Dear Friends in Magic,
I hope this finds you well as we head into October and look ahead to the release of Eugene Burger: Final Secrets on Halloween. While we wait for this exciting event, allow me to share…
A BIG IDEA
The old vaudevillians used to talk about “saying ‘hi’ to Mr. Flop.” The notion was that if some mishap occurs during the show—like a stagehand drops a prop or the curtain doesn’t close when it should—it is essential for the performer to acknowledge it. Otherwise, they look clueless, inexperienced, or like they are just “phoning it in.”
Seasoned performers often do this with a laugh, “Whoa, a sudden gust of gravity there!”, or “It’s curtains for those curtains!” Handled like this, the audience knows that you know and are alive to the moment; you laugh, they laugh, and the show moves on.
In some situations, a more personal response is required, like if someone trips or falls as they come on stage. Here, the only way forward is to show genuine concern: “Are you okay? You are? Good! Thanks for coming up.” Please note: in this situation jokes are dicey—you are likely to lose the audience if you look like you are scoring off the mishap.
What this starts to tell us is that managing Mr. Flop requires you are fully awake when you perform. It requires keen perception to assess the right response for the random situation. It comes with stage time and experience, but also by being reminded it matters.
And right now, friends, Mr. Flop is all around us. I am referring to the pandemic—to the fact that people have been confined, constrained, and masked for over eighteen months, that 700,000 people in the United States have perished from this crazy virus, that most people sitting in your in-person audiences are worried about their exposure at that moment. So how to acknowledge the elephant in the room?
I believe this is a pressing question for every performer today. It is tempting to want to pretend Mr. COVID-Flop isn’t happening—to opt for a “pure escape” show, la, la, la, la. But since, currently, your audience is enduring significant rules and restrictions—and might be sitting in masks six feet apart—I believe savvy performers will come up with gentle or direct ways to address the elephant.
For example, two weeks ago I did my first in-person magic lecture in about eighteen months. Everyone in the audience was masked and separated, and I selected material that didn’t require much closeness or direct contact. But there was one card mystery I wanted to share that involved two close-up participants. So, while I answered some questions on one side of the room, I had an eight-foot table brought on. When I invited the people to join me, I sat them at each end of the table, looked back and forth at them and joked, “Okay, so this is the pandemic version…”. Which got a huge laugh and on we went!
So, let me ask again, how are you going to acknowledge our big Mr. Flop? It might be a little joke, like the one I made. It might be revising an old pre-COVID script so it doesn’t sound utterly clueless. It might also be the addition of a tasteful monologue or a heartfelt performance piece that honors this crazy time.
Whatever it is for you, at this show or that, the first step in hitting any target is to recognize it, and this particular elephant is simply too big to ignore.
IN THE STUDIO
It has been busy in my D.C. studio as I head into Fall. Once Eugene Burger: Final Secrets went off to the printer, I got right into rehearsals for my season of lectures, online appearances, and in-person classes coming up in Las Vegas.
For example, the Magic & Mystery School’s doors are opening for a brand-new experience we’re calling, Weekend of Wisdom: The Philosophers of Magic. I said “new,” and it is, but it’s “old” in that we will be animating the fundamental questions and spirit of inquiry that brought Mystery School into being in the first place.
For example, my keynote presentation is titled, “Renewing Your Magical Vision, 2021”—a reference to Eugene’s first keynote in 1992. Eugene’s insights were brilliant and inspiring… and articulated 30 years ago. A lot has changed, you know? So, I plan to honor his thinking and discuss new challenges, and I hope to blow open some new doors for each participant to develop a stronger sense of their magical vision.
A couple weeks later, I am back to Las Vegas for our final in-person class of the year—our Master Class for Mentalism—where I be offering one of my patented “deep study keynotes” on T. A. Waters’ significant contributions to the field.
Beyond those Las Vegas classes, on November 3, I am launching the “Final Secrets Lecture Tour,” right here in the D.C. area for I.B.M. Ring 50. And I am gearing up for a spring three-week run of my full-evening theater show in Chicago. (And yes, Mr. Flop will be addressed!)
So, please stay tuned! The studio is humming: new magic, new thinking, new classes—in person and online—and a spring run of shows. I hope to see you soon.
IT’S NOT MAGIC, BUT…
One week after you receive this newsletter, I will have the profound pleasure of going to see (and actually meeting) rock legend Todd Rundgren. For those of you who may not know, Rundgren is a musical savant: performer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer of several smash-hit records, like Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell. Todd’s music has been a part of my life since the early 1970s, and I have followed his music with tremendous interest.
One reason for this is because every album/CD Rundgren has released is radically different from the previous ones. Thus, as an artist, he is a tireless innovator in a field (pop/rock music) that prefers repetition of the old. And this makes Todd’s music compelling and inspiring.
If this approach to artmaking interests you, I recommend you take seventeen minutes of your day to experience Todd’s commencement address at Berklee College of Music in 2017, where he was given an honorary degree. He says a number of astonishing things about his personal life (“I barely graduated from high school” and “I don’t read music”), but more, Rundgren’s address is a stirring call to “be brave and fearless,” to create art above all as an act of self-exploration and self-expression.
At one poignant moment Todd says, “I have lost the ability to be insulted by critics.” What a beautiful goal… in magic and in life!
HAPPENING AT THE PRESS
While we wait for Eugene Burger: Final Secrets to arrive, we have been finishing up the four products we will be releasing in conjunction with the book.
These products—three of which are handcrafted—are the cards required for four routines in the book: “Influence,” “Thought Sender,” “Observo,” and “Unfazed.” On October 24—one week before the book’s release on Halloween—these four products will be available at www.TheoryandArtofMagic.com. Again, these are not mass-manufactured, so supplies will be “finite.” Thus, you might wish to circle that date on your calendar to visit the site.
Also on October 24, Eugene Burger: Final Secrets will be available for purchase (for shipping on or around Halloween), and I will have one last batch of Spot Cards in stock. After this batch is gone, this product will be permanently out of stock.
Please note: we now have freeing shipping in the USA for all orders over $50.00. Thank you for stopping in on October 24th!
When I write to you next, Eugene’s last book will have been released, Thanksgiving will have come and gone (hopefully with peace of mind and pumpkin pie), and the December holiday season will be upon us. I wish you all the best during this time of reconnection with family and friends.
Thank you for being a part of my extended community!
Dean of McBride’s Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press