In Marrakesh I once wandered hopelessly through the labyrinthine Souk vainly searching for my hotel. I asked a young vendor about the address and was handed off without delay to an elderly gentleman who led me through twists and turns for what felt like kilometers leading into days. Just before turning a corner, plainclothes men on motorcycles holding radios arrived and the man disappeared into the twists and turns of the Souk. They claimed to be police and led me the rest of the way to my hotel, which was just around the corner. The desk clerk spoke as much English as I spoke French. It was his first day on the job and he didn’t know how to book me into my room. I would need to wait for “his friend” to return. The old man who fled from the police reappeared with his hand out. I gave him what I considered to be a generous tip by local standards. He wanted more. Sorry my friend, not tonight.
Amidst all this frenetic activity poised on the razor’s edge of chaos, a melodious voice coming from the staircase behind and above me, with all the nuances of a classical James Bond villain, pleasantly proclaimed in the comforting accent of an elderly New Yorker, “Welcome to Marrakesh…” At breakfast the next morning, we exchanged a few pleasantries. He was in his seventies. The following morning I sat in a dark corner for privacy. He asked if he could join me. Forcing myself to be social, I asked questions and he laid out one of the most fascinating life stories I’ve ever heard. I still follow his travels and I hope that I age as gracefully as he has. What prompted me to recall this memory and describe it with such melodramatic prose at 3am? Oh, it’s just that a driver shortage has left me stranded in a Greyhound Bus terminal in Columbus on my way to New York and the lady just said, “Watch your step, you’re steppin’ in blood.”
♠ ♥ ♣ ♦
I finally arrived in New York City, hours after the show began which I traveled there to see. But I am happy to report that I was able to switch my ticket to two nights later, and also that I have lovely friends who have a couch. I saw Derek DelGaudio’s show ‘In & of Itself,’ which was brutally good. I expected to be impressed with the theatrical experience. I did not expect to stumble out of the show muttering to myself that Derek must apparently be able to do real actual magic, because that’s the only answer that goes any distance toward explaining some of what I saw. After the show, I spent some time backstage with Derek and David Blaine. (I’m not even going to tell you who’s holding the camera…) We discussed being real and feeling fake and everything in between, and Derek eloquently summed it up: “Welcome to the crisis.”
These two guys are simultaneously the most real and the most unreal people I’ve ever met. This is the sort of paradox that one can really wrap one’s mind around at 4am while spending the night in an airport. But you know what they say: Spend the night in a bus station/airport once in a week; shame on you. Spend the night in a bus station/airport twice in a week; shame on me.
On Friday the 13th — appropriately enough — my paper, ‘The End of Mind Reading’ was published under my former stage name Edward James Dean, in the University of Huddersfield’s Journal of Performance Magic. Regarding this paper, the editor of this edition, Franc Chamberlain, writes:
‘Of the nine papers presented at the symposium only three are included in this issue of Performance Magic, those by Todd Landman, Nik Taylor, and Edward James Dean. Each of these… questions in one way or another, magic in an age when the magician is openly playing with questions of truth and fiction, reality and illusion, instruction and diversion, and enchantment and disenchantment. Edward James Dean draws on some ideas from Richard Schechner’s work on play and the concept of ‘dark play’ to explore some of the ambiguities in performance magic and makes links to the world of wrestling and the openness of contemporary kayfabe.’
Check out the current international issue of Rogue Illustrated: An excellent interview with Turner Dixon and my alter ego Eddie Dean. A DIY home-testing telepathy kit. A smoothie recipe. It pretty much has it all… Thanks Rogue Illustrated, you’re so cool!
On June 11th, I presented my paper, “The End of Mind Reading” in the Sir Patrick Stewart building at the University of Huddersfield in England. They liked it, and will likely publish it after peer review, but I was warned that it will be very controversial. Hahaha. Awesome!
On Halloween — appropriately enough — my paper, ‘(Re)Discovering the Body in Mentalism’ was published under my former stage name Edward James Dean, in the University of Huddersfield’s Journal of Performance Magic. Regarding his paper, the editor of this edition, Madelon Hoedt, writes:
‘In “(Re)Discovering the Body in Mentalism” by Edward James Dean, the author discusses the role of the body in the performance of mentalism, or rather, the perceived lack thereof. As Dean argues, the performance of mentalism, in particular, is seen as an activity of the mind, first and foremost, foregoing any notion or interpretation of the physical. In his essay, Dean is opening a discussion as to how the body of the mentalist needs to be reassessed in order to create a different, and perhaps more effective, type of performance.’
To read ‘(Re)Discovering the Body in Mentalism’ click here
When I was doing my MFA in physical theatre in Italy, I studied the Roy Hart voice technique under the legendary Kevin Crawford. I chose to do a project on the traditional Punch and Judy puppet show. Punch’s voice was done with the secret technique with a traditional “swazzle.” The others all spoke some form of gibberish/grammelot. I made the puppets and built the fit-up with materials and tools at hand. The puppets were worked in the old school “over the head” style.
An interpretation of the classic plot “Honey” as first performed in Paris (circa 1920) by the legendary clown duo Dario and Bario. With Chloe Whiting Stevenson and Mickey Lonsdale, advised by the Dimitiri School’s Joe Fenner at the Accademia dell’Arte in Tuscany.
MAGIC RE-SOULED. Today, the classical style of stage magic is virtually extinct as a form of popular theater and entertainment. Over-edited street magic flourishes on television and over-produced illusion acts rule Las Vegas. It is time, then, for 21st century magic to be re-souled. Howard Thurston, America’s Master Magician in the early 1900s, said, “You can fool the eyes and minds of the audience, but you cannot fool their hearts.”
With this piece, I attempt to deconstruct the fast, flashy, loud, and soulless Las Vegas style; while dodging the comic cliché of the ‘bumbling magician’ (a parody which outlives the parodied). Act One, by functioning like clockwork, provides a silent set up to an act of even greater deconstruction, as magic gives way to clown and the clockwork is torn apart gear by gear.
In my mid twenties, I was studying and teaching at the School of
Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA) in Seattle and I began developing
a doubles trapeze act. Creating an original partner act on the trapeze
is difficult to begin with, but it was uniquely difficult for me because
I didn’t have a partner. I began training with a Cabbage Patch Doll,
in the process creating an original act which blended trapeze technique
with clown and object manipulation.
I have performed this act around the world, including in Cairo with the
Egyptian National Circus, where the Egyptian Star (the Egypt Affiliate
of the International Herald Tribune) described the act as, “An epic
one-man collision of funniness and foolishness, of tragedy and triumph.”
Here is a video of the act from when we were young. Ah, yesterday!