We’re back!

Blogging is a lot like dieting: one starts with the best of intentions but it is easy to fall off the track. There are simply too many distractions.

Fortunately for me, it wasn’t the chocolate cake. We’ve just been busy with many projects.

We’ve been working with the fine cast and crew at the Shaw Festival to develop a new illusion for A Touch of Venus, a musical written by Kurt Weil, Ogden Nash and S.J. Perelman. To crib from an old Penn & Teller testimonial – one that I believe they wrote about themselves – the musical can best be described as zany, brainy, marvelous and mad.  I don’t want to spoil the illusion by giving you too much information. Suffice to say, the team put lots of time into it, more than most people would ever imagine, which is the case with all great magic, and the results show. They have created a wonderful grace note to a fun-filled theatrical outing.

We’re also just back from Chicago where we hosted, as Artistic Director of Magicana, the 41st Annual Magic Collectors Weekend. Although we have produced many shows and conferences over the years, this was our first for the Magic Collectors Association. Fortunately, we had a crackerjack team, led by Julie Eng, Executive Director of Magicana, ensure that everything ran smoothly. There were many highlights – the presentation by Guests of Honor George Daily and Mike Caveney on their acquisition of Egyptian Hall, the presentations by Diego Domingo and Gary Hunt on “finding your man”, and a heartfelt presentation by Walter Blaney of his famous levitation. Walter, now 82, informed the group that he was performing the levitation for the last time. Julie Eng was his floatee. It was a beautiful illusion performed by a real gentleman. All delegates felt enriched by his stories and presence.

Finally, we’re now gearing up for Luminato, Toronto’s festival of creativity and the arts.  As you know, Magicana is producing “Masters of Magic” with Juan Tamariz, Max Maven, Mac King and Bob Sheets. Advance sales have been very strong. So much so, that Juan’s Sunday afternoon show is now going to be performed in English. Originally he was going to perform the first show in Spanish, the second in English, and the third in French. Tickets disappeared so quickly for the English-only performance, however, that the Festival asked for Juan to change the French-language show to a second English-only performance to accommodate the demand.

Many other exciting projects are in the works, and we will report on them shortly.


Ignite the Imagination

Some of you may know that I also serve as the Artistic Director of Magicana, a performing arts organization and registered charity that I co-founded with Patrick Watson and Daniel Zuckerbrot almost ten years ago.

One of my roles – a recent one – is acting as the editor and publisher of Magicol, a quarterly journal that explores the history of magic, and the personalities, apparatus and ephemera that are its foundation. Magicol was first published in August 1950. It is a privilege for me to join the ranks as one of its editors.

The first issue under my watch is now being mailed to subscribers. The cover features a painting of the great Compars Herrmann (1816-1887), provided to us courtesy of the Belvedere Museum and Magic Christian, both residents of Vienna. I would like to thank both of them for sharing with us this stunning portrait of one of magic’s greatest practitioners.

Articles include a walking magic tour of Chicago by William Pack; observations on Dai Vernon by his wife, Jeanne Verner; and a scholarly discussion regarding the burning of Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft by Clay Shevlin. There are, of course, conference reports, books reviews, and additional commentary.

The production of Magicol also gave me the opportunity of working with Michael Albright. Michael is a lifelong student of magic. Fortunately for us, however, he is also a designer of international renown. His recent work includes redesigning the media pages for the BBC, promotions for Oprah Winfrey, and American Idol. Michael and I have collaborated on several publications including Revelation, Spins and Needles, and How Gamblers Win. I have supplied Michael with the text and images for five other publications for future release. With any luck – and provided I don’t exhaust his good graces – three of them will be released this calendar year.

In the interim, consider subscribing to Magicol. It was assembled, to paraphrase the great American magician Harry Kellar, to feed the mind with mystery and ignite the imagination.

You won’t be disappointed.


Setting the stage

While the New Year reminds us of what occurred during the past twelve months, it also gives us a chance to look ahead.

2010 promises to be a busy and exciting year with many projects on the go.

As the Artistic Director of Magicana, we have added additional responsibilities to our portfolio: we are now the stewards of the Magic Collectors’ Association and their publication, Magicol, a quarterly magazine that focuses on the history of magic and the apparatus and ephemera associated with it. Our first issue will be sent to members in February. Membership in the MCA is one of the best bargains in magic. If you are interested in the history of magic, you should really join now!

We will also be programming the 41st annual MCA Conference held near Chicago. Scheduled from May 13th to 15th, the conference will feature a broad range of speakers, performers and dealers, and be the perfect opportunity for those with kindred interests to share information and build new friendships. We will be releasing information on the conference shortly on Magicana’s website.

Although I also have several books in various states of completion – the business biography of Canadian media mogul Allan Slaight, the life and magic of Paul Fox, and the second volume of the Dai Vernon biography – several other books are scheduled for release in 2010.

I took my M.O., so to speak, from Walter Gibson, the creator of “The Shadow”. Gibson was one of the most prolific authors of the twentieth century, writing scores of books and articles under a sundry of names. Apparently, Gibson had a typewriter in virtually every room in his house, and a different story set in each carriage. He’d wander into a room, read where he had left off and then, if the muse struck him, continue on with that particular story. Yes, there was multi-tasking prior to Microsoft.

Titles in our 2010 queue include a book of finger-flinging one-handed cuts by Dr. George E. Casaubon (Msgr. Vincent Foy). Nick Sacco and I finally convinced Msgr. Foy – a pioneer in this area and now age 94 – to release a manuscript of his favorite cuts. Photographer Ron Van Sommeron took photos of Msgr’s hands – or rather, hand – performing each cut!

Also, with the success of How Gamblers Win, Magicana will reprint another rare title: A Grand Exposé. Published originally in 1860, there are reputedly less than 12 known remaining copies of the first edition of this book. It is a marvelous work and one that should be in the hands of serious aficionados of card table artifice.

Speaking of card table artifice, 2010 should also see the publication of the first volume of three centered on The Expert at the Card Table. Although not my original intention, I’m sure that it will raise a few eyebrows and some controversy.  It’s been a longtime coming. I completed the first draft of it almost ten years ago. Hopefully, it will be worth the wait.

With any luck we might be able to squeeze in another publication or two.

The big news, however, is still to come. If you love magic, just plan on spending some time in Toronto this summer.