Magic Lantern Puppet Theater

Puppeteers Anne Sawyer and Amy Ballestad along with musician Laura Harada, founded Magic Lantern Puppet Theater in 2000.

Magic Lantern's mission is to create and perform high-quality shadow puppet presentations with live music, and to make those shows accessible to all.

Some other artists who have lent their talents to Magic Lantern in the past are New York performer/director Lisa Abbatomarco, Willis Bowman (Barebones Productions) Tracy Yue, Joel Walther, accordionist Sam Adams, Rachel “Olli” Johnson (Full Moon Puppet Cabaret, Bedlam) Reid Knuttila, Jennifer Weaverling, Tara Fahey, and UNIMA award winning Janaki Ranpura.

The group does not perform regularly or have an annual budget; rather, the artists come together for specific projects. The Tale of Fatima the Spinner (2000) and Parvatibai, The Cleverest Woman in India (2002) were color shadow puppet shows of folk tales. The purpose of these shows was to educate in an entertaining way and bring theater to kids who might not have access.

The shows were presented with support from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and the Blake Foundation to groups such as the YWCA, Lino Lakes East Juvenile Correctional Facility, and St. Joseph's Home for Children.

Ala Dean and the Marvelous Lamp

In 2006, Magic Lantern presented the highly successful multi-media shadow show Ala Dean and the Marvelous Lamp at the Center for Independent Artists, providing free tickets to many of the aforementioned groups. A Minnesota State Arts Board Artist’s Initiative Grant that was awarded to Anne Sawyer supported this production. Sawyer wrote and produced the show in addition to building all 150 puppets for the piece.

Bate Bate Chocolate

In 2007, Magic Lantern created an original bilingual puppet show called Bate Bate Chocolate for the Heart of the Beast's Saturday Matinee series, and took it to various Spanish Immersion schools. This show featured a blend of rod puppets and shadow scenes and was also written and built by Sawyer.

Children and Other Optical Illusions

June 17-19, 2010, Magic Lantern presented its most ambitious project to date at Dreamland Arts in St. Paul. Titled Children and Other Optical Illusions, it was the first show the group did that was intended for adults. It was challenging from an artistic view, both in its subject matter and the new blend of technical elements being employed, adding live feed video and more stop motion animation into the mix. In this sense, we feel that we have grown as artists. We stepped outside of the comfortable realm of folk tales, and innovated/expanded our visual vocabulary. The Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) generously gave us a Community Arts grant for this project. The project was also supported by the many people who attended the Pasta for Puppets fund-raiser, and the Fairview Pre-natal and Stillborn Loss Foundation.

Magic Lantern Artists were touched and surprised at the outflowing of support for Children and Other Optical Illusions. All performances sold out, and many people wrote to us afterwards to thank us for approaching the difficult topics of infertility and miscarriage. Because of this outpouring of support and positive feedback, we decided  to re-visit the show. MRAC recently awarded Magic Lantern a larger Arts Activity grant to re-envision Children and Other Optical Illusions. This time the piece will be staged at Open Eye Figure Theatre in South Minneapolis, June 9-11, 2011. See the Home page for details.

Fatima the Spinner
Color shadow puppets from The Tale of Fatima the Spinner, by Anne Sawyer-Aitch, 2000
Shadow scene from Bate Bate Chocolate, by Anne Sawyer-Aitch, 2007
Shadow scene from Bate Bate Chocolate, by Anne Sawyer-Aitch, 2007