Magic and Vaudeville

Dear Friends:

It’s September! Back-to-School time. We’re excited here at the Magic & Mystery School about all our fall events, some of which will actually take place live and in person – for the first time since the beginning of 2020! Check the calendar at the bottom of this Museletter to see everything coming before the end of the year.

Our guest columnist this month is our good friend, and Executive Assistant to the school, Katherine (Kat) Rettke. If you haven’t been helped by Kat, you probably haven’t attended our events. I think you’re going to love the article!

Vaudeville and Magic
By Kat Rettke (with assistance from W.M.L.R.)  

It was in the setting of Vaudeville theater that many great magicians developed their acts. According to the website Magicpedia, more than four thousand magicians appeared on vaudeville bills around the world, including Harry Houdini, Ching Ling Foo, Chung Ling Soo, Thomas Nelson Downs, and Harry Blackstone. Context is important. If you want to more fully understand any of the great magicians who were performing during the years vaudeville was popular, it is worth learning more about the history of vaudeville, and a little bit about what it meant to be employed as a vaudeville performer.

Vaudeville was a type of live performance popular from the late 1800s until the 1920s. A typical North American vaudeville performance was a variety show of unrelated performances, which included performances by magicians. According to Wikipedia, “at any given time, Vaudeville was employing over twelve thousand different people throughout its entire industry.  Each entertainer would be on the road 42 weeks at a time while working a particular ‘circuit’- or in an individual theatre chain of a major company”.  

One thing that made vaudeville unique, however, was the intention to create a family-friendly entertainment, unlike earlier popular variety shows. According to the article Vaudeville (Wikipedia) one man who can be credited with this type of show was Tony Pastor, who became a variety theater performer and manager, who began to feature “polite” variety programs in his New York City theatres.

Another instrumental founder of vaudeville was B.F. Keith, who built an empire of theaters in both the United States and Canada, and partnered with Edward Albee. They developed a chain of allied vaudeville houses and contracted acts for regional and national tours through what was called the Keith-Albee Circuit, which later merged with the Orpheum Circuit and went on to be called the Keith-Albee-Orpheum Circuit.

According to Wikipedia, “by the late 1890s, vaudeville had large circuits, and small and large houses in almost every sizable location, standardized booking, broad pools of skilled acts, and a loyal national following.”  Vaudeville performers were hired by talent bookers to tour different regions on what was called the vaudeville circuit.

It was the development of cinema that led to the decline of vaudeville. Theatres used for vaudeville were updated to show movies. On an interesting side note, the Keith-Albee-Orpheum Circut merged with Radio Pictures to become Radio Keith Orpheum… RKO Pictures. This is just one example of how the motion picture industry can trace back its own history to vaudeville roots.

An important aspect of learning more about the history of vaudeville is developing an appreciation of the theaters where these shows took place.  Many of the theaters built for, or used for vaudeville circuits have been torn down over the years. Some of these theaters survive and thrive, while others are in disrepair, lacking funds, or at risk of being torn down.

The Theatre Historical Society of America and The National Trust for Historic Preservation are two historical preservation societies fighting to keep these theaters available for future generations. So many magicians have contributed over the years to efforts to save historic theaters. I can think of two wonderful examples of magicians contributing to the preservation of historic theaters: Magicians Danny Archer and Mark Zacharia, who with the Smoke & Mirrors Magic Theater hosted a magic show in January 2021 to benefit the historic Newton Theatre in Newtown, PA. Another magician, Paul Draper, makes it a point to book shows in historic theaters across the country as a way to help these theaters benefit financially.

Newton Theatre, Newton, PA

We owe a debt of gratitude to the great magicians who developed their craft through vaudeville. So much was learned in the vaudeville setting about technique and interacting with an audience, and this knowledge was passed down to following generations of magicians.  

Danger, Fear and Masks

The most dangerous killers in our world today are invisible to the naked eye… and the truth is that masks are really saving lives all over the world! 
Wearing a mask certainly transformed my life… but in a very different way! By creating my Mask & Magic act, I avoided the plague of becoming a run-of-the-mill magician.  

The “magic behind the mask” became my brand and signature effect, and a powerful symbol for me in the world of magic. In today’s pandemic world, the power and symbolism behind wearing a mask takes on new meaning.
Wearing a mask is now an everyday event. 
I have been reflecting on my relationship to the mask. This little video will give you a smile. It is my public service announcement.

Good Guys Wear Masks

MAGIC NEWS – Student Spotlight
The Mystery School was well represented at the recent Abbott’s convention. Daryl Rogers, James Ember, and Elliott Hunter all performed on the big stage.
Congratulations to Elliott Hunter for bringing back the first-place gold medal in stage magic!

We predict many good things ahead for you Elliot! Elliott will be in Las Vegas this week studying with me, one-on-one, here at the Magic and Mystery School.
We re-open our doors in September for live, in-person experiences here in Las Vegas with a special class on card magic for close-up and parlor. 
When you come to Vegas, plan to stop in and take a class, we can arrange a special one-on-one session for you here:

He is a dangerously clever man.
He is a master of the art of deception.
He is a trickster, an iconoclast and one of the most brilliant minds in magic! Now he is our very special guest at our Magic & Mystery School fall semester.

Dan Harlan is one of the great inventors of our time. He also happens to be one of the nicest people, and one of the most giving and sharing of any magicians I’ve ever met. Dan was with us at the very early Mystery Schools and brought a delightful dimension of mischievousness to our Mystery School community.
The tradition continues at The Magic & Meaning Conference and our Weekend of Wisdom.
Dan Harlan will attend both events and present two completely different programs! He will also be here with us live to share magic in small groups… Not only teaching his wonderful magic but helping you with yours.
Dan is just one of many super talented and brilliant performers that you will be working with at our fall events
You want to attend these events!
GO HERE and Register now…/magic-meaning-2021…
These are exceptional community events where we create a safe place for serious play. If you want to become a better magician, then you will want to join us.

Abigail and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary this month! Thank you everyone for the kindnesses you have shown us over the many years.

We send you our blessings and magic from our cozy home in Vegas.

Final Words
If you are having a party, show, or special event this fall, I’m here to let you know that I am now performing again at both LIVE and VIRTUAL events. Just email me, or call Abigail at 702-450-0021.

See you onstage or in Las Vegas!

Jeff and Abigail McBride

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!

McBride Magic Expands Your Mind

My friends, it is time to expand your mind and to expand your horizons!

Let’s start with asking this question:
How will you spend your summer vacation? Will you do the “same old” or will you be doing something new and exciting?

I have a few thoughts for you. People have been asking me if Vegas is “back to normal?” Has Vegas ever been normal? Vegas is exciting, invigorating, inspiring but never ever normal. But, things are “opening up” and we have some fun events for you to participate in, both online and in person.

You have one last chance–Our hit show Jeff McBride – MagicQuest is making one appearance only this summer and that will be July 28th.

MAGIC QUEST- the mind-expanding magic show, is now online. Be part of the ONLY show this summer season.

Just in case you missed it, here is a quick peek at the show:

Sisters of Mystery
Women have always played an important part in the world of magic, and now their ranks are growing like never before! More and more women are developing interest, and exploring the art of magic. Abigail has been hard at work all year lining up a super array of talented women for this extraordinary conference.

We are the Sisters of Mystery,
born from the deep beginnings of the Oracle at Delphi,
and the Tarot’s High Priestess. We, the Women of Magic,
announce and affirm our presence, our potential and our power.
In a circle of safety and sisterhood we will join together,
while the waning moon is high in the sky,
to share our stories and our secrets,
to help each other become wiser,
to build new webs of friendship and fun,
and to celebrate all that we have been,
all that we are, and all that we are becoming.

Registration is now open for our online gathering happening Thursday, August 26th, starting at 10am pacific time. All those who identify as women are welcome to attend.

Special guests include: Gay Blackstone, Suzanne the Magician, Meadow Perry, Joan DuKore, Connie Boyd, Lupe Nielsen, Sara Crasson and more!

Register here:…/sisters-of-mystery…

Financial Aid is available here:

Inclusivity and Diversity in Magic
Paul Draper will host the first annual Inclusivity and Diversity in Magic Conference on August 27-29, this year with a diversity in magic history theme.

Please join in the lively discussion! You can find more information here:

McBride – Live in Las Vegas
Michelangelo was famous for this saying, that captures the essence of what we do here at our Magic & Mystery School:

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”
Let us help you reach your goals.

We are now hosting live classes again at our school here in Las Vegas and online. You can also give Abigail a call at (702)-450-0021 to set a time for your private session.

People are sooo hungry for our live, in-person events. Our friends have been asking when we are re-opening the Magic and Mystery School for in-person events. We have set the date! Our new Weekend of Wisdom: the Philosophers of Magic will be held live in Las Vegas. Only five seats are still available. We are already almost sold out.

All the information is here:

For more magical wisdom please take a look here at all the life-enriching events we host. See you online or in Vegas!

Jeff and all your friends at Mystery School.

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