POLITICS, SCIENCE, ART & MAGIC
“It’s not the job of the artist to give the audience what the audience wants. If the audience knew what they needed, then they wouldn’t be the audience. They would be the artists. It is the job of artists to give the audience what they need.”
— Alan Moore
Greetings to you my friends,
I do not watch TV… but I do read and search out good news sources. Oh, and I also read the works of Alan Moore!
Lately, I’ve been thinking deeply of how I can better serve our magic community with my performances and teaching. One of the questions that keeps popping up is….
What is the role of a performing artist in our society?
Something I’ve been talking about these days is the limits of magic as an art form. Some people feel that magic performance is only for entertainment — to help people forget their worries. Others feel that theater is a place for speaking out on many immediate concerns of the day. I hear this struggle often with performers young and old. Many of my students want to add more meaning to their magic, and they want to be more that a mere trickster.
Photo by Navarro
IS it possible to stop a revolution with magic tricks? Yes!
Many great magicians have woven important and topical themes into their magic. Legend has it that the “Father of Modern Magic,” Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin, was famous for weaving theater, politics and magic together. The history books say that Robert-Houdin was responsible for quelling a revolution in Algeria with his scientific magic inventions!
For the fascinating story of how Robert-Houdin did this go here:
What makes magic “Theatrical Magic?”
When I work with students, I often ask them a few questions. Today I will ask those questions to you for your consideration!
ART + SCIENCE = MAGIC?
So, where can magicians go to learn, in depth and detail, how to effectively create these important theatrical elements?
You can find new ways to present your magic here!
The Big 3: Presentation, Character & Script
These are what I call “The Big 3.” They are the essential elements for creating magic experiences with strong and meaningful impact.
Some theatrical stories do not even have words! The Ranimaker is a piece I perform that has a “silent story.” My presentation is ritualistic, the character I play is “The Shaman,” and the script is about a man who is thirsty and conjures a rain spirit… with unexpected results! I’ve only taught this performance piece to a few of my students. Recently Jeff Christensen won top honors with his new version of The Rainmaker!
Jeff C. said, “I was very pleased to receive two gold medals for my recent performances at the Pacific Coast Association of Magicians. I won a gold medal for Mentalism and for Parlor. A huge thanks to my friend and magic teacher Jeff McBride for all of his guidance and support with my magic.”
Congratulation on your awards, Jeff, and thank you for the kind words!
Taking risks and standing out
George Carlin was a hero of mine. In junior high school, I would listen to his recording of Class Clown, and I memorized many of his comedy routines. I remember chunks of those routines to this very day! I never expected that one day I would be his opening act at THE SANDS HOTEL & CASINO in Atlantic City! What an honor it was to be in his company!
That is why people so love artists like George Carlin and other masters of political satire! Carlin was one of the rare artists who not only entertained us, he also enlightened us! The performance art of magic does not have to be political to be effective theater… as my friend Master Payne reminded me when he said, “Magic needs only to be relevant.”
Politics & Magic
For all my friends and fellow magicians that are having a hard time deciding if entertainment, art, politics and magic can fit together. I offer you the next few examples.
The Amazing Jonathan takes on Trump!
You never know what will happen at WONDERGROUND.
Last month The Amazing Jonathan took the stage and was about to perform his new “Lance Burton Dove act”, when suddenly “The Donald” rushed onto the stage and hilarity ensued. Hats off to Rudy Coby for his dead-on impersonation of Trump! Every month we have surprise celebrity guests!
The Amazing Jonathan gets “Trumped” at WONDERGROUND!
Photo by Sheryl A. Garrett
December 15, 2017
7:30 – Strolling Magic with Miguel & Will
8PM – Abigail McBride – Master of Ceremonies
Miguel Ramirez – An Expert of Reality Manipulation
Lion Fludd – Prepare yourself for “The Hustle!”
Brian Arkell – Unique Vegas Magic
Joan DuKore – Feminine Mystique!
Scott Steelfyre – “Making a point with magic!”
9PM – Strolling and close up magic
Miguel Ramirez – Mago-Deluxe
Bizzaro – Innovative Illusions
Lion Fludd – “The Hustle”- Close -Up Deceptions!
Joan DuKore – A Sensational Sorceress
10PM – Tim Wise – Master of Ceremonies
Circe! – From the TV show “Masters of Illusion”
Will Bradshaw – Theatrical Conjuring
Bizzaro – for him, normal is just a setting on the dryer
Jarol Martinez – “Illuminations,” the magic lamps act
PLUS:Photography by Sheryl Garrett.
Bar Magic with Zack Pattee, Scott Steelfyre, and Iam Creed. NWR Belly Dancers: Abigail, Megan & Deborah, Psychic Sideshow with Mulee Pete and Alan Scott, live art with Areeya – and many more surprises and special celebrity guests!!
Now let’s all get off email and Facebook and go see a live show and support performers who not only entertain, but also enlighten!
Best wishes for the holidays!
Jeff & Abigail
This month, we get to hear from our Dean, Eugene Burger.
It is December, a month of holidays and time spent with friends and families. And it is also a time when we are asked — or wish — to perform some magic for them. I have definite thoughts about these shows. They are not always easy; in fact sometimes they can be very difficult! My essay is drawn from a new book I am presently completing, which I hope will be published in 2017. The current title of the book is, Teaching Magic: Personal Reflections for Students and Teachers.
One of the grim facts of life that students of magic — especially amateur students — must recognize, is that friends and family are usually the most difficult audiences on the planet! There are exceptions, of course. If your friends and family are exceptions to this “rule,” be grateful, because you are truly blessed. For most of us, the reverse is true: while strangers can be easy audiences, friends and family can be the most difficult.
Why is this true? One reason is that friends and family feel they can interrupt us during our performances. Another reason is that sometimes they don’t want us to be the center of attention because they want to be the center of everyone’s attention.
Is there anything that can be done about this? Honestly, I am not sure that there is. At the same time, I have had some success by approaching the problem directly in the following way. After I perform my first effect (as Jeff McBride would say, “Magic First, then talk”) I say…
“You know, we can watch a performance of theatrical magic in one of two ways. The first way is with an analytical frame of mind, trying to figure out how the magic is accomplished. This is the way many people watch a magic show. Another way to experience magic is to watch it through the eyes of a child, a child who appreciates the experience of wonder. If I were given the choice, I would hope that tonight you would experience my magic in the second way, as a child appreciating the wonder in the world. Later, of course, on your way home, you might want to get analytical and try to figure it all out. Then you can be my guest. But for now, let’s relax and enjoy the magic!”
Feel free to use or adapt this little introductory speech for your own performances. Does it always work? Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does work, I find that I am having a more enjoyable time performing for my friends and family.
“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”
– John Ruskin
Hello my friends,
Today I have a few serious questions for you… then, the fun begins!
I have many inspired, talented teachers who encourage me along my path. Two of my teachers are named Joshua; you will learn about them both today.
One of them is Joshua Millburn. He is a writer.
Mr. Millburn says,
“Do you wish you could create something meaningful? Do you wish you had the time to work on that thing you’ve always wanted to produce—that novel, that piece of art, that passion project?
Step 1. Look at yourself in the mirror. It’s time for you to be honest with yourself. Either you’re accomplishing what you want to accomplish or you’re not. There is no in-between. If it’s the latter, then you must admit to yourself that you are the only person preventing you from pursuing your passion project. Denial is heartless; so the first step is looking in the mirror and admitting that you haven’t even scratched the surface on creating something meaningful.
Step 2. Kill your distractions. Make a list of everything getting in your way. “Surfing the net” too much? Get rid of the Internet at home. Are certain people draining all your time? Get rid of your unhealthy relationships. Are material possessions getting in the way? Get rid of your crap.
Step 3. Make time every day. None of us were born equal. We come from different backgrounds, different cultures, different socioeconomic situations. Suffice it to say, we were not all born on a level playing field. Time is the one exception. The only thing we all have in common is time. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. So, get up at 3:30 a.m. if you have to. Find 30 minutes before you leave for work. Work through your lunch break. Find an hour after work. If you want it bad enough, you’ll find the time. You have the same amount of time as everyone else who has ever created a masterpiece.
Now you can read the rest of Mr. Millburn’s 16-step guide here:
My wife Abigail is a work of art!
“This is Abigail Spinner McBride Those of you who know her will recognize that she’s been conservatively rendered, without any embellishments or exaggeration. The fantastic light and mythic extravagance of a truly accurate portrait would fail in the arms of disbelief.” — Joshua
Joshua Levin is a fantastic artist. He inspires me with his ability to transform paint into magic! Joshua is holding a contest tribute to Abigail, who is also known as “Abbi Spinner.” You can win one of these posters by hearing what Joshua has to say,
”FREE art print to the best “Spinn” on my new drawing of Spinner (digital pencil)! I’ll send a free print of this image to whomever writes the most captivating poetic or mythopoetic description of the Spinner. If you want to participate, just “follow” my artist’s page at https://www.facebook.com/joshualevinart/, and post your description there. I’ll choose a winner on November 24th (Thanks Giving). “Spinner” was hand drawn on an iPad pro. Prints are available on 240gsm natural white archival paper with archival ink at: http://www.redbubble.com/…/joshualev…/works/23683209-spinner
Visit Joshua Levin here: https://www.facebook.com/joshualevinart/?fref=ts
“To be creative means to be in love with life.”
What does it take to create your masterpiece?
I feel that in order to win the title of “master,” you must earn it from your peers. Your peers or teachers are the ones who can proclaim that one of your works is “a Masterpiece.” In my lifetime, I’ve been fortunate to have created a few magical works that my peers call masterpieces. Let me teach you what I know about creating your own masterpiece.
December – Touring in the Carribbean
January – The Magic Castle in Hollywood
Schedule & Available dates here:
Spring Training Series (nearly sold out aready!)
New Class: Magic & Theater
I have toured the world with my own theatrical blend on magic, theater, dance, mime and mask, and I am often asked who inspires my work as an artist. I am inspired by magicians who have a deep knowledge of theater and the performing arts. These people work wonders on stage.
The name Gaston comes to mind. Here is a photo of Gaston.
Gaston is his name.
Gaston is a miracle worker!
Gaston is a F.I.S.M. award winner.
Gaston is one of the most talented actor-magicians in the world.
Gaston is the theatrical director for many of the world’s top performers.
Gaston travels the world teaching theater arts to magicians and other performers.
Gaston can teach you many excellent techniques that will help you get to the next level.
Gaston lives in Germany.
Gaston speaks perfect English… oh, and perfect German too.
Gaston is coming to Las Vegas!
Gaston & I will be teaching a 3-day Master Class workshop in July here at the Magic & Mystery School!
Wonderground News – www.vegaswonderground.com
We create NEW art for you every month! Come join in the celebration!
Thanks to our amazing art and theater community, every month our shows get better and better! YOU will enjoy a 3-hour immersive magical encounter with many of the top variety acts in the world, performing inches from your face!
NOVEMBER 17, 2016
7:30PM – DOORS OPEN
Astonishing close up /strolling magic with Will Bradshaw and Tim Wise
8:00PM – COMEDY MAGIC SHOWCASE
With your Master of Ceremonies-Tim Wise
Joe Atmore – Modern Mind Reader
Krystal Lawrence – Delightfully Twisted
The Shocker – The Loudest Magician on Earth!
Will Bradshaw – Theatrical Magic
Zamora the Torture King – His Pain = Your Pleasure
9:00PM – CLOSE-UP MAGIC CABARET
Will Bradshaw – Conjuring Dreams
The Shocker – Extreme close up magic!
Miguel Ramirez – And Now…For a touch of Elegance!
10:00PM – THE STAGE EXTRAVAGANZA!
Jeff McBride is your MC
Sonny Fontana – The NEW Invisible Man
The Shocker – As seen on TV!
Rene Delgadillo – Salsa magic
Zamora the Torture King – World record breaker!
Jason Bird – Direct from “Masters of Illusion!”
AMAZING JONATHAN – a historic appearance at WONDERGROUND!
PLUS: Bar Magic with Zack Pattee, Scott Steelfyre, and Iam Creed. The New World Rhythmatism Tribal Belly Dance Troupe, Psychic Sideshow with Mulee Pete and Alan Scott, live art with Areeya and Suzanne–and many more surprises and special celebrity guests!!
Photography by Sheryl Garrett.
May your life become your magical masterpiece!
Here we are, entering what I always think of as the dark part of the year. Halloween has come and gone, and the days grow ever shorter. Although the winter holidays seek to brighten our spirits, this can be a daunting time. I generally have found it to be a time that is creatively productive, but challenging.
For our Magic & Mystery School, November will be filled with classes, most of which are already overflowing. We’ve had a good year, and the school seems to be thriving. And yet… this is a time of reflection and introspection—where do we go from here? Are we really doing as well as it feels we are? Does that mean we’re in danger of stagnation? I wonder.
For the purposes of this Museletter, I thought you might enjoy a section from my last book, The Wizard’s Way to Powerful Presentations. As Jeff, Stephen Shapiro and I prepare to teach “Magic for Speakers & Presenters,” this weekend, I’ve found myself reflecting on just what speakers and magicians have in common, and so this segment on how we design experiences to achieve a particular purpose, came to mind. Oh… and we DO have a single space left in the class. If you’re interested, go to magicalwisdom.com now and grab it!
(from The Wizard’s Way to Powerful Presentations)
Basic data and bare-bones logic all by themselves make for boring presentations. Tell stories in order to draw your audience in and to bypass their logical, linear objections. Stories provide vicarious experience, and, as all true wizards know, experience is what changes people. Actual interactive experiences can be even more powerful than vicarious ones, so the best speakers find ways to include those, too.
Using the Power of Stories
Some people theorize that we can only think clearly about experiences once we have distilled them into words. Others tell us that we only make sense of events once we turn those words into stories. Stories are the way that our minds make sense of the world. Stories evoke our emotions, and they tend to be what we remember.
Create Mild Trance
A little-known effect of listening to a story is that the experience puts us into a light trance. You’ve experienced this type of trance if you’ve found yourself deeply involved in a great book or a show on television and failed to hear your family members talking with you. If you’re like me, you might have to be called to dinner several times before you even hear the call. You are so buried in the world of the story that you’re no longer really conscious of your everyday world. That is trance, and you’ll find that your audiences are often in a mild trance state.
One of the things we know about trance is that under its influence, we become suggestible. When we are in a trance state, we accept and do things without the interference of our rational mind. Though it is true that a hypnotist can’t make you do something you really don’t want to do, you have to not want to do that thing at a fairly deep level in order to resist the hypnotist’s command. As a true wizard power presenter, then, it’s important that you realize you have the ability to issue commands, and have your audience just accept them, to a degree you might not be used to experiencing in everyday life. If your cause is just and important, this is a power you’re completely justified in using.
The best presentations are designed to change those who experience them. People are changed and people make decisions through emotion. Ninety-nine percent of decisions are purely emotional, with the rational mind only kicking in to justify the decision after it has been made. Stories stir the emotions. Audiences identify with the protagonist of a story, and if something great happens to that person, they feel great. If something terrible happens, then they’ll feel terrible—or outraged, or whatever else your telling of the story is designed to make them feel. Your presentation, (and we’ll come back to this) can use imagery, rhythm, vocal dynamics, and other elements to enhance that emotion.
So, if you want your presentation to be remembered, use stories to make your points. If you want your logic to be accepted, wrap it in a story!
Creating Interactive Experiences
Even better than a story we hear is one that we actually participate in. These are interactions. When a speaker involves audience members directly in their presentation, making them characters in the story they are creating for them, they find themselves much more deeply attached to and emotional about that story, than one they have only heard, rather than participated in. The story becomes more immediate. Instead of something that happened to someone else sometime in the past, it is happening to me, right now. It’s hard not to be engaged in that!
Another thing that happens when people have experiences together is they begin to feel more like a group. Rather than an audience made up of lots of individuals, you begin to create a kind of tribal mind. Great speakers at political rallies and in large religious groups make use of this group feeling to great advantage. You can use it, too.
One way to generate direct interaction is just to ask for it. “Whenever I ask ‘Can we do it,’ I need you to shout ‘Yes we can!’” Another is to ask people to stand in the audience or come to the stage, and take a role. “If you could just stand here and hold this, and whenever I say X, you’ll do Y. Got it?” When you do enlist the aid of an audience member, it’s important for you to realize you have made them a special representative of all the others in the audience, and that it’s important that you treat them well. Treat them badly, and you’ll lose the audience. Yet another way to get involvement is just to ask for a response to a question. “Give me a show of hands. How many of you took a bus to get here? How many drove their own cars?” Any of these actions will get and keep your audience involved.
Attention Creates Experience
As a stage director, one of my most important jobs is to let the audience know where they need to look. When I work with magicians, controlling the audience’s attention is even more important. It’s the same with your presentations.
Audiences can pay attention to exactly one thing at a time. If you give them multiple possible attention points, you will confuse and lose them. For example, if you present your audience members with a slide or other visual that is so complex that it will take them more than a few seconds to read or understand it, then continue speaking before they have completely absorbed the information on the slide, their attention will not be on what you are saying. Great presenters make sure they control where their audience’s attention will be at all times throughout the presentation. First on the speaker, then on a visual, and then back on the speaker. While it’s okay to narrate a slide, you need to be aware that when you are doing that, the audience’s attention will be fully on the slide.
You can design your graphics so that they are only visible at full intensity during the time you want attention to be on the graphic and will then fade or blur out. You can learn to take the stage back from your slide by moving, raising your voice, asking a question that demands an answer, or any one of a hundred other ways. The time to think about all this is when you are still designing the experience.
If you want to become a real wizard power presenter, the way to get there is by trying out as many of these different techniques, in front of as many different audiences as possible. Some will work, some will fail. Different techniques work for different people, and they work differently for different audiences. But you won’t know which ones work for you till you’ve tried them.
That’s it for this edition. Jeff will be back with news in just a couple of weeks.