The Wonder Show, 2010-2015

Founded in 2010, The Wonder Show presents contemporary reinterpretations of the Victorian popular art form of the magic lantern show. In turning to these performances that once entertained and educated audiences before the beginning of cinema, we hope to explore new ways of viewing, storytelling and community-building.

Our goals include:
• Discover new forms of multimedia story-telling
• Connect the public to historic materials: stories, photographs, and technologies.
• Experiment with different optical technologies and techniques
• Engage broad and diverse communities

Past collaborators include:

  • Jeremy Radtke

  • Anya Ventura

  • Laura Brown-Lavoie

  • Tess Brown-Lavoie

  • Fay Strongin

Past partners include:

  • The Providence Public Library

  • The Providence Athenaeum

  • The RISD Museum

  • The Rhode Island Historical Society

  • AS220

  • Tockwotton Assisted Living Center

  • Brown University

The Arctic Theatre Royal, 2014

Performance, multimedia project

Partnering with the Providence Athenaeum, the Wonder Show developed a new written work inspired from materials within the Athenaeum’s Travel and Exploration collection. This performance tells the story of one of the earliest arctic explorations led by Captain William Parry.  This performance uses direct text from shipboard publications including, Captain Parry’s journals, a shipboard newspaper –The North Georgia Gazette, as well as playbills from an impromptu performance space, The Arctic Theatre Royal,  from which this performance takes its name.

This performance was accompanied by an exhibit at the Providence Athenaeum: A Peep at the Arctic: Visions of Polar Exploration, 1818-1909

CMW Experimental Music Festival, 2014

Performance, multimedia project

For The Wonder Show's piece, The Arctic Theatre Royal, we partnered with Community Music Works (CMW),  a community-based organization in Providence, RI that uses music education and performance as a vehicle to build lasting and meaningful relationships between children, families, and professional musicians. Condensing components from our original screenplay, we worked with CMW instructors and youth musicians to develop a soundtrack to accompany a segment of The Arctic Theatre Royal. Meeting over the course of several weeks, students composed sounds to invoke ideas of the arctic; ice, exploration, isocaltion, and howling wolves. The final version was presented at CMW's 4th Annual Experimental Music Concert in 2014 at New Urban Arts.

Gimmie Shimmie, 2013

Performance and Installation

In collaboration with Jed Hancock-Brainerd and Rebecca Noon from Strange Attractor Theatre Co. The Wonder Show created Gimmie Shimmie, a performance piece for the 2013 Annual Foo Fest in Providence RI. Inspired by the film Daisies, our performance re-enacted the absurd spirit of the film’s main characters who believe the world is “spoiled,” and embark on a series of antics in which nothing is taken seriously. Performing within a 7’ X 6’ booth wrapped in a hand-painted side-show-style banner, participants placed an oversized token into a slot and were then prompted to poke their heads through a peep-hole and witness various acts: glitter-balloon explosions, a chance at the prize wheel, a cake walk, among other nonsensical acts.

The Romantic Search For Buoyancy, 2013

Lantern lecture performance

The Wonder Show was invited to perform at the Adams Memorial Library in Central Falls as part of the Central Falls Museum Project, conceived by Emily Leighton, an Interior Architecture graduate of RISD. The project included an exhibition of local artists, in addition to a week of creative programming.

Performing in the style of an Illuminated lecture, as they were once called, The Wonder Show presented a history of toy balloons ending with an invitation to make your own balloon animal.

Excerpt from lantern lecture:

“In 1824, a scientist discovered the secret to inflatables while admiring jellyfishes in a tank. After studying the way jellies wrap themselves around the food they eat, Michael Faraday walked back to his lab located in the Southwark borough of London, daydreaming of the delicate inflated sea creatures he had just seen.  While in his lab working out chemistry experiments that would liquefy various gases, Faraday powdered two sheets of sticky rubber together with flour before cutting and pressing together the edges to form an airtight pocket. Inflating the rubber pocket with more and more hydrogen gas, Faraday watched the rubber pouch slowly drift up towards the ceiling and he smiled thinking back to the jellies. It is at this moment at the London’s Royal Institution, that the balloon is born.”

On Mount Rainier, 2012

Multimedia performance

The Wonder Show was commissioned to create a new performance piece to accompany the exhibit “America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now” at the RISD Museum of Art.

In conjunction with this exhibit, The Wonder Show created a new performance, On Mount  Rainier, a spin on the illustrated travel lectures of the 19th century, taking visitors on a visual tour through the historic Western landscapes of the photographer Asahel Curtis. The performance will feature writer and storyteller Laura Brown-Lavoie and musician Ben Cosgrove.

For the production we were able to obtain a collection of slides by the Pacific Northwest photographer Asahel Curtis, brother of the famous documentarian Edward Curtis. Curtis was a huge booster of Western development, photographing Washington state, Alaska, and the Klondike. He was also a member of the hiking group The Mountaineers who would explore the northern slopes of Mount Rainier. The words scrawled on the slides, we discovered, are actually lyrics to the songs sung by The Mountaineers around the campfire.

Strange Sights and UnTold Stories, 2012

Performance, multimedia project

Partnering with the Providence Public Library's special collections and the Glass Negative Project, The Wonder Show developed a performance inspired by images within the glass plate archive; a collection of over 1,200 photographs documenting life in Rhode Island at the turn of the century. Reproducing these glass negatives through darkroom photographic techniques, we created a set of over 100 lantern slides. In the months preceding the magic lantern show, The Wonder Show held creative writing workshops in the public library and at an assisted living facility and commissioned local storytellers to write original stories inspired by these photographs. What resulted were two performances featuring a series of readers – from ages ranging ten to eighty – performing original stories as the photographs were projected.  Musical accompaniment by Chelsea Biggs and Matthew Knipple.

The performance was accompanied by the exhibit, “Sympathetic Magic” at the Providence Public Library and a  walking tour led by the Rhode Island Historical Society.