Tag Archives: Manipulation

Review: St. Louis IBM Jam – May 30, 2015 (Part One)

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…

Me, Reggie, and Ice McDonald

Me, Reggie, and Ice McDonald

Part Two can be read here.

Double Dose of Magic – Billy McComb

Double Dose of Magic – Billy McComb

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.

 

Lecture Review: Nathan Kranzo Workshop, St. Louis S.A.M. Assembly 8, 17SEP2014

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.

Yep, the gratuitous fan-boy shot with Nathan Kranzo

Yep, the gratuitous fan-boy shot with Nathan Kranzo

Experience Review – St. Louis Fringe Fest Performance, 24JUN2014

Once I got confirmed for this show, I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t have anybody watching. Outdoor festival, Sunday afternoon, 4:30 pm. I was less worried about the show going well than I was about anybody being there to see it. A dear friend of mine was in the area, and where I had hoped that she would be able to make it, it was the same time and day as her parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary party. (Which, had I known about earlier, I would have been at. Again, Happy 50th, Tom and Linda, and thanks for being one of my sets of surrogate parents during high school.)

I had thought about publicizing the show a bit more than just the week before on my blog and on Facebook , LinkedIn, and Twitter, but I couldn’t come up with a flyer I liked. I had tried for something more like black and white punk show flyers that I collected from college campuses, either from local bands I liked or just because I dug the artwork so much, but I really couldn’t come up with something I liked. Plus, knowing this was mainly a free show, I didn’t want to try to bum decent artwork from some of my more artistic friends. I had one friend in mind that probably would have come up with something perfect, but I value his artistic ability too much to have done that. As this was to be street performance done a little bigger, though, Ben’s artistic direction on a flyer would have been perfect. Maybe next time.

Anyway, I pretty much just settled on word of mouth and the little bit of publicity.

I worked through my routine, and where they wanted about a 45 minute show, I had everything timed to about 38 minutes, and, knowing that there would be a lot of additional patter as I played with the crowd (see, I’m still working under the assumption there will be a crowd), I figured I was in a good safe zone for time.

A couple of days before, I got an email from the organizer for the street performers, and she gave the alternate plans in case there was rain. We’d move the stage to across the street from the park. Not a problem.

I had planned to busk during Saturday, but when I got to the park and saw the arrangement, it wasn’t going to work. The park was crammed, with displays, and to try to get a small circle show was not going to happen. The heat and humidity had people pretty much sitting watching the main stage and there was only one busker working, To Yo, a top spinner. I did get to see what the staging situation would be, though, watched Martin Bronson from Tapmen Productions tap dance on the stage, and got to watch To Yo performing some seriously cool top spinning.

Okay, getting into Sunday, I got a call in the morning about everything being moved into the church because of rain. No worries. Posted the update to Facebook, and settled in to relax before final prep for the show. When time came, packed the act and the wife and away we went. Once we got to the park, checked in and was told we were back outside, so another update.

Not many people in the park and most of the vendors had packed up. The act before me had to end really early. It was another tap dancing group, but they hadn’t brought their own surface to dance on, and the stage had started to tear their shoes apart. I was told I could start whenever I wanted (to get ahead of any possible rain), but as I had advertised it was at 4:30, so if anybody I knew was going to show, I wanted them to see the entire act. I was approached by a couple of little girls (who I later found out were named Mikayla and Torrence) who asked if they could help me in the act, and I assured them they would, so at least I knew I was going to have two helpers for the show.

Okay, now, I could go over the routines I did, but I’ll now just focus on some personal observations of the show.

It did go well. For the crowd I started out with, about 15 people, it doubled by the time I had gotten into the third routine, so I must have been doing something right. People who started out watching from the sidelines ended up moving into the seats to settle down and enjoy the show. Not a big crowd, but it was a majority of the people who were left in the park at that point, so I’ll take that as a win.

I was loathe to throw in a Mis-made Flag routine because in general, I tend to feel that it’s kinda overdone. Also, the local Ronald McDonald does it in his act, so it’s always a fear of reproducing routines that everybody has seen before. I say this, even though I open with my Linking Rings routine, but at least that bit of manipulation (with origins in Al Schneider’s routine, but changed over and over with influences by Harry Monti, Levent, Jimmy Talksalot, and Dick Stoner) is my own. Oddly enough, though, the Mis-made Flag was my wife’s favorite routine I did. Okay. For something that, honestly, I really only put in there to pad for time, it worked well.

The patter, in general, worked really well. I’ll be the first to admit, I try to pull out as many laughs as I can. I had a crowd that was all-ages, and from the littlest kids to the oldest adults, everybody there seemed to be laughing and having a good time. Another personal victory.

A downside I’m looking at, and I’m still wondering a bit about it and how I want to fix it, is I seem to play the “Magician in Trouble” plot in a large percentage in my routine. For any of the laypeople reading this, that’s a case where the trick doesn’t seem to be working for me, but it works out in the end to big laughs. Off the top of my head, four of my routines use this plot in some way. Now, usually it’s used to get laughs and a bigger response as I capitalize on it throughout the routine, but maybe four is too many. I still don’t know. Hell, Tommy Cooper made a career out of bumbling through his routines, most often failing, and was hysterical in doing it. Check the links in the Tommy Cooper tags in this blog or even search YouTube for him to see what I mean. I’m still wondering about this, so it’s a consideration.

I had timed the act for 37 minutes, thinking that I take even more time with playing with the audience. As it was, the entire act ran in about 30 minutes. It reminded me of when I was in rock bands lo so many years ago and we would blast through our set in performance in almost half the time we had timed ourselves at while rehearsing. I’m sure this will settle as more shows develop, but wow. I didn’t cut or leave anything out, so yeah, I blazed through it. As it was, I think that it was probably the right length, so there’s that.

Finally, the last routine I did, my finale with a spring rabbit named Reggie, failed. He got the chosen card wrong. Now, I played with the audience and had them with me until the very end, but damn, that scenario happened. The routine failed. I had gone over and over in my head about how I would end the routine if that happened. I was pretty certain it would work, though. It’s not failed before, but there’s always that first time. For all my contingency planning, my solution was not even close to anything that had been considered before. If I had a Tommy Cooper moment, that was it. Even with the failure, though, the routine got big laughs and it didn’t detract from the show at all. This time around, the magician really was in trouble, but the overall payoff was still pretty good. May not have been the routine ending I wanted, but that’s all right.

In general, it was a good show. For a late Sunday afternoon festival show, I had a better audience than I had feared I’d have, and my two young assistants that had approached me earlier gave me watercolor paintings they had done earlier. The sound guy who had worked the entire festival seemed to have a good time, and I figure he would have been one of the toughest sells, but once I got started, because I wasn’t using the PA, he sat down in the middle of the audience and laughed along with us.

Again, for all the laughs, I don’t think anybody had a better time of it than I did, but because they were laughing and having a good time along with me, I definitely will chalk it up as a win.

Mikayla thoroughly unimpressed by the two sponge balls trading places in our hands

Mikayla thoroughly unimpressed by the two sponge balls trading places in our hands

My assistants, Shannon and Torrence, getting ready to strangle me

My assistants, Shannon and Torrence, getting ready to strangle me

Stupid rabbit

Stupid rabbit

My lovely assistants, Mikayla and Torrence, getting a photo with me after the show show

My lovely assistants, Mikayla and Torrence, getting a photo with me after the show show

Fringe Performance Update – 22JUN2014

For anybody who may have planned on coming out to see my show today, because of the weather, the show has been moved across the street from Strauss Park to Third Baptist Church at 620 N. Grand. The church is catty-corner to the Fox Theater, so if you know where the Fox is, finding the church shouldn’t be that hard. I will be performing at 4:30 it’s a free performance, magic, and laughs.

Photo(13)

Daily Dose of Magic – Burl the Bubble Guy

Daily Dose of Magic – Burl the Bubble Guy

Currently, I’m working on a bubble routine to start opening my act with. In all honesty, I want to create enough of a spectacle that people stop and start watching so that the opening sequence is a bally in itself to start creating crowd interest. I came across this routine, which is magic, but is just plain fun to watch by Darren Burrell, better known as Burl the Bubble Guy (www.burlthebubbleguy.com). His routine here has given me some ideas to think about. Even though this is not a magic act, for some ideas here to lead into some of the bubble magic leave some room for serious consideration.

Burl the Bubble Guy

Daily Dose of Magic – Finn Jon French Television Appearance

Daily Dose of Magic – Finn Jon French Television Appearance

Norwegian magician, Finn Johan Hauger, better known as Finn Jon, is the subject of today’s clip. Finn Jon is legendary in the magic community and is considered the father of modern levitation magic, inspiring magicians such as Losander. This act is as playful as it is beautiful and features one of my favorite routines of his, the Dancing Tie.

Finn Jon French Television Appearance

Daily Dose of Magic – Mirko Callaci 2003 FISM Act

Daily Dose of Magic – Mirko Callaci 2003 FISM Act

I started looking for routines with bubbles to get ideas for my busking act and came across this outstanding work of magic and manipulation. Argentinian magician Mirko Callaci (mirkomagic.com) won a FISM award at the 2003 Den Haag XXII World Championships in the category of General Magic, and it is just stunning in it’s routining. Mirko now has a must-see act in Shanghai, and after seeing this, man, it gives me even more of a reason to want to make a trip there.

Mirko Callaci 2003 FISM Act

Daily Dose of Magic – Levent’s Finale Sequence on the “Masters of Illusion” TV Show

Daily Dose of Magic – Levent’s Finale Sequence on the “Masters of Illusion” TV Show

Levent (www.leventmagic.com) is probably one of the magicians I respect the most in the magic community.  I posted the first part of this act in one of my first Daily Doses (http://jasonstackmagician.com/?p=71) and as I’ve read his material in the Society of American Magician’s magazine, “M.U.M.” I have his DVDs on the Linking Rings and Billiard Balls, and look forward to reading his biography on Roy Benson. In the Billiard Ball DVD, he explains the routine you’ll see at the end of this video clip, and really, this is an amazing routine of ball manipulation. This does have touches of Roy Benson’s act, but the routine is completely Levent’s. It’s impressive when you watch it, but even more stunning if you know all the manipulation he’s pulling off throughout the routine.

Levent’s Finale Sequence on the “Masters of Illusion” TV Show

Daily Dose of Magic – Salvano “Multiplying Billiard Balls”

Daily Dose of Magic – Salvano “Multiplying Billiard Balls”

Polish magician Tomasz Chelminski (1929-2006) was better known by the name of Salvano and was noted for his smooth style. When you watch this video of his take on the Multiplying Billiard Balls, it’s evident why he had that reputation. This performance is simply beautiful. Even knowing the moves and techniques, it’s difficult not to get lost in the execution of such a great act.

Salvano “Multiplying Billiard Balls”