I’m a bit remiss in the fact that, in addition to not posting much, lately, I’ve also shared only one Tommy Wonder video until now. This video, and the other I have posted, are taken from the video collection “Visions of Wonder,” which is a great demonstration of the skill and presentation Tommy brought to the craft. His book set, “The Books of Wonder,” should be a staple in any magicians library for the theory he presents as much as the tricks and routines he documents. This routine is one of his takes on the classic plot of Coins Across. Tommy’s contributions to the magic community are numerous, and the legacy he left is something that is almost more miraculous when you see what goes on behind each routine as much as when you’ve no idea how he did it.
I first became aware of this thanks to Pop Haydn mentioning it in a video lecture, and it’s been on deck for a while. Brother Paul’s (www.brotherpaulmagic.com) “Stupid Bean Trick” is one of those absurdities that is just fun to watch. It gives nothing away to where he’s going with the trick, and his characterization is just great. This one really is a gem.
After yesterday’s Daily Dose featured Ice McDonald, it’s time to link you to another Shawn Farquhar (www.magichampion.com) video that he just posted to his YouTube channel last week. I’ve linked to a couple of his videos before (here and here), and he’s always someone to watch. The fun part of this video is that it was done while goofing around with the Vancouver IBM Ring #92 (The Vancouver Magic Circle) at a restaurant. It’s one more demonstration of how you never know what to expect when Shawn’s involved.
Well, I’ve just waxed fan-boy about Kenrick “Ice” McDonald‘s lecture and magic at the St. Louis IBM Jam, so to restart the Daily Dose, it seemed right to start off with a video of his stage performance from a few years ago on “Masters of Illusion.” Not only is Ice the first African-American President of the Society of American Magicians, but in his presidency over the past year, he did a couple of things that I just outright admire him for: He put a focus on trying to get younger members into the organization, and in each issue of the M-U-M (the SAM member magazine), he put a spotlight on individuals in two categories, members who showed a strong commitment to community service and younger members who show a dedication to the craft. This was the year of “Honoring our Members.”
Ice puts his heart and soul into his magic, and in this video, you see him performing with doves, which is how he initially made his mark on the magic world.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted in this blog, and it’s time I got the ball rolling again. Fortunately, in this review, I get to review one of my established favorite magicians, whom I wrote a review for before, and a magician whose lectures I just dig, plus one magician I hadn’t heard of before.
OK, to start off with, one of the things Shawn Farquhar ushered into the IBM when he took the presidency last summer was the idea of an IBM Jam. These are member-only events that are a combination of fellowship and presentations. The lecturers donated their time and expenses to be at these events. Shawn was able to schedule a handful of these, and St. Louis Ring One was able to host the final one of Shawn presidential tenure. Also on hand at each event was Kenrick “Ice” McDonald, who in addition to being an Order of Merlin in the IBM, is also the current president of the SAM. For those readers who may not be familiar with the organization acronyms I’m throwing out, the IBM is the International Brotherhood of Magicians, and the SAM is the Society of American Magicians.
The Jams are open to all IBM members, and even though Ring One hosted, we had magicians show up from all over the Midwest and also from the South. I’ve been working with thimbles lately, so I started talking to few guys also into thimbles from other rings, not to mention got some ideas from my friend Joey Night when he pulled out a thimble he made.
After about an hour of everybody talking, jamming different tricks (mainly cards, but also coins and whatever else people brought with them), and just getting to know each other a bit, our first lecture started.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Ice McDonald!
Okay, this is the second time I’ve seen Ice lecture, and for me, the man is like a tent revival evangelist preaching the gospel of performing good magic. Seriously, I dig this man’s lectures. If there is one magician who gets me fired up to not only perform, but go out and perform well, giving everything I’ve got both in rehearsal and performance, it’s Ice.
One of the topics he focused on was practicing your outs. An out is what you do when a trick fails, whether it’s at the end or somewhere midway. His delivered thoughts on how to practice outs in a way that, even though I hadn’t thought of them that way before, I’m sure that there were some that had. I could go into detail about his thoughts on this, but it wouldn’t do justice to Ice’s message.
Here’s the kicker, though. Another strong message Ice preached was not just to go out and perform magic, but that we owe it to the art to go out and perform good magic. See, it’s a message we’ve heard plenty of times before, but Ice’s message is not as much a condemnation of bad magic (it’s there, but that’s not the focus), as much as “Go forth and perform Good Magic. Your audience is watching and they deserve it.” Coming from Ice and his passion for the art, it’s a bit inspiring.
Now, Ice is noted mainly as a stage magician who has made his mark mainly for his routine with doves, and his act is outstanding, but where I’ve appreciated his magic from the first time I saw him, I can say I became a fan and thoroughly appreciate why he’s the president of the SAM (first black president, by the way) at dinner after the Jam. This is a bit of a digression, but it is why as much as I think of him as a friend in this business, I’m now a fan.
See, we had dinner at the hotel the Jam was at, and we had one server for the horde of us. As soon as the server found out what we did, magicians at the table started performing for him and frying the poor guy’s head. Now, we’re getting ready to leave, and he wants to see one last trick. Ice has been ready for this. This kid is the only layman watching, and Ice performs a couple of mentalism tricks with cards. His final trick in his routine is one I know I’m familiar with a variation of, so I’m sure I wasn’t the only one, but damn! When Ice finished his routine, it felt like a miracle. His poise and command, it was like watching a wizard with every other magi a trickster. When Shawn said before that Ice sweated magic, he was not kidding. When Ice was done, it was a proverbial mic drop. I saw every bit of why Ice has the respect he has. If I had known what was coming, I would have filmed it. Then again, all I would have filmed was floor as I was pretty much dumbstruck.
Okay, back from the digression.
Next up, Ladies and Gentleman, Chuck Arkin and Shawn Farquhar…
Part Two can be read here.
There are very few magicians with the brilliant comedic timing of the late Billy McComb (1922-2006). Watching especially the second clip in this post, I’ve had tears from laughing at the dialogue and his magic is brilliant. Even for knowing the methods involved, his act takes you in and even throws in a few sucker moves so you just don’t know where he’s going to go with his act. And really, when an begins with the line, “I’m wanna speed this along because it’s rice pudding night at the home…” you know you’re going to see something special. Thanks to Pop Haydn for the second link, which is Billy’s act at the Magic Castle. I’ve posted the first link, also, because even though the routine is part of the act in the second, the sound quality is quite a bit better. Do yourself a favor, though, and watch both.
When Nathan Kranzo came through and lectured for S.A.M. Assembly 8 earlier this year, I was a bit annoyed because of getting held up with day-job work stuff, so when I found he was doing a workshop, I was quite happy and immediately signed up as soon as I heard. That was definitely a good decision on my part.
Now, Nathan did admit there was a little cross-over between his lecture and his workshop but he minimized that and only went through a couple of things that were in the initial lecture. As part of the package, there were two DVDs (one covering a gaff Nathan has developed from an older gaff concept) and a good number of downloadable files including pdf lecture notes and a video of a routine and explanation.
The main thing I found really cool about what Nathan was presenting in this workshop was how he developed a number of routines using gaffs that have been around for quite some time. His opener routine that he gave us was a coin routine that used and milked a gaff that probably most magicians who do coin work have picked up and used along the way. What he focused on was using manipulations in addition to the gaff to build a routine around a number of tricks that flowed from the start of production to finishing clean. Yeah, I know I’m keeping it vague on what he presented, but I’d rather not name any of the gaffs discussed just in the event that laypeople actually read this blog.
What the first routine (and really, the subsequent routines, as well) reminded me of was of watching Boris Wild about probably his biggest contribution so far to magic tools. In both cases, we have serious manipulation skills combined with a creative knowledge of using the gaffs employed. When Boris discussed his gaff, he referred to it as jazz, taking the gaff and playing with it and finding new ways to use it. In both the case of Boris and Nathan, in addition to classic routines and premises, we had additional new and off-beat premises shown to where the gaffs involved. Coming back around to Nathan, if anybody during the discussion asked where he got a trick from, unless he was naming a specific move, he would list off a number of magicians whose ideas had been implemented. In some cases, it was material developed for a different tool completely but had enough shared DNA with what Nathan was using that in was adapted.
Now, I’m sure that for an awful lot of magicians, this isn’t anything new, but I also know enough magi who, once they get a gaff or gimmick, play it only really the way it is presented in the instructions that came with it. For me personally, it timed perfectly. I had just recently started playing with a gaff that I had picked up well over a year ago and, pretty much after seeing only minor variations of Don Alan’s routine with the gaff performed, I pretty much put it down figuring it was probably locked into that one presentation, and I’d rather put my own spin on it. Nathan’s workshop inspired me to look at other gaffs that had enough matching DNA that I started jamming with the gimmick running a few manipulations that were more for the other gimmick. I’m now seeing the potential.
It’s not a case, really, of when you discover how to use a hammer everything is a nail, but rather, learning that in addition to pounding a nail into a board, a hammer can pull or straighten a bent nail (and though I’m a big horror movie fan, I won’t drag this analogy further into “Toolbox Murders” territory). I personally generally dislike gimmicks that can only be used for one trick and that’s it. I’m always looking for at least three phases to each routine, if not more. Hell, even though in general there’s only really one move to a good operation of the Three Shell Game, a great presentation gets creative in the implementation.
Now, I must say, for the routines and tricks Nathan performed, I will say that if I was to adapt one routine for my own, it would have been his finisher. In this case, there was no gaff used. It was a series of coin though silk manipulations that, for being close-up magic, plays big. Yeah, we all find our favorites, and for what he presented us, this was definitely mine. For busking, it is perfect, but all in all, like anything else, once I start working with it, it will be a path of discovery until the routine has DNA in Nathan’s routine (in addition to so many others) but its final presentation is mine.
All in all, my final take-away from Nathan’s workshop, for all the technical information he dropped on us, it was a tent-revival for my creative side.
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.
Internationally renowned magician and current star of the Discovery Channel’s “Breaking Magic: The Magic of Science,” Wayne Houchin (waynehouchin.com), is lecturing on Monday, Aug. 11 for IBM Ring 1. He’s developed routines used by David Blaine, Criss Angel, Dynamo, and many others and when he did this lecture tour in Europe, he sold out crowds. Needless to say, this lecture should be one of our best we’ve had. Today’s clip is not as much magic in the prestidigitation sense as much as science in performance. And seriously, shooting lightning bolts? It’s science meets magic out of Dungeons and Dragons, so I’m completely down with that!
This Friday, July 11, is Maplewood’s tribute to Bastille Day. From 6pm until later into the evening, I’ll be performing the section of Sutton Blvd. Maplewood has blocked off for the occasion (between Marietta and Hazel). Doing my busking routine and bringing my brand of stoopid and magic to the festivities. Looking at the list of entertainment, it looks like it should be a great party atmosphere for everybody who comes out. Hi Tadah, the top spinner I really dug at Fringe Fest will also be performing, so I’m digging on that. Check out the information for Let Them Eat Art at http://www.cityofmaplewood.com/index.aspx?NID=147. Admittedly, in the Entertainers section, the write-up they culled for me is a little disjointed (I’m going to have to put together a stock one so that is a little clearer for future events) and the picture they used is of Gazzo (Damn, I wish I was at his level!) but I will be there. I hope to see you all there, too!