Dear Friends in Magic,
Welcome to my latest magic newsletter! I post one on the second Sunday, every other month. You can read the previous installments here.
As usual, I like to start with . . . .
A BIG IDEA
As magicians we are obsessed with the methods for our mysteries.
For good reason! If our methods are clumsy or complex it weakens the effect. If our techniques are visible or well-known there’s no magic at all. And besides, it is just plain fun to play with secret technology, hidden principles, and elegant sleight-of-hand.
So it is no surprise that our literature and subculture is overflowing with methods. Everywhere we look: magazines, books, videos, downloads, sessions, conventions, lectures, advertisments, blogs, v-blogs, YouTubes. Magicians love methods and collect secrets. I do, too.
And yet a successful, astonishing magic performance requires so much more. For one thing, it requires powerful presentation. Without this, we are more or less just playing the scales for others, demonstrating our (secret) technology or skill. But since we are obviously witholding information along the way, it feels like a “trick.”
Presentation, then, is the primary way we elevate the nuts and bolts of our craft—its hidden machinery—into an experience of magic, one that creates energy, delight, and wonder.
What, then, is presentation? Many magicians use the word loosely or in various ways, but I’d like to tighten things up by suggesting that it refers to the following four interwoven elements:
— The theme of the piece: what it is about.
— Good words that are well delivered.
— Your performing character and wardrobe: who the audience sees.
— The appearance of your performing space and props.
There is a lot going on here, isn’t there? And you can’t buy these things at the magic store. They only come to be present in our magic through careful thought, creative craft, and hard work. Even so, just think about what would happen to the perceived quality of the performance if one or more of them were missing.
So if we aspire to be magicians rather than “trickicians,” I invite you to look carefully at your performing pieces and assess exactly how they’re doing with regard to the Elements of Presentation. I have a feeling you’ll quickly identify some quick fixes and things you want to work on to make them more “presentable.”
IN THE STUDIO
I have just completed an intense month on the road, doing many different shows. Among other stops, I spent time in Columbus, Ohio, filming two different projects for Penguin Magic: a close-up show for their popular “Act” series and six of my worker card routines that I call “Borrowed Card Stunners.” (Keep an eye peeled at Penguin for their release.) Next I am off to Hollywood for a few days to see good friends, work with students, and visit the Magic Castle.
Once back in Memphis, I will be developing some upcoming projects. For example, New York lighting designer Casey McClellan is flying in to work on my two-act full-evening show later this year at Memphis's prestigious Halloran Centre Theatre. And I’ll continue preparations for my lecture tour of the Southeast: Atlanta (June 2) West Palm Beach (June 3), Tampa (June 4), Miami (June 5), and Jacksonville (June 6). For more information about these appearances (and others), please check out my events page.
IT’S NOT MAGIC, BUT . . . .
As part of my recent travels, I was in Paris and had an open lunch one day. So I walked up the Rue Cler in the 7th, close to the Eiffel Tower, and stopped at a lovely brasserie called Café Central.
As I went in, the maître d’ smiled and said “welcome home” (in English). He took me to a quiet table in a corner, pulled it out so I could slide in, and tucked it back, nice and cozy. My waiter instantly arrived with water and baguette—and a pat of creamy French butter.
I watched my cappuccino being made by the waiter: he thoroughly frothed the milk and put it in a glass first and then slowly poured the expresso through the froth so foam would rise to the top in a lovely mound. He sprinkled it with chocolate powder and presented the glass to me as though it was my main course.
But it wasn’t, because a short while later my paillard de poulet arrived: pounded wafer thin, drizzled with fresh lemon, and dressed with a splash of roquette and tomato. It was utterly delicious.
I have no doubt the (secret) ingredients were fresh. I am confident the craftmanship in the kitchen was excellent. But the real reason this meal stayed with me, why I took a photo to share with my family (and with you), why I am writing about it for you here, is pretty much everything else.
MYSTERY SCHOOL MINUTE
About every three weeks, the School posts a new short video from me with an idea designed to feed your head and inspire your hands. My most recent one is titled “Magic Is More than Tricks.” You can view it here.
HAPPENING AT THE PRESS
In my previous newsletter, I reported that I was dedicating the month of February to finishing the manuscript for Eugene Burger’s first (of two) books that will share all of his unpublished material. I can report: mission accomplished! The manuscript is now in the hands of proofreaders, the illustrations are being drawn, the videos and photos are being curated, and everything is on track for an early November release. Just keeping you posted.
Meanwhile, I invite you to visit Theory and Art of Magic Press and look over our current publications. You will find other books and products by Eugene, but also by such luminaries as Jeff McBride, Robert E. Neale, and George Parker. You will also see my three books, Inspirations, Transformations, and Life Magic.
Hopefully you’ll find something there to carry with you during the fresh, green, blossoming days of spring.
Thank you for being part of my network. Feel free to share my newsletter and, as always, let me know what you think.
See you in June with all the latest!
Dean of the McBride Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press