Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Magic in Chicago & the KTMA Variety Show @ Links Hall

The Virginia based KTMA group brought their variety show to Links Hall last weekend. The "variety", which the audience was asked to respond with "is the spice of life", consisted of short vignettes of magic, moralistic storytelling, a few jokey bits, and a couple short films. It was a good hearted and amateurish.

My favorite bit was one where one of the three magicians, who took turns doing their bits, brought out a small mock up of a stage with a small figure of a man seated in a chair. The magician removed the top of the figure’s head to reveal a small egg-like round white ball. He picked up this ball, which was some kind of putty actually, and quickly shaped it into a heart, flower, a snail and several other little shapes. It fished with a quick slight of hand move which made the putty disappear and then reappear back in the figure’s head…as if by magic.

This kind of moment where the actual transformative magic of being on stage and leading the imagination of the audience combined with skillful moment of stage magic could have really sold this show I think. Unfortunately moments where the malleability of the imagination of the audience was acknowledged was rare.

The slight of hand tricks often seemed unrehearsed or used corny props that made me feel like I was at a rec center. The set ups worked best when they were self-sufficient tales and the magic was a highlight, but the magicians constantly over complicated the set ups, asking the audience to perform confusing number games, failed to control and misdirect our attention, or failed to be sensitive to the audience at all...like asking a kid, who bravely took the stage when requested, to follow directions that where obviously over their head. I often wasn’t misdirected as much as confused and bored.

The strangest thing to me was ignorance to the sense of scale of the magical acts that were performed. Doing a close up trick were the audience is supposed to witness tiny rubber bands jump from finger to finger on the magician’s hand fails to impress if we cannot see the rubber bands to begin with. Perhaps it was in the name of variety.

I think these folks really enjoy magic and care about it so I hope they start to seek out more feedback on what they are doing.

Where does a magician get feedback in Chicago? This show has made me wonder if there is a contemporary magic scene in Chicago. I know there is a clown scene and magic is tied to the circus arts so I would be surprised if no one is doing anything. I have always thought it was a ripe medium for exploration. I know Matthew Barney is on record as an admirer of Houdini.

A grad student at the School of the Art Institute last year named Ross Moreno was doing some magic. It was often ironic failed attempts at magic if I remember correctly and he was reaching for a metaphor about growing up as a child. I wonder if he stuck with that line of work.

A quick internet search gave me this…

There is Tim Buche “tradeshow magician”

The Open Directory listings for Chicago magicians.

Here is a gallery in London that did a show linking stage magic and performance

Ross is apparently a member of the Society of American Magicians. Maybe you can find him performing at their get togethers.

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