Arthur Trace by gdf57j


									                          APRIL 2006                                        $5

                          Abstract Artie G Lovick
                          The Magic of Arthur Trace G Acer
                          The Iceman G Critelli
                          The First Filmed Magician—Raynaly G Wiseman
                            And ... A Flip Book: See Raynaly Come to Life
                          24 Hours To Thailand G Kaufman
                          The Vertical Asrah G Osborne
                          Ian McColl Locks It Up G Given

 Arthur Trace
        Photo by Johnny Knight
       By John Lovick

           Consider this.
           “You are about
           to enter anoth-
er dimension, a dimen-
sion not only of sight and
sound, but of mind. A jour-
ney into a wondrous land
of imagination, a land of
both shadow and sub-
stance, of things and
ideas. Next stop, the
Twilight Zone!”

                   APRIL 2006   47
                                                                                                                                Photo by Mona S. Morrison
             entered the Twilight Zone in April of last year, when     unknown in the magic world. That would change signifi-
             a friend told me I had to check out one of the stage      cantly within a couple of months when he made his pres-
             acts at The Magic Castle. We popped into the              ence known—in a big way—at the I.B.M. convention in
             Palace of Mystery. The show was already under             Reno in July of 2005. He not only grabbed first place in
             way. A young, slightly mischievous performer was          the Stage Competition, he also won the People’s Choice
             on stage, mid-act. He sported a nerd-chic crew cut        Award, and was awarded the rarely given I.B.M. Gold
             and horn-rimmed glasses and was manipulating bil-         Medal for Excellence in Stage Magic—The Triple Crown.
     liard balls. I looked at my friend; he didn’t say anything, but       What was this amazing act like? For the benefit of
     a large grin crept across his face. I looked back at the          those who have not seen it (and as a refresher course
     stage. My first clue that I’d entered another dimension           for those who have), here is a description. The curtain
     was the performer’s clothing. You won’t believe what he           parts to reveal a white sheet draped over a rather large
     was wearing—a suit! That’s right, a sports jacket and             rectangular object. Stenciled on the sheet are the words
     turtleneck with matching pants. Do you understand what            “POSTMODERN ART.” Arthur steps out from his hiding
     I’m saying? A stage magician … doing a manip act … and            place behind the draped object, looks around and smiles
     wearing a suit. Not a tux, not tails, not a sequined span-        somewhat conspiratorially at the audience. He peeks
     dex outfit, nor a neo-Rococo rock-and-roll frock, or              under the cloth, then removes it to reveal a monochro-
     Shamanic robe. Just a suit. Perhaps the first time it’s           matic abstract painting consisting mostly of geometric
     happened in the four-decade history of The Magic Castle.          shapes. He touches the frame of the painting and, as if in
     And then there was the music. Cool jazz was playing over          response, jazzy percussion music plays. He lets go and
     the sound system. I felt disoriented. Jazz? Not rehashed          the music stops. He touches the frame with his other
     techno? Not bad ’80s rock? Not an overexposed movie               hand and the percussion starts again. He lets go and the
     soundtrack? Jazz? Really? I was definitely in the Twilight        music stops. He reaches up to one of the white circles on
     Zone. Finally, I noticed his chops. Billiard balls were flying    the painting and removes it from the canvas, whereupon
     around his fingers and multiplying and changing colors            it instantly turns into a solid white sphere. Saxophone and
     with an ease and alacrity I’ve never seen before.                 bass join the percussion as Arthur does some extremely
        I sat through the act and came back for the next show          fast and impressive flourishes with the ball, rolling it
     because I had to see it again—from the beginning.                 around, through, and over his fingers. Suddenly it
     Afterward I went backstage, introduced myself, and said,          changes color. The music stops. It is now green.
     “I’d like to write an article about you for Genii. Are you            He extracts another “ball” from the painting. The music
     interested?” He said no, so the article didn’t get written,       kicks in again. Now he manipulates two balls until the
     and you’re not reading this. Welcome to the Twilight Zone.        white one turns orange. He grabs a third and fourth ball
        To say Arthur Trace’s act is a breath of fresh air is not      from the painting. They also change color, vanish, and
     only a cliché, it’s also an understatement (which is, in          reappear. There is very little repetition of the flourishes
     itself, another cliché). When I met Arthur he was mostly          and the moves are perfectly choreographed and timed to

48   GENII
the music, like a dance of spheres and fingers. The four          His first really big performance was his senior year of
colored balls are then returned to the painting where           high school and that’s when he discovered magic shops.
they are, of course, reduced to two-dimensional circles of      He was scheduled to perform in the school variety show.
paint on canvas.
   He pauses. A large paint brush appears in his hand. He
notices a bucket of white paint. He dips the brush in the
bucket and accidentally swipes the brush on his jacket,
leaving a large smear of paint. He peels the paint from
his jacket as if it has suddenly solidified. The rectangle of
paint then vanishes, reappears, and multiplies. It
changes color and multiplies exponentially, until he has
dozens of red, blue, green, and orange “paint squares.”
Some of them are returned to the painting, covering it
with rectangles of color.
   As the jazz tune crescendos, he bends one of the lines
of the painting to a different angle. He removes his horn-
rim glasses and vanishes them. A painted pair of glasses
instantly appears on the canvas and the audience sud-
denly realizes that Arthur has transformed the painting
into a self portrait. Burst of applause, and black out.
   Submitted for your approval: A playing card and billiard
ball manip act which involves no playing cards or billiard
balls. Instead, what is manipulated is … paint—swatches
of paint that have been transformed into objects.
   I spent a considerable amount of time with Arthur over
the two weeks he was in Los Angeles, and found out that
there’s more to him than meets the eye. Like most of us,
he got interested in magic at a young age, but it had noth-
ing to do with receiving a magic kit as a present or see-
ing a magician on TV. When he was eight years old, a
teacher assigned him a take-home project to learn a sim-
ple Cups and Balls routine with Dixie cups and cotton
balls. He learned the trick and did it for his parents. As
soon as he saw their reaction he decided to show it to his
friends. It wasn’t the first time he’d shown off to his
peers. He knew how to juggle, but the magic trick got a
completely different reaction. People were impressed
with the juggling, but it made him feel like “a monkey in a
zoo.” With magic, people took an interest in him as             Until that point, he’d been doing smaller, close-up magic,
opposed to the skill or talent.                                 but he needed something for the stage—something that
   He was not a very social kid, so this new activity gave      packed small, but played big. He went to the magic shop,
him a certain sense of power; it was something people           looked around, and decided to buy a “Zombie.” As he puts
took note of. Predictably, this led to his checking out         it now, “That was my downfall, there was no turning back.”
magic books from the library. Even then, he was very               Upon reflection, he now rates that first performance
hands-on. His parents instilled an artistic side in him; he     as “pretty bad.” But he acknowledges it helped him learn
had an aptitude for drawing and painting from a very            to be flexible. From week to week in rehearsals, he
early age. He would learn things from the books and             changed effects several times. He also learned that he
make props out of cardboard and spray paint, then show          had the ability to improvise onstage and interact with the
the tricks to friends. His first public performance came in     audience very well. At that point he wasn’t scripting any
junior high school when he and one of his best friends put      of his effects. That wouldn’t come until later when he
together a backyard magic show where seats were a dol-          studied with Eugene Burger.
lar a piece—they sold popcorn, too.                                He graduated as one of the valedictorians of his high

                                                                                                                APRIL 2006   49
     school, and went to College at the University
     of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His intention
     was to study aeronautical engineering,
     though by the second semester he realized it
     didn’t suit him. He had thought he needed to
     study something that would please his par-
     ents and society and make a lot of money. It
     didn’t take long for him to realize he needed
     to please himself. He asked himself, What do
     I really want to do? He realized that magic
     combined so much that he was interested
     in—acting, art, mechanics, psychology—that
     he could mold it into about anything he want-
     ed. In high school he had enjoyed acting in
     plays. He liked constructing things with his
     hands. He decided to channel all his energy into magic,       former. He did an entire routine with an umbrella, using
     so that by the time he graduated he would have some           it like a Dancing Cane. It was an early attempt to have
     sort of foothold in being a professional magician. In         a theatrical through-line, rather than using a cane just
     addition, he decided to study advertising, in part to         because it was there. Even then he had an idea there
     learn about the business side of show business, but           should be reasons behind the magic. He was equally
     also to learn how to market himself.                          interested in close-up magic. He did a lot of card tricks
        During his sophomore year he founded the Midwest           for friends. He mentions Guy Hollingworth’s book,
     Masters of Magic at the U of I. It was a registered           Drawing Room Deceptions, from which he learned
     organization. He was the president and founder and            “Waving the Aces,” as one of his favorites.
     almost the only member. The meetings were so lightly             While in college he also worked at a couple of magic
     attended that he decided to use the organization as a         shops. That changed his way of thinking about magic. He
     way to promote his own shows. By the time he gradu-           explains, “You can’t work at a magic shop and not come
     ated, he had produced four shows at one of the the-           away a different magician. It’s a testing ground for your
     aters. It taught him a lot about publicity.                   nerve and your ego when you’re dealing with these
        These shows were, as he says, a good place to be           magicians who come in and show off.” He thinks that the
     bad. “It was really about my ego more than the art.           best thing that happened to him—and the thing he’s
     Tickets were only three dollars. We need places to be         proudest of—is getting fired. He knew after that he
     bad. You can’t be bad in Vegas, you can’t be bad on           never wanted to work for another person ever in his life.
     Broadway, or in an international magic competition.           He realized that he had to do things his way and he
     You should be bad in a place where people are getting         couldn’t really listen to anyone besides the people close
     in free or are getting something of value.”                   to his heart, “the super group that every artist sur-
        These college shows consisted mostly of manipula-          rounds themselves with.”
     tion. He studied Spherical Sorcery, Maurice Rooklyn’s            While still in college, Arthur attended a lecture by
     ball manipulation book, Magic Without Apparatus, and          Max Maven and it was there that he met Eugene
     Lewis Ganson’s Routined Manipulation series. He               Burger, who has had an important impact on his
     watched Jeff McBride’s manipulation videos. His par-          magic. He approached Burger and asked if he took on
     ents always taught him to be very disciplined in school       students. He said yes. Arthur started videotaping his
     and it spilled over into his approach to magic. He prac-      act and sending Burger the tapes for review. Burger
     ticed many hours a day, even when watching TV or              would tell him what he thought worked and what did-
     doing another activity, making sure his hands were con-       n’t. When Arthur was in Chicago, he would actually go
     ditioned and in a nice flexible state. His biggest influ-     to Burger’s apartment for sessions. Arthur credits
     ences were Cardini, Channing Pollack, and Fred Kaps.          him with teaching him how to write scripts and also
     He says they all had a nice flexible touch that many          about having a theatrical through line in his magic. He
     magicians lack. He tries to emulate that, but add his         compares studying with Burger to being in school and
     own touches. He strives to give his act a very fluid style.   doing homework. He adds, “Many magicians don’t do
        Manipulation wasn’t the only thing he focused on. He       their homework. You have to have some discipline in
     thought it was important to be a well-rounded per-            terms of writing the script, doing your research.”

50   GENII
                                                                                                    Eugene Burger on Trace
                                                                                                          was in Las Vegas when I learned that Arthur
                                                                                                          Trace had won more than one prize at last
                                                                                                          year’s IBM Convention. I remember quite clear-
                                                                                                          ly that I wasn’t surprised. I was so pleased for
                                                                                                          him that I telephoned to offer my congratula-
                                                                                                          tions. I knew that Arthur had worked very hard
                                                                                                          on this act—and now it was great to receive the
                                                                                                  appreciation of his peers.
                                                                                                     I first met Arthur when he was in college. I think it
                                                                                                  was at a Max Maven lecture in Chicago. He talked
                                                                                                  with me about lessons and working with me on his
                                                                                                  magic and, when I agreed, he began sending me
                                                                                                  videos of some of his performance ideas. Some of
                                                                                                  them were surprisingly off-beat and very intriguing. At

                                                                         Photo by Johnny Knight
                                                                                                  the beginning, I was immediately struck by the quality
                                                                                                  of Arthur’s manipulative skill. His card and ball work
                                                                                                  especially was very good. And it was quite clear that
                                                                                                  Arthur’s vision had a strong artistic dimension.
                                                                                                     I would watch the videos and take notes. Mostly
  After college he met another influential magician while                                         they were college performances in various venues.
attending Bob Fitch’s workshop, a young magician from                                             Arthur and I would then talk on the telephone about
Philadelphia named Francis Menotti. Arthur says that,                                             what I saw and I would ask him questions about what
“seeing Francis perform was the most influential                                                  he was doing—and, in some cases, not doing. When
moment in my magical life. He really showed me that                                               he was in Chicago on school vacations, he would
good magic has something to offer the audience intel-                                             come over to my apartment so we could watch his
lectually, emotionally, it’s worthwhile.” Arthur’s magic at                                       newest videos and talk in person. As we talked, he
that time had a theatrical through-line, but he was not                                           always made lots of notes. Frequently, I would play
happy with it. It was definitely missing something. When                                          the Devil’s Advocate so that he would have to defend
he saw Francis perform, he didn’t want to emulate him                                             some of his theatrical decisions.
or copy his style, but it gave him a sense of what magic                                             In his early stage act that I saw, there were several
could be and made him want to apply a new approach to                                             great ideas as well as some genuinely surprising
                                                                                                  moments, but there wasn’t much of a script or
                                                                                                  through-line. And so we talked about the German
                                                                                                  manipulator, Topas, and his ideas of the magician as
                                                                                                  perpetrator, victim, and witness. Arthur experiment-
                                                                                                  ed with these ideas in his act and made more deci-
                                                                                                  sions. I always enjoyed getting together with him and
                                                                                                  watching the videos of his performances because I
                                                                                                  knew there would always be at least one fascinating
                                                                                                  surprise for me!
                                                                                                     I quickly learned that Arthur was great to work with.
                                                                                                  First, he wasn’t looking for instant, miraculous
                                                                                                  “answers” that would magically produce an act for
                                                                                                  him. Secondly, he knew he had to make his own deci-
                                                                                                  sions. No one could make them for him. Happily,
                                                                                                  Arthur was not afraid to work, to change things, to try
                                                                                                  new ideas or to rebuild a prop he had already rebuilt
                                                                                                  many times because he now understood how it might
                                                                                                  be built just a bit better.
                                                                                                     Best of all, Arthur isn’t afraid to try something and
                                                                                                  fail. He understands very clearly that great magic is in
                                                                                                  the details, in the tiny touches. And that is where his
                                                                                                  attention is focused. Although he has now won major
                                                                                                  awards with his stage act, I can’t believe that things
                                                                                                  will remain static even here for him—and not change!
                                                              Photo by Anne White

                                                                                                  Arthur is a magician who has a deep desire to keep
                                                                                                  growing. After all, one can always create a better
                                                                                                  mousetrap! •

                                                                                                                                           APRIL 2006        51
     his routines and his performances. It confirmed for him        remembered going to museums and seeing security
     that there needs to be some dramatic sense in order to         guards in each gallery watching the patrons. He thought,
     connect with the audience on an emotional, and espe-           “How great—and socially unacceptable—would it be to go
     cially an intellectual, level. It made him want to create      up to a painting in a museum and mess with it? Put graf-
     something that would send chills down the audience’s           fiti on it. Interact with it.”
     spines. That started him down the journey that led to his          His first idea was that the setting would be a museum
     current stage act.                                             exhibition with some hoity-toity art critic deciding to
       The origin of the act was something Arthur had devel-        change a painting because he disliked it. He explains,
     oped in college. That act started with the curtains open-      “How many times have we seen Basquiat or Rothko or
                                                                                         Duchamp paintings and thought that’s
                                                                                         a bunch of crap, I could do that? Why
                                                                                         can’t my art be in a museum? So really,
                                                                                         the evolution of the act was taking an
                                                                                         interest that I had in art, developing a
                                                                                         theatrical premise, and working from
                                                                                         there.” For a while he used a taped intro
                                                                                         that said, “Welcome to the Museum of
                                                                                         Abstract Art. Please refrain from using
                                                                                         any flash photography and please do
                                                                                         not touch any of the paintings.” Over
                                                                                         time, the act took a different direction.
                                                                                         He decided to be more ambiguous. He
                                                                                         wanted a scene where the audience
                                                                                         members could use their own imagina-
                                                                                         tion and have their own experience or
                                                                                         interpretation. Eugene Burger gave him
                                                                                         the idea of putting a cloth over the
                                                                                         painting that said, “Postmodern Art.”
                                                                                            Arthur built a small black and white
                                                                                         abstract painting that didn’t look like
                                                                                         much to use in the act and experiment-
                                                                                         ed with a graffiti artist character—a
                                                                                         Jean-Michel Basquiat-type. Having a dis-
     ing just as a vandal was painting “Prove It” on a poster       like for the painting, he would take a paint brush and buck-
     which proclaimed “Arthur Trace, Elegant Magic.” The            et and change it. He would touch a circle and it would dis-
     vandal ran off the stage, leaving the paint brush and buck-    appear, but a ball would appear behind the paint brush.
     et behind. Arthur would walk onstage and notice the graf-      This was his first experiment with something changing
     fiti. He would pick up the paint bucket and go into a          from two to three dimensions.
     manipulation act. At the end of the act, Arthur magically          As the act has grown, he has gone through about 15
     changed the graffiti so it said “Proved It.” That was his      prototypes of the painting. During the six months before
     first attempt at performing manipulation with a theatrical     the World Magic Seminar in 2004, he constructed the
     premise. But he wanted to take it further. He wanted to        latest version of the painting, which is 36 inches wide by
     develop a theatrical through-line that would make the          53 inches tall.
     manipulation make sense. Eugene Burger asked him,                  Having an idea for an act is one thing, but constructing
     “Why don’t you develop an act that isn’t just you onstage      the props and gimmicks is another thing altogether. This
     showing off to the audience?” Arthur has an artistic back-     is where Arthur’s mechanical aptitude and “hands on”
     ground and he knew he wanted to somehow incorporate            approach came into play. Constructing the gimmicked
     that. In grade school, during art classes, groups of kids      painting was complicated, by far the most difficult prop
     would gather around his desk and watch him work. That          he’s ever built. He explains, “I’ve always been inspired by
     was the same feeling that he got from performing magic.        magicians like Robert-Houdin, Germain, Tommy Wonder.
         He hit on the idea of having an interactive painting. He   I was influenced by my father, also. He is a civil engineer
     had taken a lot of art history classes in college and he       who taught me to be more efficient in everything I do. I

52   GENII
was brought up experimenting with my
hands, building things. It’s really just going
to Home Depot and buying things you think
will work and putting up a prototype, then
seeing if the effects work.” He started with
a cheap canvas. He did a crude mock up to
see what worked visually. He adds, “You
screw up a few times, and I’m a perfection-

                                                                                                                               Photo by Pete Biro
ist. I need things the way I want them off
the bat, so it’s very frustrating; you have to
be very patient.” While the first mockup
worked and was durable, the second was a
whole new evolution. Arthur used materials
like fiberglass, which as he says “is a bitch to work with.”    emerged from his “state of shock,” the first thing he did
For example, it takes four hours of sanding with an elec-       was to call home and wake his parents up with the news.
tric sander on a 2’ x 3’ piece if you want it to be complete-   Then, he and his good friend, Aye Jaye (author of The
ly smooth. With all the mechanics built into it, he says the    Golden Rule of Schmoozing), went out and celebrated.
back of the painting is more impressive than the front.            I don’t want to give the impression that stage magic or
   The music used to accompany the act was not, as you          manipulation is the only thing Arthur does. The week
can imagine, arbitrary. The key visual element in the act       after I saw his stage act in The Castle’s Palace of
is an abstract painting. Arthur considers jazz the              Mystery, he did a week in The Close-Up Gallery. My friend
abstract genre of music. He also thinks that manipula-          Derek, whom I insisted see Arthur’s stage act, said, “If his
tion is the abstract genre of magic. These three abstract       close-up act is as good as his stage act, I’m going to be
art forms come together and mesh perfectly on stage.            really depressed.” A week later, after seeing the close-up
   After performing at The Magic Castle in April 2005,          show he turned to me and said, “It’s official. I’m gonna go
many people told Arthur he should compete in a major            home and shoot myself.” Derek’s mock depression was
competition, stating that he would do well. He’d never          understandable. Arthur has world-class sleight-of-hand
been a big fan of competitions, but he reasoned that if he      chops; his scripts, presentations, and routines are cre-
did enter and do well, it might open the door to some           ative and original; and he has the technical skills and
great performing opportunities. So in May he decided to         mechanical ability to build his own props and gimmicks.
compete at the I.B.M. convention two months hence.              He’s a triple threat—the closest I can think of to his gen-
   The I.B.M. limits competition performance time to            eration’s Tommy Wonder.
eight minutes. Arthur’s act ran nine minutes; he had to            Arthur explains, “Most of the ideas I have are offbeat
cut at least one minute. He watched videos of his act to        and stuff that doesn’t already exist so I have to come up
find and cut out any unnecessary actions or sequences;          with the technique or the mechanical way to make it a
any moves or moments that didn’t “progress the act”             reality.” He acknowledges that Tommy Wonder has been
had to go. He explains, “I had to re-evaluate the reason-       a huge influence. Wonder’s work and creativity create
ing behind each action. It was important that I didn’t cut      the impression that nothing is impossible. Arthur partic-
the act just to meet the competition time requirement.          ularly likes one of Wonder’s essays in The Books of
My objective was to edit in order to make a better act.         Wonder about visualizing an effect and not compromis-
The goal was efficiency.” Before major performances,            ing. Wonder has also influenced Arthur in the psychology
Arthur rehearses for about four hours a day. Once he            of magic, particularly his thoughts about misdirection
decided to compete, he raised his rehearsal time to five        and efficiency.
hours a day and he stuck to his schedule.                          Each routine in his close-up act has a strong premise.
   Although the experience was stressful, he says now that      The bookends of the act consist of an apple. As soon as
competing was fun. He enjoys setting goals and then tak-        he enters, Arthur tells us how long the act is going to be.
ing actions to make the goals a reality. “It was tremendous     He takes a bite out of the apple, then rewinds the apple
being on the largest stage in North America with a sea full     back in time (thus restoring it). He explains that when we
of magicians in front of me enjoying what I do.” Winning        come back to this moment in time (when the bite reap-
was overwhelming. “It’s one thing to win the People’s           pears) the act will be over. Sure enough, 20 minutes
Choice Award and the first place trophy, but another thing      later, the bite reappears in the apple, which he has gone
entirely to win the Gold Medal,” is how he puts it. After he    nowhere near during the course the act.

                                                                                                                 APRIL 2006                  53
                                                                                              size the reasoning for the egg getting in the bag
                                                                                              in the first place.” The egg is a symbol of life and
                                                                                              beginning of a new time. The egg bag symbolizes
                                                                                              a black hole, capable of bending space and time.
                                                                                              He finishes the routine with, “Many may look
                                                                                              upon the supposed pausing of time as merely an
                                                                                              illusion, but it is not the pausing of time that is
                                                                                              the illusion, but time itself is the illusion.” There’s
                                                                                              a connection between everything; it’s a nice
                                                                                              metaphorical piece.
                                                                                                  One of Arthur’s coin routines also uses a time-
Photo by Pete Biro

                                                                                              bending presentation. The premise is that he is
                                                                                              only holding one coin but the audience sees
                                                                                              three coins because they are seeing one coin
                                                                                              simultaneously in the past, present, and future—
                                                                                              three parallel realities. This explains why the
                         The presentations for several of the other routines         coin(s) can seemingly vanish, reappear, travel invisibly,
                     come from theoretical physics, which Arthur thinks is           etc. There’s a great moment at the end of this time-twist-
                     “very sexy.” He explains, “How much cooler can you get          ing tale when three watches appear on Arthur’s wrist.
                     than talking about black holes? If you had a super power-          One of his most interesting and multi-layered routines
                     ful telescope and could see an object going into a black        is his two-cup Cups and Balls routine. Hand held bells
                     hole, time for that object would seem to stand still. To        stand in for the cups and the clappers are the balls,
                     me, that’s great. I always like to give a logical premise for   which adds a sound element to the routine. When the
                     why the magic is happening, even though the explana-            clappers are there, the bells can be shaken and we hear
                     tions can’t possibly be true.” For example, his “Homing         them. When the clappers disappear, he shakes the bells
                     Card” routine begins this way: “Do you realize that every       and they are silent. Sound adds a component not present
                     time you look into a mirror you’re looking at the past?         in most Cups and Balls routines, but Arthur adds yet
                     That’s because light takes a fraction of a second to get        another layer to the mix with a very funny presentation
                     from you to the mirror and then back. In other words,           about Pavlovian classical conditioning. The ringing of the
                     you’re looking at yourself in the past.” He takes that idea,    bells conditions the audience to expect the magical hap-
                     amplifies it, and uses it as the logical explanation for how    pening. Arthur does not want to be conditioned by the
                     the magic happens. As he says, “I tell them
                     since I don’t have a mirror, I’m going to slow
                     down the speed of light. It’s a cool idea the
                     audience can relate to and focus in on.”
                     Slowing down the speed of light provides
                     him with enough time delay to sneak the
                     card into his pocket without anyone seeing
                     it. As he slows down the speed of light, the
                     speed of sound, however, stays the same,
                     so as he deals cards to the table, his actions
                     and the movement of his lips don’t synch up
                     with his words.
                         With his Egg Bag routine, he doesn’t
                     manipulate the speed of light, he actually
                     stops time. He explains how it developed, “I
                     use a small egg timer to illustrate exactly
                     when I stop the flow of time. Then at the end,
                     the sand disappears from the egg timer and
                     appears in the egg. Each prop is there for a
                                                                                                                                                        Photo by Pete Biro

                     reason. For me, the problem with the Egg
                     Bag is: Why put an egg in a bag? I empha-

          54         GENII
bells the way the audience is, so he wears ear muffs as      things with flower pots? You can apply a premise to
he performs. During one of the climaxes, the earmuffs        something with or without a theme. You can do magic
vanish from his head and appear under the bells. The         with anything, that’s the nature of it, but that’s not suffi-
routine plays like a combination of Paul Gertner’s Cups      cient. I want to hit on so many different levels, but the
and Balls and Tommy Wonder’s Two-Cup Routine, but            first level is the theatrical premise behind the magic and
done with bells. It could easily become his signature        how it all ties together. The premise provides the rea-
close-up piece.                                              sons why. Premise and theatricality and efficiency all go
   Arthur loves to explore new premises for his tricks.      together. Let me show you what I mean. There’s a stage
During a session, he’s likely to throw out an idea like,     performer you should check out.” He took me into the
“Instead of saying that a coin jumped from one hand to       Palace of Mystery. The show was already under way. A
another, how about saying the coin stayed in the hand,       young, slightly mischievous performer was on stage, mid-
but your arms changed places?”                               act. He sported a nerd-chic crew cut and horn-rimmed
   So what’s next for Arthur Trace? Currently he is work-    glasses. I looked at Arthur, standing next to me; he didn’t
ing on a stage show in collaboration with Francis            say anything, but a large grin crept across his face. I
Menotti, David London, and Rick Maue; collectively they      looked back at the stage where Arthur Trace was inter-
call themselves the Doppler Effect. Also in the works is a   acting with an abstract painting and manipulating billiard
full-length one-man theatrical show that he hopes to         balls. Welcome to the Twilight Zone. •
debut in Chicago sometime in 2007. Rather
than renting a theater, he’s considering per-
forming this in an art museum and moving from
gallery to gallery. For obvious reasons, he is very
attracted to the idea of taking magic out of the
theater and putting it into an art gallery. If it goes
well, he hopes to tour the production, perform-
ing in university theaters. The working title is
Headspace, and each piece will have a different
feel to it. “I’ll be taking the audience through all
these dimensions about how I see things. The
material is forming now, but the big through-line
is loosely structured,” he explained. “In one
scene I will be experimenting with time, in anoth-
er scene I will be interacting with art, in another
scene I will be psychologically conditioning my
audience, in another I’ll be commenting on
magic as an art form as I see it.” On his last day
in town, I asked Arthur about that very topic—his
views on magic as an art form.
   His accompanying essay expands on the fol-
lowing ideas, but here is what he told me that
day: “Magic can be more than a novelty. It can be
an art as long as you think about it. It’s all about
the creativity, and there are different levels of
creativity. A theme act is one of the lowest levels
of creativity. You could theme a magic act
around anything. Anyone can come up with a
Cups and Balls with, say, flower pots and flower
buds or dirt for the final loads. That’s the first
level of creativity, but what is the reason for
using flower pots in the first place?”
   He continued, “The difference between a
theme and a premise is the thought process.
                                                                                                                             Photo by Pete Biro

You have to ask, Why? Why are you going to do

                                                                                                               APRIL 2006    55
Speak Up!
                                                                            Finding Your Creative Voice
     By Arthur Trace
                    or me, there is nothing more fulfilling than creating     ing about devising the presentation of my Egg Bag routine
                    a piece of beautiful magic. Part of the satisfaction      is that it was not conceived through some formula, but it
                    is in knowing that you are expressing yourself as a       resulted from some serious daydreaming.
                    magician as well as an individual. And part of the           Searching for greater understanding in the creative
                    pleasure comes from discovering territory that has        process might not have provided me with the formula I was
        probably never been explored. In magic, this undiscovered ter-        looking for, but it did yield a structure. As I began to reflect on
        rain usually consists of a new effect, sleight, and/or presen-        creating my Egg Bag routine as well as other pieces of magic
        tation. The journey toward creating new and unique magic is           I started to notice a structure consisting of two elements that
        one that is based on imagination and research. One must not           were distinct and present in every one of my routines. These
        only be educated in the various sleights, effects, and history        elements of creativity are those of style and artistic vision and
        of magic, but also informed about one’s own character. It’s           can also be seen if you study any painter, musician, choreog-
        possible that the creative process has taught me more about           rapher, and indeed any artist. Clearly, in terms of performing
        myself than any “shrink” could uncover. For instance, I learned       magic, style is how the magician moves, talks, handles props,
        I was struggling with creating poetic and theatrical magic            etc. Analyzing myself showed me I handle my props in a very
        because I doubted my choices as an artist. I attributed this          proper and delicate manner. Also, I came to the realization
        lack of confidence to lack of creative experience. The more I         that I aim to deliver some very intellectual subject matter in
        created, the more I began to trust my decisions as an artist          an eccentric and humorous fashion. By doing so, I am able to
        and the closer I approached my goal of composing poetic               share conceptual ideas dealing with art and science in a
        magic. More importantly, the more I created, the more I dis-          thought-provoking yet entertaining way. Artistic vision, on the
        covered how crucial it was to define what I wanted to say with        other hand, consists of what the magician wants to say with
        my magic and what I wanted my magic to say about me.                  his magic and what he wants his magic to say about him.
        Realizing I had to define what it was I wanted to communicate         Originally, I had no idea what I wanted to communicate with
        with my magic gave me a creative direction, an artistic vision        my magic. My vision as an artist formed only after years of
        or goal, that eventually made the path of creating magic a            thinking about what I liked and didn’t like concerning magic
        much more enjoyable adventure. Perhaps, in sharing my cre-            effects and presentations. The more magic I watched, the
        ative experience as a magician, I can show you how defining           more I came to the understanding that many magicians
        one’s artistic vision as a performer can greatly aid one’s jour-      talked down to their audiences with insulting jokes as they
        ney of conceiving magic on a higher plane of creativity.              performed pieces of magic with little or no thought as to why
           When I started to explore the possibilities of creativity, I       they were performing. This observation influenced me to
        thought there was some concrete formula that would enable             start creating routines that spoke to my audience as a group
        me to produce stronger magic. For example, is it better to            of intellectuals who wanted to experience more than magic
        base a unique effect on a new presentation? Or, is it better to       as a novelty. I concluded that I wanted to say magic is more
        base a new presentation on a unique effect? Maybe it is bet-          than just about fooling people, it is a performance art that has
        ter to focus on original techniques that lead to never-before-        the ability to be sculpted into some very mysterious and
        seen magic. What do you think?                                        thought-provoking theater and therefore, I’m an artist.
           If you already create magic, you know inspiration for any             Making a conscious effort in defining my artistic vision as a
        artistic creation comes from various stimuli. Sometimes               magician made the creative journey a much more enjoyable
        you dream up an effect and then create a unique presenta-             experience. Now that I knew what it is was I wanted to say
        tion. Other times you might find yourself watching a movie            with my magic I could more easily find the words and materi-
        or reading a book and discover the plot would make an                 al to say it. My Miser’s Dream routine is a good example. I
        interesting premise for an existing effect. This was the case         have always enjoyed the “visual” of a magician pulling money
        when it came to creating my Egg Bag routine. While read-              from thin air, although I was never satisfied with the motiva-
        ing Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams, I realized I could             tion most magicians attributed to the effect. As a performer
        turn the Egg Bag into a time travel piece. By tipping an hour-        who wants to perform magic as a performance art and not
        glass over on its side I’m able to stop time in order to invis-       just a novelty, there had to be more of a reason for the pro-
        ibly deposit an egg inside a bag without being detected. This         duction of an endless stream of coins than just because I am
        not only provided me with the possibility of creating a               a magician and I have the power to do such things.
        humorous piece, but it also provided a reason why I was                  With the goal of finding some logic as to why I was produc-
        using a bag and an egg, and why the egg ended up in the               ing coins, I discovered I could turn the classical plot of the
        bag in the first place. The effect now transcends the ordi-           Miser’s Dream into a musical piece that revolves around try-
        nary and becomes something more than the display of the               ing to have a telephone conversation through a tin can tele-
        magician’s clever sleight of hand. What I find most interest-         phone. In my routine, I bring a spectator onstage and hand

56       GENII
her one of the ends of a fairly large, coffee can size, tin can       • I want to say I’m able to accomplish some very strange and
telephone. I grab the other end of the phone as I motion for             unexplainable things and doing so makes me interesting.
her to put the can up to her ear. As soon as this happens a           • I want to say magic is about so much more than fooling
voice says, “Please deposit 50 cents.” This establishes the              people. It’s an art and I’m an artist.
motivation for the production of the coins. For each coin I pro-      • I want to share my views on politics, religion, and art
duce and deposit into my end with a resounding “clink” there             through the performance of my magic and doing so makes
is a “clink” sound that travels to the spectator’s end. The              me thought provoking.
sound travels! Eventually, the telephone operator puts me on            Whatever it is you have to say, realize you can say it
hold. Disappointed by the turn of events, I decide to have a lit-    through your art. Once you define your creative direction,
tle fun and create a musical beat through the dropping of            practice your creativity as much as you would practice an
coins that is in tune with the on-hold music. For each beat I        invisible Pass or anything else you view worthy of a serious
create there is a duplicate beat produced in the spectator’s         time investment. How do you practice? Think about your
can and this composes a melody. In the end, the audience dis-        interests outside of magic and how you can create effects
covers it is not only the sound that has traveled, but also the      and routines that comment on those interests. Remember
coins as they disappear from my can and reappear in the              that there is no creative formula. If you draw a blank, take a
spectator’s can. Even if I had never defined what I wanted to        look at your surroundings and be inspired by the sights,
say as a magician I still might have created this effect.            sounds, smells, and anything else you experience. Overall, the
Consequently, creating this effect would probably have helped        most important thing to treasure is that you have the ability
me in forming my artistic vision. In other words, there is no        to daydream. Try not to give yourself the excuse that you’re
right way to approach the creative process, but I do believe it      not a creative person. If you can’t daydream, you’re not
is easier to create magic that is in tune with your imagination      human! Everyone has some level of creative ability. Some just
if you take the time to define what it is you would like to say as   have to work harder than others to unearth those creative
a magician. In so doing, you give your mind a creative direc-        qualities. The more you practice, the more flexible your mind
tion, a goal, in “thinking outside the box” and coming up with       gets and the easier it will be to create magic. Similarly, the
ideas that thrive on a higher level of creativity.                   more you think about what you want to say with your magic,
    Yes, there are high and low levels of originality in the cre-    the easier it will be to express it. Just make
ative spectrum. Defining one’s artistic vision is perhaps one        sure you speak about
of the ways in learning to be a better artist. I first became        something close to
aware of the different levels of the creative process years ago      your heart. In
when I read Maskelyne’s “The Three Degrees in Art” in Our            this way, you
Magic. Today, it is possible to see the different levels of origi-   will open up
nality if one examines the differences between an act motivat-       your mind
ed by some theatrical reasoning and an act with no theatrical        as well as
logic. Creating an act that makes no attempt at addressing           the minds of
why the magician is doing what he is doing takes less creative       your audience to
energy than an act with a premise. Why? Because of the               a whole new world of
thought process involved in its creation. It’s much more diffi-      magic completely unique
cult to develop reasons why the magic is happening than it is        to you, in turn making the
to theme a magic act by manipulating candy bars instead of           world of magic a much bet-
playing cards. It doesn’t take much brainpower to apply the          ter place. •
basic concepts of sleight of hand with one object to another
similar shaped object. Why should an audience care if a magi-
cian exhibits sleight of hand with a candy bar as opposed to a
playing card unless the performer makes some logical con-
nection to why he is manipulating candy? This logical connec-
tion is often realized once you have defined what it is you
would like to communicate to your audience. Furthermore,
you will find your reasoning for why the magic is happening so
closely associated with what you want to say with your magic
that it often becomes your artistic vision. At least, that is how
I discovered my vision as an artist.
    Right now, take a moment and try to envision what you
would like to say with your magic and what you would like
your magic to say about you. Your message may be simple
or elaborate, commercial or controversial. Here are
some examples:
 • I want to say life is full of wonder and I’m an
    exciting person.
                                                                                                                                           Photo by Johnny Knight¸

                                                                                                                        APRIL 2006    57

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