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Independence Park Gets Some Night Life

July 04, 1999

Philadelphia's Independence National Historic Park, home to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and other patriotic shrines, is getting some night life, thanks in part to Hollywood.

On Friday, "Lights of Liberty," an hourlong sound-and-light show whose creative team includes George Lucas' Skywalker Sound, movie composer John Debney and writer/director Ron Maxwell, debuts at the park. Starting at dusk daily, groups of 50 will be led past a series of hand-painted, five-story-high images projected onto the park's historic buildings. The images are accompanied by light effects and also recorded narration and other audio delivered through headsets carried by each visitor. Together, they reproduce events leading to the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Among the narrators are former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite (acting as host), actress Claire Bloom (as Benjamin Franklin's wife, Deborah) and actor Ossie Davis (as James Forton, a sailmaker). Actress Whoopi Goldberg narrates a special tape aimed at children ages 6 to 12.

The $12-million production was funded by public and private sources, notably the electric utility PECO Energy Co., and is operated on contract with the park service. Although touring most park sites continues to be free between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily in the summer, you need tickets ($18 adults, $12 children 6 to 12, free under 6) for the "Lights of Liberty" show, which runs up to six times per hour each night through mid-October. You can buy tickets on-site at the Liberty Center, across from Independence Hall at 6th and Chestnut streets, or in advance by calling (877) GO-2-1776.

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