For starters, by this point in my time while taking this made business of legerdemain a bit seriously, between the couple of conventions I’ve been to and clubs, I’ve only seen somewhere between 20-30 magic lectures. For magicians who’ve been in this longer, that’s quite a small number. That being said, I’ve had the opportunity to see some great lectures. Only a small few have been less than inspiring, but most of them give me something to walk away with that ends up in that mental backpack that carries all the random crap that I end up pulling out at some point and incorporating. By all means, I should have written about a few in general that I never did due to either personal sloth or just plain regular life taking control of my time.
That being said, last night’s lecture by Wayne Houchin was outstanding. My own take-away was this was a great lecture, and the comments by the other magicians that I heard confirmed what I felt.
Now, if you’re one of those people that, like me, has done away with normal television and has opted for just what you can get online, you might not be aware of Wayne’s television appearances, including the Discovery Channel’s “Breaking Magic: The Magic of Science.” I had seen Wayne’s products advertised by magic retailers and knew his name, but before his lecture, I wanted to know more about him before I saw him. Where I saw his name over and over again was behind the scenes as one of the magic creators whose works are used by some very visible magicians, such as Criss Angel and David Blaine. Wayne’s illusions are outstanding and very effective to pleasing and amazing the audiences and this is really where this review starts.
Coming into the lecture, Wayne and his wife Frania were there to meet and greet everybody as they arrived. Wayne’s very bright and personable and the type of guy you just feel you’re going to like. He’s there to please the audience, and as he mentioned in the lecture, it’s that connection that comes from pleasing the audience and feeling that energy flowing back and forth between performer and audience that is the magic that we crave when we’re performing.
Admittedly, when magicians are performing for other magicians, the energy is different than when performing for laypeople. We know so many aspects of slights and performance machinations that it’s got to be different. In this case, Wayne’s main theme of this lecture, called “Remix,” is how he’s taken pre-existing effects and reworked them. In some cases, rebuilding them from the ground up to where the DNA of the original effect is only evident when he tells the lifecycle of how it developed. In fact, when you read the lecture notes (also, the most gorgeous lecture notes I’ve gotten, yet), you’ll find not one trick covered was solely his, even though, by the time he’s done, it pretty much is. It’s kind of like listening to Dylan’s original recording of “All Along the Watchtower” and then comparing to what Hendrix did afterwards. In all cases, Wayne takes a premise and rebuilds it through his own originality and developing the trick to his needs.
Okay, this might not seem like such as big deal, but in addition to discussing the techniques used, he walked us through the observations and thought processes (as much as could be covered in such a venue and still be entertaining). He discussed the evolution of how the effects developed after the initial premise was performed and what he found with crowd reactions and the additional tweaks he made along the way without bogging us in the details. During the lecture, he did this with confidence and enthusiasm without any real sense of egotism. Admittedly, by the point that he gave his lecture to us, he’s performed it around the world, so I doubt we could hit him with much that he hasn’t seen or heard in responses from the magicians watching, but he never gave a feeling of “been there, done that.”
For my personal take-away from this, outside of the seriously amazing work he showed us, his discussions on what aspects he looked at to developing the effect for how he wanted to perform it was the food he gave to my mind. He discussed the input from other magicians and what they called him out on to push the effect from being good to great. Wayne’s confident, but not to the degree that he’s not open to input and criticism from his peers when developing. His development of an effect originally produced by Jay Sankey showed how he took a close-up effect that would work, at its largest working, in a parlor-sized audience, to an effect that could be played to a full-sized theater with no video screens. It was his discussions in aspects like this that had me more sucked into the lecture than anything else.
For me, because I typically perform outdoors in a situation that leaves me in the potential for being seen from 360 degrees by the audience and passers-by, I’ve left some effects that I would love to do either on one of the far back-burners or just to collect dust altogether. It’s left me feeling a bit defeated, but this lecture gave me a renewed sense of “Screw it. Let’s do the impossible, even by magician standards.” I mean, it’s not a particularly new concept, but you know, when you take that inspiration from a man who’s shot lightning from his fingertips (not featured at this lecture), man, it seems all the more worthwhile.
Wayne’s final words were how it wasn’t anything that was on his merch table or in his notes that was important, but what you develop and share between you and your audience where the real magic was. This wasn’t just rhetoric that Wayne was spouting. Anybody who loves performing knows just how true that is.
Wayne, thanks for one of our best lectures at Ring 1 and certainly one of the top lectures I’ve seen in my own development.