Dear Friends in Magic,
Welcome to the October 2019 issue of my magic newsletter. I always kick things off with…
A BIG IDEA
Regular readers know that at the end of September, I performed my full-evening show Magical Life: An Evening with Larry Hass at the Orpheum Theatre Complex in downtown Memphis. Pardon my immodesty, but I am still basking in the glow: the 360-seat theater was completely sold out (days in advance), I hit every mark (phew!), and I was honored to receive a long, spontaneous standing ovation.
Part of my glow is that I have been working to deliver this exact show for four years. That is, a full-evening, two-act theatrical magic show with a strong narrative arc. Although the show included some of my “greatest hits,” it also featured several new pieces—ones created especially for this show.
One reason I could create those new pieces was because the theater had a full lighting plot. So I engaged my friend Casey McClellan—a New York City theater artist with expertise in lighting design—and he did an extraordinary job in fulfilling my vision for the look of these pieces and for the show as a whole.
And believe me: I was paying close attention, taking notes, and learning every step of the way.
Magic is a form of theater. This is true whether it is performed after dinner in a restaurant, casually in the street, or formally on a stage. And this means that many of the skills and techniques of the theater—inaugurated by the ancient Greeks—are indispensable for creating strong, impactful magic in any setting. Skills and techniques such as acting, blocking, directing, prop management, scripting, vocal enunciation, and, yes, lighting.
While I have expertise in many of these, I understood my limits about lighting design and execution, and I really wanted to develop my skills.
So let me ask: what is your growing, learning edge in relation to the theatrical craft of magic? Is it acting? (For indeed, every piece of magic requires we act the theatrical causality that makes the magic happen.) Is it blocking the movements of your act? Is it the vocal work—getting your voice and diaphragm ready to deliver like a pro?
Most every magician comes to magic through the tricks and secrets that astonish them. Very few magicians come to magic through their love of theatrical craft. This is not a problem—not in the least. But it doesn’t mean we don’t need to learn that craft.
So again, let’s make this manageable: what is one single area of theatrical craft in which you would like to develop your skill? Mine was lighting; what is yours? And what exactly will you do to move along that path?
HAPPENING AT THE PRESS
Our excitement is high. After ten years of work, the first book of Eugene Burger’s unpublished materials will be released on November 10, 2019!!
Eugene Burger: From Beyond includes:
- 16 of Eugene’s unpublished parlor, stand-up, and spirit theater routines, including “Greed,” “Thirteen at Dinner,” “Voodoo Poker,” “The Visible Block Penetration,” “The Spot Card,” and all the scripts and secrets of Eugene’s signature work on “Gypsy Thread.” Also anchoring the book, at Eugene’s insistence, is his legendary, rarely seen, and deeply fooling spirt slate routine, “Dr. Slade and the Night Visitors.”
- Access to 13 video performances of these routines, plus 2 audio performances.
- Many unseen materials, such as essays, photos, scripts, and interviews.
- The complete story of how Eugene conceived this project in 2010 and our detailed work on it starting that year (along with why he wanted it kept secret).
Here is how to get your copy. On November 1, you will be able to place your order for the book at www.TheoryandArtofMagic.com. The book will be shipped to you so it arrives as close to November 10 as possible.
Thus, you might wish to make a note on your calendar to place your order on November 1, but we will also send you a brief reminder.
I am so honored Eugene entrusted me with this extraordinary project, and I am excited that in less than a month you all will be able to plunge into Eugene’s most prized and precious secrets!
IT’S NOT MAGIC, BUT…
In relation to my big show and Eugene’s book, I have been thinking a lot these days about teams and tribes.
No one can do it alone. No one!
A team is a group of people that bring diverse skills and talents together to envision and execute projects.
A tribe is a group of like-minded people that center around a shared identity and take care of each other.
A team functions in keeping with “the market economy”—that is, people are typically paid for their work and involvement. A tribe operates in keeping with what Lewis Hyde calls “the gift economy.” It is a caring community, such as a family, in which members freely give to and support each other without the thought or need for compensation.*
Most human beings belong to a number of teams and at least one tribe. So in magic—in your work and play with this beautiful art—what teams are you on? And what is your magic tribe?
Thinking clearly about this, appreciating these beautiful constructs, can help us take care of all of those who help us along the way.
(*For more on this see Lewis Hyde’s remarkable book The Gift and my chapter about it in our Magic & Mystery School book, Gift Magic.)
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. Here is a recent one that touches on the rich community that magicians create. Enjoy!
Thank you for being part of my network. I am delighted to bring you, at long last, the first of these two special books about Eugene Burger’s magic. Don’t forget to mark your calendar for November 1.
Please feel free to share my newsletter with your friends and don’t hesitate to let me know what you think.
See you in December with all the latest.
Dean of the McBride Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press