Dear Friends in Magic,
I am writing this from our new home in Washington, D.C.! Margie and I completed the move, and all is well. We are looking forward to exploring our new city and connecting with many friends here. But I always have time to share…
A BIG IDEA
A couple of weeks before the move, we had a small party in our backyard. The day prior to it, the C.D.C. had issued its new guidelines on mask use for people who were vaccinated, and everyone coming to the party fell into that category. This meant our guests were free to share smiles, shake hands, and give hugs. It was an exuberant experience, and I got a glimpse of the “new future” for performing in-person magic again!
Now, it was only a glimpse—we aren’t there yet. Many people around the world don’t yet have access to the vaccine. And some people are unable to take the vaccine for health reasons. Indeed, we have mask-work and humanitarian work ahead of us before the new future becomes the present. But it is not too early to spend some time re-discovering what we want our in-person magic to be when it arrives.
For me, I have been spending a lot of time studying my repertoire lists, reflecting on which pieces need to be re-written for current conditions or retired altogether. Definitely, I have some of each, which means I have some creative scripting ahead of me and some “windows” in my repertoire. But that’s perfectly fine with me. It is all room through which fresh winds will blow.
I have also spent a good bit of time thinking, in great specificity, about what I’ve missed about in-person performing during the pandemic. This allows me to move forward so I get a lot more of that! For example, I have especially missed delivering highly interactive pieces that transform an audience of individual spectators into an energetic community of participants. So, I am working and visioning to get even more of that into each of my performing venues.
We might also explore things we haven’t missed—like hard-selling or cold-calling to land gigs. Maybe there are some alternate approaches we can develop for less pain in the “new future,” such as (what I call) “non-selling” and friend-raising. Or perhaps there was a type of gig that just wasn’t natural or pleasant for you. This is a great time to re-tool your brand and marketing to move away from those venues.
These ideas are designed to re-awaken your “magic heart,” which may have been hurting or slumbering during the pandemic. The new future will be here, perhaps sooner than we think. And I am just clairvoyant enough to know that your magic will have an important role to play as people start coming together again.
IN THE STUDIO
Before packing up my studio for the move, I had several big projects cooking there.
I wrote a long cover story for the July issue of The Linking Ring magazine that celebrates the long life and wonderful magic of Bob Neale. If you are a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, you will be able to read the piece in a few weeks. In addition to my celebration essay, you will also find two of Bob’s previously unpublished routines—edited and presented by me in a similar style to the one we used for Magic Inside Out.
Last month, Jeff McBride, Tobias Beckwith, and I delivered a highly successful online version of our course, Magic for Speakers and Presenters. As you might imagine, the Zoom room was packed with attendees who were excited to explore this style of performance-presentation as we head toward the new future.
With this in mind, the team at the Mystery School has also announced its Fall Semester of Courses, both online and in Las Vegas:
In particular, I want to mention that I will be making my first trip back to Las Vegas in mid-September to teach The Las Vegas Séance Summit with Jeff McBride at the House of Mystery, September 17-19, 2021.
The next weekend, September 24-26, we will again be holding the Magic and Meaning Conference online. This worked exceptionally well last year, and it allowed people from all over the world to attend and participate in this important Mystery School community event.
Some especially big news is that October 22-24, Jeff and I will offer the inaugural installment of a new course in Las Vegas: Weekend of Wisdom: The Philosophers of Magic. Our intention here is to return to the spirit of “wisdom retreat” that caused the Mystery School to be founded in the first place. Limited to 20 attendees, there will be wisdom, mystery, ritual, and heart-to-heart conversations about what we want our magic to be.
So, there you have the quick sketch of our upcoming classes! For more information and to register, please go to the School’s events page. Please join us for one or more of these special events!
Finally, I am delighted to report that Eugene Burger: Final Secrets is now in the process of design! I couldn’t be more excited, and it is my pleasure to once again be teaming up with Stina Henslee, an exceptionally talented designer. Given this, I plan to release the book on Eugene’s “favorite religious holiday”: Halloween of 2021!
Yes, friends, the long wait is nearly over! In my August newsletter, I will unveil the pre-order program so you can learn how to purchase the book in advance and receive it from us on Halloween. In the meantime, it is with great pleasure that I unveil here—for the first time anywhere—the book’s cover:
IT’S NOT MAGIC, BUT…
About once a year, I find myself picking up one of the books in Tolkien’s great Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. It is not pre-planned and it’s not a ritual; it just sort of happens. (This spring, it was The Two Towers.) Invariably, after just a few pages, I am swept away to Middle-Earth.
I have thought a lot about this distinctive experience, about how thoroughly Tolkien carries us away to his remarkable world of Wizards, Elves, and Dwarves, of small furry folks who must make impossible choices in the face of overpowering evil. And I always ask: How does Tolkien do it? How does he make his world so utterly compelling?
The good news is that Tolkien actually tells us. “On Fairy Stories” is Tolkien’s essay from 1939 about how fantastic stories work as a literary form. A big part of it, he says, is that the writer of such tales “makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is ‘true’: it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic—or rather the art—has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again… .”
Sound familiar? Tolkien’s essay becomes still more compelling as he describes how the writer creates the fragile bubble of their secondary world: through voice, language, and narrative. Those are the carefully crafted elements that draw us into the imagined world so we can experience freedom from our “drab world” and the renewal that comes from our time there. Again, it happens through voice, language, and narrative.
Do we magicians know this? Do we do this? Can we learn how to do it better? I am inspired.
HAPPENING AT THE PRESS
Almost immediately after my June installment, outstanding reviews started rolling in for our two 2021 book releases, Gary Brown’s Wandcraft and Bob Neale’s Magic Inside Out. In case you haven’t yet spent time with these two “inspiring” books (as reviewers keep saying), we hope you will stop by Theory and Art of Magic press to consider them.
As you wait for Eugene Burger: Final Secrets, I want to tell you a story about Eugene’s 2017 book, Teaching Magic. Although I couldn’t reveal it at the time of its publication, all of Eugene’s tricks and short essays in the book were slated to appear in Final Secrets.
What happened was this. In January of 2017, Eugene submitted a small manuscript to me, hoping I would publish it. It consisted of early versions of Part One and Part Four of what became Teaching Magic. I told Eugene of course I would publish it, but I felt it wasn’t yet a “whole book.” It needed a few of his strong tricks and pithy short essays we were secretly saving for the “posthumous project.” And besides, I said, “Final Secrets is getting too long anyway.” That did it! Eugene agreed, and Teaching Magic, as we know it, came to be.
In “another world,” one not so far from this one, those six tricks (and ten short essays) would have been right at home in Final Secrets. With this in mind, I invite you to re-read Teaching Magic and consider, for example, “The Four Coin Opener,” “Eugene’s Final Transposition,” and “A Strange Coincidence” as a little taste of things to come!
I send my very best to you as we all look toward the “new future.” Please stay in touch and feel free to share this installment with any friends who might enjoy it.
Dean of McBride’s Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press