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Magic Newsletter, June 11, 2023

Dear Friends in Magic,
I am writing to you from Chicago in the middle of my five-week run of Magical Life at the Rhapsody Theater. It has been an exciting time, visiting with friends and fans from all over between shows. But I always have time to share…
Philosophers in every field leave us with powerful ideas delivered in pithy quotes. Magic is no exception. For a few examples:
“The magician is an actor playing the part of a magician, not a juggler” (Robert-Houdin). 
“Confusion is not magic” (Dai Vernon).
“Do fine magic and make it strong!” (Tommy Wonder).
And Max Maven’s perpetual advice to performers: “Slow Down!”
There is great wisdom in quotes like these, and I love to mull them over. But I am often struck by the fact that Eugene Burger’s most powerful quote is not a statement but a question: “What do you want your magic to be?”
This is the question Eugene delivered at every Mystery School event and Master Class, from 1992 to the time of his death. And he typically saved it for the last day; it was his big take-home idea: “What do you want YOUR magic to be?”
Eugene would often add, “It can be anything you want!” Your magic can have humor or comedy, or it can be more thoughtful. It can be trivial or non-trivial. It can be beautiful and emotional. It can be flashy and superficial.
There is no one right answer; there is simply your answer. So, “What do you really want your magic to be?”
With this arresting query, we are jarred out of the hurly-burly of the magic marketplace with its (hourly) “hot, new trick” that everyone is buying. And we are blocked from the path of imitating others—watching them perform and adopting their routines or lines. 
Instead, Eugene asks us to simply stop and reflect on such things as:
What kinds of feelings and thoughts do I hope audiences have during, and after, my show?

Is laughter and applause my goal? Is it my only goal? What other responses might we want people to have at the end of a routine?

Who does the audience experience when I perform? Is that who I want? Is that even me? Or is it someone else I’m unconsciously channeling?

What do I want my magic to be about? What themes or stories do I want to share? Am I doing that?
Eugene always knew his fundamental question was difficult because the answer can’t come from others or be purchased at the magic shop. And he knew it was the question of our personal vision. What is our view and vision—our aspirations—for the magic we make?
Have we asked Eugene’s question recently? Have we ever asked it? If we have, are we sticking to the path of that vision? Or have we gotten sidetracked: lost in a thicket, stuck in a bog, tricked down a false path? If so, how can we move forward?
Just now, in my mind, I can hear Eugene’s answer—one he offered to countless students: “Find the main road and stick with it. And follow it with courage one step at a time.”
For the time being, my “studio” is onstage at the Rhapsody Theater in Chicago. Here is a sneak peek:
As you can start to see, the stage is populated with many of my props and artifacts from my workspace in D.C., and the furniture mirrors its style. Also, as in my home studio, I am not simply “performing,” but rather learning from every show—tweaking and adjusting—ratcheting it up, one performance at a time. Indeed, our work is never done.
The great news is that I am supported and empowered by a first-rate team. Of course, there is Ricardo Rosenkranz and Ross Johnson—dear trusted friends with so much experience. And there is my show team: Collin Helou, Emi Suarez, and Tarah Jané. I feel so lucky to be working with such seasoned theater professionals!
Allow me to report the first review is in—a five-star review I received from Chicago’s Around the Town, praising the show as: “A magical tour of life, hope, and transformation!” I expect more reviews to come in as things move forward.
When this newsletter arrives, I will still have six shows in front of me. So, it is not too late to consider a road trip to Chicago to experience Magical Life. Tickets are available at
After I close the run, on June 23, I head to San Diego for a few days of R & R then return to D.C. to prepare for the I.B.M. Convention in Pittsburgh, where I am both booked to perform and will spend the week facilitating the Lance Burton Teen Seminar. Quite a summer!  
I haven’t had much time for reading or viewing, but I have been enjoying a book by one of my favorite authors: Peter Schjeldahl.
For over twenty years, Schjeldahl (pronounced “shelled-all”) was the head art critic for The New Yorker. More importantly, he was a gifted—even transcendent—writer who could make visual artists and their works come alive on the printed page.
Schjeldahl’s métier was the two-thousand-word essay, of which he wrote hundreds. In each, he explains the occasion of the essay (such as an exhibition), provides important historical context about the artist, and, with a poetic voice, proceeds to illuminate their essence and achievements, providing the reader with light-bulb understanding.
I find it difficult to think of Schjeldahl’s essays as “criticism”; no, they are enthusiasms that never lose their critical eye. And he has a knack for saying things about artists you didn’t know you thought until he said them. For example, of Norman Rockwell Schjeldahl writes, “…he was a visual storyteller of genius. More than that, he was a storyteller, a bard. He didn’t illustrate Middle America. He invented Middle America.”
Of Andy Warhol he says, “Everyone knows that Warhol said he wanted to be a machine. Few recall him saying, as he also did, that he wanted to be Matisse… . Warhol was a supreme colorist who redid the world’s palette in tart, amazing hues such as cerise, citron, burnt orange, and apple-green.” If that doesn’t make you want to look at Flowers again, nothing will!
If you enjoy visual art and artists, Peter Schjeldahl’s essays will enrich your experiences and deepen your knowledge. If art is not your idiom, simply read one of his essays to see what criticism without cynicism can be. To get started, I recommend the collection, Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light.
In my last newsletter, I unveiled the Halloween 2023 release of Eugene Burger: The Workshop Transcripts.
As I mentioned, I had not foreseen the need for this book, but the explosive interest in Eugene’s masterful work on Equivoque (Magician’s Choice) led me to recognize there was a hunger for every detail of Eugene’s 1985-1986 workshops, which I possessed on audio.
Thus, with the assistance of Robert Charles (an executor of Eugene’s estate), I created word-for-word transcripts of three early workshops and one late one. In addition to those four long chapters, The Workshop Transcripts includes nine video and audio supplements, as well as three appendices that will be of exceptional interest to fans and friends of Eugene’s psychological card magic.
Let me again emphasize an important difference about this third book in the series: it will only be available in a signed (by me) and numbered edition limited 850 copies, AND it will only be available for purchase from Theory and Art of Magic Press. This is because we are donating any profit from sales of the book to the McBride Magic & Mystery School Scholarship Fund. Handling all the sales ourselves will generate more dollars for this philanthropy Eugene helped create in 2012.
In my August 13 newsletter, I will provide complete information about how, starting that day, you can pre-order a copy of Eugene Burger: The Workshop Transcripts. I don’t yet know the cost; that will depend on the final page count, which I will learn in July as the design process moves forward. In the meantime, here is the cover for you to enjoy!
Thank you for being a part of my extended community!
It has been quite a year for me and for the Press. Feel free to forward my newsletter to any of your friends and family who might enjoy it. And never hesitate to stay in touch; it’s as easy as hitting reply on this email!
Best Wishes,
Larry Hass
Real-World Magician
Dean of McBride’s Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press