Dear Friends in Magic,
Welcome to the latest issue of my magic newsletter! I post on the second Sunday of every other month. You can read the previous installments here.
So let’s get into it with…
A BIG IDEA
One problem every magician faces is wanting to perform a new trick too soon. We get so excited by something we’ve read or learned, and we want to try it out before it’s ready. And since it is not ready, the results are disappointing: we fumble the handling, they see through the method, or the reactions aren’t what we hoped for. Often we blame the trick rather than ourselves and start looking for a new one… which we also perform too early and then abandon. Rinse and repeat.
There is no easy fix to this problem. When excitement is high, it’s so tempting to tell ourselves we have practiced enough or it doesn’t need a script or nothing can go wrong. We might even fool ourselves that it went “really well” even though there was only polite reactions.
The way I resist this temptation is through knowledge and discipline. That is, I remind myself of what I have learned over time: that it is always disappointing when I perform something too soon. And I stick to Eugene Burger’s mantra to “hold off until something is really ready… and then wait another month.”
But let’s assume you’ve worked hard for that extra month, polishing and rehearsing. Next, we often encounter a different problem: performing our new piece for the wrong person or group, for those who think their job is to resist you, bust you, or critique you.
Your newborn can’t possibly survive that withering gaze, so I always advise magicians to choose wisely when it comes to that first audience. “First Audience” is my expression for that very special person or select group who will treat you and your babies with respect. Ideally, they will be able to sit back and enjoy the performance, and then, when you are done, give you honest, useful feedback for its improvement.
For some of you, your best “first audience” will be one particular friend or colleague who understands it isn’t a competition. For others it might be a small select “wisdom team.” For me, my absolute best first audience is my wife Marjorie, who genuinely loves seeing what I’ve been up to, and then afterwards gives me excellent ideas and suggestions to consider. And she will find a way to say the hard things, too, if my (lack of) work warrants it.
No new routine ever gets performed in public until Marjorie has seen it and I’ve worked through her feedback. This “session” is an essential step as I consider sending my baby out into the cold, cruel world. And it is a great check on my natural temptation to do so before it is really ready.
IN THE STUDIO
When this arrives, I will have just concluded my five-city whirlwind tour of the Southeast. I am so grateful to my hosts and the I.B.M. Rings themselves for making it possible. Thanks to everyone for coming out.
Also, I am still basking in the glow of the May release of my Penguin Live Act. If you haven’t seen it yet, please check it out… and consider leaving a review, if you would. Besides teaching pieces out of my own professional repertoire, I always aim to teach “higher secrets” for performing success—in this case, secrets about showbuilding. I believe, and hope, that readers of this newsletter will especially enjoy this video.
But there is no time to rest. In ten days I am off to Las Vegas to teach a Master Class at the Magic & Mystery School. Then I quickly head off to Scottsdale to teach (with Lance Burton and Jeff McBride) the Lance Burton Teen Seminar at the I.B.M. Convention. August takes me back to Las Vegas for MAGIC Live plus our sold-out class with Josh Jay and Andi Gladwin, Breakthrough Magic!
Another note that is time-sensitive: tickets have just gone on sale for my full-evening show in Memphis on Friday, September 27, 2019. Magical Life: An Evening with Lawrence Hass will be part of the 2019-2020 season at Memphis’s prestigious Halloran Centre Theatre. I hope you’ll come out to watch me work “long form.” Tickets are on sale here. And let me know if you are coming! Marjorie will be holding court in the lobby.
Finally, just a few days ago the June issue of Vanish: The International Magic Magazine was released and Jeff Christensen’s “Magic Is Education” column includes a full interview with me. If you are interested in reading more about my path and our work at the McBride Magic & Mystery School, click here to receive a free copy of this issue. The interview starts on page 76.
IT’S NOT MAGIC, BUT…
Last month, me and millions of people around the world went to see the highly anticipated film, Avengers: Endgame. I liked this film a lot, and found myself thinking and talking about it for days. It was, as I like to say, “sticky art.”
There was a complex plot, surprising twists, staggering visual effects, and a massively climactic battle in which everything was at stake. But what made it all work was something much smaller, subtler, and easy to overlook: the acting.
Without spoiling anything, the film more or less opens with Tony Stark (Iron Man) on a broken space ship, drifting through space, recording a message to the love of his life, Pepper. He has run out of food and water and will run out of oxygen in a few hours. He says that when he drifts off to sleep for this last time, he will be dreaming… of her.
Will it surprise you to hear I cried? It surprised me, because I don’t really cry at movies. But that’s the power of acting, and Robert Downey Jr. nailed it. He “made believe” it when he shot that scene (against a green screen, no less), and so I made believe it.
Notice what he didn’t do. He didn’t “walk through” the scene tossing off his lines, he didn’t stumble and bumble his words, he didn’t crack a joke at the big moment. Instead, for the space of two minutes he made believe. And because he did, I did. That’s theater!
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. One of my recent “minutes” is on a topic I have thought and taught about for a long time. You can view “Being Creative” here.
HAPPENING AT THE PRESS
The big news is that Eugene Burger’s first book of unpublished materials is well on track for an early November release. The manuscript, illustrations, and images are all finished and sent off to design. After MAGIC Live, I will be able to share more details, including its title. Please stay tuned.
Meanwhile, I hope you’ll visit Theory and Art of Magic Press to look over our current offerings. Alongside celebrated books by Jeff McBride, Robert E. Neale, and George Parker, you will also find books and products by Eugene Burger—including his various tissue paper hat products. Thanks for stopping in to consider some summer reading for yourself or a friend!
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 August with all the latest. I’ll have a lot to share!
Dean of the McBride Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press