Posts tagged magic

Secret Agenda – January 11 – Script

Secret Agenda – January 11 – Script

I agree with Roberto that if you’ve never written a script of one of your presentations (“Script” can be such an intimidating word. If you’ve never written down the words that you usually say when performing a trick), it can be an eye-opening experience, filled with untold discoveries. But it’s Roberto’s comments on taking an acting class that reinvigorated me.

John Carney has also commented on the effectiveness of acting classes, and there are many magicians (like Jonathan Levit and myself) who have a strong theatrical background.  But many of the techniques and experiences that can only be gotten “on the boards” are useless in magic unless one has the capacity to identify and transfer those skills in a practical and effective way. The application of acting, directing, scripting, and blocking to magic (and all the sub-skills they embody) requires that you have experience in both magic and the theatre before a successful incorporation can be achieved. (Fortunately, in my case, I spent three decades simultaneously growing in both disciplines.)

However, it often takes an objective set of eyes and ears to really be effective.  Too often, we’re too close to our magic to be able to really make those difficult decisions (like cutting something out).

The solution?  Get somebody who is qualified to improve your magic by either instructing you in acting, or becoming your director. (Sorry, but your wife just doesn’t cut it.)

If you live in the greater Los Angeles area, there are literally  thousands of people and classes and schools that promise to guide you to acting success, and it’s a laborious process of trial and error (and investment) to achieving your objective.

But I know a guy…

He’s a director, writer, actor, teacher (Master Teacher!), mentor, and friend.  He co-founded Learning-is-M.A.G.I.C. and knows the problems, pitfalls, and potential that magic offers.

He will make your magic better.

I guarantee it.

You can contact me at Ruben@Learning-is-Magic.com or message me on my Facebook page and I’ll be happy to arrange an introduction. (Glendale area)  No obligation, no charge.  Bring a trick to perform, listen to his comments, and learn for yourself what he can do for you.

You’ll thank me later.


Secret Agenda by Roberto Giobbi – A Preview

I’m usually very excited about purchasing and reading a new magic book as soon as possible after its release. (Whether or not I’m successful at this depends on many complicated factors and layers of procrastination.)

Secret Agenda by Roberto Giobbi is no exception.  As soon as it arrived I opened it up and enthusiastically began to devour Mr. Giobbi’s always-reliable wisdom.  And, as predicted, it was enlightening and wonderful.  Tidbits, nuggets, smatterings and chunks of magic-related musings and ruminations for aspiring and accomplished artists alike.

In his recent review of Secret Agenda in Genii magazine, Jamy Ian Swiss lamented the fact that he had to read the book in its entirety in order to properly review it and thereby missed out on the author’s intention. Namely, reading one entry every day for a year.

Fortunately, I am under no such obligation.

But it wasn’t until the January 17th entry that I realized this.  And then I made the (excruciatingly difficult) decision to put the book away for a couple weeks (this was in mid-December) and begin anew on the first of the year.

I don’t know how many other magicians who own the book are going to do this.  I’d like to think most of them.  If you don’t yet own the book, buy it.  Having thus far only read the first twelve entries, I can guarantee (with as much weight as that entails) that you’ll find it immensely worthwhile.  And I present the entire Card College series as evidence.

Indeed, it will be a unique approach to learning magic and would realize Mr. Giobbi’s generous proposal – to give the reader the experience of spending an entire year under his tutelage.  Those who race through the almost four-hundred pages in a few sessions will no doubt be shortchanging themselves.  Yes, they’ll get the same information I’ll eventually garner, but in this case it truly is an issue of quality over quantity.  Each entry that I will enjoy will get to marinate for at least 24 hours before moving on to the next one.  I’m forcing myself, at Mr. Giobbi’s urging, to do what so many magicians seemingly fail to do: contemplate.  And it is through contemplation and reflection that information makes the difficult and rare transition to practical wisdom.

So, over the next year, I’ll occasionally blog about Secret Agenda .  As I see fit, I’ll comment on entries that strike me, inspire me or simply amuse me.  It is my hope that you’ll join me on this year-long project (No skipping ahead!) and perhaps a dialogue will ensue that will further our mutual love of this amazing art.

I know Mr. Giobbi would like that.

JC Wagner – The One That Got Away

I’ve been a magician since I was 13-years old, living in San Diego, and a fixture at Magicians’ World Magic Shop, first as a weekly customer, then as its magic classes instructor, and, ultimately, as the owner/manager.

It was a fabulous time.  I was a teenager doing what I most loved, surrounded by guys who called San Diego their home – among them Brad Burt, Richard Turner, Jerry Camaro, Dan McClean, Terry Godfrey, Craig Stone,

and , occasionally, JC Wagner.

These were formative years for me (in many ways), and I was trying to find my way and develop a personae, a confidence, a style; I was trying to become me.

There were plenty of bad examples.  Guys who got into magic because they were insecure and wanted to be the center of attention. People who measured accomplishments by the number of times they fooled you.  Getting the gig was all that mattered to some, and one method was as good as another if it “got the money”.  They were often the loudest guys in the shop – bragging, critiquing, explaining, teasing.

I tried to stay away from these guys.

And every once in a while JC would pop in.  And I became very shy around him.  Here was someone who didn’t demonstrate a loud bravado.  He was gentle, cordial, with a tight-lipped smile and a quiet confidence.

Other magicians were glad to see him.  Their respect was obvious.  He’d shake their hands and nod politely, never one to cause a scene.

And he’d glance at me with his kind eyes, and I felt uneasy.  This guy’s a real magician, I remember thinking.  He knows stuff I’ll never know – could never know.  I have no business talking with him.

And, stupidly,  I stayed away from this guy, too.

It’s not something I characteristically do.  When I admire somebody, I usually tell them.  I’ll ask for an autograph or shake their hand.  I let them know they mean something to me, that I enjoy their work, that I’m a fan.

But back then, and even as I grew older, I didn’t feel qualified to enter his life.  Not yet, anyway.  Maybe later, when I deserved it.

As an adult, I’d see him occasionally.  I’d say hello, mention my name, and he’d always smile and pretend to remember, but in reality we never shared any memes between us.  I never game him a reason to remember me.

And so I missed out.  And for no other reason than because I didn’t try.  During the past couple of years, as people began making public their accumulated affection for JC, I realized that many magicians loved him precisely because he was accessible and willing to share, advise, and befriend.  In other words, he was exactly what I needed – then and now.

Some people were much smarter than me.  Syd Segal, for one.  When he first got into magic, he used to regularly have lunch with Craig Stone and me.  He was also quiet and shy, with a burning desire to learn more, to excel in our craft, and make a name for himself.

And years later, when JC returned to magic and San Diego, Syd was the smart one.  He instantly saw what I recognized almost three decades earlier, and knew that here was a precious natural resource, free for the asking.

And Syd accomplished what I failed to try. He said, “I want to learn everything you have to teach me, and we’ll be friends forever.” And they were.  And JC taught, and Syd learned, and together they created, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

And today, as the magic community (and particularly Syd) is grieving for this great loss, my perspective is a bit different.

Because the magicians who knew him, hung out with him, talked to him, and paid attention to the personal memories he gave them, have all gained something invaluable that I could have had, but didn’t. And now, will never have.

The personal influence of JC Wagner in their lives.

And only because I didn’t try.

I had the opportunity (many times) and I blew it.  And now, like so many who never got the chance to forge a personal relationship with him, I’ll have to watch his videos and crack open his books and hope to glean some real magic this way. But as those who knew him can attest, it’s not the same.

I’ll never really be able to accurately measure my loss.  But deep down, I know it’s great.

JC Wagner is “the one that got away”.

Magic-Con 2010 – What You Missed – Part 1


Syd Segal, Dan Buck, and  Dave Buck recently teamed together to produce the first annual Magic-Con, a convention touted as being like no other, held at the San Diego Hilton overlooking the bay.  What follows is a detailed , day-by-day account of what you missed (or, if you were fortunate enough to be there, what you’ll remember).

Thursday Night

Thursday wasn’t a full convention day but was memorable nonetheless.  Upon entering the newly built Hilton hotel, with its high ceilings, bright décor, and very friendly staff, it was evident that this modern venue exuded class.  Top-notch signs directed us to a second-floor Magic-Con welcome station where attendees received their very high quality plastic badges (they make a great bookmark) and bag of goodies, including a gift-wrapped(!) leather-bound pocket notebook.  It was a confident way of saying, “This will be a convention of ideas – be prepared.”

A large area outside several conference rooms served as a social gathering place, and it soon became evident that the main Magic-Con performers, the guys we came here to see, were happily mingling about, talking to attendees, answering questions, posing for pictures, and letting it be known that this convention was indeed going to be different.

And the truth was, it felt different.  I’ve been to many conventions starting back in 1985, and I’ve always lamented what felt like a class system between organizers, performers, and attendees.  Too often, I’ve seen little-known magicians wondering where all the “action” is, having heard that some of the best moments of any magic convention occur between events or in the wee hours in hotel lobbies and bars, only to find out, after the fact, that certain “cliques” of people congregated instead inside somebody’s upper floor hotel suite or at an off-site location, usually an eatery or bar, fostering an insider/outsider divide that usually lasts the whole weekend.

But not on this night.  Michael Weber, John Carney, Eric Mead, and most notably, David Blaine, along with many of the other performers, socialized and fraternized with anybody and everybody who approached.  It was noticeably different, refreshing, and instantly set the welcoming standard for future conventions.  (Interestingly, in a  conversation with Derek DelGaudio three days later, he told me that the reason for this visible camaraderie was not due to an organizers’ mandate, as rumored, but because almost all the performers were already friends with each other, leading one to wonder if the same happy atmosphere will be present in 2011…)

At one point, Syd Segal walked around spreading the word that we should go outside onto the large veranda that overlooks the pool, as “that’s where the girls are going to be.”  Most of us scoffed at this pronouncement, figuring that he just wanted us out of the hallway (and what better way to herd and move a bunch of hapless, mostly male magicians?).

It turns out he wasn’t joking.  Magic-Con organizers arranged to have very pretty young girls parade around in skimpy outfits with trays of Dan & Dave decks of cards, free for the asking.  Live music and a no-host bar complimented the evening and then the whispers began circulating – Juan Tamariz was going to do an unscheduled set of magic!

Nobody left.

And, a little after ten o’clock, at a quietly set-up table under the escalators, and with a huge crowd straining to get a view, Juan indeed sat down and proceeded to WOW us with real. impossible. miracles.

Even knowing how some of his effects were accomplished due to their being previously published in his books, Juan nonetheless executed them with elegance, finesse, and master misdirection, badly fooling most of the magicians in attendance.  Many of the people watching him had never seen Tamariz perform live, and it’s quite a different experience than seeing him on video.  He’s adept at riding the wave of energy in a room, and despite a noisy venue and an overly enthusiastic crowd, he held court and demonstrated up close the unbridled passion for which he is so well known.

Magic-Con #1 had officially begun…