A Crankie Afternoon with Lily Silly

Did you miss the Crankie Cabaret but still want to check out these crankie things? Saw the Cabaret and want to see more? We’re coming to Danby.

Feb 11 @ 3pm

Danby Town Hall 1830 Danby Rd

What is a crankie? A crankie is an old storytelling art form. A long illustrated scroll is wound onto two spools which are loaded into a box with a viewing screen. The scroll is hand-cranked while the story is told, accompanied by song, music or puppetry. Come see four original crankie creations with live music and puppetry by Edith McCrea, Isaac Sharp, Lily Gershon, Matt Ocone, and Marina Gershon.

The Ballad of Lady Margaret: A ballad, or story-song, from Francis James Child’s collection, that seems to date back to the late 17th or early 18th century. Ballads originated in Europe during the Middle Ages, and some were passed down orally well into the 20th century. Like many ballads, Lady Margaret is a tale of betrayal and tragedy.

The Graphic Score: A short introduction to the twentieth century concept of a graphical music score, followed by a performance of “Indentation #3” by Italian post-futurist Luigi Chiavetta, with a crankie version of the score.

Duck Odyssey: On January 10, 1992 a cargo container full of rubber ducks and other plastic toys fell off of a ship into the Pacific Ocean, spilling it’s contents. In the years since, these durable little seafarers have washed up on beaches around the world. This is the story of one such rubber duck and its journey across the sea.

Stories of a Russian Dad: Lily brings to life an interview with her father about his experiences in the Soviet Union in the 1970s.

Join us at the Town Hall for this exciting and unique performance. Free and open to the public. Sponsored by the Danby Community Council with support from the Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County.

More info at http://www.lilysilly.com/crankies/

Working on Our First Crankie

Recently we’ve gotten super inspired by crankies – and so we built our own crankie box, and began work on the production of the 1st annual Ithaca Crankie Cabaret.

A crankie is like a small wooden theater, with a scrollable paper story. We helped Edith, one of the artists we’re working with, build this one:

This is before any decorations (although we did add the fun spoons for kicks) and before you add the paper scroll. For our box, we went for a more widescreen size, and we added doors on the front. Here is what it looks like when you backlight the doors:

Next, I started working on the images. For my crankie, I am using a Tyvek scroll instead of paper. And I am glueing black and white tyvek cut-outs that will be backlit, as well as using shadow puppets for action. Here is a scene:

I am also using colorful cellophane pieces to add color to some scenes like this one:

This is just one of the many ways artists can use crankies. You can just draw or paint on it, you can use paper, quilted fabric, projection, add music, storytelling, other kinds of puppetry and much more.

We can’t wait to share what the group of artists we’re working with have come up with. Hope you can make it to our cabaret on Nov 3 and 4th of 2017!


Puppetry can be inspired by many different art forms – visual, dance, circus, story-telling and so much more. On my way, I have come across so many amazing performers that I keep in mind as I make new art.

Check out my tumblr page of inspiring creations here.

Meanwhile, here are a few examples I hope you enjoy:


Ithaca Parade June 2 2017

We’ll be at the parade this June 2nd with Ithaca Is Puppets – a group of puppeteers, puppet-makers and puppet-lovers.  You can participate by making your own puppet and sending us a pic/video to share on the Art Club site. We’ll be giving out the templates at the parade and you’ll be able to print your own at home, too. Check it out here: http://www.yourartclub.com/events/