PORTA, FIRST SCREEN SHOWMAN
Porta, a Neapolitan, blends fancy and showmanship for magic shadow entertainments in the 16th century-- Barbaro and Benedetti put a lens in the "pin-hole" camera or camera obscura.
THE FIRST CONTACT of the new dramatic art, then being developed in Europe and especially in England, with the magic shadow medium was made by a remarkable Neapolitan, Giovanni Battista della Porta.
Porta, a boy wonder, who would have felt at home in the modern Hollywood, put the room camera to theatrical uses. In a way Porta was both the last of the necromancers, who used lens and mirror devices to deceive, and the first legitimate screen writer and producer of light and shadow plays with true entertainment values.
Porta was born in Naples about the year 1538. He and his brother, Vincenzo, were educated by their uncle Adriano Spatafore, a learned man. The uncle had considerable wealth, which enabled young Porta to travel extensively and have the best available instructors. From boyhood Porta's chief interests were the stage and magic.
At an early age he started writing for the theatre and his comedies are rated with the best produced in Italy in the 16th century. But even before he began his professional writing for the stage, he had developed an interest in magic and anything approaching the magical. This avocation was developed during the rest of his life.