Dear Friends in Magic,
Welcome to the August issue of my magic newsletter! It comes out on the second Sunday of every other month. And I always start with…
A BIG IDEA
As the Dean of the McBride Magic & Mystery School, I’m very lucky to see a lot of magic performed live. By our students, yes, and by magicians all over, because I’m often in cities or at conventions where shows and acts are playing.
I am delighted there is so much astonishing magic being performed today by many talented women and men. It truly is a new golden age of magic. Even so, I sometimes see an act with warts and blemishes that keep it from being all it might be or that damage the public perception of magic.
With this in mind, I recently saw a young magician do a thirty-minute show in a public venue. There was a lot to like: he was comfortable and energetic, he got some good laughs, and the methods were fooling for his non-magician audience. The big problem, however, is that he came across as insincere.
For instance, he talked at people, he would use their answers to his questions as set-ups for punchlines, and it felt like he was “slinging it” for the umpteenth show. Indeed, there was no real contact with this audience, no warm appreciation for anything, no sense of the performer’s loves or hates or point of view. It was jokes and lines, surface and vaneer.
What a pity! What a missed opportunity! Instead of being memorable and authentic, this performer was superficial and forgettable. He forgot, or never learned, what I call the “fundamental secret of magic”: the real business of every show is relationship building.
So how do we do that? In this short space let me simply suggest: look people in the eyes, don’t sound like a used car salesman, have something well-crafted and interesting to say (that is, avoid “patter-blather”), and above all, express true things about yourself.
For example, why do you, personally, perform magic? Why do you love magic? What do you think magic is about? Why do you think your magic is worth someone’s time to watch? The more clearly you can answer these questions, the better you will become at discovering ways to share these parts of yourself with your audiences.
IN THE STUDIO
When this arrives, I will have just returned home from MAGIC Live, where I delivered one of the convention’s Focus Sessions. This means that on Tuesday, August 6, I delivered four presentations of an hour-long session titled… drumroll please… Eugene Burger: From Beyond.
Indeed, this Focus Session was the first public unveiling of my two forthcoming books that will share all of Eugene Burger’s unpublished material. I told the story of how Eugene approached me about this project back in 2010, discussed the process by which we developed the books, performed and taught on of the routines from Book 1, and showed rare video of Eugene performing one of his masterpieces titled "Influence," which I then explained.
Also, for the first time, I revealed the titles of the two books. The first one is called Eugene Burger: From Beyond. (This title ticked Eugene to no end.) It is already off to the printer and will be released on November 10, 2019. The second book is titled Eugene Burger: Final Secrets and will be released in July 2021.
Because I know this is of such exceptional interest to magicians, allow me to share a few more details. Book 1 will be sized 8.5" x 11", which is the same size as Eugene's classic books from Richard Kaufman. It will be 240 pages, consisting of 26 chapters, which includes 16 unpublished routines in the areas of Spirit Theater and Stand-Up and Stage Magic, plus essays, interviews, public talks, scripts, among other items. The book will also come with access to 13 videos of Eugene performing these rare routines and 2 audio performances. I will start taking orders on November 1, so mark your calendar!
Now that Eugene Burger: From Beyond is off to press, I am heading deep into promotion and rehearsals for my full-evening show on September 27, 2019, at Memphis’s prestigious Halloran Centre Theatre at the Orpheum. The show is titled Magical Life: An Evening with Lawrence Hass.
At the present time tickets are still available here.
IT’S NOT MAGIC, BUT…
In the previous installment of my newsletter, I mentioned a concept several of you asked about—“sticky art.” Sticky art is my expression for artworks or entertainment experiences that you find yourself thinking and talking about for days. It is more or less the opposite of the superficial, forgettable art-entertainment stuff that comes and goes with the wind.
Some examples in my recent experience are Avengers: Endgame, Velázquez’s painting Las Meninas, Yes’s album Going For the One, and Clifford Brown’s jazz trumpet work (as on Brown and Roach, Inc.). One recent magic show that did this for me was Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself.
In a Magic & Mystery School Museletter last year, I shared some qualities that I think makes artworks or entertainments sticky:
1. As already mentioned, they are something like the opposite of slick, superficial, or glossy. They are memorable two days later rather than being bubble-gum forgettable.
2. They are thought-rich rather than thought-poor. A palpable amount of artistic decision-making went into their creation. You can feel and tell the artist(s) thought about every detail.
3. They are fecund as opposed to barren—they are more like a tropical jungle than a desert. They don’t give everything up on the first experience. Thus, each of them is encountered as like what J. J. Abrams has called “A Mystery Box.”
I don’t know about you, but I really like spending my precious time with entertainments like this. And I definitely hope to create magic performances and shows that work like this. Here’s to sticky art!
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. Here is a recent one that dovetails with some of our reflections. Enjoy!
HAPPENING AT THE PRESS
Obviously, the big project is preparing for the November release of Eugene Burger: From Beyond. I will start taking orders on November 1, but more information about that will be available in my October newsletter.
Meanwhile, I am delighted to say that Vanishing Inc. Magic has just released my brand new book, Dying to Change. Copies are available here.
Dying to Change is Volume 4 in Vanishing Inc.’s Astonishing Essays series. Joshua Jay and Andi Gladwin’s concept here was to commission a number of magic’s leading writers to create 15,000-word essays on topic of relevance to magicians, but which would include no tricks. As the subtitle suggests, my book is about how I transformed my life from being a philosophy professor to becoming a full-time professional magician. But it is also about the many lessons and practices I learned along the way that can help anyone be more successful in magic. Indeed, as one early reader exclaimed: “Oh my! Larry, the book starts out being about you, but gradually transforms to being all about ME.”
I hope you enjoy Dying to Change. I am proud of this little book and delighted to be part of Josh and Andi’s remarkable series!
Thank you for being part of my network. I am glad you are on board! Feel free to share my newsletter and let me know what you think.
See you in October with all the latest.
Dean of the McBride Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press