Simple Gifts

March 17th, 2014 by Christopher Griggs

GemsRecently I’ve been doing a lot of gift magic. Gift magic is a remarkable thing. It can be performed as one piece in a larger performance or as a stand alone effect. But it is so much more than just leaving someone with a souvenir. There is great power in Gift Magic. Gentle power, but power all the same. It builds confidence, it brings us back to the basics and it exalts the art.

Dr. Lawrence Hass has written extensively about the many venues of magical performance. Hass describes one branch of close-up magic as “Greeting Magic”. Greeting Magic is a single effect performed when meeting someone for the first time or when someone we know asks for a “trick” or when we sense that someone needs a little magic.

One of the great things about Greeting Magic is we are not locked in to a performance. (And neither is the audience). If things don’t go well, it’s over before anyone has time to reject anyone else. Although this is an extremely rare occurrence, it’s still a comfort to know one can easily walk away if things fall to pieces. That being the case, Greeting Magic is a sure fire way to get over the Heebe Jeebies of performing magic. The checkout girl at the market, the child who bumped his head and needs a happy distraction or the couple we are chatting with while waiting for a table in a restaurant. These are all prime targets for our Skinnerian designs. The fact that the recipient is given a charged gift and is grateful, mystified and delighted goes a long way in building confidence.

This kind of Greeting/Gift Magic has done more for me personally than just build confidence. It continually brings me back to the basics. Once and a while I discover I am overwhelming myself with too many complicated routines and knuckle-busting manipulations. Focusing on the (usually) simple and straight forward presentations of Gift Magic allows me to gauge how effectively I am interacting with the audience. Am I looking them in the eye? Are the expressions on their faces telling me anything? Am I directing their attention efficiently, and so on.

In my view, none of us are any one particular archetype in magic. While we may lean toward the Trickster, Oracle, Sorcerer or Sage, I feel we are more likely to find ourselves cycling through each one of these archetypes. And with each incarnation we gain knowledge and wisdom. Think of an upward spiral. So each time I find myself working on Gift Magic, I am doing so at a higher level of awareness than in previous iterations. I always seem to be hanging for dear life to that wild learning curve and I will not have it any other way!

Finally, It is important for anyone claiming to be a magician to have something at the ready for the inevitable. “I’m not prepared” is not a very magical response when someone shows interest in what we do.

I also believe Gift Magic elevates the art. The cliché image in people’s minds of the magician as a fast talking “now you see it, now you don’t” wise guy is still alive and well. Performance magic is still often all about the performer. It seems to me art that works is successful because it is not about the artist, but rather, how his or her creation resonates with the audience. Gift magic is powerful harmonic resonance. It’s like Gandalf riding into town, dazzling the village with his wonders, granting a simple wish and vanishing before anyone has a chance to spoil the moment by over thinking it. The harried waitress, the bruised child or that nice lady in line, now have a fetish object that will be focus of tellings and recounts for ages to come. Their otherwise ordinary trinket becomes charged with mojo because the possessor helped bring it into being. It means something. It is a reminder of their wishes and deepest desires. And in that, like Gandalf, we become the stuff of legend.

Originally published in Le Prestidigitorium

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Experiments in Magic Theatre

March 3rd, 2014 by John Tudor

Enter the Sandman…

What if you were called on to play a magical character in a video, film, or play? To be a vampire, for instance, in a Halloween show? Or Merlin? Or Willy Wonka? How about a scary demigod from a comic book, with an edgy modern circus?

Or, what if you just want to try something new? To find a new style? To grow as a performer and experiment..?

I did, and still do!

Welcome to Experiments in Magic Theatre. I call these routines experiments because the material herein was all created for short runs, or one time events. All were stage shows, and all were collaborations. There’s much to learn from working with other artists, even other magicians.
I’ve been asked why I do these projects, and can only say that it’s an artistic calling. I’ve done a number of other “magic theatre” productions (as Merlin, Nostradamos, the Tarot Emperor, etc.), but will keep with those that I have video of. Obviously, some of these experiments were more successful than others! Hopefully, I can share something of what I’ve learned.

To outline in general terms, I’ll be asking these questions:

  • What was the project?
  • Why did I do what I did?
  • What was my challenge?
  • What was my reasoning?
  • How well did it work?
  • What did I learn?

We’ll begin with magic in character, performing as a guest artist with a troupe. Then we’ll explore an ensemble magic act, the mentoring of young magicians, and magic stories (with four guest performers). Some classic magic comedy, and a literary magic drama will follow. Also, I’ll feature some media misdirection, and two, three, and four person multiple exchange illusions. I hope you enjoy!

Our first experiment was the most recent, a fire circus/dance fantasy called Dreams. I got to play The Sandman, a mystical character I’ve always loved.

In the play, he foresees the fiery aspect of a coming dream, and pours forth the endless sands of time to lead us into it. Later he saves an innocent dreamer by transforming his attackers, before leading him back to the “real world”. It was especially great fun to play a scary gothic guy, for a local audience who know me as a nice kidshow guy. Here’s how it came to be…

The huge international trend of cirque/sideshow/burlesque performance manifested where I live (Columbia, SC) in a group called Alternacirque. They featured tribałbelly/street dancers, hoop spinning, fire tricks (fire eating, poi spinning, and fire staff), and spoken word poetry. I was a fan, and I wanted to experiment.

I attended their shows, got to know the cast, and did some guest spots at their home venue, the Art Bar. Eventually, I was invited to a creative brainstorm. They wanted to go beyond the vignettes they’d done, and create a new show with a storyline all throughout. It was conceived by the whole group, then honed by the writers and the acts as we went along. Choreography was by Artistic Director Natalie Brown, and the book was by Kendal Turner and Nick Dunn (who played the Bard and the Jester, respectively). The Dreamer was played by actor Tony Warden.

Plot summary:

SandmanWe see an ordinary guy, drifting off to sleep with a book in his favorite easy chair. A black cloaked figure emerges from the darkness, observing the sleeper. The man in black grimly opens the book, and flames rise up! He quietly closes it.

Picking up a salt shaker, he taps a few grains into his fist. An endless stream of salt pours from his hand, that compels the Dreamer to rise, and follow him. The two mysteriously move through layers of painted curtains through which we see fires blazing.

The curtains open on a large cast: dancers, actors, jesters, hoopers, and fire spinners. The cloaked man leaves the Dreamer at the spectacle.

There the Dreamer begins his journey, on which he meets a variety of characters. He keeps finding a child’s toy boat in different places as he journeys, which reminds that him he may be dreaming. In this strange place, he slowly learns that his guide was the eternal Sandman, and that he is now in the Dreamworld.

A few adventures later, the Dreamer is taken to the Royal Court, and the dream becomes a nightmare. Different factions scheme to capture and claim his soul! A mystic battle of fire and dance breaks out, that threatens the entire Dreamworld.

The Dreamer is in peril, too, for if he dies in his dreams he may really die in his sleep!

The Sandman storms in, furious, and transforms his attackers to save the innocent Dreamer (a true deus ex machina). He sets things right in the Dreamworld, and gently leads the Dreamer back safely to his easy chair, before drifting into the darkness.

The Dreamer awakes alone, and finds the toy boat from his dream there in his easy chair.

We are left to wonder, was it all just a dream?

The Sandman (also called Morpheus, also called Dream) is from the hugely popular graphic novels written by Neil Gaiman, published by Vertigo Comics. The immortal Lord of the Dreamworld, his metaphysical role is to guide us into (and out of) our dreams.

He’s not a dream himself, however. He’s usually brooding, always in black. The Sandman is a goth icon; with pale skin, dark eyes, and wildly unkempt hair. He was referred to several times by the characters in the Dreamworld (with fear and dread), but we only saw the Sandman twice. First, as the play opened, then again at the very end. He’s a bit like Uncle Drosselmeyer in the Nutcracker, as he leads the main character into another world and back again.

SANDMAN AARONThe Sandman is drawn as gaunt and skinny, which I am not. I dressed all in black with a long cloak, with white makeup on my face and hands, and shadows around the eyes. I gelled up my hair and rubbed and twisted it all around.

For creative interest, I tried to show different sides of him, not just the morose ennui of an immortal. He was quite angry when being forced to save the Dreamer, then he relaxed and became calm and welcoming. When the lovers were re-united, he acted with old-world courtly gestures; and showed compassion and protective concern when returning the Dreamer home to his real world easy chair.

The play began: “An ordinary guy, in old timey nightshirt and cap, is seen falling sleep with a book, in his chair. A black cloaked figure emerges from the darkness. He compels the dreamer to follow him into the Dreamworld…”

That’s about what I had to start with. The director said for me to be “doing something”, preferably with fire, as I entered. I had free reign to do whatever I wanted. Visions of sugar plums danced in my head of all the fire tricks and special effects I ever knew about or daydreamed on. My mind swam with possibilities.

One inner guideline was obvious: the Sandman is a supernatural entity, so his works wouldn’t look like tricks.

After pulling out every fire gimmick and gadget I owned, I chose to have the Sandman open the Dreamer’s book, and flames rise up. Next the Sandman tapped a few grains of salt into his fist, and a stream of salt poured out as he led the Dreamer away.

I felt that the troupe expected something more elaborate from me. Why choose the Hot Book, and Salt Pour?

The play was full of fire performers, so it seemed natural that Morpheus would ‘read’ the sleepers’ coming dream by seeing fire in the book he was reading before falling asleep. The long sustained pouring action of the salt led into our “journey” in the following scenes. But really, it was a matter of time and space!

My stage time got squeezed even shorter than I’d expected, as the score was created. Had to be quick!
The performance space was a outdoor riverfront amphitheatre, and the weather was rainy and damp. Also, the previous summer’s show had a big flash effect someone did that never worked! This had to work!

The obvious choice was that most trusty Bev Bergeron invention, the Hot Book, which is a prop book that bursts into flame when opened. My idea was that the sleeper was reading something about a fire, and the sleeper’s thoughts were revealed by the fire from the book when the Sandman opened it. The Hot Book served as a prelude to the fire acts seen later in the Dreamworld. (The book had the cover from The Edge of the Unknown, about the paranormal experiences of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.)

I chose for the Sandman to show a blank response to the flame, to reflect his usual dark mood. In hindsight, the Sandman should’ve shown a definite reaction (of some kind), that would clarify the meaning, and strengthen the connection. As it was, the flash of fire from a book at the opening became more of a magic show cliché.What else to do? For inspiration, I went back to the source, and re-read some of the Sandman comics. There it was, right in front of me the whole time.

He’s the Sandman, after all, and he’s always manipulating sand. The sands of time…that bring sleep and travel within the nighttime realms. In the comics he either poured it from a little bag, or created sand from something around him: dust, crumbs, etc.

SANDMAN SALTI added a salt shaker on the little table, and from a few grains the magical sands poured forth. You can find many versions. I used a variation of the technique found in Roy Benson by Starlight, by Levent and Todd Karr (The Miracle Factory, 2006).

I just wish you could see it better! On the only video of the play I have (a dress rehearsal), the falling salt is washed out after a few seconds. Why?

That night footlights had been added, and the fire acts behind the curtain (dyed silk veils) had lit their props earlier than in rehearsals. (Someone said it looks like the set was burning up!) Replacing about half of the salt with silver glitter made all the difference. (The stage “floor” where walked was a gravel patch in front of the platform, so no danger of dancers slipping on salt & glitter.) The audience could clearly see the “salt” falling as we moved, and I was told it looked “magical”. I look back and see that I over-used the switch back and forth.

I liked this choice because the Salt Pour is kind of a soft effect, from an intimidating character.

‘Dreams’ also featured an exchange illusion, Charles Waller’s Transmogrification, from Greater Magic, by John Northern Hilliard (Kaufman and Greenburg, 1994). It is also in the Tarbell course, the Mark Wilson course, etc.

To briefly describe it: Person #1 stands at center stage. A long cloth is held up by two assistants, standing at either side. The cloth is just over a person’s height, with poles on either end for stability. The assistants on the ends walk in a clockwise motion to wrap up Person #1. In the act of wrapping, the cloth is reversed front to back, the assistants ending up on the opposite sides. When the whole thing is unraveled, Person #2 is standing there at center. Person #1 is gone.

We staged it as happening at the Sandman’s command to save the Dreamer, switching two people for two others. In magic show terms it was not completely deceptive. However, it went over much better than I expected.

These “wraparound” illusions require the people to be produced to get on and off stage unseen. This was very difficult on an outdoor stage, as the wings (sides of the stage) were partly open to the audience view. And it must be very well rehearsed, which this was not.

The suspension of disbelief was very high, as the audience was really into the story. Like the opening, it wasn’t presented as a trick, but as a device to move the story along. The audience chose to accept, rather than analyze, which made the effect pleasing. To my surprise, the crowd applauded wildly for it!

The entire show got a big response. The audience was full of friends and fans, and were very receptive. Many in the young, hip audience knew and recognized the Sandman, which really helped. The salt pour, especially, made perfect sense to those who knew the character. To those who didn’t, his actions probably made no sense at all. (even though the Sandman and his powers were explained at length later in the play).

Max Howard pointed out how easy it is to be deep in playing a role, unaware that the audience might not “get it” at all like you think that they do!

Some expressed disappointment that I didn’t do more magic, or go all the way with the Sandman’s wild hair.

Brief though it was, this role was really one of my favorites I’ve ever done. If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest you look up the Sandman graphic novels, they are very intriguing. They are all collected in The Absolute Sandman, Volumes 1-5.

As described by the Bard, Kendal Turner…

One has no choice but to obey the verdict of the Sandman’s power.
His voice is the sound of centuries unfolding, a million ancient pages simultaneously turning…

And so, besides the opportunity to “guest artist” with some talented young performers, what did I get out of this?

First, remember that the answer you are seeking probably is right in front of you.

Second, try adding some glitter to your salt pour so the audience can see it better.

And third, my friends were right, I should have worn the wig!

(A condensed version appears in Linking Ring magazine, January 2014, Volume 94, Number 1)

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El Taumaturgo Interview with Jeff McBride

January 7th, 2014 by Jeff McBride

I am starting with a rather cryptic question, please forgive me for that. But I’ve always felt that there is a lot of “magic” in your magic. What’s the way, in your opinion, to surpass a mere exhibition and go into an emotional experience?

 Tricks engage the mind as puzzles.  In order to impact your audience on deeper levels, more thought has to be put into the various elements that comprise an emotionally potent theatrical experience.  I feel a good magician strives to move the audience beyond intellectual engagement, towards a deeper, emotional experience.

One of the things we teach at the Magic & Mystery School in Las Vegas is how to help our students transport their audiences beyond the mundane to an experience of the miraculous.  For this, very special conditions are required.  For example:

  • understanding and control of the performance environment, and the ability to adapt to the live performing situation as it develops.
  • excellence and even mastery of the technical dimension of magic.  Without excellent technique, there can be no experience of magic for the audience.
  • full awareness of how the audience’s mind-set helps to  create  the magical experience, and the ability to be a proper guide for their magical journey.

The combination of physical, mental, and technical preparation creates a context where the miraculous can be experienced.

Another thing about your stage magic that caught my attention is the way you handle the fourth wall, even in your manipulation act. People are always involved in what you are doing. Can you talk to us about that magical connection?

One of the most important teachings we share at our School is  how to transform an audience of individual  “objective witnesses” into a cohesive group of “subjective participants.” One of the powers of the magic show is that it has the potential to break the fourth wall, and have the audience be directly involved in co-creating the experience.

People support what they help create, whether it is a political party, a charity or even a theatrical experience. If people are engaged and invested energetically in a performance, they will feel like they are “part of it.” I feel that this is what separates an average magic show from a great magic show.

I think people should always leave a good magic show having something to think about or a strong feeling since the performer had guided them through a travel into the unknown. As a guide, do your shows have an special message or a feeling you want your spectators to leave with?

 First of all, there is no “one” kind of audience or “one” kind of message.  The message will change depending on the mind-set of the audience. In my experience, there are two types of audiences. There is a “thinking” audience, and there is a “drinking” audience. There is a major difference with each of these audience’s ability to experience magic on a “deeper level” of theatricality.

  • The Thinking Audience:  these people are coming to the theater to enjoy a specific style of theatrical magical entertainment.  Most often, they are sitting in formal theater seats, sometimes have a program of the evening’s entertainment to read before the show, and often there is no food or alcohol served during the performance. These kinds of audiences are frequently willing to enjoy magic on a deeper level than mere party entertainment. These types of audiences are found at theaters, workshops, retreats, corporate environments, and many come out to our Magic & Mystery School events and performances.  They are ready to go deep into the magical experience.
  • The Drinking Audience: these are party-goers and the type of audiences we engage at private functions, corporate banquets, concerts, nightclubs, and many social functions. Very often, these people have not come to the specific venue to see a magic show. They are socializing, partying, having a good time, and trying to forget their jobs, responsibilities, and other social pressures. Often, they are consuming food and alcohol during the course of the entertainment, or immediately prior to it, and they have a shortened attention span. These are the types of audiences that I typically perform for in Las Vegas casinos. They are jet-lagged, overstimulated, and often have had too much to drink. They are NOT ready to think deeply about magic, or even open up emotionally due to their altered states of consciousness.

Now having a clear definition of different types of audiences I work for, it is my desire to give them an experience that will enhance their present state of mind.  For a “thinking audience,” I will challenge them to think more deeply.  For a “drinking audience,” I will create an experience of cathartic release that allows them to have fun, to unwind and celebrate socially.

You perform your act at the Wonderground in Las Vegas and in big theatres, but every path has it first steps. What were the first venues you started performing in? Do you miss something about those times? How has your performance character developed from your firsts acts? How you maintain the passion in your magic when you work so much? Excuse me if there are so many questions in the same sentence.

I started off as a very conventional magician. Like almost any other magician, I was playing private house parties, fashion shows, carnivals, fairs, and school assemblies. I do not miss any of those times, for I still occasionally perform at all of these kinds of functions and venues; some things never change.

Over the years, I had to perform for larger and larger audiences, so my magic had to play bigger. I also did not have a lot of money for big props so I had to create a style of performance that could make manipulation “play huge” on-stage. My persona, costume, and music changed to be extremely theatrical, flamboyant, and larger than life. I experimented with many theatrical forms and combined them with my magic: martial arts, quick-change, dance, mime, masks, and percussion.

I maintain my passion by working with students at the Magic & Mystery School; their enthusiasm is contagious and inspiring. I also enjoy  working so closely with the Faculty of the School in planning and carrying out our Live and Online learning experiences. Finally, I am energized by performing at the Wonderground every month, where I have challenged myself to present new magic every time. When I’m not performing, I travel to study at other programs and retreat centers, where I learn new ways to teach and motivate others. It seems that I rekindle my passion for magic and nurture my creativity by learning how to serve others better.

The Wonderground seems to me like a very ambitious project (dancing, poetry, magic, juggling, music) and a great experience for those who can attend the show. How did you get the idea for such a unique venue

The Wonderground is an extension of a vision I’ve had since I was very young. I’ve always enjoyed

creating with others, and it seems that by co-creating with a community of artists we challenge each other’s limitations and push our creativity beyond our own self imposed boundaries. In my teens and early twenties, I lived in New York City and was a member of a performance troupe called Le Clique Fantasy Players. Each week, we would perform at various NYC party clubs, discos, and private parties. Often we had a new theme every week that we would have to work with–whether it was carnival, tropical, horror, or jungle.  It was a crazy time that led to outrageous creativity and the ability to improvise and create elaborate performances with very little time, money or advance preparation. This prepared me to study theater, pantomime, and especially improvisation more formally. All of these skills come together at the Wonderground. We create an entirely new show every month! The show is nearly four hours long, and there is magic and performance happening all over the venue, nearly every moment. There is close-up room, bar magic, strolling magic, parlor magic, stage magic, and the environmental installations, live painting, tarot reading, body painting, sideshow arts, oh, and the belly dancers, don’t forget the belly dancers!!

You are the Founder and President of the Magic & Mystery School. Now, with the incredible amount of information that a magic student can find with one or two clicks, what are the benefits of a live learning process like the Mystery School provides?

Well, the truth is we offer both live and online training for the serious student of magic. If you live in Spain, you can study with us online, at your own speed, and when you’re ready, you may want to join us here in Las Vegas. But the important thing to say is that we have at the forefront of educating magicians for 22 years!  We offer expert master teaching from some of the world’s leading performers, philosophers, and educators. Whether online or live, we work to help every magician achieve their highest potential in the art. Further, if a student desires to have a personal mentor, all they have to do is come to one of our classes to make that connection. There is an incredible benefit to having magic education with trained professionals who understand your skill level, desires, and even your limitations. Trained teachers can accelerate your growth as magical entertainer in ways that books, DVDs, and the internet just can’t do. Magic is a living art.

We are from Spain, very far from Las Vegas (where the school is based), but lucky enough to have access to the online teaching of the school. What can we find if we want to start our online learning?

If you want to become a better magician, you can become a member of our online school, which gives you access to an enormous amount of online content and even live-online interaction with our faculty members: Eugene Burger, Dr. Lawrence Hass, George Parker, Tobias Beckwith, and Bryce Kuhlman. Go to and look around this website to enjoy a few of our training programs and sign up as a member to get access to much more content. You can also chat live-time with magicians all over the world who will offer excellent advice.

To get connected with all our online materials, go to  You will find here all the information you need to learn about our online school and live classes here in Las Vegas. We also have an online magic magazine called The Secret Arts Journal.

I should also mention that we offer online episodes of long-running web-tv program, Mystery School Monday. Since January 2011, the faculty has been creating this hour-long weekly magic class for students all over the world. Each episode focuses on a different area of our art–topics such as Street Magic, the Psychology of Magic, Story Telling Magic, Corporate Magic, and many, many others. You are able to access several episodes for free, and when one signs up as a member of our School one gets access to all the episodes we have filmed–at this point, well over a hundred episodes in all.

You’ve recently published your book, The Show Doctor. As I am a publisher myself I have to ask about your book. The book teaches close up magic, stage magic, mentalism, and it includes many interviews. But the most important part of the book are the 48 chapters in which you give advice as The Show Doctor. Please, tell our readers what they will learn reading the book.

I have been teaching magic for twenty five years. I’ve also been helping students learn from their mistakes, and how to become a better magician. The Show Doctor book is filled with practical, real-world advice that can help any magician to avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes in their magical development. The Show Doctor also includes many never-published before magic routines: mentalism, close-up, stage manipulation and illusion.

The book has also a great digital edition designed for the iPad. In fact, it is the first digital book created for the iPad, and it really takes advantage of the special features of the digital media. Do you think that’s the way to go in magic books?

I am a book lover, and will always enjoy the feel of paper in my hands, yet there are so many advantages to having a book with built-in video instruction. Also, the practicality of portability is essential in our modern age. This alone makes it a huge advantage over traditional books.

Thank you very much for sharing your time and knowledge with us.

Ricardo Sanchez

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Volunteer Fail!

July 9th, 2013 by Katherine Rettke

I have more experience than a lot of people when it comes to being a volunteer from the audience. I’m a woman who loves magic, and that makes it very hard to just blend into the crowd at a magician meeting or event. Over the years, the experience of being called on to stand on stage as a magician’s volunteer has become something I dread, and I don’t think I’m the only one.

At every magic show I have been to, I notice there are some women who make it a point to sit in a seat that will make them less likely to be called to volunteer. These are the women who will look down at the floor or suddenly find an urgent need to locate something at the bottom of their purse when the magician searches for volunteers. When the magician throws a ball into the audience as a way to pick a “random helper,” they let the crumpled ball of paper drop next to their feet or they punt  it to someone else.

My hatred for volunteering started with several occasions when I was given long, multi-step strings of instructions about what I should do on stage. Instructions that might sound easy when I was sitting in the audience turned into something with more steps than the Hokey-Pokey once on stage. Sometimes I would mess up, and the magician would need to repeat the instructions. Sometimes when I messed up, a magician would repeat instructions and add a funny joke more appropriate for use to manage someone who was heckling his show. “Oh, no need to apologize” this magician might say to me later. “Yeah, right” I would think to myself, noticing that the magician might have just said those words through clenched teeth.

One magician did an effect where he used magical abilities to reveal that a serial number on a dollar bill I was holding matched numbers he had written down. Each individual number was called off one by one, and I had to affirm each time that the number called matched the information on the bill. The information ALMOST matched, but was off by one or two numbers at the end. When the entire string of numbers didn’t match, I was honest and said so. I got a response of irritation from the magician later. I don’t remember what exactly was said, but I got the message that I should have known better and been more supportive by just agreeing that all of the numbers matched my bill.

Another time I was called on to help a magician faking a mistake, only to reveal a bigger, more amazing finale at the end. My heart sank when the card I was holding was not the card the magician had revealed as my selection. I tried to cover for the mistake by lying. “Yes!” I said, “it IS the King of Diamonds!” I found out later that I had just squashed a great ending. Oops, my mistake again!  I was left with a feeling that no matter WHAT I did, chances were very good that I would be doing something wrong. I have always tried hard to not look stupid, and to not do anything that would make a magician look bad when I was on stage. I can laugh about my failures as a volunteer now, but at the time, failing was no fun.

I still get called to volunteer from time to time, and I do my best to smile and be a good sport when I can’t avoid it. At the same time, I have let most of my magician friends know that I don’t like being a volunteer. I have become one of those women who avoids eye contact with the magician — the woman who lets crumpled balls of paper drop to the floor ignored — and I always try to sit in places that I think will make it harder for a magician to call on me.

Katherine Rettke is a social worker and magic enthusiast who lives in the Washington D.C. area.  Although not a performer, Katherine is proud of her assistance behind the scenes at past magic events and conferences.

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A few thoughts on making a success of this magic malarkey!

March 11th, 2013 by Wayne Dobson

Wayne Dobson

I’m just passing on my experience, it may not be for everybody, but it worked for me!

  1. First and foremost you need a good mentor – someone you really respect and look up to. (I was lucky enough that my mentor was Roy Johnson, and occasionally Ken Brooke offered me some invaluable advice). I never had a teacher as such, as sometimes this restricts you from developing your own style. This person has to be someone who can give you constructive criticism that you do not take offence to – who not only criticises you but most importantly offers you an alternative and a improvement to their criticism. If they just criticise you without making it better it will just knock your confidence. It will also piss you off!
  2. Read books rather than studying DVDs, as watching too many DVDs encourages you to clone the person you are watching. I’m not saying don’t watch DVDs, just don’t rely on them as your only source of information. Also when you read books you tend to think more outside of the box as your imagination runs freely into wondering how the author might do it?
  3. Be careful when accepting advice from family as they see you differently to an audience. How many times have you heard magicians say, “my wife doesn’t like magic!” This must make the magician feel very deflated and it makes me feel really sad as I think what the wife is actually saying is “I don’t like you doing magic because it takes you away from me!” I don’t think there is a person in this world that doesn’t like seeing a good magic trick? (Okay, maybe I am exaggerating) When somebody says they don’t like magic I think there is an insecurity issue somewhere?
  4. Practice your microphone technique as I think there is something really stylish about a performer who uses a microphone on a stand (all the best singers use a handheld microphone). The way I used to practice is: I would have the microphone on the stand and a loop of string around my neck to the microphone stand and then go through my act, and every time the microphone stand moved I knew I was out of range. I used to always practice with the radio on low, and the music would help me maintain a rhythm to my performance.
  5. When making your entrance always do what I call ‘ Z’ the audience and what I mean by that is, as you are walking to the centre of the stage your eyes go from the rear left of the theatre to the front right (in real time, this only takes a couple of seconds , however, everybody in the audience will feel that you have looked at them (I think I got this tip from Showmanship For Magicians). When doing a trick try and stay still, in that way all the focus will be on the important part of the action. If you are moving all over the stage , it just confuses the whole presentation.
  6. most importantly get the audience to like you – because if they like you, they will like whatever you do! And if you do good magic It is a bonus! There are lots more points I could raise and as I think of them I will post them. Finally , “Only Do what you are good at, and it will look like you are good at everything you do!”

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About Secret Art Journal

A collection of magical wisdom from some of the world's most influential magic teachers including Jeff McBride and Eugene Burger. Our goal is to provide you with the knowledge you need to become a better magical performer.