19th & 21st Century Technologies:
Thanks to the creative talents of a
troupe of performers in Connecticut working with a media designer at Virginia and to the
capacities of electronic technology, we can give you an idea of what 19th century audiences saw when
they went to Uncle Tom's Cabin as a magic lantern show.
A Digital Magic Lantern Show
The show's script, by Terry Borton, adapts traditional practices to modern expectations and
sensibilities. Elsewhere in the archive you can see the
1881 SCRIPT that was supplied with
the slides. It uses very little dialogue, and is less overtly anti-slavery. Such printed scripts were
intended for use by amateurs; professional lantern showmen developed more elaborate presentations like
the one here, including songs and musical accompaniment.
All the visual effects you'll see -- the "flicker" as Eliza crosses the ice, the dissolves
between slides, the use of double images and so on -- are ones commonly used a hundred years ago.
are all authentic: twelve are from the UTC set offered by Briggs; the remainder are
from other contemporaneous sets. In our show the images are changed more frequently than would have
been the case, but using additional slides to supplement a set was a common lantern show
The show is 20 minutes long, and requires a recent Flash plugin. As long as you have a good
connection to the web, it should load quickly (in less than a minute, for example, with a cable
connection), and once loaded you can use the SCENES control button to jump to any part of the story.