national tragedy. Begins with the story that helped spark the war -- Uncle Tom's Cabin. Then the war itself erupts in poems like "Barbara Frietchie" and "Sheridan's Ride," and in songs like "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Dixie." In the aftermath, the country tries to heal itself with "The Man Without a Country" and "America the Beautiful." (Click for more.)

American Panorama Version: Same as above, but substitutes the early history of America for Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Uncle Tom's Cabin:  A stand-alone performance.

Cinema Before Film  Magic-Lantern Traveling Show
Featured at Egyptian Theater, Hollywood, CA; and Maryland Film Festival
Celtic Show

Cinema Before Film

Perfect for film festivals, museums, film schools! See the many "cinema" techniques used before film in magic-lantern shows -- animation, close ups, zooms, dissolves, pans, parallel editing, story boarding, continuity, etc. Learn how America's most prolific magic-lantern illustrator, Joseph Boggs Beale, used these "cinema" techniques to transfix his pre-cinema audience. This is an illustrated lecture, not entertainment, but can be combined with any of our entertainment shows. Based on Terry Borton's forthcoming book, Cinema Before Film.
Showman on International Touring Show


"We Speak Your Language!"

“As exciting as any live performance you will see today.  Taiwanese audiences

      were amazed with the humor and artistry of this Victorian entertainment.”
Taipei International Arts Festival, Taiwan

International Tours Now Available:

For the Singapore International Arts Festival we developed a new "Translated Format" that now allows us to present any of our English-language shows to speakers of any language in the world, including (so far!) Chinese, Polish, French, and Hindi.

We perform in English, and anyone with the smallest amount of ability to speak English can understand us.  Here's how.

We send you in advance a special Translated Format script. This is not a boring, line-by-line translation. It uses simplified English and includes various forms of translated interjections -- simultaneous, summary, key word, key line-- to create a fast-moving, fluid performance. You provide a translator (we prefer and English-speaking drama student), and we come a day early to rehearse. At the show itself we combined the Translated Format with pre-show warm-ups, audience participation in simple English chants and songs, on-stage pantomime, dramatic presentation, on-screen English words, and, of course, the magic-lantern show's dramatic voices, stunning story-telling pictures, hilarious animated comedy, and stirring music. The result is a show that is in both English and your language, has all the energy and excitement of the American original, and can be easily understood by adults and children with little previous knowledge of English!


  • Bible
  • Irish/Scottish/Celtic
  • Loie Fuller Magic-Lantern Dance
  • Photographic Tour of America
  • Photographic Tour of the World
  • Classical Piano Recital with Magic-Lantern Images
  • Customized Shows

These shows do not fit our usual pattern, but contain some wonderful material, as you can see from the picture at left of Jody Sperling doing the Loie Fuller Magic-Lantern Dance. Inquire.

Bottom curly-q
Repertoire Schedule About Us Book Us! What's New    

Last Update: 9/6/09 16:21
Web Author: POW·R·PC
Copyright © 2008 by The American Magic-Lantern Theater - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED