We’re back!

As Luminato, Toronto’s festival of creativity and the arts, has just announced, we will be part of the Festival’s Masters of Magic series June 10-18th.

As the Artistic Director of Magicana, I program the magic for the Festival. Magicana will be presenting three distinct programs in June: Natural Magick, Vodavil and Eric Mead: Toast of the Town.  Magicana will also be presenting its community outreach program, My Magic Hands, at Holland-Bloorview Kid’s Rehabilitation Hospital, and at Queen Victoria Public School.

I’ll be discussing the ins and outs of the various shows over the coming weeks. At this stage, if you love magic, Toronto is the place to be between June 10-18th.

Tickets will go on sale in Mid-April. We will be giving an advance purchase option to subscribers, so make sure that you join the Magicana eList to receive word.

31 Faces North

I shouldn’t complain, although I do: too many projects, and all of them interesting.

As soon as the Masters of Magic Series finished – it closed the Luminato Festival – I was on an airplane to perform in St. John’s, Newfoundland.  It was my first visit to the Rock, but one that was all too short.  I was on another plane the next day to do a show that night in beautiful Banff, Alberta.  Although not coast-to-coast, something I’ve done before – a morning keynote presentation in Boston, an afternoon keynote in Vancouver and then back to Toronto for the evening – it was a great reminder of the size, beauty and diversity of the country. Signal Hill and the Banff Springs are both as majestic as the mountain ranges on which they are situated.

I am now, however, on to another project – 31 Faces North.  This is an invitation-only assembly of 40 of the world’s premier performers of sleight-of-hand.  This will be our 8th year co-hosting the conference with Allan Slaight, the Canadian media mogul and magician.

I’ve certainly spoken or performed at hundreds of conferences over the course of my career. 31 Faces North, however, is unique. Allan and I were inspired to host the conference by the late P. Howard Lyons. Howard was a prominent accountant by trade, but one with a passion for jazz, science fiction and magic. Allan and I first met some thirty years ago at Howard’s conference, “The Ibidem Event”.  The conference was named after an avant-garde magic magazine – yes, there was such a thing – that Howard published called Ibidem. In addition to the eclectic and thought-provoking magic, each magazine featured a cover created and individually silk-screened by Howard’s wife, Pat Patterson. Howard died in 1987.

Howard’s idea for a conference was to have three gourmet meals a day, and an open bar for four consecutive days, and minimal scheduled events. Delegates would just sit around, eat, drink and share knowledge. The event was staged at the Oban Inn at Niagara-on-the-Lake, and the delegates took over the entire inn. I was invited when I was quite young because Howard believed that it was important to broker knowledge. It certainly changed my life as I met many people there who not only became fast friends, but who also mentored me personally and professionally.

Well, fast forward to 2002 when Allan and I were discussing Howard, and the “Ibidem Event”. It was time, we thought, to resurrect the concept. Although many in the magic community believe we called the event 31 Faces North in honor of Howard and Allan’s magical muse Stewart James, and Stewart’s legendary feat 51 Faces North, the truth is that Allan and I set up chairs in the room and discovered that it could comfortably accommodate 31 people.  As all of the chairs were facing north, the name became 31 Faces North. The play on Stewart’s title was just a lovely coincidence.

We expanded the facility in the intervening years, and now accommodate about 40 attendees. The spirit, however, remains the same.  It is four days of the world’s best magicians – and a handful of the next generation – hanging around, sharing sustenance and secrets, and all for the love of magic.

More Magic!

I’m pleased to report that the Masters of Magic series at Luminato has more than just stage and street performances by Juan Tamariz, Mac King, Max Maven and Bob Sheets. The Festival is also screening The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam, a film by Ann Marie Fleming. I am honored to have played a bit part in both the making of the film, and its forthcoming screening at the Festival.

The film is about Ann Marie’s search for information about her great-grandfather, Long Tack Sam. Ann Marie describes Sam as, “The Devilishly Handsome Globe-Hopping Chinese Vaudevillian Magician and Acrobat”. And that he was.

I first met Ann Marie in 1997 when I was performing The Conjuror at the Royal Ontario Museum. She introduced herself as a friend of the filmmaker Ron Mann, a mutual acquaintance, and asked if I had ever heard the name “Long Tack Sam”. Much to her surprise, I had. She then showed me one Sam’s scrapbooks from “Scala”. I was able to put in her touch with many other magicians who helped her piece together the life of this remarkable performer. I then watched her over the course of the next few years assemble the story, and the film. Quite a journey! Although the film had its official premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2003, the actual world premiere took place a few days earlier, at 31 Faces North in Toronto, a gathering of magicians that I co-hosted with Magicana, and Allan Slaight. Several of the magicians featured in Ann Marie’s film were in attendance. It was a great evening.

Luminato is a curated Festival, that is, the programming is developed along lines envisioned by an artistic director, in this case, Chris Lorway. This year, Chris has tabled three broad themes: East/West, Artist Rights, and Divas. It was easy to suggest Ann Marie’s film be included because it deals with, in its own way, all three. You can see The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam for yourself – and at no charge – at the theatre at the National Film Board on June 20 at 2:30 PM.

I am also participating in a public form about rights in the arts. The forum, moderated by Chris Lorway, takes place at the Roots Store at 100 Bloor Street West on June 16 at 12:30 PM.  I have always been interested in this topic and I believe that the history of magic as a performing art offers insight into the relationship between artists and creative works.

Coincidentally, I was recently sent a copy of Law and Magic, a collection of essays published by Carolina Academic Press, to review. One of the essays, “Secrets Revealed: Protecting Magicians’s Intellectual Property without Law” generated a lot of press, including from The Economist, prior to its publication in this book. The paper discusses, among other things, how the magic community has developed a set of informal norms and sanctions to protect their intellectual property.

I read the paper at a draft stage when the author, Jacob Loshin, was seeking comments. His notion, however, of how magicians protect their secrets, and their ability to do so, was completely off the mark. It still is. This is because he makes the classic mistake of assuming that, because he once dabbled in magic, and was a member of a magic society – a hobby club, really – that he has an insider’s understanding of the profession. He doesn’t.  It certainly sounds good, however.

As for the third theme – Divas – need I say anything more?

 

Shhh…It’s a Secret!

As you know from previous postings, we are programming the Masters of Magic series as part of Luminato, Toronto’s superb festival dedicated to creativity and the arts. Tickets go on sale to the general public on April 15th through Ticketmaster.ca.

We’re pleased, however, to offer you the opportunity to purchase your tickets in advance of the general public by using a secret password. No, it’s not “Open Sesame”. The code is “IMAGINE”. Yes, all capital letters.

You can use it anytime from April 5th to 14th to purchase your tickets. Simply visit Ticketmaster.ca to order your tickets and, when prompted for the code word, enter the word IMAGINE.

Just remember, it’s our secret!