Still, plenty of magical happenings and lots getting done virtually...or secretly... to advance magic in this weird time. I highly recommend you check out the full May issue of Genii, which prominently features the delightful @carisahendrix. I have also shared the article text here.
And, keep an eye out for the upcoming June issue, in which I continue striving to show that magic is ever present- even when shrouded by IMMENSE FRUSTRATION. 🤯
#geniimagazine #magiceverydamnday #magiceverywhere #supportartists #supportlocalperformers #magicians #magicianslife
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend checking out the exceptional From the Library series. So many members involved in helping Bill Goodwin curate this, already 49 episode, series. What an excellent resource! I think I was all caught up watching before safety measures made it necessary to close our club, but now I’m getting to revisit my favorites and become newly inspired. (https://members.magiccastle.com/fromthelibrary) For history and nostalgia, there are also several wonderful interviews shared by the Heritage Committee. (https://members.magiccastle.com/heritage-committee
One of the most magical benefits of technology is the ability to visit our beloved friends and colleagues who have transcended to another plane. Personally, I find sharing a room again with Daryl or Eugene Burger, while learning and practicing along with them, heartening. Not only is the information catalogued and the wisdom preserved, we live in an age where technology allows us to keep experiencing their energy, tone, humor and (near) presence. For that, I am extremely grateful.
To visit virtually with our friends and colleagues still with us but, I imagine, forlornly watching the rain from windows… there are a number of excellent podcasts. Here are just a few I’ve been tuning in to this month:
* Two Magicians. One Mic. (https://twomagiciansonemic.podomatic.com/)
Nick Paul and Simon Coronel are hosting the aptly titled: “Quarantine Sessions” interview series. Their latest guests include: Jon Armstrong, Benjamin Schrader, Chris Grace and Jon Accardo, Marcus Monroe, David Wain. One can always count on these hosts for interesting discussion and high-level shenanigans.
* The Magic Word with Scott Wells (https://www.themagicwordpodcast.com/)
Scott’s interviews are staple for magic community conversation, wherever you may be. For an in-depth look at current Covid-19 concerns, check out Episode 551 “Coronavirus: Impact on Magicians.” To engage in escapism with escape artists, enjoy Episode 553 “Jonathan Goodwin: What Could Go Wrong?”
I suspect most of us prefer for our careers to be on fire and not our person. Jonathan Goodwin seems impressively enthusiastic about both.
* Shezam!! “It’s a feminist podcast about magic.” (https://www.shezampod.com/series/shezam/)
First, I love a good onomatopoetic portmanteau. More importantly, Carisa Hendrix and Kayla Drescher share uplifting, motivating, and conscientious advice, ideas and interviews. Episodes explore information and ideas of worthwhile consideration no matter where you might be in your magical journey. One especially engaging interview is Episode 043 “Jade: on both the Lovely and the Hard things.” Brilliantly titled. Every artist I know has plenty to say on both subjects.
I got in a few very fun nights at the Magic Castle, prepocolypse. Thankfully, I managed to see the last Palace of Mystery show featuring: Eric Buss’ zany blend of musical magic comedy, Danny Cole & Stacey’s beautifully haunting vignettes and Stuart MacDonald’s spooky and whimsical storytelling.
Eric, besides being appropriately addicted to duct tape, is a delightfully goofy and energetic host. I have long appreciated his inventiveness and am impressed by how much magic he can squeeze into one…shall-we-say, DJ set? He cleverly uses the natural timbre of his props to harmonize sound with illusion. As a life-long percussionist and erstwhile foley artist myself, I have to admit that his facility with a looper pedal is easily my favorite use of that technology.
Danny Cole & Stacey paint the most immersive pictures by creating sets that are equally moody and inviting. Danny’s engaging facial expressions and Stacey’s choreography breathe bright life into dark curiosities. I remain coy in my descriptions because I think a good thing should be teased and not spoiled. At your next opportunity, see them for yourself and get pulled into their enchanting diorama.
Stuart MacDonald has polished this delightfully disturbing piece to narrative perfection. I love a well-told story! A seemingly hapless fellow wanders into an unattended room and discovers a book of spells and several mysterious objects. First concerned, then curious, he continues to delve into the possibilities of his newfound treasures until he realizes their true power. I am so delighted I was able to enjoy the show and so disappointed I was unable to attend his lecture!
Luckily for me, Stuart managed to find some free time! I got on the phone with him to discuss the genesis and development of this FISM-winning act. (The act is too well-lauded to enumerate the awards here, but a visit to Stuart’s website will catch you up. It is, of course, also possible to watch the act in its entirety online. There’s no policing the Internet, but I highly recommend you hold out for an opportunity to be astounded by the theatricality of a live performance).
Stuart, the spark of inspiration?!
“Magicians, we practice in front of a mirror, and this is what inspired me.” Stuart started out as a manipulator. He was practicing with a billiard ball in front of a mirror mounted on a door. He dropped the ball behind the door. When he picked the ball up, his other hand was on the opposite side of the mirror. “It played with my mind so badly, I stared at it for a few minutes.”
He taped the ball to the other side of the door and invited his wife to come in and check it out. She said it looked like real magic. “Culturally, there's always been something magical about mirrors: ‘Mirror Mirror on the wall,’ or ‘It's all done with mirrors.’ I might be the only person to write a story with mirrors from beginning to end.”
I cherish a happy accident. And moreover, a happy accident contemplated, experimented upon, evolved and emerging triumphant! Pre-triumph, Stuart was working Whirlpool, appreciating consistency and security but missing his creative passion. “My soul was getting sucked dry. I still had my manipulation act. So, I thought, ‘Why don't I bring it up to speed for FISM competition in 2014, in Italy?’” Stuart may have not expected to win but he also didn’t expect the devastation that he would experience on stage.
"They called it the Korean tsunami- they washed over what we thought was good in magic in this country and turned magic on its head.” Stuart followed an exceptionally well-conceived and executed act by a Korean magician. Stuart had barely started his act when his dancing cane failed. “A dancing cane that couldn't fly?! It was a nightmare! I didn't qualify. I walked off stage in horror.”
The most important take-away: "It gave me fuel to work harder."
“The thing that drove me to be where I am now had nothing to do with magic, nothing to do with story, it was an engineering process.” Between 2014, and 2017 (which would mark Stuart’s triumphant return to the FISM stage) Stuart practiced and polished his act using TPS: the Toyota Production System he was introduced to at Whirlpool. The purpose of the method was to create efficiencies in manufacturing and processing, “LEAN and continuous improvement."
In 2014, "I face planted because I wasn't prepared.” Many magicians were skilled manipulators and explored interesting themes, but they weren’t telling a story. “Gene Anderson took me under his wing and said, ‘That's all I want, a story.’” The story was written and rewritten with important character questions considered: should it end terribly for our protagonist or should he be heralded? “Gene Anderson wants a happy ending. If I die or am punished, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.”
Plot holes filled, apparent non-sequiturs justified, and sleights practiced tirelessly. Applying the knowledge Stuart had gained from his corporate life, “I took out all the junk and created efficiency. In three years time, I went from a face plant on stage to turning it all the way around." In 2017 Stuart went back to FISM and won the Combined Convention and was additionally awarded “Best in Convention” because they said, “we haven’t seen anything like that in 15 years.”
Even an award-winning act has opportunity for improvement. I spotted a brilliant moment that I suspected was new and Stuart confirmed my suspicions. “There's always something that's off. Why do you need that? What's the justification?” So, he added an extra comic moment. "I thought I was just filling in a black moment, like with spackle and hole in the wall." (They joy is in the surprise).
It is often easy to forget that experiences in a different field can cross over so effectively. I am positively thrilled when an act comes by combining diverse knowledge gained from all facets of life. It has proven career changing for Stuart and I hope the reminder serves all of us well.
On Monday between leaving LA and landing at home in Michigan, all Stuart’s shows were cancelled. His current strategy is to do whatever he can to mitigate the damage. Then, he recommends, “take out old magic tricks and walk, exercise, give yourself permission to blow up. Humans are at their best when things are at their worst."
I suspect that our current frustration will lead to some exciting innovation. Tumult so frequently inspires! Scott Jenkins is currently perfecting the mechanism for a new multi-faceted Porper Card Trimmer: a tool for revamping our tools in more inventive fashion. The first limited edition run will be released this summer and I can’t wait to see the new effects produced by capable and creative hands.
Simon Coronel has conceptualized a card game representing a COVID-19 grocery store battleground. The play testing of which gave Shoot Ogawa and I the opportunity to shiv one another for toilet paper. I’m sure Simon will alert us when the game is available for everyone’s shivving pleasure.
For this consummate night owl and insatiable wonder-seeker my evenings have certainly been quieter lately. Although, I think that magic is best experienced live, this has been an excellent opportunity to explore magic in a variety of other ways. Well done, All, and keep innovating! Forlornly watching the rain from your windows is also a perfectly valid choice. Maybe do a little of both?
Silver linings still in mind, I am anxious for our club to reopen! I will be so happy to see all of you in three dimensions again and especially glad to see our excellent staff return. When the time arises, you’ll spot me looking engaged yet curious and applauding wildly from the third row of your show…or, come find me in the John Schrum corner of the Owl Bar and we’ll talk story and sample whatever delicious surprise Ian Somm is uncorking. Looking forward to it!