Many of you Alexandrites have asked me about what the future of magic will look like, how technology will fit into it, and how we should adapt our magic to match it. Friend and fellow magician Paul Gertner wrote what I think addresses your concerns appropriately in an article called “Creating A Future.”  It is reprinted here with his permission and well-worth a careful read…

“Creating A Future”  Originally printed in September 1994 issue of Magic Magazine

It is almost guaranteed that sometime during the late hours of a magic convention the subject of what magic will be like in the future will come up. What kind of new tricks will be invented? Where will magicians perform? Will magic still be a form of entertainment? Over the centuries there have been many types of entertainment that, while in their era were quite popular, either no longer exist or have been relegated to a footnote. Ricky Jay’s book, Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women, is full of the entertainers of the past.

Could magic itself go the way of intelligent pigs and flaming females? Fifty years from now will the audience still sit and watch a female assistant divided into segments and feel they are being entertained? Will a spectator still be astounded if we are able to find their selected card when they themselves have the entire Encyclopedia Britannica stored on their wristwatch?

As technology evolves and everyday life as we know it changes, magic will surely have to change with the times. New directions in methods, effects and presentations will be imperative for magic as an entertainment medium to survive. When 3-D holographic TV becomes commonplace in our homes, the magic effects of today’s premier illusionists will become just a novelty. The success of a magician in the future will be due in large part to the creativity and originality of the material and the marketing of the performer. Chances are the 21st century David Copperfield will market themselves as some sort of “techno-wizards”, who can manipulate virtual reality, the information super highway and other technologies that, by then, have become a part of everyday existence. If Tannen’s is still selling “Appearing Canes” and “Dove Pans” in the year 2050, magic is going to have a problem.

The question is who and where these new creative directions come from? We will most likely rely on the creative minds of younger magicians to take magic into the 21st century. Chances are, if you have ever developed new ideas and presentations, a good many of your ideas were created in your early thirties in magic.  That is not to say that it is impossible to be creative after 30. The challenge is to capture the energy, drive and purpose that we had when we first became involved in magic and put it to work for us again.

All art forms struggle with the production of new ideas. If you are a movie buff, you might have thought that all the action adventure themes were explored ad nauseam; then someone comes up with the idea of putting a bomb on a bus and produces a summer blockbuster.

In magic we seem to be limited by a specific number of possible principle effects, such as those Fitzkee details in The Trick Brain. But with the advent of new technologies, startling effects may become possible if we keep an open and creative mind. The following are a few suggestions for keeping the creative juices flowing as you search for new miracles that will move magic into the future.

  1. Start early: Most magicians who develop original material can often point to a certain period of time as their creative period. For most professionals, it is usually from the time they became interested in magic up until the time they turned professional. This is not to say that once you start performing professionally you lose your inventiveness, it is just the pressure of earning a living with magic and the business side are very consuming. Time that you used to spend reading, practicing, brainstorming and creating material will become harder to find as the years progress, so start creating early.
  2. Obtain a knowledge base: Read and learn as much as you can about your areas of interest. If your knowledge base and skills are limited, then you will be limited in your ability to create new magic. I know of performers who, when they decide to learn an effect, will read everything that has been published on that specific effect. They then pick the best ideas from each and, adding their own ideas, are able to develop a presentation and method that is perfect for them.
  3. Consider the classics as starting points: Classic routines such as “Linking Rings,” “Card on the Ceiling,” or “Cutting a Person in Two” have all stood the test of time. While it is possible to put together an excellent program consisting of a number of the classic routines in magic, so can everyone else. Look at the classics as starting points and add your own touch, like the Pendragons did with their “Clearly Impossible”sawing and David Copperfield did with his “Death Saw.”
  4. Approach the problem with both method and effect: When creating routines, you will have two directions from which to approach a problem – method and effect. Sometimes you will learn a sleight or a technique, which will in turn, suggests an effect. For example, you learn to perform a shuttle pass for the first time, and all at once you begin to develop routines and effects that utilize the new move. The effect is driven by the method or the sleight. The opposite way to develop a new routine is by first creating a vision of the effect you want to have happen. For example, you would like the spectator to remove $20 bill from their pocket and hold it between their palms. They are then told to concentrate on their ten-digit phone number, either home or office. When they look at the bill the serial number matches the phone number (It’s a killer!). Now, all you have to do is work backwards into a method. With this approach, almost any effect becomes possible if you are willing to spend the time and energy to accomplish it. Obviously, the more resources you have in the way of technical knowledge, skills, idea people and presentation skills, the better chance you have of finding a solution. Remember, good solutions are not obvious and may not be found the first time around, so don’t give up.
  5. Go the extra mile and take some risks: Be willing to try off-the-wall concepts and ideas and see where they lead. You may develop a new brunch of magic no one has thought of yet. Once you have created a new routine or effect, take it even further. Never be satisfied with the first method or idea you come up with no matter how good it appears to be. Force yourself to take that one extra step in your creative efforts, and you will be well rewarded with the finished results.

See you in the 21st century.

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