Dear Friends in Magic,
For me, December is a time for slowing down, feeling thankful, and connecting with family and friends. That includes you, so let’s get started with…
A BIG IDEA Last issue, I launched a four-part series about one of my practical concepts: The Golden Triangle. This is a set of lenses I use to cut through the endless noise of modern magic marketing to identify performing material that is promising for me.
In this second installment, I will say a few words about the first “angle” of the Triangle—the “me” part of it—one’s performing character.
It is common to hear magicians say things like, “Oh, I don’t need a character; I am just me when I perform.” Yes, sure, but which you? I am “me” too, but I don’t, and can’t, present all of me. Instead, I “dial up” some aspects of myself, leaving others at home. In short, even when we are playing ourselves, we are still expressing a character of some kind. It is impossible to perform without doing so.
Given this, productive questions emerge: — Who are you when you perform magic?
— Who does the audience see?
— Have you crafted your stage persona or defaulted into someone else’s?
— Is your persona consistent with your target venues and audiences?
For many developing magicians, this is a primary flaw in their act: their performing character is unformed, generic, and/or inconsistent with their goals. Yet, a higher level of performance and "fit" is possible when we get very clear about which “me” we want to be on stage.
For example, when I first started performing in the mid-1990s I tried to hide the fact I was a philosophy professor—I didn’t let that part of me come out at all—which caused “me” to be generic as a performer. However, given the adult “thinking” audiences I most wanted to work for, I quickly learned to let more and more of the philosopher be present in my choice of effects, frames, and scripts. That is, my character became clearer, stronger, and more interesting for those audiences—and thus I became much more frequently booked! Nearly thirty years later, I just am “the philosopher-magician,” which is an authentic part of myself, and there are so many different kinds of effects “I” can perform…
…but not every effect. And that’s my point. As our performing personas become clearer, more distinctive, and more fully realized, many effects and whole categories of tricks fall away. For example, I have no interest in performing things like “Blockhead,” “Hippity Hop Bunnies,” or “Gambler versus Magician” routines, so I don’t waste my time or money getting distracted by them. (Of course, those very routines might be perfect for your persona, venues, and target audiences.)
So, this first angle of the Golden Triangle comes down to uncovering and crafting who you want to present when you perform. I have worked with some magicians who knew this instantly and instinctively, but many more need some assistance in figuring it out or sharpening it up.
A good place to start is by asking people you love and trust who they see when you perform. But be prepared: there is no one easier to deceive than ourselves so you might be surprised by what they tell you!
Above all, remember that your character on stage is something you can control and craft for greater impact and better shows. As I frequently tell our students, everything about magic becomes easier when you know who you are on stage!
IN THE STUDIO
Speaking of character… this is a primary topic in my upcoming online course:
At the Magic & Mystery School we get countless requests for hands-on, practical training in theater skills that are essential for every performing magician. In this course, I am going to focus on three areas that will most quickly elevate the level of your shows: Voice, Character, and Design.
In each of three weeks, we will tackle one of these skill-sets through a combination of short lectures, exercises, personalized discussion, and homework. The goal is to deepen your understanding, train your body, and cultivate your ability to make choices that will work well for you. At the end of the course, you will recognize real growth in your abilities and understand the forward path for greater confidence as a performer.
The dates are February 23, March 2, and March 9, but everything will be recorded so you can learn the material any time you want. For more information and to register, go to www.magicalwisdom.com/events.
While you are at the School's course catalog, you will see another major event I’m conducting in Baltimore on January 28-29, 2023: The Magic & Mystery School Experience at Poe’s Magic Academy.
This is a full day of in-person learning at the Lord Baltimore Hotel. Your tuition includes a four-hour workshop (including a Zoom Keynote by Jeff McBride and a number of performance feedback sessions). It also includes our full-evening show, a post-show magic lecture, and an after-party—plus a breakfast recap the next day!
I expect that by late January you will be hungry for this inspirational day of magic and for interactive time with other fascinating magicians. For full details and registration, please go here.
IT’S NOT MAGIC, BUT…
In Magic By Design, John Carney says, “The difference between the hack and the artist is largely in the number of aesthetic decisions made.”
This big idea came to mind when I recently saw an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art: Vermeer’s Secrets.
During the pandemic, a world-class team of experts at the National Gallery used new imaging technology and microscopic examination to deepen our understanding of how the 17th Century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer achieved his unsurpassed effects of light and color.
The conservators developed several new insights about Vermeer’s practices and brush techniques, but a big conclusion of the study is that one painting, Girl with a Flute, long thought to be a Vermeer is not. It is most likely the work of a student.
How could they tell? The answer: by the wealth of details Vermeer embodied in his paintings.
For example, Girl with a Flute involves the green earth pigment that Vermeer often used to create shadows on his faces. but at a nearly microscopic level, the brush technique of applying it is fundamentally different. Further, Vermeer used miniscule dots of white and color in eyes and around faces, as if reflecting light, while the student’s painting doesn’t.
Indeed, when we look at an authentic Vermeer (like Girl with a Red Hat or Girl with a Pearl Earring), when we attend to the Master’s details and decisions—which are unseen but felt by the viewer—we stand in awe of the hand, eye, and mind that created these breathtaking paintings.
And with Dai Vernon in mind, I am inspired to not stop thinking or working too soon.
HAPPENING AT THE PRESS
My year-long deep study of Barrie Richardson came to fruition recently at our Master Class for Mentalism in Las Vegas. Inspired there by my time with Ross Johnson, I rolled up my sleeves to do a very close reading of the classic book, Annemann’s Practical Mental Effects.
In chapter V, editor John J. Crimmins collects most of Annemann’s work on the so-called “Pocket Index.” It is innovative in many ways, but unfortunately it's marred by the need to go into a pocket for the steal.
It’s also obsolete, because in 2014 we published George Parker’s astonishing book on the pocket index that dumps the “pocket” once and for all. Yes, you read that correctly: with George’s index-concept, which you tailor-build to your exact requirements, you never go to your pocket to get what you need… and that’s a game-changer.
In honor of George’s “not stopping too soon” (plus the fact that, like Vermeer, he's Dutch), I am running a December special on his book, INDEX-terity: A Revolutionary Approach to a Powerful Tool. During this month, you can purchase a copy of INDEX-terity for $20.00. This is 50% off the retail price!
INDEX-terity comes with five of George Parker’s real-world professional routines, plus access to nine performance and explanation videos that will quickly get an index into your magic or mentalism… but not into your pocket. Those days are over.
Remember: orders in the US over $50.00 get free USPS Priority Mail postage.
Thank you for reading my newsletter and sharing it with your friends. I am always happy to hear from you or receive feedback. And stay tuned because the next "angle" of the Golden Triangle will be Target Venues!
Happy Holidays, Larry Hass
Dean of McBride’s Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press