Monthly Archives: June 2018

The Reality of “In Restless Dreams”

Santiago's Linking Rings

“The World” in Linking Rings.

Okay, so it’s been a couple of weeks now and I’m finally getting around to writing my thoughts down about my show at lillie aeske.

I have been doing magic for a long time now.  Mostly at parties and a few corporate events.  A lot of strolling magic, some formalized shows.  But other than my one time at Wonderground (really have to figure out my schedule so I can do that again) I have never done something that was “open to the public”.  And even my Wonderground performance was a mere 15 minute time slot as part of an ensemble of other magicians.

But all of the shows, all of the times I have performed, I am almost always asked the same thing – “Do you do any public shows?”  Or some variation thereof.  I’ve made enough of an impression on these people that they want to come and see a live show in some theatrical setting.

My opportunities for such things are vanishingly small.  There just aren’t that many venues around where I live that I can easily book.  The more I looked in to such things, the more I found that I was underprepared for such an endeavor.

Fill a half hour?  I can do that with one deck of cards tied behind my back.  Forty-five minutes?  Yes I can do that.  An hour?  Pushing my previous limits.  Or so I thought.

What do all these theater venues want?  Ninety minutes or more.

Now I do know a lot of magic.  How much I keep rehearsed/practiced at any given time is somewhat variable but more or less continues to grow.  All magicians have their “go to” effects, the stuff they do all the time that is so well known that they don’t have to think about them at all.  My “go to” list got small for a while but I’ve been working to build it up again.

But to fill ninety minutes plus was a daunting challenge for me.  I’ve been in the theater pretty much my whole life.  But a one man show of ninety minutes is a challenge for anyone who isn’t a seasoned full time professional.

So, in other words, I had pretty successfully identified my biggest weakness.  The hurdle I needed to jump next in order to take my magic to the next level.  I identified this lack some time ago but I think it really hit home about two years ago when I got serious about contacting venues and finding out what they required.  One of the venues I wanted to try to get in on was (and maybe still is) Dragon Theater.  What attracted my attention was that they have “practice nights” which I thought meant multiple groups/performers going in and maybe doing a little bit of what they were working on, sort of creating an impromptu “variety show”.  I figured I could bring half an hour to forty five minutes of stuff and be part of an evening of entertainment.  Nope.  Not the way they work.  Because they primarily host full theatrical productions, those nights are more like dress rehearsals for a full show.

In any case I still needed to figure out what I was going to do.

This is where my wonderful friend Glenda comes in.  She has been doing her touring around and her salons and I have been able to get some stage time with her more and more lately.  We did a show together at a shop in Santa Cruz called “Hive and Hum” and the owners there turned me on to their friends who run lillie aeske in Boulder Creek.  I resolved to talk to them.

And an opportunity soon presented itself when one of our local “First Friday Art Walks” happened.  Laurie and I headed downtown and lillie aeske was one of the participating shops.  We went in, checked it out, and I managed to work up the gumption to ask one of the owners about their performing arts programs.

So, for those of you who don’t know lillie aeske is a little hole in the wall arts boutique.  Most weekends they host local performers as a part of what they do.  Their main showroom is approximately 20 feet wide and 60 feet deep.  The stage is 7 feet wide by 6 feet deep at one end.  Usually they host local musicians and as you might well imagine the bulk of that is going to be the usual folk performer or very small band.

But for me, this space was damn near perfect.

I don’t need much stage space (yet) and the total audience size for this space is thirty, which is an ideal number.  This is, what we magicians call, “Parlour Magic”, and that is what I do best.

The conversation that started me on this journey went something like this:

Me: “This is a great little space.  Can I ask you about the performing arts stuff you do here?”

Them: “Yes.  So what we do is open the calendar up for performers who contact us and just work with them directly to provide them a date and space to perform.  What do you do?”

Me: “Well, I’m a magician and I’d like….”

Them: “When can you come in?”

Yeah, I didn’t even have to try and sell them on the idea.  They were immediately excited about the idea.  So we exchanged contact information and a few days later I emailed them and asked about calendar dates.  We exchanged a few messages back and forth and settled on a date.

And then panic set in.  Because while I know a lot of magic and have a couple of decades of experience performing it, I was now committed to doing something I haven’t done before, a full length one-man show for the public.

Now, to be absolutely clear, I knew exactly what I was getting in to.  I set myself up for it completely and totally on purpose.  These are the hurdles I knew all along that I was going to need to get over next and by setting a date I had committed myself to a timeline that I couldn’t just half-ass my way through.  This was a project that I spent months on.  I wrote, rewrote, polished, practiced, and rehearsed on a fairly rigorous scale.  If you were following along on my FB account than you saw me posting daily (or nearly daily) about what I was doing as a part of my own self-accountability.

In the midst of that I went to Vegas for a week of “Spring Training” at Mystery School.  And this too helped me get more focused, and build better ideas for my show.  In fact some of my show changed dramatically after that week because new ideas, new energy, new focus created better direction for my efforts.  Not to mention some individual attention from Jeff McBride to help me with a couple of pieces of material.

So, after several months of pretty hard work I finally had a show.  Two acts, approximately forty-five to fifty minutes each.  One pretty cohesive whole story, my journey from the very beginning of my interests in magic to the present day magician I have become and, hopefully, communicating the message that we can all pursue our dreams if we work hard enough.

I have, over the years, had maybe half a dozen false starts on creating this show.  The idea has always been there but so many times I’ve gotten started on it I have been unable to maintain the necessary focus to complete the script.  Or to get it in to a state that I felt comfortable with, like I wasn’t trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

But that past few years of my journeys out to Mystery School have been more than just opportunities to learn new skills and knowledge, but to also gain the self confidence I needed to tackle something this big.

Now those of you who have performed with me on stage (Stags) know that I am very nervous kind of performer.  In a full cast show I’m mostly fine to be around but I do kind of keep myself to myself until I hit the stage and then all that nervous energy turns in to performance energy.  And I have a varying level of comfort depending on a wide variety of factors.

As a solo performer this is more intensified and I have a varying level of ability to deal with it.

As it turned out, that same day was also an SCA event that several of you, including my wife Laurie, were in attendance at.  Pretty much required to be in attendance at.  And it was far enough away that I was momentarily surprised when I realized that the Friday before I was completely on my own.  This turned out to be a good thing as I would have been utterly intolerable to deal with by that point, my nerves were so high strung.

Saturday morning I got up, continued to tinker and futz with my props and show materials until about noon when I finally literally yelled at myself (the cats can confirm this) and started packing everything up so that I could put it in to my car.  I then forced myself to sit quietly and watch a couple of movies to fill the next several hours until I was going to get up, take a second shower, and get dressed in my “show clothes”.

It should be noted, by the way, that I am still working hard to create the physical appearance I want on stage.  I like my current look, but there are few more steps to go, hence my rants of late against the fashion industry that refuses to make the clothes I like in my size but taunts me by being one size to small.  But I digress.  Like that never happens.

I arrived early, because me, and sat in my car in front of lillie aeske for about fifteen minutes.  When it was time I knocked on the door, unloaded my stuff, set up my stage, tested my sound, and then for the next hour puttered around with the owners until it was time to “open the house”.

Let me just say that the people at lillie aeske are pretty darn awesome and that we bonded pretty well.  I have every intention of making performing there a regular thing and now it’s just going to be a matter of working out how that will happen with them.

I should also note at this point that my show was sold out.  That has everything to do with my friends and family.  Aside from the one ticket I put on hold for Laurie the first ticket actually sold went to my former apprentice Sandra.  And shortly after that the sales started to flow.  In fact, according to my hosts, they almost never sell any tickets until the week of any given performance, but my show sold half it’s tickets almost immediately, we sold out well in advance, and had a waiting list.  Not only that, but apparently during the day people came back the shop and saw the sign saying that my show was sold out and expressed disappointment.

And here is where some of my thinking went out the window.  Even though I was thinking I needed to advertise (and I did) to the general public in order to fill the house, almost all the seats were filled by friends and family (including family I haven’t seen in decades).  And all of you both made me feel more comfortable and challenged me at the same time.  Whole huge parts of my script were written with the idea of a house full of strangers.  On the fly I had to adapt simply to make things make sense.

This is, really, okay.  After all the whole point of magicians having scripts, a lesson hammered on by my mentors (especially Eugene Burger), is so that when you need to diverge from the script you still know where to come back to!  I still told my story in pretty much exactly the format that I needed to, and was relaxed and comfortable as I could possibly be.

And as always, when it was “curtain” all the nervous energy became show energy.

I started by grabbing attention with my theatrical skills, moved into a demonstration of childhood magic and memories, progressed to the present schooling, a tribute to one of the most influential magicians I have ever learned from, and in to art.  In the second act I focused on the connections we all have to each other, the things I am inspired by such as games and movies, and in the end left with something fun and something touching.

In between acts a few minutes to refresh myself and to give everyone a chance to stand, mingle, and get a breath of air.  But when it was over I sat on the stage, gathered signatures on my straight jacket (as part of my post show interactions if I do my straight jacket escape I ask people to autograph it), and generally thanked everyone.  And off to ice cream with a few people afterwards before going home and falling into a deep sleep.

Here’s the thing; I don’t remember the show.  I remember doing it.  I don’t remember the show.  I remember thinking at the beginning that I was going to fast and I needed to slow down.  I remember getting very emotional when I introduced my tribute to Eugene.  I remember the music for my Linking Rings, and I remember doing my “Clue!” routine.  The rest is a blur.  If I look at the pictures and videos that I have I recall, but the whole show in my mind is a blur.

BUT!  But, I now have done what I set out to do.  I have created a full length one man show that I can do almost anywhere.  I can entertain a large audience for a movie length of time.  Well, general movies, not Infinity War (“It’s 2:40!  Don’t eat or drink before you go see it!”).

That is a pretty big milestone in my development as a magician.  The show is perfect in it’s current existence and now I will go on to make it even more perfect, because no matter how perfect something is it can always be made better, right?  Right?  Okay maybe “perfect” is a strong word but you get my point I’m sure.

“In Restless Dreams” is finally a reality.  It’s taken years and a lot of hard work to get it there.  But it’s there.  And not only that but I have a hell of a lot more confidence about putting on a show that big.  I’ll start to hunt around for venues that will work for this.  If anyone knows any little box theaters (30 to 100 seats) I’d love to know about it.  I need to start thinking about how and where to market this thing so I can start doing more performances of this show.

But it is my show.  A full actual show.  Not just a performance.  A show.

That makes me really crazy happy.  It means I have proven to myself that I can build that big, and that means I will.

I got here because of years of support from my friends and family.  Thank you doesn’t even begin to cover it.  In the years to come I hope to have more opportunities to perform this and other shows I will develop for the future.  Now that I know what it takes I have some interesting notes to go back to and start crafting from.  I don’t know where it will take me next.

But then, that is what it means to have “Restless Dreams”.

I think it’s fitting that I post this today. A part of why I managed to accomplish this is through the lessons of one of my many friends and mentors, Eugene Burger.

Today would have been Eugene’s 79th birthday.

Thanks Eugene for all the lessons, all the wisdom, and all the friendship.

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