It fascinates me to no end watching the changes that have taken place within our art over the last 10 years. Whether it’s good or bad I still have not decided. I’ll take you back about 9 years ago. Bob Solari and I went to an IBM meeting one Thursday night. We both held positions for Ring 113 in NJ at one time. I hadn’t been to a meeting in quite some time and I needed, dare I say deserved, a night out with the boys. Though I saw some familiar faces and some old friends, most of the crowd was completely different. The room where we met was filled with a younger crowd. At one time I was the youngest member there! I saw kids that were 17, 18 and 19 years old! They were doing some incredibly difficult coin and card juggling, some of which I have never seen! Having performed all of my life I have to admit I was a bit intimidated. Usually that doesn’t happen to me. I almost lost my nerve to perform a card effect that I was doing for years.
At about one in the morning I was still feeling distraught. I decided to call Bob at home and vent my frustrations. “Bob, these kids are amazing! In my lifetime I will not be able to execute the moves these kids are doing. Bob, we suck!” Bob replied, “No Howie! We don’t suck! We’re classic!”
This was the first time I realized that I was aging! Hmmm, classic. It’s a nice way saying we’re frigging old. Actually, I realized something else. These kids, as good as they were, couldn’t entertain an audience. They were simply technique and moves. Not much verbiage, no routines, just sleight after sleight; card and coin jugglers.
While it’s fine to specialize in a particular genre, diversification is what makes us true performers and entertainers. To captivate an audience, even if for a brief moment, is truly what magic is about. To instill a feeling of a child-like innocence or to evoke the feeling of wonder in a person is the true definition of the magician.
With the street magic venue exploding on the scene some 11 years ago when Blaine first debuted on the airwaves changed the course of magic as we knew it. Every man and his dog were biting quarters and pushing cigarettes through metal coinage. We went from stocking 2-3 Ravens to ordering 50-75 at a time! Every magic site boasted the concept of street magic! Every magician wanted to emulate David Blaine. Classic magic, stage magic, props and illusions took a backseat for quite some time. Every manufacturer staked claim to their Bite-Out Coins, some even with teeth marks!
Probably one of the other reasons street magic became so popular is due to the fact that here in the states, there are very few places left to perform parlor and stage magic. Dinner theaters seem to be a thing of the past. Cabarets are pretty much non-existent throughout the country. So that leaves the prestidigitator of props to either perform in front of the mirror or for his family and friends. They could be so inclined as to create venues themselves as some of my customers have done.
Overseas, the dinner theatre/stage magic venues are alive and well. Hope of another Copperfield special seems grim at this point in time. Again I will anxiously await the return of proper theater to our art. Hopefully, it doesn’t take another 10 years.