Conferences vs. Conventions

From Dr. Larry Hass, Dean of the Mystery School
As I write this, July is turning to August and I’m looking ahead to the cooler days of September and October. I am also hungry to re-fill my tank after a busy several months.
As many of you know, Margie and I moved to Washington, D.C. in early June. And when I wasn’t working on both sides of that, I spent every spare minute finalizing Eugene Burger: Final Secrets, which has just gone off to the printer for release on Halloween 2021. That’s right, friends: the wait is nearly over! (It is available to pre-order right now at

This all has been exciting, but I am definitely ready to recharge. When I was a college professor, my favorite way to do so, was by attending conferences that focused on my areas of interest.
“Conferences” are different than “conventions,” which are built around serving members and membership. Instead of that, conferences focus on bringing diverse people together to talk, deliberate, and inspire solutions to problems or new ways of thinking. They are about each one bringing their gifts and laying down swords in the service of learning.
From the very beginning, the Mystery School has been informed by the spirit of Conferre—the medieval Latin word for this pilgrimage on behalf of learning. But in 2006 we made it official by founding the annual Magic and Meaning Conference—where we come together to listen and learn from each other, as we attempt to perform magic that matters and connects to life, rather than getting lost in the echo chamber of tricks and trickery.
And it is that time once again: the team is preparing for this year’s conference, which will be held online, September 24-26, 2021. (Last year’s online event was a smash hit—the school’s most fully attended program of the year.) As usual, the Magic and Meaning Conference will feature 18 of our famous PEP Talks (the Ted-style Talks of Magic). It will also include magic shows, magic teaching, and breakout groups for meaningful conversation. This year the conference will feature “The Festival of Coins,” in which we will celebrate this fourth archetypal tool of the magician. And I am delighted to announce here that this year’s Guest of Honor is Dan Harlan.

Dan Harlan is known and admired by magicians all over the world. He is the host of Penguin Magic: Live and Penguin Magic: Live Acts, and he is an extremely knowledgeable magician who has been innovating excellent magic for over 30 years, including “Starcle,” “Cardtoon,” and nothing less than the entire Tarbell Course on video! But you might not know that Dan was an early “Mystery Schooler,” and we are delighted to have him back. 
So that is our long-standing, well-known conference, but in just a few weeks the school is hosting a new one: the First Inclusivity and Diversity in Magic Conference (August 27-29, 2021.) A few months back, faculty member Paul Draper brought the idea for this conference to our “table,” and we empowered him to transform his vision into a reality.

Paul gathered a first-rate, star-studded leadership team to craft a three-day conference experience that would inspire new thinking about ways to make our art more inclusive. The conference program—panels, performances, lectures—will highlight historical and present-day magicians who are women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+, and individuals living with disabilities. The conference is open to anyone interested in learning.
Learn more about the leadership, presenters, schedule, and register, here:
This is going to be a tremendous event, and I can’t wait to experience what Paul and the Team have created for our community. Personally, I want to listen carefully and learn from each individual to expand my understanding of the issues, so I can be a better Dean for our School, and a better colleague for all our friends in magic.
So… the Fall Semester at the Magic & Mystery School is almost upon us! Please bring your gifts, set aside your swords, and SIGN UP NOW ( to join us at these upcoming events. If there is anything I can foresee it is this: you will be renewed for the season ahead!

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