Dear Friends in Magic,
Greetings! I hope you are hanging in during these difficult, even crazy days leading up to the US election in a few weeks. My goal is to provide a little shelter by connecting with your magic heart and head. So let’s start with…
A BIG IDEA
About a month ago, David Copperfield was our special guest on Mystery School Monday. Jeff McBride and I interviewed David for much of the show: he was smart, delightful, and generous in spirit (and with his time). I invite you to watch it for free on demand.
In addition to sharing stories from different periods of his extraordinary career, David answered our questions about how he created his magic. At one point I asked how he came to understand there was more to magic than the props or the "trick." In essence, he answered that he always aspired to perform magic that was "Frank Sinatra Good" or "Fred Astaire Good," and he knew there was so much more to that than just doing deceptive magic. In other words, he always aspired to create magic that felt truly special and utterly remarkable.
Who could deny that David has achieved this, many times? I realized as he talked that a big part of how he gets there is through his profound commitment to excellence. There are no shortcuts. There is no "good enough." David starts with a vision and works rigorously until he gets there. And he learns from every single show.
In the wake of this conversation I have found myself thinking about excellence in magic performance. And it connects up with the considerable time I have spent performing for medical professionals through the School's Magic and Medicine programs. Because in medicine, too, there is a palpable culture of excellence. After all, when it comes to patient health outcomes, fine, very good, B+, even A- just isn't good enough. Everything changes when the only standard is a platinum one.
I find myself dreaming and wondering: what might magic become if more magicians aimed for the platinum standard: "Copperfield Good"? From my perspective, the technical method(s) would be not merely "fooling" but completely invisible. The presentation would have a profound impact. The words would be exquisitely crafted ones that expressed the performer's point of view and spirit.
We know this can be achieved because it sometimes is. By David, yes, but by other magicians, too, whose names will occur to you rather quickly. Because excellence is a banner and a blazon. And it is, as Aristotle argued in his Ethics, its own reward.
I am inspired!
IN THE STUDIO
The big thing happening since August 1 has been daily work on Eugene Burger: Final Secrets. I am pleased to report the manuscript is quite far along—farther than it would have been without the pandemic. The book remains squarely on target to be released early next summer of 2021.
Now that October has arrived, I have set the book aside to prepare for our fall online events at the Magic & Mystery School. I am preparing new talks, performances, and magic teaching for each of them—and I am aiming for excellence! I want to mention the following programs because I know some of you will be especially interested in them.
The Online Magic and Meaning Conference, October 23-25 (Friday, 2:00-3:30pm pacific, Saturday & Sunday, 10:00-4:30). This is the Mystery School's Homecoming Weekend! We work all year to create this special experience. Celebrate our 30th Anniversary.
The Seance Summit Online: Raising Your Spirits in a Time of Darkness, November 6-8 (Friday, 12:00-1:30pm pacific, Saturday & Sunday 11:00-3:00)
The Online Master Class for Mentalism, November 12-15 (Thursday 3:00-5:00 pm pacific, Friday, Saturday, & Sunday 10:00-3:00)
Also, importantly, the School is using its scholarship fund to offer stipends (covering up to 50% of tuition) to people who need a "hand up" to attend one of our online programs during these financially difficult times. To see if you are eligible and to fill out an application form, go here.
IT’S NOT MAGIC, BUT…
Heavens knows, I don't need any more dings, beeps, tweets, or posts, but I do enjoy reading excellent content that gives me ideas or insights for magic or my magic-show business. After a long time reading and assessing, I am prepared to recommend a very fine blog to you.
It comes from Gabe Anderson, a bass-playing musician from Nashville. His blog is a short, no-frills "daily" that comes arrives in your inbox with superb ideas about entertaining people through show making. Understand: the blog is mostly not about music; it is about being successful by making shows. As Gabe describes on his sign-up page: "Whether you're in the entertainment business for two weeks or twenty years, it can be worth your time."
In my experience, it definitely is. For example, on October 1, Gabe talked about "how every song [trick] works; it just needs the right context." The day before, he gave great advice about how to price your shows. Earlier that week, he reminded us about how everyone who is connected with a show—from the booker to the audience—has granted us a kind of authority to perform; so what will we do with that gift?
You can check it out and/or sign up if you like it by going to: https://gabethebassplayer.tumblr.com. I hope you find it as stimulating as I do!
HAPPENING AT THE PRESS
October 1 was an exciting day at Theory and Art of Magic Press: we released a new book!
Wandcraft: Making & Using a Magic Wand by Judge Gary Brown is 104-page hardcover, with dust jacket, that, as Jeff McBride says, "re-empowers this ancient magical tool for modern times." The book includes six fully developed routines with wands, instructions about how to build five types of wands, and practical theory about how to help a magic wand come alive in your hands.
The book is priced at $29.95. We hope you will consider purchasing a copy from us. And while you are visiting, please look around and see if any of our other books, tricks, or supplies call out to you for a little extra Halloween "treat."
I will have a great deal of news in December as a number of untold projects and products will have come to fruition!
As always, thank you for reading and staying in touch with your thoughts and responses. I wish you and your families my very best as we move forward through these uncertain times. Please remember to "keep the magic alive" in your own hands and for others, because the world needs your magic. It really does.
Dean of the McBride Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press