Dear Friends in Magic,
Since my last newsletter, our world has changed in unfathomable ways. I am aware many people who are reading this are going through very difficult challenges with regard to health, loss, or finances. May my words this issue bring insight, direction, and hope. With that in mind, let’s start with…
A BIG IDEA
I have built my show business around the fact that my magic is relational, interactive, and high impact. Thus, with many clients and bookers I have used the metaphor that my magic was “high touch.” About a month ago, that all crashed to a halt.
It took me about twenty-four hours to fully realize all my magic would need to become no touch. Instead of magic that was close-up, it would need to become “distance-up.”
As I studied my repertoire, I was a bit distressed to discover how much of my close-up and stage magic involved having participants take, touch, hold, shuffle, give, select, receive, or physically choose something. Right now—and for a while—that simply cannot happen. Any of those actions, no matter how minimally done, radiate the fear of contagion to anyone who is watching.
At the same time, my mind instantly spun into creative possibilities. All those card tricks to be performed over the telephone? Time to work them up! All of those strong visual mysteries for the platform in which no one joins me on stage? Time to dust ‘em off! All those card routines with techniques that are obvious to the naked eye? They are having their Zoom moment! Quite honestly, after my initial dismay this all felt like an exciting playground to me.
In the two weeks that followed, before shelter-at-home rules took hold, I worked with several magicians to help them save gigs by re-imagining how their material could be transformed into “no touch” performances. Some pieces couldn’t be saved, but many of them could by changing the handling or using tables. At present, public gatherings are banned in most communities, so we are not making in-person shows at all. But at some point in the-not-too-distant future, those laws will relax enough for you to start booking and performing no-touch shows in venues where people can spread out.
So, what would you perform in that venue? Can you create a ten-minute no-touch in-person show? A twenty-minute show? Thirty?
And why wait until then? What would your very best ten-, twenty-, or thirty-minute live-for-the-camera show be? How can you use camera technology most effectively? What tricks and techniques suddenly come to life when you can step close to the camera to make eye contact? At the same time, which ones won’t work because the camera eye can’t be misdirected?
This is a time of uncertainty and anxiety, but it also remains a time for us, as magicians, to innovate our work. Because the world needs magic—and it definitely needs your magic. Every time we create an astonishing experience, the psychological subtext is that the world is richer than we know, expect, or fear. We remind people through our art that the impossible is possible. And that is the “space” of hope.
IN THE STUDIO
As you might recall from my previous newsletter, in February I was already into rehearsals for the shows and lectures Jeff McBride and I were planning to deliver on our UK Tour (March 17-April 1). However, by March 5, it became evident we had to cancel the tour—one of the most painful professional decisions I’ve ever had to make.
To offer something for our friends and fans in the UK, Jeff and I immediately started designing online versions of the two courses we had been scheduled to teach. Because of our fluency with the Zoom platform, which we have been using for years to deliver Mystery School Monday, we discovered we could create online versions of almost everything we had prepared to do in-person. Thus, we held the classes on the same dates and times, and most of the registrants chose to stay with the class despite the format change. Not only did Jeff and I find the experience exciting and electric, but participants universally praised the classes as far exceeding their expectations.
So that is what happening “in the studio” at my house these days: preparing for online shows and our upcoming classes! Perhaps you would like to enrich your magic education by joining in!
For one thing, you might consider the entirely new class I am teaching in our Online Spring Semester: “The Three Levels of Performing Magic” (April 28, May 4, and May 11, 5:00-7:00 p.m. pacific). I will be teaching five of my professional routines as I lay out my new model for improving our magic performances by lifting them through three different levels of skill acquisition.
The Master Class students with whom I have shared my “three-levels” approach have raved about how practical it is—no “ivory tower” magic theory here! It is a conceptual tool that allows us to quickly understand why so many magic tricks and routines are weak, ineffective, or forgettable, and it offers a clear forward path to “level-up” each of our pieces.
I hope you will join me as I share this powerful tool in a class setting for the very first time. The cost is $145 for all three sessions. You can register here: http://www.magicalwisdom.com/events#638
In addition to that class, and other classes taught by Jeff and Tobias in our Spring Training Series, I also want to invite you to tune in every Monday for Mystery School Monday (7:00-8:00 p.m. pacific). During the current crisis, we are making the show free and open to any magician who needs a friendly place to land. Here is the link to use every Monday: https://zoom.us/j/685273864.
I hope you will join us! In fact, tomorrow night—April 13—the topic is “Interactive Online Magic” and our special guest is MAX MAVEN. Max is a living legend of magic and mentalism, but he is also a great pioneer of creating strong interactive routines for television, video, and other media, having developed such material for David Copperfield, The World’s Greatest Magic, and his own breakthrough release, Max Maven’s Mindgames.
Don’t miss Max tomorrow night!
IT’S NOT MAGIC, BUT…
For those of us lucky enough to have avoided illness (or traumatic loss) caused by the virus, for those of us not working on the front lines at in essential services, we have more-or-less transitioned from the initial shock into a new day-to-day, stay at home routine. For some people it involves children bouncing off the walls, for others a new solitude or profound sense of silence. For everyone, I suspect, it causes hurt.
Chronic pain is often more disruptive than we realize. Having stenosis with two vertebrae in my spine, I know it can cause us to be short-tempered or distracted. It can lead to low-level unhappiness, including shutting in and shutting off. None of this is “good for the soul.”
So, I would like to gently encourage everyone reading this to try and express your real feelings about these difficult days with your loved ones. I have learned that stuffing chronic pain down and trying to soldier on generally makes things worse. In our family, we have learned ask each other (as well as ourselves), “What do you need right now?” Trying to put that into words—over the phone or computer—usually gets one to a real place that can help you feel lighter.
I have also found it especially helpful to set small goals every day. I try to do this the night before and then I refresh my mind about them in the morning. Invariably, this helps me achieve those goals, rather than getting mired in one more Netflix series or the news, which is so dispiriting. You should see how great my Push-Through False Shuffle is getting! And that feels great.
The mental health part of this strange time is as real as the physical health part, so please take care of your feelings and be especially kind to others because they’re in chronic pain, too. And keep your magic skills sharp! You will be needing them again soon!
HAPPENING AT THE PRESS
In January and February, I made much better than expected progress on Eugene’s second book of unpublished materials, Eugene Burger: Final Secrets. In a few weeks, I am getting back to focused work on it.
Related to that project, there was a wonderful, lengthy review of Eugene Burger: From Beyond in the April 2020 issue of Genii Magazine. Written by Francis Menotti (a very talented, creative magician), the review was everything I could have hoped for—and then some. It was detailed, sensitive, and appreciative of all the wonderful material Eugene left for me to share with you. I think you will enjoy reading this!
In the meantime, I am close to completing the design manuscript for a book by Judge Gary Brown, Wandcraft: Making and Using a Magic Wand. This utterly delightful book both teaches us how to make a variety of magic wands and also how to use them effectively in seven clever routines. We plan to release the book in October—with any luck, at the Magic and Meaning Conference in Las Vegas (October 21-24, 2020).
In the meantime, if you are hankering for a high-quality, thought-provoking book or product from Theory and Art of Magic Press, please visit our website and check out our offerings!
You, my readers, are very much in my thoughts during this time. Thank you for staying in touch, and please share this newsletter with any friends and family who might enjoy it. May you be healthy and peaceful in the weeks ahead!
Dean of McBride’s Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press