Dear Friends in Magic,
I have just returned from FISM in Québec City, where hundreds of you signed up for this newsletter. Welcome! As long-time readers know, each installment features some regular departments, and I always start with…
A BIG IDEA
FISM, the World Congress of Magic, is held every three years in one of the world’s major cities. It is also the “Olympics of Magic” because its centerpiece is a competition that features top acts from all over the world, performing in a range of categories like close-up, mentalism, general magic, and illusion. You can see all the categories and this year’s winners by going here.
As you may know, I was booked by FISM to deliver a main stage lecture and to be part of the five-person team delivering the McBride Magic & Mystery School Room. Located in the heart of the convention, our task was to offer five hours each day of the six-day event, with shows, keynote lectures, performance feedback sessions, and hands-on magic teaching. And we did it without any repetition!
With all that on my plate I didn’t see much of the convention. However, I did attend the Winner’s Gala Show on the last day, in which the top ten acts—the first-place winner in each category—were competing for two Grand Prix, one for close-up and one for stage.
As I watched these very different acts, I was dazzled by the tremendous vision, innovation, and skill the performers brought to the stage. Clearly, each of them embodied special gifts. This performer displayed a gift for staggering sleight-of-hand, that performer for hiding complex technology—this one for poetic scripting and beautiful gestures, that one (a duo) for unspoken communication—this one for devising entirely new methods, that one for pin-point timing.
Each performer had gifts, and I loved witnessing them on the world stage. And I know something else from twenty-five years of teaching and coaching magic: every serious performer not on the world stage has gifts, too. We all have one or two or three special aptitudes or talents at the core of our engagement with the craft.
Eugene Burger, my mentor, always said that, unlike Max Maven or Stewart James, he didn't have the gift for innovating methods, but he did have the ability “to know what looked like magic and what didn’t.” Yes, he did! For another example, Jeff McBride has hands from the gods with transcendent fine motor skills. And I, perhaps, have an eye for transforming superficial methods into something deeper and more deceptive.
And this brings me to a question for you. What are your special gifts as a magician? What is it you have a special talent for? Perhaps it is your extensive knowledge of methods. Maybe it is your ability to make people laugh. Perhaps you have a special gift for show building or good words or creating new devices. Maybe you have the gift for seeing what everyone else is doing and then heading in a different direction. I do not know what your gifts are, but you will when you ask yourself this question, and ask those who love and support you in the art.
This reflection is so important for our growth as magicians because comparing ourselves to others—hankering after what they have or do—is nothing but a “feel-bad.” It is a recipe for feelings of envy, worthlessness, or defeat. Instead, I encourage you to identify and celebrate your special gifts, so you fully express them in whatever you create and perform.
IN THE STUDIO
It has been quite a summer with the 7-Day Master Class in Las Vegas, the Lance Burton Teen Seminar in Atlanta, and the deep pleasures of working FISM. There was one other special event on June 22: I received one of the 2022 Allan Slaight Sharing Secrets Awards for Eugene Burger: Final Secrets.
What an honor! Julie Eng at Magicana created the video that announced my award. When you watch it, you’ll see previously unshared footage of Eugene’s and my private sessions and shows. You will also see images of private notes I used in the process of writing the books. You might take a few moments to learn about the achievements of this year’s other Allan Slaight Award recipients. I am so thrilled and grateful for this award.
In other news… last issue I announced a September run of my full-evening show at the Rhapsody Theater in Chicago. However, given the unsettling challenges around COVID these days and the disruptions of Labor Day weekend and schools starting, Ricardo Rosenkranz and I agreed to look ahead toward more favorable dates. I will be sure to keep you posted here.
As I write, my studio is in a delightful creative uproar. I have about six new pieces in development, and there are props all around. Perhaps like you, I need an abundance of “stuff” when I’m in this phase—stuff to handle, hold, try, and test—all in the hope of receiving an “A-HA” breakthrough.
Some of these new pieces will roll out at our Mystery School classes this fall, specifically at the Magic and Meaning Conference Online (September 23-25) and at the more intimate Weekend of Wisdom in Las Vegas (October 14-16). Perhaps you would like to join me, and us, at one of these events? Find out more here.
IT’S NOT MAGIC, BUT…
One of the things on full display at FISM was innovation. There, the most innovative acts win, and the most innovative props and tricks sell. As my studio story might convey, I came home ready for fresh thinking and activity at every level of the work.
Creativity.Innovation. These are good words, aren’t they? They feel good to hear and say. And we correctly honor magicians who have a special gift for inventing new methods, ideas, and devices—people like Gaetan Bloom, Jim Steinmeyer, Max Maven, Robert Neale, Mark Setteducati, Lubor Fiedler, Michael Weber, and the whole team at Tenyo.
Innovation is great, but how can we get more of it in our lives and our magic? Well, an excellent way to proceed is by reading Roger von Oech’s book, A Whack on the Side of the Head.
Over the years, I occasionally looked at von Oech’s Whack… deck of cards. But last month, I devoured the book, and it leaves the deck in the dust. The book is thoroughly enjoyable, readable, and overflowing with excellent exercises. Above all, each chapter blows up subconsciously held assumptions or rules that stifle our creativity. Such as:
There is one right answer
Play is frivolous
Don’t be foolish
Don’t make mistakes
Don’t waste your time
You must not fail!
“I am not a creative person.”
If you are like me, you’ll be concerned about the cultural forces that drive these messages into our young brains. Von Oechs occasionally touches on cultural critique, but he is far more interested in just busting up those creative blocks and demonstrating ways of thinking that can’t help but generate new ideas.
Wow: Whack… is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
HAPPENING AT THE PRESS
The two Eugene Burger books, From Beyond and Final Secrets, remain in high demand, along with our exclusive props for them. You might wish to check them out at: www.TheoryandArtofMagic.com.
With the holiday season in mind we just restocked Eugene’s Santa Hat Tears. These are identical to his Stocking Cap Hats, except the papers are red and white rather than red and black. If you are interested, I recommend you place your order soon because they will go fast.
Finally, we have a special offer for you. First, here is the backstory: In June, Bob Neale sent me a document titled, “Partners in Possibility,” with a request for my ideas and edits. Trust me: when Bob sends me something new, I always dive in!
“Partners in Possibility” is an alternate presentation for Eugene Burger’s “Unfazed,” chapter 17 of Final Secrets. Like many magicians, Bob was captivated by the routine, but wanted to explore a different theme by using more meaningful symbols. So, he substituted five pairs from his own “Everyone Symbol Deck.”
Here is the offer—a double offer, in fact. First, if you purchase a copy of Bob Neale’s “Everyone Symbol Deck” through September 15, with Bob’s blessings I will email you the final, fully-edited PDF of “Partners in Possibility.” And/or: if you purchase a set of Eugene’s “Unfazed” cards from us, I will send you a link to an over-the-shoulder explanation video I created to make the routine much easier to learn.
To receive these bonuses, simply place your order for one or both items. I will email your item(s) after I receive notification of your purchase.
Thank you for reading my newsletter and being part of my extended community. Let me know what you connected with in this issue—and one of your special gifts!
Best Wishes, Larry Hass
Dean of McBride’s Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press