Some Thoughts About Magic Lectures

I’ve now been to a number of magic lectures, today’s being with Shawn Farquhar, and it has me thinking about what people intend to get out the lectures they go to.

Now, admittedly, I haven’t been to as many as a lot of the people involved in the magic scene have been to, and I don’t know what percentage of magicians, hobbyists, pros, or semi-pros, intend to get out of the lectures. I know for some people, if the lecturer isn’t selling a bunch of stuff, then they feel let down. There are an awful lot of magicians out there that are looking for that new trick being demonstrated that they can feel is a reputation maker. Some people are just collectors with hoards of stuff they’ve bought and the lecture is more or less a demonstration. I get that, but because I need to focus on learning and becoming proficient with the fundamentals. Maybe someday, I’ll buy more stuff at the lectures, but to me, I appreciate more than a demo show. In fact, one lecture I saw a number of months ago, I know I felt like it was lame because it seemed like mainly a sales pitch for a lot of gimmicks and was thoroughly unimpressed while some of the others, who walked out with loads of stuff, thought it was the best lecture they had ever seen. To this date, though, there are four lectures I’ve seen that stuck with me, and I’ll discuss why.

The first one on my list was with Ice McDonald (http://www.ice.mcdonald.net). In his lecture, he seemed to know his audience was mainly hobbyists or people wanting to break out and start really performing. He had stuff to sell, but mainly, for me, it was like a tent-revival encouraging magicians to perfect their craft and get out there and perform. Man, did that message sink in for me. Yeah, he sold some stuff, but what impressed me a bit later was watching Silly Jilly (http://www.sillyjilly.com) take something Ice had taught and sold and adapt it to her kids show. She combined elements from other tricks and came up with something that stuck with the kids. Ice’s routine wasn’t for kids. Not that it was inappropriate or anything, it just would have been lost on them, but Jill’s spin on it was what makes the trick work for her. Jill’s already a serious working performer, so I don’t know how much inspiration she got from the lecture other than the routine, but I know I came out wanting to perform even more than before.

Boris Wild (http://www.boriswild.com) is the next lecturer I want to discuss. To me, Boris is a true artist in magic and one of the nicest people I’ve met in this field. (All things considered, though, of the people I’ve had the privilege to meet in magic, most of them have been really kind, but Boris stands out.) In the notes for one of his past lectures, in the forward he states,

“…I am sure your closets at home are packed with props, books and DVDs you probably

have not had the time to study yet. So you already have a lot to play with. This is why I

would rather focus here on something other than tricks. I would rather focus on things

that professional magicians often keep to themselves and very rarely reveal to the magic community.”

That lecture was called “Creativity & Impact,” and even though that was not the lecture I saw, there was an awful lot of that attitude with what he taught. He sold only one gimmick, but what he showed us was how versatile that particular gimmick could be. What he encouraged was to take it and play with it. Jam with it and find new ways of making it work for you. It wasn’t a matter of letting the gimmick be the trick but rather and instrument for magic to be played on. Now, Boris’ talent and skill is insanely good and has one him awards and a hell of a lot of respect in the magic community, but it was the encouragement of taking this tool and playing with it to constantly come up with something new that was inspiring to me. Boris is one of my inspirations to going back and hammering out the fundamentals so I might be able to see the possibilities with educated eyes.

 Shawn Farquhar’s lecture today (http://magichampion.com) was similar in some ways to Boris’. Shawn went through a lot of tricks and routines, but even more to the point, he strongly promoted the attitude of working and being creative with the gimmicks, utility moves, and concepts. The man has explored all the angles and is always delving into more. He didn’t discuss or show anything without going through additional concepts and applications. As you can see, I like the idea that Alton Brown promoted in his show, “Good Eats,” of avoiding uni-taskers as much as possible. Shawn is constantly inventing and building on tricks, whether he is the originator or it started out as someone else’s. It’s the joy of taking something known and turning it on its ear so that you’re constantly creating. It’s the joy of creation in addition to performing.

Finally, we get to Levent. (http://www.leventmagic.com) Levent, in addition to being an amazing magician and performer, is one of the best researchers into the history of effects. For me, I was completely sucked in to his lecture when he started an in-depth discussion of the Linking Rings, which have become my personal favorite piece of magic to perform, whether I’m performing for myself or for other people. When he gets into a piece of magic, it’s full immersion. He just recently released a 7 ½ hour four DVD set just on the rings, and it’s on my wishlist. What he has inspired in me is the desire to research what has been done with a particular routine to find out what has been done so that I can make something new from the pieces.

I’m still a student tracing drawings until I learn enough to draw freehand, but I can see the beauty and art that will be available to me once I’ve put in the time, whether it’s in performance or skill.

Man, I love this gig.

The amazing Shawn Farquhar and me following his lecture for St. Louis I.B.M. Ring 1

The amazing Shawn Farquhar and me following his lecture for St. Louis I.B.M. Ring 1

2 thoughts on “Some Thoughts About Magic Lectures

  1. Jason, I’m impressed by your compliment. Thank you very much.
    Jason is talking about a trick where a volunteer rips a card in 6 pieces, keeps one piece, and the card (minus 1 piece) ends up inside of fortune cookie, and then the magician says something like, “if the card pieces fit together, applaud as if I walked on water.” I turned the effect into a silly cooking routine where the volunteer wears a chef’s hat. I performed the routine about 7 times and 2 of those times the kids saw the fortune cookie and said “a taco.” So now, after trial and a error of me using a prop kids don’t know what is, I’ve changed the trick to have the card appear in a taco.
    I don’t think I got anything professionally practical out of Shawn’s lecture; however, when I saw him 2 years ago I bought his torn to pieces trick, and if I ever get around to making the pictures, I will perform it for kids. The Boris Wild lecture I left after 20 minutes. I need to sit through a several hours of magic meetings or classes to find something I can use with kids; it’s hard to come up with kids’ patter for my character. Compare this to a balloon convention where I learn something useful about every half hour. We learned rubber band tricks at the last SAM meeting. Although it is appropriate for kids, I like to either add some comedy or audience participation to my tricks. Maybe I could do the look don’t see technic, and I “think” the rubber band is on just 2 fingers and kids yell that it has jumped to 4 fingers, but I don’t notice.

    1. You know, Jill, that makes complete sense. As I said, everybody’s there to get something different. When a lecture is very card-heavy in topic, yeah, you probably won’t find what you’re looking for in a kids show. For the effect you took from Ice’s lecture, though, you’ve done a great job of adapting it for kids. It makes perfect sense that you would find more at balloon conventions for what you do.

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