||Posted by: Scott Wells (Feb 4, 2006 9:23am)
DATELINE FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3: Following the Friday morning close-up contests with about 13 mostly excellent performers, the first lecture of the day was by Rich Bloch who talked about staging and the importance of finding a director. He also taught some card tricks and clever switches. The afternoon lectures were divided between Chavez instructor Dale Salwak and the two balloonatics, Tom Vorjahan and Daniel Herron. Then came one of my favorite parts of the convention…the professional forum.
Imagine if you will what kind of questions you would ask you would want to a few of the world’s top, most successful magicians. Then imagine a dream team on the panel. Well, most of those who would be on my list were on this panel today. Tim Conover, Paul Gertner, John Carney, Dale Salwak and David Williamson fielded questions from Jep Hostetler as the moderator then from questions from the floor in a forum entitled, “What does it take to be a professional performer?”. Aside from some funny remarks and stories, there was some excellent information imparted by these gentlemen. To wit, allow me to quote a few here:
“If you’re working on your business, then you’re not working on your magic. If you’re working on your magic, then you’re not working on your business. It’s a fine balance.” – John Carney
“I’ve probably made more money with (my trick) Unshuffled in corporate work than any other trick. I have about 700 decks at home with different corporate names on them.” –Paul Gertner
“I have fewer tricks now than in years past. My working repertoire has shrunken over the years.” – John Carney
“I look at ideas and trick selection like Woody Allen works through comedy material. He rejects 19 out of 20 jokes thinking that most other comedians would have stopped then.” – John Carney
“Picture the best magic tricks from the shows of the best magicians you have seen and put them together as your show. Next look for routines that will fit that sequence in your own show with ethics in mind so you are not going to copy the original. You are just looking for the essence of the idea to complete the perfect routine.” – Tim Conover
“Darwin Ortiz told me that if you’re going to do magic as a full time living, then you have to know that it’s a whole different thing. And you owe it to your family and the ones you love to make money.” – David Williamson
“You should have a set fee so it’s either the fee or free.” – Jep Hostetler
“Your fees should go up a little each year rather than large jumps every few years” – Paul Gertner
“I use a sliding scale saying that I will charge this amount if we are two months out. If we wait another month and I still have an open date, then it will be less if you confirm. If you wait until a week before the event, then I will be even less if I’m still available.” – David Williamson
“When T. Nelson Downs was asked to work for less than he was asking, he would say, ‘I am a very patient man and I can wait until you save up.” – John Carney
following the forum, a new feature was offered called “Pitch and Sell”. Pre-arranged sellers had eight minutes to pitch a particular product or products followed by a 30 minute period of selling. All the participants paid a fee for this presentation. I missed the event but those who went got something out of it.
The Friday night Headliner show was perhaps the best evening show I have ever seen at the Magi-Fest. I might stop short of my best show ever seen, but I will say that it is way up there. It was a solid two and a half hour show (including the 15 minute interval), technically perfect from the sound and light POV, well paced, nice blend of talent, and all nicely cohesively together by one of my favorite emcees, Rich Bloch.
Greg Frewin opened with his high energy F.I.S.M. act. Performing in a short waistcoat with no apparent bulges, I think he produced four doves from body loads plus two others during his show. His climax ending is one that I don’t want to spoil if you haven’t seen it, but it was a real kicker.
Rich Bloch took his turn with a borrowed ring in gumball machine followed by a card in mayonnaise jar and card in sock and one card that was not found…until later in the show. Nice interplay with the audience and professionally done.
Junge! Junge! from Germany next performed their F.I.S.M. act with an Englishman in New York circa 1920’s where a Brit is getting his shoes shined and his pockets cleaned but in the end coming out ahead…literally. The shoeshine boy placed a head twister box on the Brit’s head then used it as an arrow head type trick where he impaled blades into the box and when the box was open, his head was gone. And I mean completely gone so you could see all the way through as the shoe shine boy walked around back and looked through. Pretty freaky.
Ventriloquist Mark Wade gave his usual remarkable performance beginning with the baby gag where a volunteer is employed as a baby and Mark throws his voice making the man sound like an infant. He then taught the audience how to throw you voice and how a vent does what he does. He finished with a funny routine using a hillbilly vent figure.
Dale Salwak provided a solid, textbook Chavez performance. But then what would you expect? He’s the teacher! He produced canes, silks and coins, did some card manipulations and ended with a zombie routine. It is an act that can and has worked on five continents.
Rich Bloch finished the second half with a card in balloon revelation, thus completing the trilogy of finding three cards started earlier in his performance.
The stage was set during the interval with a video projector in front of the stage. The Cinematics (comprised of Junge! Junge! and one other gentleman from Germany) presented a live action music video interlaced into a vertical split screen backdrop that allowed the video to be shown on two of the screens while they walked back and forth between and behind the panels in perfect synchronicity. It is easier to explain with my hands than in words, but they changed costumes, threw clothing back and forth and walked back and forth all the time with the video being in real time so it was perfectly interwoven so you couldn’t see the seam between live and video imagery. It was one of the most incredible things I have seen. Absolutely awesome. It was cine-magical.
While the video screen was set up, Rich Bloch played a video where he had predicted the name of a card selected in the mind of a random spectator. As is Rich’s typical humor, there was a fly buzzing about his head on the screen and in the end, he swatted it and the fly revealed the card.
Kohl and Company presented their magical mayhem on the stage where things go wrong, terribly wrong to the delight and laughter of everyone in the audience. Regardless of what happened to his props as they were knocked down, broken, torn, burned or otherwise destroyed, Kohl was ever the consummate magician always maintaining control and dignity even when his pants fell to his knees.
Greg Frewin closed the show with one topper after another. Imagine starting your show with the Snowstorm in China! He did. The curtains then parted and he had an assistant levitate then he walked through her while she was levitating. Very nice effect. He finished with an Asrah as she completely vanished. The dance number by his dancing girls helped set the stage as bringing Las Vegas to Columbus. But he’s not from Vegas…he has his own theatre in Niagara Falls, Canada. He must surprise some of the native and visitors alike to that tourist destination.
Following the dance number, he did a super fast compressed illusion quickly followed by an impaling type illusion with spikes and fire and the production of a second assistant. The music segued to “Living the Vita Loca” as he performed the Cube Zag. Throughout his high energy show, the audience was hardly able to catch its breath before he was into his next illusion. The applause was often still going as he was partway into his following effect. So was the cast of the next illusion that had an African theme with a spiker where he escaped in time to get to the back of the auditorium. Greg then performed a new form of the substitution trunk that he called Shroud of Transition. It was very fast paced and provided a visual with a window so you could see the person inside before and after they appeared and disappeared. He finished with a candle and silk act and the production of a macaw and a parrot. Wow what can I say? It was a breathless performance.
In fact the whole show was completely satisfying with smooth transitions and even flow. Extremely well done and a memorable show.
Back at the hotel, the sessions had begun in the lobby and at 11:00 John Carney started his two hour lecture. He shared some of his unique thinking on the coin in bottle, cups and balls, linking rings, cards to pocket and other tips and ideas. The two hours really flew by. He is today’s version of Dai Vernon and if you’re not listening to him, then I must ask why not?
The sessioning then continued mainly in the hotel lobby well into the early morning hours.