National Library of Australia

Teachers notes: W.G. Alma, magician


A student:

  • makes media productions using knowledge of current directions and practices and reflecting an awareness of the aesthetic aspects in media.
  • prepares, produces and promotes media productions using available technical equipment to obtain certain audience responses, e.g. prepares different cover pages of magazines to attract identified readers.
  • uses knowledge of media in different cultures and from different historical periods to compare and contrast present-day media styles, themes, purposes and content.
  • explores present-day media issues and influences; uses knowledge to help develop media productions.

Magic shows, illusionists and shadow shows were popular forms of entertainment prior to cinema. In fact magicians and artists were some of the first people to experiment with the new medium of film.


  • Develop a communication technology timeline starting with Edison’s phonograph in 1877. Describe what entertainment mediums have superseded each other. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of each of these mediums in relation to the particular style of messages that they each craft.
  • What technology is currently replacing film and what impact will this have on contemporary cinemas?
  • Alma’s magic and illusion shows were performed in theatres as live entertainment. What happened to many of these theatres and performers once cinema became popular?


  • Create a poster, radio or television advertisement for the come-back of Alma’s magic show.
  • Create a short video animation using object replacement, to create the illusion of objects appearing, transforming and disappearing.


  • Research the arrival of film in Australia.

Australia did not have its first experience of projected film from the Lumiere brothers but from an American magician named Carl Hertz. His program, announced as ‘a conflux of apparent miracles and marvellous illusions’, included ‘the great London sensation, the Cinematographe’ which, it was claimed, would reproduce animated nature as if to bring it to life. [1]


1. Adventures in Cybersound: A History of Cinematography in Australia,