Showing posts with label # guest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label # guest. Show all posts

04 September 2017

[Guest post] The "Magicians Support Fund" by IBM

The following is from Dennis Schick, the editor of the Broken Wand in the International Brotherhood of Magician's magazine, The Linking Ring:
 Hello fellow magicians:

    There likely will be magicians in the very-active world of magic in Houston, Texas and throughout the Gulf Coast, who will need all the help they can get in coming weeks and months. Since the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and the resulting floods was still taking place as the September issue of The Linking Ring was going to press, I had the idea of asking I.B.M. members — and other magicians — to give to the Magicians Support Fund, anticipating those needs. I was able to get a request for funds in that issue.

    The Magicians Support Fund was started almost exactly twelve years ago, in response to another natural disaster — Hurricane Katrina, in 2005. The late Phil Wilmarth, then editor of The Linking Ring; Past I.B.M. International President Michael Stratman (2002-03); and then-IBM President Roger Miller, got the idea of an independent fund to help fellow magicians in need.

    Indeed, the fund did help a number of magicians who suffered in various ways from Katrina, and has continued to help other magicians since then. The fund is not an official activity of the I.B.M., and magicians do not need to be an I.B.M. member to benefit from it. “This is a magicians-helping-magicians fund,” said Stratman, who continues as chairman of the committee.

    At this time the Fund is not tax-deductible (although it may become so if someone volunteers to take it over and do the paperwork). Requests for help can come directly from a magician, or can come from someone who knows of a need. The committee will consider every request.

    “Right now we need donations to build up the fund,” says Stratman. “We can’t give it away if we don’t have it. Magicians are a generous lot, and now is the time to show it.” Please send check donations — and requests for help — to:

Mike Stratman
Magicians Support Fund
126 Coyatee Circle, Louden, TN 37774.

    Contact Stratman at mikestrat4 @ aol . com for more information.




25 August 2017

[Guest post] Random thoughts about "UNBELIEVABLE! A Magical Experience"

The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as The Magic Demon. 

--
"UNBELIEVABLE! A Magical Experience"

Running nightly at 7:30 pm in the Pacific Coliseum at the PNE in Vancouver, BC until September 4th. Free with admission.  [The PNE is closed on Monday, Aug. 28th.]

Random Thoughts For Canada's Magic
by The Magic Demon



It's UNBELIEVABLE... that a whole year has gone by since the first edition of Unbelievable! debuted in 2016.

It's UNBELIEVABLE... how fast the 90 minute coliseum-size magical extravaganza whizzed by.

It's UNBELIEVABLE... again how good it was.

Performance viewed on Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017.

Murray Hatfield and Teresa have returned to the annual summer PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) with their second incarnation of Unbelievable! - a  magical phantasmagoria of illusion, pyrotechnics, music and sheer wonder.

Joining them on stage are American magicians Chipper Lowell and Danny Cole and Canada's own Shawn Farquhar - all performing at the top of their games, combining unique energies to synthesize an evening's worth of spectacular visual entertainment.

I don't propose to review the show element by element  but I would like to refer to a few hastily scribbled notes and mention a few memorable highlights.

Murray and Teresa  - first and foremost and as always, magnificent performers, classy and compelling to watch. I love all their often fire-enhanced big box illusions. At one point they featured three big box illusions at once on stage (which must be some kind of world record!) Later they also did a show-stopping, breathtaking up to date version of "Metamorphosis." I've not seen it done in person since Doug Henning and his version for me was the one to beat. I think I can honestly say that they have finally done so. I was also truly impressed by Murray's innovative and suspense-filled variation of an effect familiar to some of us. I won't give away which one -- but when I saw it I marveled at his sheer brilliant audacity for turning such a classic close up effect into a coliseum-sized miracle. Murray, I salute you!



Chipper Lowell. What does one say about such a comedic phenomenon? He quickly won the audience over with his outrageous antics. We were soon laughing at all his seemingly spontaneous frenetic presentations. His very verbal style is ideally suited to such a massive forum (seating 10,000 at full capacity). It is hard to describe -- it's very "over the top" and somewhat "camp" but extremely focused even when it looks like he's made a mistake. (Hint: He doesn't.) It's hard to combine magic and outright comedy. To make it also look so easy and effortless as Lowell does is the mark of a real pro.

Another impressive talent is American Danny Cole. His silent act (done to the pounding beat of contemporary Latin dance music) assisted by his graceful wife, borders on the poetic. His suits change colour, his ties take on a life of their own, coat hangers behave most mysteriously, chairs defy gravity, CDs multiply, appear and disappear. Throughout these visual impossibilities appearing right before our eyes (and magnified by the two huge screens to each side of the stage) Cole remains the epitome of stylish, sophisticated elegance. This is a magician's magician.

For me, perhaps the most enjoyable moments of the evening were courtesy Canada's own Shawn Farquhar. His opening effects performed from the audience directly to the cameras were stunning card manipulations done to cleverly mirror the lyrics of an accompanying song. The audience loved it. But where he really excelled were his interactions with audience members. His version of "Topsy Turvy" bottles was a genuine delight because of his interaction with his audience volunteer. And it was his "Dancing Hankerchief" routine with a cute little five year old girl picked from the audience to assist him that so won everyone's hearts and unconditional appreciation. You could tell his volunteers really liked him and trusted him and the audience picked up on that. It was an invaluable lesson for all performers.

TIP: Bring earplugs unless you want to go partially deaf early in life. The music is loud.

I said it last year and I see no reason not to repeat myself again this year. Good advice is good advice!  If you are in or near Vancouver run (do not walk) to the PNE and see "Unbelievable! A Magical Experience." You will not regret it.

Congratulations to Murray and Teresa for masterminding another outstanding success.
 

 ~~~~


Thank you The Magic Demon for guest posting at Canada's Magic!

03 March 2017

[Guest post] Houdini in Vancouver: part 7

The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as The Magic Demon.

--


March 3rd, 1923 (Saturday)

Houdini's Final Day in Vancouver
Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic.


Houdini has his final two vaudeville appearances today (a matinee and an evening show) of his seven in total this week at the Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver, British Columbia.

Reviews have been superb.

His outdoor publicity stunt of hanging upside down and escaping a straitjacket in full view has been major front page news (actually getting more column inches than reviews of his vaudeville show).

What more could one ask?

Well, I had hoped today for an editorial summing up of his impact or at least some kind of "goodbye and thanks Harry" - but neither The Sun nor The Province refer to him at all. (They do, however, both run a final Orpheum Theatre advertisement for his shows).

It's as if they have nothing more to say. (I guess they didn't).

And as if Houdini has no further need for continuing coverage. No doubt he was busy this weekend accepting via telegram another "unique challenge" from the chosen newspaper ally in the next city of his vaudeville tour.

But what I did find, Houdini-related, in The Province on its front page was this curious story:
"Doyle Sure of Ectoplasm"

Subtitled:
"Twenty Three Austrian Professors Said to Have Been Convinced"

and
"Famous Writer Thinks Controversy Should Now Be At End."

What better timing could this have had than the end of Harry's Vancouver visit? I wonder what thoughts raced through his mind as he read this (as I'm sure he must have done).

The story recounts a letter published recently in The New York Times, in which the famous author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and an ardent spiritualist, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, tells of a "demonstration of ectoplasm" (which he himself apparently had not actually witnessed) by mediums in front of multiple distinguished Austrian scientists which, in his mind, "puts an end to the whole debate so that anyone who reopens it is inexcusably ignorant or willfully perverse."

Gee. I wonder to whom he might he be referring?

The next paragraph is headed,
"Houdini Is Wrong."

Doyle is quoted as writing:
"We are publicly assured. . . I am sorry to say, by my friend Houdini, that this was all what they called 'bunk' and that [the ectoplasm] was really regurgitated food. . ." [but according to Doyle it could not be as it was often the wrong colour.] "Criticism is most welcome and helpful, but I would beg our opponents to exercise some restraint in it, or they will make the subject and themselves rather ridiculous."

And of course, as we know, Houdini would show no restraint in exposing fraudulent mediums to the end of his days and this public campaign (as well as comments like those expressed above by Doyle) would put an effective end to their trans-Atlantic friendship.

----

This was to be Houdini's first and only professional visit to Vancouver. Just over three and a half years later he would once more be front page news but for quite a different, unexpected reason. (His death.)

It's been fun reliving day by day Houdini's triumphant appearances in Vancouver during this week in 1923. I wish I could have been there but I guess this was the next best thing.

I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I enjoyed researching it for you.


-
Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic. With thanks to the Vancouver Public Library and The Vancouver Sun. The VPL and its staff are awesome!
--

Thank you to
The Magic Demon for guest posting this fabulous Houdini series at Canada's Magic!




02 March 2017

[Guest post] Houdini in Vancouver: part 6

The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as The Magic Demon.

--

March 2nd, 1923 (Friday)

Houdini Continues Triumphantly in Vancouver, B. C.
Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic.


Houdini continues to thrill citizens of Canada's west coast "third city" twice daily at the local Orpheum Theatre. Two shows are scheduled today; the final two tomorrow (Saturday).

Reviews have been universally complimentary for this, his first (and only), appearance in the city.

Today's front page Houdini story in The Sun, however, deals with the publicity stunt he performed outside the newspaper's office around 137 West Pender Street at high noon the previous day. The paper had been building it up with great flair and deceptive hyperbole in previous issues.

I'd like to be able to tell you exactly what is on page one of The Sun. I really would.

Unfortunately, to paraphrase Apollo 13 - Houdini, we have a problem.

No front page exists today!

Despite every attempt to locate the front page in both the Vancouver Public Library (VPL) microfilm collection and the official  Vancouver city archives, no extant copy has been found. Perhaps it will turn up elsewhere another day.

However, we can certainly piece together what must have been a triumphant page one headline story about Houdini's upside down straitjacket escape from surviving photographic evidence and from the story as it is continued on an inside page of the paper.

Both the Vancouver Archives and VPL have public domain photographs of the stunt, at least one of which might have appeared on the missing page one. I've also attempted to photograph the same location in 2017. My photo re-creation of the scene as well as original 1923 photos will accompany this post.

As for the feature story, an inside page headline screams, "Houdini Free in 3 Minutes (Continued From Page 1") - so I think we can conclusively rest easy that all went well!

Bess Houdini is referenced for the first (and only) time, "a comely, shy little woman," making her way through "the dense crowd" with traffic "inspector Hood" to talk with Houdini before he began his "perilous attempt."

A theatrical embellishment or was it genuine concern for Harry? He was after all approaching age 49 in just three weeks. Or did she secretly pass to him some hidden device? He'd done this kind of stunt thousands of times but it is impossible to know for sure at this point. "There was. . . anxiety mirrored in Mrs. Houdini's eyes" reports the anonymous scribe, who felt such alarm genuine and who felt that her concern really "amounted to something" quite apart from the free show about to commence.

Harry Houdini preparing to hang upside down from The Sun newspaper building.
W.J. Moore's photo, Vancouver Public Library 70208A.


But events quickly moved forward as Detective Ricci (as announced yesterday) with Traffic Inspector Hood (who appears to have replaced Detective Sinclair, reported yesterday) quickly confined Houdini into the awaiting straitjacket.

The Sun records:
"Strong men lifted him from the truck. In another few seconds he was swinging from his ankles above the heads of the multitude... inch by inch, foot by foot he was hoisted aloft."

Harry Houdini hanging upside down from The Sun newspaper building.
W.J. Moore's photo, Vancouver Public Library 70208.

Then,
"Houdini furiously struggled to escape..."
Harry Houdini hanging upside down from The Sun newspaper building.
W.J. Moore's photo, City of Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: Port N100.


Edited to add this close-up of the above photo Tweeted by the Vancouver Archives:


And,
"Three minutes and twenty nine seconds later he tossed the jacket to the ground"

Houdini was free!
"A cheer arose and swelled into roar" from the crowd.

And what a crowd it was that had assembled.
"Perhaps no greater outdoor crowd ever assembled in Vancouver than the one in front of the Sun office yesterday" boasts the breathless reporter, taking time to praise the Vancouver police force's foresight in arranging details of diverting "motors and other vehicles, which left no room for discussions or even a chance for accident."

I'd love to know what those other (non-motor) vehicles were.  But I'd be afraid to ask police who left "no room for discussions!"

And how did Houdini feel about it?

"It was the greatest outdoor crowd I have ever seen. . . I have never seen a more orderly crowd. . . it was a pleasure to work for them and a double pleasure to have such an enterprising newspaper as The Sun to vouch for my efforts..." Could the paper have asked for a better endorsement for their week long publicity efforts on his behalf? He then went on to thank the local Vancouver police for their help. (Especially "decent and gentlemanly officers as Inspector Hood and Detective Ricci. . .") Harry knew exactly what to say at these occasions having done so many in the past.

The rest of the article describes with some quiet awe all the still photographic and silent film coverage of the event. ("Nothing like it has ever been seen before in Vancouver.")

Cameras from every major news reel service were in evidence. To accommodate the most important of them, The Sun had erected a platform above their illuminated sign. You can see it if you look closely at the photograph of the event. On the ground, thousands of amateur photographers snapped away as Houdini "wiggled and twisted himself out of the straitjacket:"

And so did The Sun feel that Houdini had honoured their "unique challenge?"
"The Sun's challenge. . . melted as the immense crowd faded, not unlike a February snowstorm before a gentle chinook wind."

Uh, I'll assume that as affirmative.

Taking advantage of the new medium, Houdini arranged that footage of his Vancouver straitjacket escape would be projected during that very evening's Orpheum performance (and possibly at all remaining performances). Clearly his fascination for the relatively new medium continued unabated, as the reporter noted

"Houdini himself was an interested spectator. . . he came down from the stage. . . while they were being [projected] on the screen. The film was evidently pleasing to the magician, for at its conclusion, he faced the audience with a smile of satisfaction, exclaiming 'Isn't that a wonderful crowd?'"

I'm sure most of Vancouver felt the same way about him.

A paid Orpheum Theatre advertisement similar to the first also appears in this issue.


What the site of the Houdini escape looks like in 2017. Photo by The Magic Demon.
The actual Vancouver Sun building at this location (137 West Pender Street) was demolished many years ago.




TOMORROW: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Says "Houdini Is Wrong"!



-
Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic. With thanks to the Vancouver Public Library, The Vancouver Sun, and the City of  Vancouver Archives.

--

Thank you to
The Magic Demon for guest posting at Canada's Magic!

01 March 2017

[Guest post] Houdini in Vancouver part 5

The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as The Magic Demon.

--

March 1st, 1923 (Thursday)

Houdini Is In Vancouver, British Columbia!
Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic.


Houdini is major front page news in today's The [Vancouver] Sun.

His local Orpheum Theatre appearances are well underway. His unparalleled sense of publicity is producing impressive results in the local press.

Today's page one story, accompanied by a photo of Harry, takes up well over a quarter of the front page. When is the last time you can recall a magician taking up that much space on page one of a major city newspaper?

The headline:
"Houdini In For Tough Time; Detectives Ricci and Sinclair Bind Him."

In smaller letters:
"Magician Will Have To Wiggle To Get Out Of Jacket for These Two Expert Ropers Promise to Make It Burglar Proof."

Found in the Vancouver Public Library's microfiche of the March 1st, 1923 edition of The Vancouver Sun.



Today is the day (at high noon) that Houdini has agreed to The Sun's "challenge" to escape a straitjacket (they always spell it "straightjacket") while hanging upside down outside of The Sun office building.

But this morning's edition has gone to press long before the noon deadline.

So today they can only report on events leading up to the dramatic public spectacle.

The Sun's reporter, known only by his initials "J. K." has the memorable front page story of the day with his report of meeting up with Houdini the day before (Wednesday). This he did along with Orpheum manager Bill Hart to look over The Sun building on West Pender from where Houdini was to hang outside noon this day.

When they took Houdini to the rooftop of the building, he writes that they "slid through the hatchway like a couple of eels."

But when it was Houdini's turn, the "genius of escape" had "a tough time making the grade." In other words, he had trouble getting through the aforementioned hatchway! One can only imagine Houdini's chagrin. He must have carried it off with his usual calm charm as "J. K." concedes this might have been due to Houdini's "heavy overcoat." But it still leads him to wonder in print if Houdini would also "make the grade" the next day escaping the confines of the straitjacket. (I sometimes wonder if Houdini ever felt too old for such antics. He was just over three weeks away from his 49th birthday). Of course this was all designed to build up and hold the readers' interest.

After examining the building, the three went into The Sun's new "washroom and shower" to "dust ourselves off."

The article goes on to report that the Vancouver Police detectives Ricci and Sinclair promise to make his confinement in the straitjacket the next day "burglar proof."


Vancouver Police Chief James reports that he expects a big crowd to watch the public event. The Sun says that it expects "at least ten thousand."

In response to The Sun's previous exhortation for Houdini to award prizes for the best spectator pictures of his noon "hanging" (as he had graciously done elsewhere) which might be useful "to find out just how he does it", Houdini has agreed that he will give a First Prize of $15, s Second Prize of $10 and a Third Prize of $5. W. J. Moore, staff photographer of The Sun, will judge.

To "up the ante" and reader interest once more, the article concludes, mock-combatively:
"Well, Mr. Houdini, The Sun is ready for you. . . if [we've] made it a little difficult for you to pull your stunt that's The Sun's business." 

Elsewhere in the paper is The Sun's first review of Houdini's premiere evening performance the night before.

Headlined, "Genius of Escape Shows His Prowess; Vaudeville Programme is Pleasing" the anonymous reviewer describes Houdini's Orpheum appearance as "out of the ordinary" and "just a bit different" than Vancouver theatre goers had been used to seeing.

Furthermore, according to the review on an inside page of The Sun, Houdini "amazes, mystifies and really gets on the nerves of his audience - until, of course - he emerges from his cell of torture." Houdini is without question, "the one big feature of the week's entertainment." The review then goes on to list and describe the other performers, the supporting members of Houdini's evening performance.

Of note is a mention of the young comedian Jack Benny, back "again with his violin, also with some new jokes. Some not so new. Still. . . not so bad."

[Note to younger readers: Jack Benny was destined to become a major star in radio and early television and some films. Google him.]

A paid Orpheum Theatre advertisement similar to the first also appears in this issue.

Today is also the first time a reference to Houdini appears in the other major Vancouver newspaper, The Province.

Either because Houdini was favouring The Sun with his exclusive interviews and straitjacket publicity stunt - or else by nature more conservative and thus less likely to engage in such advance publicity - The Province had until now appeared to shun any mention of Houdini's arrival.

They made up for it with a major review on an inside entertainment news page.

Headlined,
"Houdini Headlines Fine Orpheum Bill."
 It was subtitled,
"Seen in Series of Clever Mystifying Turns - Show of High Standard."

The Province's anonymous reviewer describes the show with Houdini as headliner as "undoubtably one of the best of the season."

We get more details of Houdini's  performance. His Water Torture Cell features ("his own invention") as does his version of the Indian Needle trick.

Houdini also appears to have incorporated the latest technology into his act as the reviewer describes what can only be silent film footage of Houdini shown "in a thrilling airplane race and collision." This might have been footage taken many years earlier in Australia where Houdini had made history as the first person in that country to fly - as there is a nebulous reference to "the other side of the Pacific." On the other hand, it sounds much more like footage from one of his more recent adventure serials, "The Grim Game" released in 1919 which featured an accidental actual mid air collision (although with a stunt double pretending to be Houdini). This writer believes it to be the latter.

The review concludes with references to the other acts supporting Houdini on the bill. Jack Benny is given a more positive review than he had had in The Sun, this reviewer noting "for twelve minutes he holds the attention of the audience" with his "original patter," "fine voice" and "engaging natural smile."


TOMORROW: Public Triumph - or - Disaster?



-
Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic. With thanks to the Vancouver Public Library and The Vancouver Sun.


--

Thank you to
The Magic Demon for guest posting at Canada's Magic!

28 February 2017

[Guest post] Houdini in Vancouver part 4

The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as The Magic Demon.

--

February 28th, 1923 (Wednesday)

Houdini to Perform in Vancouver

Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic.



Finally! H (for Houdini) - Day, at long last.

Houdini is to appear tonight at the Orpheum Theatre headlining in his first vaudeville appearance ever in Vancouver, British Columbia. It will be followed by a matinee and evening show on each of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Excitement must have been tangible in the city.

But it is too early for newspaper reviews to appear just yet.

Instead, a playfully combative article giving an exciting final burst of advance publicity appears in the lower front page of The Vancouver Sun on this date entitled, "Houdini Defies Police; Ditto Their Hangman."

What makes this article, the fourth, unique is that is is an unsigned editorial personally addressing Houdini in the first person.

It begins,
"Alright, Houdini!"

It goes on to restate the conditions of its "challenge" to have Houdini escape from a straitjacket upside down while hanging outside their office the next day at noon.

I'm not sure how accurate that headline was. His defiance of the police simply would take the form of having them truss him up. As to their "hangman," well, that was a bit of literary hyperbole to be sure. It might not have been strictly accurate but it definitely made you want to read on!

But they were not done. The Sun knew how to "up the ante."

They wrote:
"Just to make it snappy, Mr. Houdini, The Sun expects no less than ten thousand to be outside The Sun office to watch your antics."

In this way, The Sun itself would soon become part of the news it was reporting; it would become part of the Houdini legend.

Then an unexpectedly humorous boast:
"This newspaper has . . .  for its own and your benefit . . . put a couple of new storeys on its building."

I take this as a sly wink to its readers paying close attention. In effect, it's a reminder to them that, hey, this is all good fun! Don't take any of this too seriously! We don't!

It concludes with an exhortation to Houdini to provide a prize for the best snapshot spectators might take of the outdoor event (as he had done elsewhere) "successful or otherwise."

Were they now suggesting his stunt might not be successful? An element of doubt certainly was dropped into the "mix" for the first time. Which was very clever. What better way to entice spectators to come out and see for themselves?

The tone is playfully combative as I said. It was as if they were daring him not to show up - to an event to which he had already agreed (and indeed probably originated). A master stroke of publicity. Having enthusiastically proclaimed his greatness, at this last minute the newspaper was now hinting at his possible fallibility and the fact that - good heavens - he might even renege, the "challenge" they had offered being so great.

What a laugh seen from today's perspective. Houdini and The Sun could not have been better allies.

The Sun concludes:
"You said you would be here at noon Thursday. Well, you keep your end of the bargain and never fear that The Sun won't be there with everything it has promised."

It was positioned almost like a gunslingers shoot out! Who could possibly resist attending it?

A paid Orpheum Theatre advertisement similar to the first also appears in this issue.


TOMORROW: "Houdini in for Tough Time; Detectives Ricci And Sinclair Bind Him."


-
Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic.  With thanks to the Vancouver Public Library and The Vancouver Sun.

--

Thank you to
The Magic Demon for guest posting at Canada's Magic!

27 February 2017

[Guest post] Houdini in Vancouver part 3

The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as The Magic Demon.

--

February 27th, 1923 (Tuesday)

Houdini to Perform in Vancouver
Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic.



It is now H (for Houdini) - Day Minus 1.

Houdini appears to be coming from performing in Winnipeg (in what appears to be a cross-Canada tour heading west). No doubt he (and his supporting acts including a young comedian named Jack Benny) will appreciate Vancouver's milder weather having experienced Winnipeg in mid-February.

Window advertisements for a Houdini performance and shows at the Orpheum theatre.
Vancouver Public Library 86870.

The public must have been eagerly awaiting the first appearance ever in Vancouver of this legendary "genius of escape" who's exploits they have read about (and possibly even seen dramatized on the silent screen) without ever a hope of actually seeing him in person.

Until now - during his triumphant "return to vaudeville."

The Vancouver Sun, our primary source for continuing coverage, is doing an incredible job ratcheting up public interest in the Houdini story and in doing so has become very much part of his eternal legend.

In the lower left corner of page one on this date is the headline,
"Sun Planning to Make It Tough Job For Friend Houdini."

It first recapitulates the news about his latest sensational stunt, the water torture cell, which he will perform at the Orpheum.

The report at this point is a bit confusing. That is, it is confusing from our point of view today. It describes the water torture cell as both his "original" as well as "self-constructed" escape stunt but then mentions that Houdini will escape from "the can filled to the brim with water" - which surely sounds more like Houdini's old classic milk can escape?

My guess is the writer of this article, not having ever seen the act, has simply confabulated details of the two different escapes into one. Or that he is sloppily referring to the water torture cell as a can. It is unclear. Not that contemporary audiences of the day would know or care.

Given equal prominence in this third article is a reminder of Houdini's "acceptance" of the challenge purportedly issued by The Sun "to liberate himself from a straight jacket [sic] wrapped about him. . . suspended by the ankles, head downwards, from a beam in front of The Sun office, at a height of at least thirty feet."

The Sun enthusiastically concludes,
"This will probably be one of his greatest efforts. . . a wonderful chance to show his genius. . ."

I know if I were alive at the time and living in Vancouver I'd've already bought multiple performance tickets. And for sure I'd be outside The Sun office on Thursday at high noon to see Houdini escape from his straitjacket confinement.

How about you?

A paid Orpheum Theatre advertisement similar to the first also appears in this issue.



TOMORROW: "Houdini Defies Police; Ditto Their Hangman."



-
Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic. With thanks to the Vancouver Public Library and The Vancouver Sun.

--

Thank you to
The Magic Demon for guest posting at Canada's Magic!

26 February 2017

[Guest post] Houdini in Vancouver part 2

The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as The Magic Demon.

--

February 26th, 1923 (Monday)

Houdini to Perform in Vancouver
Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic.



It is now H (for Houdini) - Day, Minus 2.

Excitement is mounting.

The publicity for Houdini's first ever Vancouver, British Columbia vaudeville performance is gearing up.

It is assuming the status of genuine news; coverage of his upcoming visit is indeed carried as front page news in The Vancouver Sun, our primary source for continuing and developing coverage .

A headline on this day (near the bottom of page one) screams in huge letters, "Houdini To Hang Downwards". Then in smaller lettering, "Strapped in Straight Jacket, Will Swing from Sun Building Thursday."

It goes on to state:
"Houdini, genius of escape, has accepted a unique challenge. . . he offers to free himself from a straight jacket wrapped around him by any member or members of the Vancouver police force, and while suspended in mid-air, head downwards, in front of The Vancouver Sun newspaper office on Thursday at noon."

So it would appear that The Sun had chosen to play along with the Houdini legend with its "unique challenge."

Astute readers will, of course, recognize the fact that Houdini would perform a similar free public stunt in almost every major town or city he played in order to generate publicity for his local theatre appearance. He usually did it outside of the local newspaper office to achieve maximum exclusive coverage by same. It was guaranteed to stop traffic and become a newsworthy event all by itself. One can only bow to Houdini's highly developed sense of self-promotion and ponder what wonders of publicity he would have achieved in today's Twitter-verse?

This second article goes on to describe the nature of his confinement in a straitjacket. By enlisting the local police to truss him up, Houdini once more ensured that no "funny business" would mess up his stunt and that it would be enhanced in the public's imagination by his implied challenge to local police to confine him.

A paid Orpheum Theatre advertisement similar to the first also appears in this issue.

TOMORROW: "Planning to Make It Tough Job For Friend Houdini."


-
Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic. With thanks to the Vancouver Public Library and The Vancouver Sun.

--

Thank you to
The Magic Demon for guest posting at Canada's Magic!

25 February 2017

[Guest post] Houdini in Vancouver: part 1

Updated February 25th to add:



The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as The Magic Demon.

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February 25th, 1923 (Sunday)  

Houdini to Perform in Vancouver
Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic.


Houdini was coming to Vancouver!

Hard to imagine the excitement such news would have generated on the narrow streets of Canada's "third city", Vancouver, British Columbia, back in February of 1923 or some 94 years ago today.

Houdini was then one of the world's most famous entertainers. He had never been to Vancouver before. In an era long long before the internet, before television, with radio in its infancy and silence being the only sound coming from film, vaudeville was still attracting the masses. It may well have been on its "last legs" although its audiences would never have suspected it with a major headliner like Houdini coming at long last to entertain them.

It was still news worthy of reporting.

The first published references extant about Houdini's first (and only) upcoming appearance in Vancouver appears in The Vancouver Sun on this date.

A two column wide by five inch paid advertisement by Vancouver's Orpheum Theatre on an inside page announces, "Attractions Coming. Wednesday Evening. February 28th. Four nights and three matinees. First Appearance Here of 'The Genius of Escape' Houdini (In Person) - Who Will Startle and Amaze."

Found in the Vancouver Public Library's microfiche of the February 25, 1923 edition of The Vancouver Sun.



I would posit that the "In Person" line was to distinguish his live appearance from any filmed appearances or that of any imitators.

A list of accompanying support acts (there are a half dozen or so appearing on the same vaudeville bill) includes a young comedian Jack Benny ("Wit, Music and Patter"). Prices noted: "Matinees: Thursday, Friday, 15 cents to 40 [?] cents. Saturday 15 cents to 55 cents. Nights 25 cents to $1.00."

A similar ad would run every day for the duration of Houdini's three day, four night Orpheum Theatre visit.

The Orpheum Theatre featuring Houdini's appearance in 1923 was an earlier incarnation of same; it is not the structure named the Orpheum Theatre still standing elsewhere today (which was constructed much later in 1927). Houdini's Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver is long gone. It was located where what is now the downtown's Pacific Centre Mall.

A two column wide by six inches photo of Houdini (entitled "Wizard of All Wizards Defies Strongest Shackles") dominates an inside page.

An eight inch deep column accompanying it is headlined "Houdini, Genius, Tops at Orpheum. Noted Master of Escape Will Make Appearance Here Next Wednesday."

It begins:
"Houdini, the marvellous, will make his first big vaudeville appearance in Vancouver next week. Houdini, known as the "Genius of Escape", will thrill and mystify Orpheum audiences beginning next Wednesday."

The article goes on to lavishly praise Houdini by reminding its readers of his numerous accomplishments in the entertainment field. One must wonder how much copy was generated by Houdini's own advance publicity machinery and how much was originated locally, designed to whip up newspaper and theatre ticket sales? 

Houdini was a master of obtaining free publicity for his shows. His antics sold newspapers and they in turn sold theatre tickets. What newspaper would therefore not love him? Especially as the theatre he was to appear in was a major advertiser. And so The Sun was either chosen - or had decided for itself - to become the primary vehicle for promoting and thereby documenting Houdini's once in a lifetime appearance.

This initial article reveals a couple significant facts once we get past the enthusiastic hyperbole.

First, it refers to Houdini's "return to vaudeville". Had Houdini returned happily or reluctantly to headlining such a show? We get no clues. We do know as he matured that he had attempted to master a new, less arduous performance methodology: the capturing of his incredible escape abilities via the brand new medium of silent film. It had not been the overwhelming success for which he had hoped.

Says The Sun:
"It was believed the motion pictures - which showed Houdini thrills, eclipsing anything ever portrayed via the innumerable possibilities of the camera - would reach the acme of his supernatural ability; but he himself says not."

So even Houdini acknowledged that silent film to that date for whatever reason had failed to capture the essence of his charismatic style. And if you've ever seen any of his films you'd know he was understating it. Houdini on film just didn't live up to his potential. His acting was somewhat wooden. He had too much competition on the silver screen to ever become its primary star. So what could Houdini do to make his return to the live vaudeville circuit a memorable triumph? Why, do what he always did best, of course. And that was to come up with a spanking new live performance of a "genuine novelty."

Says The Sun:
"[Houdini] says his latest sensation, liberating himself after being locked in a water torture cell, which he does in full view of the audience, is the most difficult feat he has ever accomplished in his varied and strenuous career."

Houdini comes through yet again! Who could resist seeing him escape something called a "water torture cell?"

Curious that they used the expression "supernatural" when referencing his abilities given his latter day fight against those claiming fraudulent "supernatural" abilities. I will assume in this instance that the writer was just using it as a contemporary superlative and wasn't implying any abilities to communicate with the dead!

Of historical interest, the article then goes on to describe the acts supporting Houdini's "return to vaudeville" which includes a reference to a young comedian named Jack Benny - who "will offer a few moments on his violin. He plays a little, gags a great deal and keeps the audience thoroughly amused."


Found in the Vancouver Public Library's microfiche of the February 25, 1923 edition of The Vancouver Sun.


TOMORROW: "Houdini Accepts A Unique Challenge."

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Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic. With thanks to the Vancouver Public Library and The Vancouver Sun.


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Thank you to
The Magic Demon for guest posting at Canada's Magic!

11 September 2016

[Guest post] Travis Bernhardt's "Charlatan!"

The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as The Magic Demon.

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Highly acclaimed Vancouver magician/mentalist Travis Bernhardt returns to The Vancouver Fringe Festival with his new show, "Charlatan!" .

Details:
https://tickets.vancouverfringe.com/shows/charlatan!/events


Vancouver's Georgia Straight is a big fan:
http://www.straight.com/arts/777711/vancouver-fringe-festival-review-charlatan


From Vancouver 24hrs:
One such trouper is the city’s own Travis Bernhardt — a young, lauded magician frequently awarded “Best of the Fringe” and “Favourite Picks” honours at festivals across the country. Wickedly clever and deceivingly nonchalant, Bernhardt’s shows often involve intricate, hour-long tricks within tricks. 
This year, he’s upping the stakes. 
Read more.


Scroll down to the appropriate review to read about "Charlatan!" as it appeared in the recent Victoria Fringe Festival:
http://janislacouvee.com/dispatches-from-the-victoria-fringe-2016-day-three/


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With thanks to The Magic Demon for guest posting at Canada's Magic!


06 September 2016

[Guest post] Can Canada's top mentalists fool Penn and Teller?

The following is a guest post from Clive Court.

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MEET THE EVASONS---THEY READ A LOT OF MINDS IN WASHINGTON, D.C. BUT CAN THEY FOOL PENN AND TELLER?

TORONTO,Ont--(Sept.1)   The Evasons are a Toronto couple who make a good living reading the minds of corporate and political leaders on the U.S. East Coast.

On Wednesday, Sept.7, at 8pm.ET, they will challenge the famous Las Vegas magical duo on Penn and Teller:Fool Us! the popular primetime series on the the CW Network.

Recognized as one of the world's top mentalism acts, The Evasons appear to be part of an emerging trend which is bringing more magical and visual entertainers to primetime TV audiences in the United States.

Network TV series like NBC's America's Got Talent, CW's Masters of Illusion, and Penn and Teller:Fool Us! are introducing a greater number of magical and visual entertainers to North American viewers.  This, in turn, has meant more exposure for Canadian magicians.

Why is this?  Because Canadian magical entertainers are ranked among the best in the world by other nations. The Evasons are known worldwide for their second-sight act where a blindfolded Tessa describes in intimate detail the personal items held up by members of the audience.

Although based in Toronto and Annapolis, Maryland (just outside Washington,DC) Jeff and Tessa are in demand around the world as entertainers for major corporate and international conventions.

Born in Toronto, Jeff met Tessa in the early 80s while hosting a fashion show where she was a model. Tessa was working part-time while studying at Ryerson University. They have been together since 1983.



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For further information, photos and video:  Please go to www.evasons.com.

NB.  A great example of a Canadian magician appearing on a US network primetime show was Winnipeg's Darcy Oake introducing guest artists from The Illusionists (on Broadway) on the August 31 edition of America's Got Talent.  Among the other Canadian magicians appearing on US primetime TV this summer were: Shawn Farquhar, Murray SawChuck, and Vitaly Beckman (from Vancouver); Mahdi Gilbert, Neil Croswell, Ryan Joyce, and Matt DiSero (from Toronto); and world-champion magician, Greg Frewin, from Niagara Falls.


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Thank you Clive for guest posting at Canada's Magic!

26 August 2016

[Guest post] "Unbelievable" Review


A reminder that the show runs at the PNE August 20 – September 5, 2016 (Closed Monday August 22 and 29).

The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as The Magic Demon.

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"Unbelievable: A magical experience"


A ninety minute large scale magical extravaganza, nightly at 7:30 pm, free with admission to the PNE, Vancouver.

In a word, "Wow".

This is big time illusion-based magic at its best.

Playing to capacity crowds, "Unbelievable" combines fast paced magic with modern rock concert visuals and music to create a memorable evening's entertainment well worth the cost of admission to the PNE.

I loved that they began with pre-show screenings of some of the greats from the past - Sorcar, Cardini, etc - all in glorious b&w - while the audience filed in.




How to review such an awesome celebration of magic and illusion? I can't. It was just too much to absorb. But here are a few thoughts I somehow managed to jot down:

  • American Matt Marcy's understated humour and impressive close up magic (seen on the big screen) should earn him an honorary Canadian citizenship.
     
  • Marty Putz - undoubtably the hardest working funny man in all of showbusiness. And the most beloved by children of all ages.
     
  • Juliana Chen's performance - sheer visual poetry. Beautiful, enchanting, mysterious. This is Art.
     
  • Scott Pepper - definitely the contemporary reincarnation of Houdini's daredevil anything-can-happen spirit.
     
  • Murray Hatfield and Teresa - the most accomplished, most polished, most energetic all around magical performers.





If you are anywhere near Vancouver this summer run (do not walk) to the PNE and catch "Unbelievable" before it disappears forever as the PNE ends for another summer.

The Magic Demon


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Thank you The Magic Demon for guest posting at Canada's Magic!



21 August 2016

[Guest post] "Can A Magician Be Too Skillful?"

The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as The Magic Demon. 

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"Can A Magician Be Too Skillful?" A fan of magic blogs about it

One of my favourite non-magic bloggers has just written an interesting post about magic.

You may agree or disagree with him but he always writes about chosen subjects with wit, insight and a heavy dose of humanity.

Why mention him here? Well, here's a born-and-raised Torontonian (although he's lived and worked in LA for many decades). Guess we can still claim him as one of ours even if he has U.S. papers. He wrote/produced some great comedy television shows (although he is now long retired) - many of which you might remember. And his thoughts on magic (from the POV of a non-magician) are worthy of reflection by all of us.

His question: Can a magician be too skillful?

To read more, check out the always thoughtful blog of Earl Pomerantz and read his post of Monday, August 8th, 2016. You'll find it here:


And who knows? Maybe like me you'll find his blog a very pleasant daily must-read habit. Even when he's not writing about magic.

The Magic Demon


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Thank you The Magic Demon for guest posting at Canada's Magic!

18 January 2016

[Guest post] West Coast magic goes "supernatural"

The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as The Magic Demon. 

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Attention fans of magic in the lower mainland surrounding Vancouver, BC!

Camilo The Magician presents his "Supernatural Magic" show for four performances in February 2016. 

Show dates are: Friday February 19th and Saturday February 20th; and Friday February 26th and Saturday February 27th

Show times: 8 pm. Ticket cost: $30 CDN.

Location: The Granville Island Stage, 1585 Johnston Street in Vancouver.

Tickets can be purchased online, here:


Bogata-born, Victoria BC-resident Camilo Dominguez, better known these days as Camilo the Magician, has been actively pursuing magic and the performing arts since his teens. 

This year, his 8th season of unusual magic performances, Camilo returns to Vancouver with a brand new show, "Supernatural Magic", which will feature his renown sleight of hand as well as original illusions all performed with his trademark sense of humour.

The Vancity Buzz staff interviewed him last year, in advance of his 2015 show. You can find that interview here:


Camilo's website is www.camilothemagician.com.


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Thank you The Magic Demon for guest posting at Canada's Magic!

23 October 2015

[Guest post] Vancouver: Heart of the City Festival

The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as The Magic Demon. 

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There's magic at the upcoming 12th annual Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival (Oct 28-Nov 8) in Vancouver, BC.

Website: www.heartofthecityfestival.com

The witty Merlin the Magician will "offer hilarious comedy and amazing magic" at the Ray-Cam Cooperative Centre, 920 East Hastings on Friday, October 30th between 4:15pm and 5pm.

This is a free show designed especially for young audiences and families.

According to the festival's program guide, "A magician of many year's standing, Merlin brings fun and fantasy, comedy and delight to his magic".

Also at this year's festival, Downtown Eastside regular Swallow Zhou will "twist wonderful balloon creations" as a special treat new this year at the festival.

Swallow will twice bring her "joyful enthusiasm" and awesome balloon creations to the festival on Friday, October 30th. First, at 3:30pm at the Ray-Cam Cooperative Centre (920 East Hastings) and then at 4:30pm at the EWMA Studios, 800 East Hastings.



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Thank you The Magic Demon for guest posting at Canada's Magic!

26 September 2015

[Guest post] Report on "Morton the Magician and his Magnificent Magic Show"

I was generously provided a copy of "Morton the Magician and his Magnificent Magic Show." This book, which was shortlisted for an Alberta Children’s Literature Award, is intended for young readers. With that in mind, I found a youthful reader who agreed to read and give me their feedback on the book.  

(For more on 
"Morton the Magician and his Magnificent Magic Show" skip to the bottom of the post.)



The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as Kidlet.

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My thoughts on Sheldon Casavant's book "Morton the Magician and his Magnificent Magic Show."
  • This is a good picture book for parents to read to their kids.
  • I really like the drawings, they're very nice.
  • Morton is someone that children can relate to.
  • I like that there are two tricks in the book that you can do by yourself. 
  • It's funny that the rabbit is the announcer.
  • If I were younger, it would make me want to try doing magic tricks.
  • Parents, if your child under 6 years old likes magic or wants to be a magician, this is the perfect book for them!

Favourite things:
  • I like the words in the air before Morton's show, letting us know what's going on inside his head.
  • The story tells us we can be anything we want to be if we just put our minds to it.

In conclusion:
  • It's a fun story!
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Thank you Kidlet for guest posting at Canada's Magic!


Watch Behind the Scenes of "Morton the Magician" on Sheldon's YouTube channel:





02 January 2015

[Guest post] Magic Magazine: January 2015

The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as The Magic Demon.

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Magic Magazine always makes good reading but the current issue contains noteworthy Canadian content.

First and foremost, a feature profile of the award winning Canadian photographer, cinematographer, magician and Ellusionist production manager Peter McKinnon. It is eloquently penned by the multi-talented Vancouver magician Jamie D. Grant.

Peter McKinnon's inventive photographic work is well known within the magic community. Magic Magazine's September 2014 cover was his; and if you've ever seen any special deck of playing cards advertised in an unusual or attention-grabbing way in the last decade or so, chances are it was also one of Peter's photos or videos.

It was just about ten years ago that Peter McKinnon was cutting college classes and hanging out at the Browser's Den of Magic in Toronto. Today he bases his internationally acclaimed photographic work out of both Toronto and San Francisco. He usually manages to combine his love for magic with his awesome creativity in the visual arts. It's an inspiring story.

Secondly: Prominent within the article is a whimsical photo of Jeff Pinsky, owner of The Browser's Den of Magic in Toronto. It was originally part of Peter McKinnon's compelling and idiosyncratic "Plaid Chair" online project. It seems a fitting salute to the man behind the b&m magic store which perhaps initially helped to energize Peter's impressive career.

Editor's notes:
  • Visit the Browser's Den Facebook group to see Peter Mennie's post which inspired Wilson to comment "So this is how Harry Potter looks like when he grows up"
  • Read Peter's thoughts about Jeff over at The Plaid Chair (in keeping with Wilson's comment above, the photo is filed under "Hogwarts")

Thirdly (and finally) in this issue: Ian Rowland's always must-read "Loving Mentalism" column features a fun and quirky mentalism effect contributed by John Pellatt, known to readers of this blog as the founder/curator of the Johnny Giordmaine tribute site. John credits fellow Canadian Patrik Kuffs for inspiring the creation of his original mentalism effect/routine. It is called "Expresso ESP" and described as "a seemingly impromptu experiment in mindreading suitable for informal occasions."

So, not bad for Magic Magazine's first issue of 2015. In fact, it's a Canadian magical hat-trick!




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Thank you The Magic Demon for guest posting at Canada's Magic!



18 November 2014

[Guest post] Watching the Magic Unfold

The following is a guest post from Erin Thomas, author of "Forcing the Ace,"

Erin talks about Sorcerers Safari, early memories of magic, magic at Canada's Wonderland (Paul Pacific or Jeff Pinsky, perhaps?) and more.

Today's the last day to enter to win your copy of Forcing the Ace!

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Having already written a few times about the awesomeness that is Sorcerers Safari Magic Camp in Ontario, and rejoiced in the similarities between magicians and writers (introverts unite!), I think it’s time to try a different tack. Today I want to share some of my memories of watching magic and enjoying it. Because really, that’s what it’s all about.

As it turns out, magic is probably one of the first things I ever saw clearly. I was eight or nine years old when my parents took my brother and I to see David Copperfield in Toronto. We sat up in the balcony, looking down on a big, brightly lit stage. I kept squinting and turning away, complaining that my eyes hurt. Acting on a hunch, Dad handed me his glasses. Wow! Whaddya know… there was a person down on that big stage! And he was doing really cool stuff.

Sadly, I remember the fact of the show more than the details, although there was one memorable moment when he walked through a giant wall onstage. Wikipedia tells me that his Great Wall of China effect was in 1986, a couple years later, so I might be confused, but this is how I remember it. That, and him reaching into a tiny bottle and pulling out a rainbow-coloured scarf that seemed to go on forever.

I do remember the sharp, sudden realization that the world was a place with edges, and that details existed more than an arms’ length away. My world got bigger that night. And if you could pick one thing to be your first sight through corrective lenses, a magic show is a pretty decent option.

I know I saw other magicians over the years. There would have been shows at day camps and birthday parties, magicians on stages at town carnivals, Canada’s Wonderland, the Mediaeval Faire. And I would have watched and clapped, laughed and been astonished. These are all vague impressions, though.

There was that “Circus” in the McQuay family’s backyard—a show put on by the neighbourhood kids for parents lined up in lawn chairs. I remember Piper’s acrobatics, and I think some kind of “lion act” featuring Katie the Airedale. The tightrope was a skipping rope stretched across the grass, and we took turns balancing across it. Of course there was a magic act, courtesy of one of those boxed kids with plastic cup-and-balls pieces and a disappearing chamber as tall as a Barbie doll. None of us ended up pursuing magic as a calling, so I suspect it might have been the sort of act that comes from reading the directions five minutes before the show, but watching, I still thought it was cool. Even the possibility of things disappearing and reappearing was enough for me.

I watched magic shows when I was researching the book. My favourite, of course, was the final performance at Magic Camp. I brought my husband and my daughter along, to see the kids I had talked with earlier in the week perform. I LOVED that. It wasn’t always the most polished magic, but it was sincere.

Unfortunately, my husband and daughter haven’t been bitten by the magic bug the way I was. They don’t always want to go see the shows. But I dragged them along to a Christopher Tracy’s family magic show at a resort in Florida last winter, and we had a great time. My daughter was chosen as the first audience volunteer. He broke the rules in a fun way, instructing her to close her eyes while he made things “disappear” by tossing them behind a counter. He invited the whole audience in on his secret—this isn’t really magic, we’re here to have a good time—so that when he started in on the tricks that baffled us, we enjoyed it even more. We laughed, and my daughter felt special for having been part of the show.

We’re not done with magic, my family and I. I’m not done with it. I have no plans to become a magician (becoming a writer is more than enough work, thanks very much), but I sure do like being in the audience.

Sometime soon, maybe I’ll see you there.

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Thank you Erin, for guest posting at Canada's Magic!  Today's the last day to enter to win your copy of Forcing the Ace!

13 November 2014

A Q&A with Erin Thomas

Author Erin Thomas kindly agreed to a brief Q&A about her latest book for the 11-14 set, "Forcing the Ace."  Read what Erin has to say about The Den, Magic Mike, Justin Flom, Sorcerers Safari and more!


1. Your book portrays magic very authentically.  How much time did you spend researching the magic community? 

First of all, thank you for the compliment! Of all the books I’ve written, this is probably the one I enjoyed researching the most. That’s lucky, because I had originally pitched a few different ideas to Sarah Harvey, the editor of the Limelights series at Orca. Most of them were for areas of the performing arts where I had at least a little bit of knowledge or experience. And then there was the magic idea. When that one turned out to be her favourite, I knew I was going to be doing a lot of research.

I spent months learning about magic. Many months. I initially met with a friend’s son, who happens to be a magician. He sent me to Browser’s Den magic shop in Toronto, and suggested that I get in touch with “Magic” Mike Segal, who runs a week-long summer camp for young magicians. Both of those turned out to be incredible leads.

I read instructional books about magic and watched a ton of videos and television specials, including those “magic’s secrets revealed” types of shows. I learned how a lot of magic effects are created, but I don’t kid myself that it’s the same thing as being able to actually create the effects—that would take hours upon hours upon hours of practice. I did fumble around with cards a little bit… enough to gain a healthy respect for how hard it is. I also attended a workshop that Justin Flom presented at Browser’s Den and met some of the magicians there.

The best research opportunity was the visit to camp when you and I met, Nicole. It was incredible to have the opportunity to speak to so many young magicians in person and learn what they feel is most important about the art. That was relatively late in my writing timeline, and I remember wishing I could re-imagine the whole book after that. I made some adjustments to the storyline I had, and decided that I’m probably not done writing about magicians—there are so many more stories to tell.


2. How does the performance art of magic differ from any of the other performance arts that you know about?  How is it the same?

I think one thing that makes magic special is that it rewards a certain kind of suspension of disbelief. When you see a play or a ballet, you know that you are watching a show unfold… you’re conscious of the artifice. With magic, that’s still the case—we all know that chairs can’t float and cards don’t change colour—but I think there’s a tiny voice inside saying, “Maybe.” The magician and the viewer agree together to pretend that the laws of physics can be suspended, just for a little while. At least, that’s how I prefer to watch magic performed.

Another thing that makes magic special is that it can be enjoyed on so many levels. There’s the element of wonder and the feeling that the world might have possibilities in it beyond the everyday—that’s the first level. On the second level, it’s a puzzle to be solved, if you enjoy that sort of thing. I don’t think I’d want to try too hard to solve it, but sometimes that can be fun. And even when you know how an effect is performed, the third level of enjoyment kicks in, which is just the pure pleasure of watching someone do something well.

Of course, all the performance arts have some things in common. What strikes me most is the extreme amount of dedication and focus required. Even a short performance requires countless hours of learning and practice, whether you’re playing the piano or making one disappear.


3. What were the three biggest surprises to you, about the magic community?

I was most surprised by how welcoming and forthcoming everyone was. There were magicians I reached out to via email, and some I met in person. Nearly without fail, they were all warm, polite, supportive and extremely helpful. Seriously, falling-over-backwards helpful. I wasn’t kidding about wanting to write more about magicians; there just wasn’t room in one small book to use all the story possibilities that people opened up for me, or to do credit to the amount of help they offered. Maybe because of the secrecy associated with the craft, I had expected to meet with more resistance, but that wasn’t the case at all.

One thing I found interesting was the overlap between magic and other crafts. I hadn’t thought of it, but a magician needs to master stagecraft the way an actor does—voice projection, bearing, even character creation. It’s funny, but I never thought about a magician putting on a “persona” for an act. To me as an audience member, they simply were the way they were. It’s silly in retrospect. And then, of course, there’s the storytelling aspect—a performance can be like a short story, in a lot of ways. Some of the best short stories show a character in a moment of change, and create that change for the reader. A magician creates that change moment in the audience. That takes planning, and a rigorous editing process. I got a glimpse at that editing process when I sat in on a performance workshop at the Sorcerers Safari camp.

The third surprise reveals more about my ignorance going into this, I think. I really had no idea that some of the people I met were “big deals” in the magic community until after the fact. They didn’t act like it—they were just these lovely, friendly, down-to-earth people, happy to talk about magic. It was kind of like meeting Margaret Atwood in a bookstore and asking her for reading recommendations without having any idea who she is. I hope I didn’t annoy anybody too much.


4. How did you learn about magic being used for physical rehabilitation?  Did you know there's a Toronto based organization, Magicana, that runs a program like that at a children's rehabilitation hospital?

Oh, yikes. I don’t remember who told me about that initially, and I don’t see it in my project notebook right now. I do remember that as soon as I heard about magic being used this way, I loved the idea, and wanted to include it in the book somehow—I thought it was absolutely the perfect thing for someone struggling to re-learn motor skills. I’ve known some people involved in terrible accidents, and so I know how long the road back can be. This just struck me as a wonderful, positive aspect of the magic community, and I wanted to make it part of the story.

I didn’t know about Magicana, but I researched other organizations that run similar programs. It’s wonderful that there’s one right in Toronto.


5. Currently, magic is strongly male dominated.  I was surprised to see so many magical females represented in your book.  Was that a conscious decision?  If so, why?
It was a conscious decision. I wanted to admit in the book that magic is male dominated, but still present some female magicians as characters, to show that to readers as a possibility. I didn’t have room for a huge cast, so the balance probably comes out more female because of that. Partly, it was in response to the fact that Zoe’s backstory, the way she comes to magic, is a bit tragic and atypical. Because of that, I didn’t want hers to be the only ‘female’ story in the book. I gave Donna a more conventional magic backstory—her father was a magician. “Magic families” were something else I learned about by talking to magicians, and I love the idea of the craft being something shared between a parent and a child. Jack and Donna end up on rocky ground later in life, but magic remains their connection point.


6. Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?  (About you, your research, your books, the limelight series, as examples.)
Mostly just that I enjoyed learning more about the magical community, and I’d like to thank everyone who helped, especially the Sorcerers Safari group. Magicians are a fascinating bunch.

Overall, I think the Limelights books do a great job of providing a behind-the-scenes look at the different arts, so I’d recommend them to anyone who’s curious about what goes on backstage. 


Thank you Erin for your candid insight into the writing process!



A reminder to enter today to win your copy of Forcing the Ace!