The Gift

Eric Henning, known as the Capitol Conjuror, is a regular guest star and headliner at the critically-acclaimed Washington Magic dinner show. In this Museletter, he tells how a small gift not only brought back a flood of memories, but also points the way to a brighter future.

The Gift
The team here at Washington Magic just received an amazing gift. It was a package full of hand-painted Pysanky eggs made by our friends in the Ukraine. Suddenly, a flood of memories came rushing in, taking us back to a journey that began four years ago. 
Time and distance have given us insights and perspectives that you may find useful. In 2020, most of the USA was on COVID lockdown and live events were essentially illegal. Magicians were wondering not only how we would make a living, but also whether magic would survive. 
Virtual Isn’t the Same
Probably the biggest difference was not having live, in-person audiences. Magic is an intimate medium, and ideally experienced in person. Magic on television doesn’t have the same immediacy of something happening in real time, in front of your eyes, or even in your own hands. In this age of technology, live entertainment is the only thing that can compete with the magic that’s at our fingertips every day.

Adapt to Survive
So, naturally, we adapted. We used Zoom and other remote platforms. We became TV producers, and we changed the magic we were doing. We had to fit great visuals into a small frame. The magic had to be convincing, even if the audience couldn’t handle the props. 
This required a great deal of creative thinking, and we had to process a lot of information very quickly. We had to learn about lighting, sound, camera techniques, and the fact that your iPhone microphone will pick up every little sound in the entire house. It was exhausting! But within a few weeks, many magicians were doing amazing shows on Zoom. And they were making contact, real contact, with people who felt isolated and anxious.
When you knew you were going to be in lockdown what was your first response? You probably beefed up your streaming and playlists. Maybe you added Disney+ for the kids. You hunted down entertainment, because you knew you were going to have time on your hands. Here at Washington Magic, we thrive on our live dinner shows, done in the elegant surroundings of the Arts Club of Washington. You simply can’t replicate that online – it’s completely impossible.
What Could We Do?
We got our team together and started to plan. First, we wanted to reach out to our audience and give them whatever enjoyment, distraction, and stress release we could. And we wanted to let as many people as possible know about the show, so that by the time when we reopened, we would have built a loyal audience who had followed us throughout the pandemic.
We began doing monthly online shows. Each performer videoed their segments at home. Most of us used our smart phones, which are often the best cameras available to us. We learned how to coordinate music and lighting to make something that looked really good. Most importantly, we watched ourselves with more precision and intensity than ever before. 
We improved – fast! Having to create a solid three to five minute performance on video forced us to refine our material, and improve our magic, our writing, and our stage presence faster than ever before. And, we were polishing new material much faster than ever before. 
We Were Homesick
We also learned just how much we missed the Arts Club. With its unparalleled elegance and atmosphere, the Arts Club of Washington is one of the characters in the show, an essential part of the team. But during lockdown, the Arts Club was closed. What could we do? 
We decided to raise money for them. On our website,, along with the previously broadcast online shows, there’s a big button to donate to the Arts Club of Washington. Even today, we encourage you to contribute as liberally to their relief as you can.

Not the End of the Story
By early 2022, we had accomplished our mission. We’d brought online shows to our fans, added dramatically to our fan base, become proficient at taping our performances, and had leveled up our skill as entertainers several times over. Thanks to vision and teamwork, we had turned a crisis into opportunity. 
So that’s the end of the story, right? In the words of legendary college football commentator Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend!”
A New Vision
In February 2022, Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, setting off a massive war that’s now in its third year. Millions of people, especially families with children, have been displaced. What could magicians possibly do to help?
Another visionary emerged. Geoffrey Grimes, an accomplished magician in Texas, had an idea – why not collect magic shows on video, and upload them to a website where refugee families could watch them for free, on demand? And was born. 
Our Washington Magic team immediately knew we had to support this effort, and we donated all the footage from two years of online shows to Magic For Ukraine. And we weren’t alone – hundreds of family entertainers donated thousands of hours of show footage, which to date has reached hundreds of thousands of viewers around the world. That’s why this gift of Pysanky eggs really hit hard. These are a direct connection to the very hands of the refugees we hoped to help. 
So what did we learn? First, that magic isn’t a luxury; it’s an art that we need to feed our souls. Second, that with vision, empathy and skill, we can turn a seemingly impossible, horribly ugly situation into something beautiful. And finally, we learned that nothing we do is wasted. Our art is a gift. When we create something beautiful, it can heal, refresh and inspire people in myriad ways that we never imagined possible. 
You and your art can have a positive impact on the world. Don’t wait for a pandemic or a war – start now. 
Eric Henning –

Thanks to the Endowment & Development Fund of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, we are offering this amazing opportunity ABSOLUTELY FREE to all I.B.M. Members between the ages of 13 and 19. This will take place for two days before the convention, and for one hour daily during the convention.
Faculty will include Lance Burton, Jeff McBride, and Larry Hass, as well as many surprise guests.
For more information on this event, and how to register, go to:
You must be registered for the convention as well as for the seminar, but the first forty I.B.M. youth members under the age of 18 also get to register for the convention for FREE. What a deal!
Don’t delay. Spaces are limited.

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