Why?

Magic is a profession like any other, and it is important to stay up to date. I spent last Saturday at a lecture with David Hira for just that reason.

David’s lecture was outstanding. The presentation prompted many ideas for improvements to our show. I cannot wait to incorporate them. But beyond the technical showmanship and magic ideas, David’s lecture asked a critical question: Why?

Why? Why are we magicians?

This question is about motivations and the attitudes that a performer brings to the stage. I could give many answers to the question “why do you perform?” from continuing a family tradition to its just plain fun. But those reasons would not explain why I don’t return to post-secondary education or return to the lucrative computer science field. And honestly, they are not why I choose to become a full-time entertainer.

I became an entertainer because I love to take people away from their daily lives, to help them for a few minutes to see a world filled with wonder and laughs.

Social Media Milestone; Thank you

Part of the relaunch strategy for Jim Perry Magic has been to increase our Social Media Presence and reach as part of the creation of the Explorer Magician family show.

Ultimately, the Explorer Magician show aims to tell the story of a magician and his fairy friend’s ongoing adventures and discoveries in both the fairy world and the natural world using online and live platforms.

Before we can use Facebook and other platforms, we need to create a following. We focused on Facebook first. Below is a chart from the Jim Perry Magic Facebook Administrator page

The chart shows a huge growth in Facebook page likes at a every rapid pace. You might wonder what happened. We worked with some of our fans to promote the page. And those fans shared the page with their friends.

Yup, that is the big secret to the growth: Friends helping friends and sharing content that those friends might like.

We want to thank everyone for helping us create a following of people, who want to share wonder and a laugh. Thank you.

Alternative Universe

I received an unexpected call last Friday.

The caller was a reporter from a regional newspaper. He told me that he was working on a series about people with unusual jobs and asked if I would like to be interviewed. Of course, I said yes, and we made arrangements to meet this week. I will be sure to let you know if and when the interview is published.

I have been thinking about how to talk about being a magician because in many important ways, I don’t live in the real world. Of course, I have bills, and taxes, and expenses and responsibilities. But mostly I have time to think, and create and dream and write. A typical work day includes practice and rehearsal, and client calls and vanishing coins into thin air, and making dinner and causing someone to be suspended four feet about the floor, and paying bills and escaping from a locked crate.

All in all, being a magician is just like any other job, except that I view the laws of physics more as guidelines rather than laws.

Backstage: Discovering New Magic

Some magicians love to collect every new effect for the pure joy of it. It is an expensive but exciting hobby.

I have a different process. I schedule time to play.

Alone or with an assistant, I go to the practice space and get out a few properties. Generally, I begin with a concept, sometimes it is an approach to a routine, sometimes it is a story with a magical theme. Always I begin with a pencil and paper.

These steps help me think about and incorporate new magic routines into our show:

  1. I brainstorm ideas on my floor-to-ceiling whiteboard. All ideas are scribbled down, and no judgments are made. Other times I sit among a collection of props
  2. Eventually, some idea strikes me as special, so I write a description of how the illusion will be experienced by the audience. At this point, I give no thought to method. This is a critical point. Beginning magicians often want to know how a “trick is done,” but how it is done is not an important part of magic. Only the wonder a magic effect brings to the audience matters.

Most ideas are fun to work on, but do not result in usable magic. But every once in a while, something wonderful happens.

Just last week, Krissy and I added a new facet to the our opening sequence. I was searching for a pair of color matched props, when she suggested, “Why don’t you just magically change the color”? Of course, she was right. We added the color change and the whole routine is improved.

Most ideas are fun to work on, but do not result in usable magic. But every once in a while, something wonderful happens.

More Magician’s Retreat

I want to thank all the entertainers who brought some great information to the Magician’s Retreat and Workshop on October 1:

  • Jerry Snyder had some great ideas for the DIY magician.
  • Michelle Turner shared some fantastic balloon sculpture.
  • I learned some card magic from Brian Engelmann.
  • Larry Dunbar made many helpful suggestions about the handling a several effects.
  • Lin Snyder did some great face painting.
  • Krissy and I led the group on a tour of our workshop and practice space.

We are already planning a bigger and more exciting Retreat for next fall.

I want to especially thank my wife and photographer, Laura Vidler, for her help and support for this event and in all my magical endeavors.

A Magician’s Retreat

Yesterday, Jim Perry Magic hosted a Magician’s Retreat and Workshop. Nine magicians, clowns, and balloonist shared ideas about magic, entertaining, and the business of the show.

The goal was to spend sometime, thinking only about magic and entertainment. Ideas were bantered about, new magic was invented, great suggestions were shared.

I learned a great deal, and the show is benefiting already. And we are already thinking about next year.

Starting Rehearsals

Last Monday, Krissy and I started rehearsals, and we are off to a great start.

Magicians like to distinguish between practice and rehearsals. Practice, they say, is the process of learning how to perform an effect perfectly, and rehearsal is learning how to present the effect. The very technical nature of Magic makes this distinction useful.

I like to define things a little differently and prefer to think of show development as an overlapping multi-part approach:

Workouts:
Workouts are the very fundamental sleight of hand techniques, or general postures, or memorization, or whatever that can usually be done without any special preparations. Ideally, just for a few seconds at a time. I might, for example, grocery shop with a coin in my hand, producing it and vanishing as I go. Workouts train the muscles and the brain to execute without conscience attention. Workouts are not necessarily part of rehearsal; they are the daily life of a magician.
Brainstorming
Brainstorming is a time set aside to let the imagination flow. Sometimes, it is as simple as using my floor-to-ceiling whiteboard to scribble ideas. Other times, I brainstorm with pen or pencil on paper at the mall or the coffee shop. My favorite method is to just sit among my props and other cool objects and just play with them. Brainstorming continues throughout the development of the show, not just at the beginning.
Class
This is my name for what most magicians call practice: the learning of new magic techniques. I borrow the word class from the traditions of Ballet. In Ballet, class is where young dancers learn the basics and experienced dancers warm-up for the day of dancing (This is, of course an over simplification). The key is that every dancer attends class. I like to think of magic class as a place to learn. Magic class is the place to refine performance. And I think it is an essential activity before every rehearsal.
Rehearsal
Rehearsal focuses on presentation with an important limitation: No Stopping. Early rehearsals have no stopping during effects, but, over time, the no stopping rule extends to routines, segments and then the whole show. Everything in rehearsal is real: Real liquids, real streamers, real fire! I seek to create the most realistic live performance conditions, so that we can discover all the things that might go wrong, before we perform for you.

These short descriptions cannot do justice to the many aspects of creating a show, but they are a good place to start. Not only are these phases described in broad strokes, but we haven’t even discussed prop and illusion building, costumes, sets, sound, writing and more.

What aspect would you like to discuss?

My Start in Magic

I was born into magic.

I studied magic with my father, who learned from his Vaudevillian uncle. Dad began performing locally (in Kingston, NY) at nine years old, and by thirteen was invited to perform as a ventriloquist on television’s Radio City Music Hall based “Ted Mack” show.

My first experiences in magic were as my Dad’s assistant. He continued to perform throughout his life, teaching the art to all his children.

During the 1980’s the family performed as the revue: Magic Incorporated. While I continued to support the family’s seasonal shows, I also pursued a year-round solo career performing at private, service group and corporate parties throughout the Catskill mountains, as well as commercial and club shows.

That was many years ago. A few years ago, I moved to South Dakota, and Jim Perry Magic continues share wonders and smiles at shows near and far. What began as a family tradition has become the best full-time career I ever had.

The Current and the Next Show

I became a magician at two years old. At least that was the first time I took the stage with my dad. At times magic was a hobby; at times it was my main source of income. I created some great magic, but I never found the time I needed to create the fantastic show I imagined.

Like many part-time performers, the old Jim could never step back. I could never practice and rehearse enough to be confident and excellent. This meant stagnation or worse: cramming half-ready stuff into the act at the last minute.

As a full-time performer, I found the way to beat the problem: The Current and the Next show.

The Current Show is the practiced, rehearsed and perfected show that I perform publicly. If you called right now, I could pack in 45 minutes and perform soon after arriving. There is a close-up and stage version, ready to go! The Current Show is Jim Perry Magic.

The Next Show is the future of Jim Perry Magic. It is show under design, being practiced or rehearsed. If you called right now, I would not book the Next Show before its production-ready date. There is a strict and ambitious schedule for the Next Show. There are a close-up, stage and illusion versions. The Next Show is future of Jim Perry Magic.

Making this delineation between development and production means that I can be more creative in the Next Show, because it is not promised, and therefore not rushed. Being a full-time magician gives me the time and space to make that happen!