Tuesday
Mar082011

An Afternoon Chat with Magician David Hirata

Magician David Hirata - ThingsImpossible.comHenry Tenenbaum from KRON 4 describes magician David Hirata as "a master of deceit" and SF Chronicle says he's the "best stage pick" -- classic magic with a classy style. That's Hirata alright. He's a fantastic performer, and we are very pleased to have him on stage this weekend.

 

Tell us about yourself as a magician. In my offstage life, I'm a pretty quiet, shy person, so it's kind of amazing I ever became a magician. But I can't think of anything else I'd rather do! There's a quote by Emerson that I learned in high school: “men love to wonder, and that is the seed of our science.” That was true for me as a kid, so I went to school, studied biology, and eventually became a field ecologist. But my days in science were numbered—I actually opened my very first research talk by tossing a silk scarf into the air, where it turned into a cane that I then used as a pointer (That part went over great, far better than the presentation that followed). I still “love to wonder”, but I just have more fun creating wonder with magic, and it seems that people would rather watch me do magic than peer through a microscope.

 

What peaked your interest in magic? I think that almost all young boys get interested in magic, and I was no exception. I received a magic set for my 7th birthday, and started learning magic from books in the public library. Then, when I was 9, one of my classmates performed a trick at school for show and tell—it was the classic “Cups and Balls”. Now, I thought I knew a lot about magic, but that kid fooled the #@%#!! out of me! That was the moment when I really understood the effect that great magic can have, and that—just maybe—I might be able to do that, too.

 

What's your favorite trick to perform? What is your favorite to watch? That's a tough one…I guess I have to say it's my rope routine, which I call “The Rope Factory”. If I'm booked to perform only one routine, this is the one I pick; in fact, it's what I chose for my first TV appearance. The magic is fun to do, and my audiences have fun watching it. I spent a long time writing the script for “The Rope Factory”—much longer than I spent actually mastering the sleight of hand involved. And that routine is a good piece of self expression for me—it says a lot about who I am, my style of magic, and has a few of my own wry observations about the world sprinkled in.

 

Picking a single favorite trick to watch is just as hard, so I'll just have to cheat and name three: Harry Blackstone, Jr. performing the “Dancing Handkerchief”, Rudy Coby‟s “Puppet Boy”, and Arthur Trace's “Postmodern Art”. Watching all three pieces, I see fantastic magic that is unique to each of these performers; all three give you the sense that you're watching something special.

 

Name a magician who has inspired you most, and why? I've been lucky enough to meet and work with some excellent magicians (many of them here at California Magic), but Eugene Burger, a close-up magician from Chicago, stands out as someone who has strongly influenced my magic and even my life in general. Eugene is also an excellent teacher and writer, and he's one of the kindest people I've ever met. His magic is such a perfect blend of humor, elegance and pure amazement, and he taught me the importance of precision in the performance of magic. Precise attention to detail is what creates the experience of magic, as opposed to mere tricks or puzzles.

 

What's your favorite style of magic to perform, and why? I especially love stage magic. Stage magic is really a form of Theater, which is about creating a whole new world and inviting the audience in to share the fun. In today‟s wired world, there's something especially wonderful about a live magic performance, making it possible for a roomful of living, breathing human beings to share a miraculous experience.

 

What's your favorite magic memory to date? There are so many good memories! Every audience is different, so every show is a new experience. I have a piece in my show I call “Tableau for Three”—a simple illusion with a small cloth bag and two volunteer helpers. I love performing that piece, no matter where the show. Developing “Tableau for Three” was a real joy, too—I learned it by studying the works of some of magic‟s great masters. So when I perform it, it's like the spirits of Max Malini, Charlie Miller, Harry Riser and Harlan Tarbell are up there with me. That's a great feeling.

 

What's the most important thing about magic you'd like the public to know? People expect magic to be an entertainment for children, or a glittery Vegas production, but it can be so much more. Teller (of Penn and Teller) has a neat way of looking at magic: “it's this wonderful playground where you can sort of relax and go, 'Oh boy—it's really hard to understand the world'.” When it's done well, magic can be funny, thought provoking, profound, or even beautiful. I love magic, and I want everyone else to love it, too.

Tuesday
Mar012011

Q&A with Magician Jeffrey Korst

Get to know magician Jeffrey Korst! For more than 30 years, Korst has been performing magic all over the world. We sat down with him this weekend for a few of the most popular questions asked by you, the readers. Enjoy the article! Have another question? Leave a comment, and we'll get right back to you.

Q: Please tell us about yourself as a magician:

A: Unlike many magicians who got a magic set as a child, I started a bit later. Just after starting college, I bought a copy of “Now, you see it, now you don’t - Lessons in Sleight of Hand” by Bill Tarr.

Not long after that I was hanging around the local magic shop so much that they offered me a job. The magic shop was in Old Chicago—the worlds first indoor amusement park. That job led to my first stage experience.

Q: Tell us about your first performance as a magician?

A: My first time doing a magic show on stage wasn’t as myself. I was hired as part of the cast of a theme park show. I played “Charlie Baffle” Magician and Mayor of Old Chicago. He was a costume character – big, plastic head and shoes – and with a cast of four, we did four magic shows and four puppet shows a day for about three years.

In 1985, I was in Lake George, New York doing four shows a day as myself in an ice show. The same act I do on stage at California Magic, I did on ice skates. I performed in ice shows at state fairs, hotels, shopping malls—even a cruise ship.

The last ice show I worked was a six month run at a hotel in Atami, Japan.

Q: Name a magician that has inspired you the most and why?

A:  Cardini-the epitome of the silent manipulation act. In fact, he invented many of the techniques still in use today.

Shimada – a wonderful Japanese magician – was one of my earliest influences as I developed my act.

Eugene Burger – I know Eugene from my time back in Chicago. One of magic’s most influential teachers, he taught me that if I don’t present my magic as important, the audience won’t feel it’s important, either.

Q: What is favorite style of magic to perform ?
 
A: My favorite type is a kind I don’t get to perform much anymore. Called “Manipulation,” it’s an act based entirely of sleight of hand, often set to music, producing objects such as cards, coins, balls and (once upon a time) cigarettes. It’s great that California Magic has a stage suitable for this act!

My other favorite is close-up magic. Everything happens right under the nose of the spectator – sometimes even in their hands!

I get an enormous charge from performing close up at private parties – mingling with the guests, hearing the laughter and the gasps, seeing the jaws drop, having one guest grab another and say, “You’ve got to see this!”

Q: What is your favorite magic memory to date?

A: Having been performing since 1980, there are too many to pick just one. Some of them are: being asked to perform for Francis Marshall’s celebration of her 50th year in magic; the first time I performed at the Magic Castle in Hollywood; my first standing ovation – which was at a magic convention in Toronto with Dai Vernon in the audience; getting to spend six months performing at a hotel in Japan; having Harry Blackstone Jr. call me when he arrived in Chicago for a show to find that his birds had not made the same flight. I was the one they called to borrow replacements.

Q: What's the most important thing about magic to you that you'd like the public to know?

A: I’d like people to know that magic is not just for children. It has an inherent deeper meaning. The fact that the separate can be joined; what is lost, can be found; what has been destroyed can be remade.

It is the fault of magicians that magic has been stereotyped as “just for kids.” Too many times, magicians seem afraid of the magic. Rather than performing miracles, they treat magic as being unimportant – tossing in a joke that just kills any moment of astonishment they may have created.

Thursday
Feb242011

Gerry in the News! Q&A in the Martinez Patch

Janice Wells, a reporter for the Martinez Patch, stopped by today to get the skinny on what we do here at California Magic Dinner Theatre, AND it's already on their website! Video and all. Check out this Q&A with Gerry Griffin!

He even does a card trick! Who could have guessed?! ;)

To see the article on the Patch website, view [ here ]

 

Monday
Feb212011

Q&A with Magician Steve Goldstein


Have you met magician Steve Goldstein?
Get to know one of our club's favorite close-up magicians in this week's question and answer session!

Q. Please tell us about yourself as a magician:

A: I have been involved with magic for nearly 35 years, virtually all of them as a hobbyist, not a performer. It has only been within the past few years that I have begun performing for the paying public — at California Magic. Prior to that, as real life interrupted my inner magic calling, I remained always on the fringes of the magic scene, keeping abreast of magic’s late 20th century creative revolution via the major magic journals, notebooks of my own work on magic effects, attendance at local and national conventions, and, not least, visits to a certain magic shop in Pleasant Hill. As a professional writer, I wrote also on magic subjects during this period (my first article appeared in Genii in 1979,  covering a convention that highlighted the two greatest close-up icons of the last century, Dai Vernon and Slydini), and built up a modest but satisfying personal magic library, with a specialization in old and rare conjuring books, including very early works in French. These days, I have intensified my writing activities, and have become a regular editor of Aaron Fisher’s work, including, among other material, The Graduate, his recent treatise on an advanced handling of the pass, a sleight for which he is counted as one of the world’s foremost masters. Concurrent with these literary endeavors, I am also relishing my newfound identity as a performer of close-up card magic. I have always believed that my training as an advertising writer — understanding and addressing audience perceptions — has also informed my thinking about magic, and that my delayed entry into performing, postponed until my “mature” years, has ironically given me an acute eye for what audiences want and like, as well as a sharp filter for the kinds of effects that suit my style and my personality.

Q. What started your interest in magic?

A: Although I remember seeing some magic as a child, the bug never really hit me then, as it did for so many who later grew up with magic in their lives. It was when I was 27, an adult, and I saw a close-up performance of Matrix, done expressly for me. To see coins disappear and re-appear under different cards, right before my eyes, was astounding to me. The friend who showed it to me was an amateur magician (later to become a dealer), and he sparked my interest, and pointed me the right general directions after that. Interestingly, his name was Griffin — although not my dear friend Gerry.

Q. Tell us about your first performance as a magician:

A: I was 28, and had just joined a new company at work. One of my co-workers was hosting a small party at his house, and asked if I would perform. Since I was new to magic, I had no idea what I didn’t know — but I did have five or six card tricks! — and so I agreed to perform for the group. I remember that the invitation to the party read: “Featured Performance: Steve Goldstein, in preparation for his Las Vegas engagement!” Although I never made it to Vegas as a performer, I do remember that my little show that evening generally went fine. I look back now at the scripts for my routines that night (which I still have) and see how corny and contrived they were. Maybe my audience was just being polite … and maybe it was a good thing I never made it to Vegas back then.

Q. Name a magician that has inspired you the most, and why?

A: When I first became interested in magic, I was influenced quite a bit by the card work of Martin Nash. He performed what to me was the ideal type of card magic: sitting at a table, surrounded by spectators, doing intelligent, mind-blowing routines. And now, although it may sound odd coming from someone who does card magic exclusively, I would have to say that my biggest influence is mentalist Derren Brown. Interestingly, in his younger days Brown used to do card magic — and he had quite the chops — but it is his current, modern thinking on how the mind is fooled, and how real people react to mental manipulation, that has come to inform much of my own thinking, especially how it applies to magic with cards. I believe Brown is the most lucid voice on what mentalism in the 21st century should look like, and beyond that, on what it takes to accommodate modern audience perceptions of what “magic” should, and can, be.

Q. What is your favorite style of magic to perform?

A: Darwin Ortiz has said that “magical style is the product of a strong philosophy of magic, a strong aesthetic theory, and a strong individual vision of what good magic should be.” Said more simply, a performer’s style should reflect his or her personality, which incorporates the entire range of that individual’s attitudes and beliefs about the subject. For me, my magic indeed comes from who I am: generally easy-going, not overly funny but yet quick to laugh, determined to ensure that while my audiences are delighted — often with pleasant and amusing narrative effects — they are nonetheless always aware of the seriousness of the magic that underlies the experience. The area of card magic, specifically, invites much thought and introspection for the development of a magician’s style: just the image of a solitary deck of cards on a green felt table conjures up (pun intended) strong visual associations; the skillful card magician exploits these to create astonishing experiences for spectators. Further, there is always the persistent dilemma that card magicians must continually grapple with: is card “magic” possible at all? That is, if the skillful control of the cards is necessarily always the modus operandi of card effects — whether in gambling demonstrations, where such control is admitted, or in card “tricks,” where it is hidden — then where is the “magic”? How magicians reconcile this issue in their own minds informs the approach they take to their own performances.

Q. What is your favorite magic memory to date?

A: It’s hard to pinpoint just one, so here are three that stand out for me. 1. Richiardi, The Village Gate Theater, New York, 1979: he sawed a woman in half; blood, guts, and everything — including the scent of hospital ether permeating the entire theater. Grotesque, yes, but unforgettable. 2. René Lavande, the Magic Mansion, San Francisco, circa 1985. A one-armed sleight-of-hand artist, who creates the most beautiful, poetic experience with cards imaginable — yes, with one hand. You can’t make this up. 3. Jonathan Pendragon, California Magic, Martinez, 2007. The most amazingly magical presentation of the Himber rings that I have ever seen. There were tears in the audience’s eyes after the effect. And in mine. In virtually no other effect that I have seen before or since, could I more truthfully utter the words: “that was magic.”

Q. What is the most important thing about magic that you’d like the public to know?

A: In an era of iPhones — of instant “everything” in the palm of your hand — what is “magic” today? Isn’t it enough that we point our remotes at the TV or computer and control them? How does that work? When, as Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey said, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” how can our profession continue to be relevant? Indeed, in the context of our hyper-technical world, can the Ambitious Card really be magic? That, quite simply, is our challenge as magicians. The key is that the human mind is as susceptible as always to being deceived — advanced whiz-bang gizmos or not. Ours is a performance art that uses deception in the name of entertainment — just as it has for a thousand years. It is up to us to continue to develop that art, for as long as there are two human beings left, and a pack of cards between them.

Sunday
Feb132011

Afternoon Chat with Magician Shawn McMaster

McMaster performed Valentine's Day weekend 2011Before Shawn took the stage Saturday evening this past Valentine's Day weekend, we snagged a few minutes of his time for an interview. Get to know this very funny magician. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter, or check out his website at www.conjuredupcreations.com -- you can also catch great video clips on his YouTube page. Enjoy the interview!

Tell us about yourself. What kind of magic do you do? Comedy magic. Comedy has always been a big part of my life, having been raised in a very funny household. That sounds kind of weird doesn't it? Haha.  My parents, well of the two, my father had the better sense of humor but my mom could pretty much hold her own, so my sister and I were sort of raised in that atmosphere. It naturally transitioned over into magic once I started doing magic full time. I tried to do a serious magic act once, one act, and it was a great act but I shouldn't have been performing it. I mean, it was set to music and it was a silent manipulation type thing. Picture me doing silk handkerchief type manipulations and things like that? It just died a horrible death.

How did you get into magic? It's the same story that you hear from everybody, where it was a magic set I got for Christmas. But the interesting thing is that, I have thought back since that time, I have thought back to whether or not I have ever had any previous exposure to magic leading up to that gift of a magic set, and I can't remember ever seeing magic on television or a magician in person, or even reading about a magician.

All it was, was a tradition between my sister and I where we'd go through the department store catalog every year at Christmas. We'd go through the toy section, and all we would do was make a list of stuff that looked cool, stuff that we wanted, and we knew we weren't going to get it all, but here's this list that you can pull from, and it just happen to be the year that Mattel put out a really cool magic set. It was an all vinyl covered briefcase type thing – it was the late 60s so it was swirly patterned, and it had a picture of a magician with a rabbit on it. When you opened it up, flipped out that sides and snapped it, you had a table, and you could perform on top of the table. It just happened to be something I put on the list as a 'hey, I think this is pretty cool' and it just happened to be one of the things my parents pulled from the list to give me, and that started the whole thing. It's been a part of my life ever since.

Who would you say is the magician that has inspired you the most, and why? An early influence was Carl Ballentine, which is interesting because Carl never performed a magic trick in his life. His act was always a gigantic joke. He would always start to do tricks but they would always go wrong and he'd never pick them up and finish 'em. He was just a comedian playing the part of this bumbling magician. It caught on and he was huge. I remember watching him – I must have been nine or ten – and memorizing his act, line for line because it made me laugh so much. I remember performing it for my friends in my garage, Carl Ballentine's act at nine years old.

As time progressed, Harry Anderson was certainly an influence of mine in my late teens. He was on Night Court in the late 80s, so he was performing at The Magic Castle before he became a television star in the early 80s and he was on Saturday Night Live doing the needle through the arm. That was an eyeopening experience for me because he had this wiseguy kind of character, and you can kind of see that still in what I do. Not that I try to copy him, but I emulated him very early on and then my character kind of morphed into what it is now. But you can still see traces of that, and you can see traces of Carl Ballentine in my act as well.

Those two are the earliest influences. Penn and Teller tend to inspire me even to this day. They are great magicians, great thinkers and funny. I like them too. I have to say that Doug Henning was an influence too. He inspired a whole bunch of magicians, and I have to say he has been an influence on me as well.

What has been your most favorite magic memory to date or a show that stands out to you? Well, there are different memories I have for different reasons. I am not saying this to blow smoke towards you guys, but the very first time I was here was a memorable experience because I had heard of the theater, I didn't know much about it, I didn't know much about you guys and I didn't know what I was coming into. But the response I got from the audience and the warm response I got from you guys, from the management overall, that was a memorable time for me. That's why I enjoy coming back here so often. That's what's so great about this place. Not only the people running it, but the people that are in the audience that you attract. That's a memorable experience.

Also, the first time I walked through the curtains in the parlor at The Magic Castle during the first week I performed there. I had done other shows there and they had asked me to do overflow shows before, but actually working a week for The Magic Castle was memorable.

What's the most important thing about magic that you'd like the public to know? That it is not children's entertainment strictly. The trouble with magic and the general public is, there are so many people out there that haven't seen even just close-up magic. They are only used to the magic on stage, and a lot of times even then they haven't seen that type of magic except for on television. Immediately, when you mention magicians, what are they going to think of? They are going to think of kids entertainment.

When you see a magician in a movie or a television show, what are they? Magicians are bumbling fools, but not as part of an act, they are trying to be competent magicians, or they are doing birthday parties on the level of clowns – no offense to clowns out there – or they are just villains.

That's typically how you see magicians portrayed with few exceptions. You have Bill Bixby in the 70s who was a crime-solving magician, which was an awesome television show by the way, but didn't last long enough. It was a victim of the writer's strike in the 70s and it just got pushed aside. I love it still to this day.

Magic is just as valid as any other art form. Just like dance, you rehearse your moves over and over again, and the movements have to be put into some cohesive presentation that inspires and entertains people. Magic is the same way. There is a lot of rehearsing and attention to angles, details of your act and your character. People don't realize that. That's the problem. It's the preconceived notions of magic, but if they come here and see the magic that is on this stage, they will see quality magic by magicians who know what they are doing. Magic can be fun, entertaining, and can make you think and provoke emotion.