Posts in performances
Grow Your D*** Size 10 Times with this Easy Card Trick! Learn NOW!

Did the clickbait work? Be honest with us.

Either way, this video we made a while ago just went randomly viral and logged in about a half a mil views a few days ago. The power has gone to our heads. We’ll be selling ourselves out for cheap product placements soon. It’s going to be a mess. And whenever I have a mess at home, I always prefer to use Brawny brand paper towels.

— J.R.

P.S. — I’m really trying to make a video with that title soon. Wish me luck, lest I not be able to wear shorts this summer.

This Month in Magic - March

It’s a good time to be apart of the Four Suits world…

Those near and dear to us are doing things out in LA this March:

March 9 - Zac Young, “The Fool’s Journey”, 8pm at Diehl Marcus, 4707 Fountain Ave, Los Angeles CA 90029, TICKETS

March 12 - Ariel Shrum, “Notes on Magic”, 8pm at Black Rabbit Rose, 1719 N. Hudson Ave.
Hollywood, CA 90028, NO COVER.

February held the exciting release (and a move that is actually coming across much easier than it would seem) of The One Armed Bandit by Blaise Serra

April will hold the most kick-ass, wild experience of Magic you’ve ever experienced. INFO HERE. Reader of the site and want to attend? Email us for a discount.

Cheers, we hope to see you around,

J.R.

The Deception Artist at Work, Spyscape Museum, New York City

The Deception Artist at Work, Spyscape Museum, New York City

This coming Monday, January 14, 2019, J.R. will perform a unique installation at Spyscape NYC. Coinciding with a special event, J.R. will demonstrate skills utilized across occupations, from the world of espionage, to the magician, to the street hustler.

If you’re in NYC and tickets are still available for this one of a kind experience, we look forward to seeing you there...

Excerpt from the experience:

… [The Deception Artist] begins to explore some of the psychology and language behind this game, breaking down some of the tells that we humans innately display when we’re trying to hide a secret. The interaction is equal parts deception and secrecy, which are both revealed and concealed sequentially all in front of your very eyes and in your very hands. The interaction concludes with a simple “trick/cheat” that you can learn and perform as well when you leave, activating yourself as a deception artist…

-- J.R.



ALTÆR: "The Best Halloween Magic Show Experience in Los Angeles 2018"

Step into our altar. On October 20th, a select group of individuals will be gathering for an experience curated by the Four Suits collective, gathering talent and true interdisciplinary collaboration, the likes before unseen in any magic EXPERIENCE quite like this. This uniqueness is explored within the moments of the show, but also in the ritual we ask you to take part in, beginning as soon as you arrive to our Hollywood Hills residence. Ritual, faith, connection. The experience will last for 2 hours, but you will be altered for the rest of your life. This is a guarantee.

-- J.R.

A Sober Realization of Performance Context

“And if thou gaze long into the abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” - Nietzsche

If I could start every blog post off with a Nietzsche quote, I think I’d be happy.

This entry is regarding the impact of the situations you perform upon yourself, the performer. Someone recently asked about my performance history: I started performing at the Magic Castle when I was a teenager, in a set showroom with showtimes and someone introducing me, and a number of people in seats watching me, with controlled lighting and all. I also did charity shows when I was first starting out, but again these were conditions where I had seating and a set audience and a set show length etc.

From there, as I started to become more “professional” I began to take on more and more “walkaround”/”close-up” gigs and quickly found that these were quite lucrative, and I legitimately enjoy the act of meeting new people every few minutes and talking with them, learning about them, and sharing magic in a one to one situation. Carry that through to today, and I’d say that for every 100 walkaround performances I do, I do probably 5 set acts where there’s a proper audience and seating etc. These contexts in which I perform are now reflected within my work.

I used to be much more attuned to crafting a theatrical experience for an audience, creating connections between ideas, and bringing things to a satisfactory conclusion within that theatrical context. Not to mention the technical magical differences of performance handling with a micro-audience compared to a full theatre stage. I’ve become rusty, needless to say, at handling a full audience. I still am able to engage, but I feel myself fighting urges to handle the full audience like a small group, which is wildly ineffective. Frequently, I’ve found myself frustrated with this knowledge, knowing full well that I used to be so damn good at it, now that I’ve actively changed the situations where I’m damn good.

This is all to say, no matter your background in something, no matter where you begin, you’re changing who you are, as a performer, every day, based on the situations you perform in. Every minute spent performing, remain conscious that you’re shifting your direction into this specific area of performance. Take gigs and performance opportunities carefully, which is tough if you’re trying to make this your full-time profession, and understand that every step forward is a step in a specific direction. Success = Time. So be mindful of where that time is spent. While it’s always important to keep progressing and moving onto forward ground, sometimes, it’s important to stop and look around to see where we are.

Wishing you all the best, to all the performers out there, to finding the place where you feel at home.

-- J.R.

 

Wardrobe in Magic

Shame on my colleagues for shitposting the last blog post (I’M CALLING YOU ALL OUT).

So this whole magicians in suits thing has been really getting to me lately, occupying a lot of my mindshare as the kids may say. I’ve just been extra cognizant of how I dress when I perform now. Funny too because Elliot Terrel just did a whole insta story post on this, basically advocating for sharply dressed magicians, and overall thinking about this issue a lot as well. While I don’t necessarily agree for magicians wearing suits per default, I agree to finding out what your magic is about and dressing that part.

I was watching a documentary with Sean Connery talking about some of his character development in movies, and there was a moment when he mentioned that most of it comes after he meets with wardrobe department and they assign him his clothes for the movie. Saying something along the lines of “I’ll know my character after I put on their clothes. (I’m paraphrasing here because I can’t find the actual quote).” But I think that says something very important that not a lot of us performers think about -- we don’t think about our “character” coming through our clothes very much, or at least I don't think so.

I’ve got a friend of mine who loves ripped jeans and floral shirts and t-shirts, so unfortunately he has some issues getting into some nightclubs, but then again, maybe when he dresses like this maybe he doesn’t belong there. Maybe there’s something about his performance (while dressed that way) that belongs wherever his clothes put him. Additionally, maybe there’s some element of his everyday fashion that he can take with him when he puts on a suit (because sometimes formal occasions are socially inherent in performing situations), so he doesn’t just come across like every other magician in a suit. In other words, what can you bring from your daily style into your suit/formal style to make yourself come across more so you don’t seem like the car salesman we spoke about in the previous post on this subject?

One person who I think successfully gets this across is a dude that goes by DMC, although he does trend towards formalwear, but that’s also sort of his character, plus he also has that head tattoo that stands out in a suit. Who else do you think successfully brings across their personality and character within their performance-wear?

-- J.R.

The State of Magic -- Pushing the Vision

 

Weirdest thing when you think you’ve written a blog post called “Pushing the Vision” and are searching for it to link to it but you actually haven’t written it yet.

Here’s the thing: in 2018 FISM, there are 31 performance awards. 8 magicians from Spain placed top 3 for these awards. South Korea fielded 7 magicians who placed. USA fielded 0. Zero.

2015 FISM sees similar numbers: 7 from Spain, 7 from South Korea, USA 0.

2012 FISM -- 8 South Korea, 1 Spain, USA 1.

What the actual fuck is going on here? What are we doing so very wrong here that they’re doing so very right in Spain and South Korea?

I don’t have an answer, but I do know how these contests are judged, and they’re judged based around the progression and pushing of a certain vision. Now, this vision can be how an item is produced or conjured, or it can be about an application of an idea. But one thing is for sure, based on the people who I’ve talked with who attended FISM 2018, USA is behind, far behind. Yes, we’re amazing at branding and taking things into a commercial level, but as far as actual content goes, we’re horrible. I mean, take a look around, this exists in the US in more places than just magic. Granted, this exists in many places, but I’m not here to say excuses for ourselves, we’re a great place, and I’m blessed to be here. And I fucking love my country, but god damn are we horrible innovators in any remotely creative realm in magic right now.

I just got off the phone with H.A., who quoted a business owner saying “We don’t hire magicians, they kind of just come here and do it for free.”

First of all: if you’re that magician (or just that performer in general), please just stop. Not because you’re ruining it for the rest of us, but because you’re ruining it for yourself. If you want practice, join a mutual interest group, do it for your friends. If you’re doing it out in the world, at someone else’s place of business (enhancing their environment), you should be getting paid, it’s that simple.

But, this brings us to mutual interest groups now, magic clubs, etc. Honestly, some magic clubs absolutely kill magic. I sometimes go to these gatherings and end up hating magic more coming away from it than I did going into it. It’s a marvel how creativity can die in a place where it’s supposed to be generated.

I asked magicians a while ago if they’d pay to be critiqued. Some of them said they get it for free whenever they perform. I’ve got news for you who think this: no one is critiquing you like you deserve to be critiqued. Other magicians critique you in a way that benefits them, and most audiences aren’t critiquing you unless you only perform for sociopaths. Here’s an example that might make it a bit more understandable: You ever hear a comedian make a shitty joke at a comedy mic? Yes, you definitely have. Have you gone up to every bad joke telling comedian and critiqued them on their jokes? No, you definitely haven’t.

I’m starting a focus group dinner session in LA. If you’re around, and give any shits about magic, you’re invited. Let’s Push the Vision together.

-- J.R.

Future Stars of Magic Week @ The Magic Castle

This week is “Future Stars of Magic” week at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. First of all, amazing branding. Can’t wait for the day I become a star myself. They guaranteed that as part of the performance agreement back when I was doing those shows. Second of all, holy crap. The talent that’s here this week is actually incredible. I say this with complete sincerity, but honestly every single performance I’ve seen this week has been at the level or beyond (mostly beyond) what I’d find at legitimate magic performances, performed by adults who have been doing it for years -- yet all these kids are under 21.

Highlighting a few specific instances of performances I myself enjoyed (keeping in mind I still need to see more this weekend) --

Rabby Yang

First off, can I just say that RABBY YANG has a fucking GOD TIER manipulation act (various objects changing and appearing at his fingertips)!!???!? Where the hell has this kid been all this time? First time I’ve heard of him, but you bet your ass I’m following his ascent into some ridiculously absurd magic championships in the future. He has one of the most elegant, refined, visually astonishing, and technically skilled stage acts I’ve seen. Congrats Rabby, you killed us all.

Anna DeGuzman

Anna DeGuzman is, notably, a friend of the site (read her blog post on cardistry here) so you may say we’re biased, but there’s a REASON why she’s a friend of the site in the first place (because all of us are awesome), her routine is polished, and her unique closer is a killer. Also, seeing middle-aged folks react to Anna’s cardistry was an extremely special moment. And I’ll say it now for all the magicians who shit on cardistry: PEOPLE FUCKING LOVE IT. When they saw Anna’s cardistry, it’s like they were watching magic happen right in front of them. The audience doesn’t see a difference. And because it’s so extremely visually compelling, it always gets genuine positive reactions. Now, can an entire act be based around “cardistry” without involving any “magic”? I’m not sure. As of now, with the current state of things, I don’t think that’s possible yet. However, is it kick ass as its own separate segment within a larger routine? Hell yes, and Anna owns it. Look out for more "Big Moves" from her in the future. 

Aaron O'Brien

Aaron O’Brien, you sly bastard. Somehow, Aaron managed to perform in all four showrooms before he was under 21, which means that he started doing this when he was a tween, reading YA novels and crying during Twilight. The time he’s put into magic, and especially, performance, really comes through in his set, and in his AP Chem Problem-Sets. Aaron is one of the two magicians this week working the “Parlour” magic stage (a medium-sized room between close-up and stage seating capacity, usually resulting in magic right between those two styles as well) and in my opinion, it’s the best room to work in the Castle, and the most difficult one as well, yet Aaron takes the challenge on with ease. There are usually more instances of the crowd getting out of hand in this setting than any other, and true to form, before the show began, one man ordered 20 shots for random audience members (thank you, Tequila Rob), and then literally half the audience took shots, thereafter Aaron began the show. His magic was solid, yes, but Aaron shines with his experience as a well-polished performer, simultaneously delighting the crowd and keeping the stray (read: drunk) audience members engaged and on board with sly humor and charming wit — He'll go far with these skills.

Everyone I saw was an exemplary performer for magic, and I’ll still see more, but these are some of the highlights so far for me. If you’re in LA, I highly recommend checking out this week’s lineup, or at least keeping track of some of these names. Congrats to all of you performing this week.

-- J.R.

 

People Stopped Looking

I was talking with a mentalist this week. 

How weird is it to be hired for the exact same gig yet both come with an entirely different set of props, skills, and presentations? 

This kind of is an addition to some of my previous thoughts on mindreaders. 

There’s something about the inherent trust and connection when it comes to the idea of mindreading, in direct opposition to the contrarian chase of the magician by an audience member. 

I had guests come to me talking about the person who’ll read their mind. When I work with many other magicians, the guests ask me about the other guy who’ll show them tricks. That’s an important difference. 

Whether it’s embraced or pushed against is completely up to you. 

— J.R. 

Joel McHale on Magic | "Teller-izing"

So the other day I performed for this guy. If you don’t know him, Joel McHale is a comedian and actor, and somehow labelled with the “Observational Comedy” genre tag within the Comedy taxonomy on wikipedia.

True to the genre, he was very funny, very charming, and commented A LOT on what was happening around him. Now, you take that man and show him magic, and some funny things are bound to happen, such as what follows...

One moment that hit me right in the middle of the interaction is when I asked if he had a favorite number, to which his response was, “No, I’m not an idiot.” which was actually pretty damn accurate. And honestly, I’d been performing this particular routine (shoutout Robert Ramirez) for about a week at this point in time out in the world, and had this not been brought to my attention by Joel, I probably would’ve continued saying the same nonsensical phrase that I ran across while learning it.

No one has a favorite number.

Shit, while even some people may have a “lucky” number, it’s still all very silly to ask for either of those by name when in fact all you’re trying to show (as the magician) during this point of the magic effect is that different stuff can happen with different numbers, and it doesn’t have to be of the magician’s choosing. “What’s your favorite/lucky number?” is a completely arbitrary phrase that’s inserted in there, and by it’s nonsensical nature, it only has the chance to take people out of the effect, and disengage them from the situation.

To be a little more direct, I arrived at my currently used phrase -- probably to be updated in the future -- : “Go ahead and say any number besides Seven or Zero.” I’m coining this reduction/simplification of a piece of magic dialogue to be “Teller-izing” the effect, named after Teller’s own reasons of not including any verbal scripting within his effects. After hearing Teller talk about this idea a few times (yes, he talks outside of performance), I find his main argument to be like spreading out a deck of cards in front of someone while saying “Pick a card” is just redundant, because both the physical action and the verbal action are showing the exact same thing. Better to just spread the cards out and gesture, without saying a word. Or, leave the cards on the table, hand them to the participant, and ask them to pick a card themselves. But in both of those situations, there’s no redundancy, and there’s no silliness.

-- J.R.

 

Performing High

Sorry for the lateness on this one, but you'll understand why when you get through it...

Some of you may have clicked on this title thinking about the lovely interplay of energy and circumstance during a performance which provides both the performer and the audience a “rush” of sorts which could be considered a “high”, but no, this is about the other kind.

THE FOLLOWING POST IS FOR 21+ XXX RATED MATURE HUMANS ONLY.

You might ask, J.R., why would you perform in such a manner? Didn’t you, J.R., perform drunk one time during your hour-long one-man-show and completely bomb that shit? Yes, I would say, I did in fact I did bomb that shit, and why would I perform in an altered state again? Because it’s LEGAL for everybody in Cali now, baby. And “California knows how to party” as Roger Troutman may say. (I knew the lyric, but had to look him up, admittedly.)

I organized some buddies of mine to perform with me, B.A. and A.D., and this post is written hereby as a mini-guide partially for regular people, and partially for magicians, on how to perform high, what works and doesn’t work, and some short snippets of what happened.

Regular Things First:

Y'all, it was lit. Here are some things people said about the show: 

*Clapping* - Everybody

*Coughing* - Most People

The format was exactly what it sounded like. You get high, we get high, we do magic, you see magic. It's amazing. I would show you a clip on here, but then that would ruin the mystique. If you're in the LA area, you should just come to the next one. 

Favourite Moments:

  • Discovering the reality, hilarity, and problem of different tolerances in the same room.

  • Forgetting to start the timer for a set.

  • T.R. sharing a home-made item that was beyond normal.

  • The venue turning into a giant closed-system where water could almost evaporate and turn into rain in a never-ending cycle.

MAGICIAN STUFF

Step 1:

Don’t attempt hypnosis or any “mind” effects. It may seem tempting to you, but unless you find a way to completely work around the fact that people will be forgetting shit they did just five seconds ago just normally, (including you), then you don’t have shit to work with.

Step 2:

Make everything visual as possible. Dumb your set down as much as possible. This is probably the only place where magic with sponges makes any sort of sense (imo). You don’t have to test it out by being high while performing it first (but it probably helps if you have, see Rule #3), just make it real dumb and visual. You know that thing where the fidget spinner sticks to your finger? Yeah, that one would kill (note to self).

Step 3:

Stick to what you know. Stick to routines you can do in your sleep, because you’ll be pretty close to sleeping up there. And it’s only funny for the audience if you can pick yourself up where you left off. One of my favorite moments from my set was when I was in the middle of a very well known routine, forgot my place, and because there were a couple magicians in the crowd, they just yelled out whatever I should be doing next. I paused a moment, and then just did what they said, and it worked. A great moment of magical deconstruction. And being lit AF.

I think that’s pretty much it, but it reminds me of some rules we’ve been establishing within the Four Suits Magic Collective, and I think I might base a future blog post on those, because it’s entertaining, informative, and because I do what I want.

Thank you for coming -- 

More of these events coming in the future.

-- J.R.

P.S. -- House-keeping note, we’re implementing a RSS feed / blog reader system soon with the site revamp coming up for our ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY. Did you get us a present? Thanks to those of you who wrote in telling us about this and waiting patiently for us to almost-never do it.

Vinny DePonto w/ some Visual Poetry

Dear Reader, 

Why do people like Mind Readers?

This is a question I’ve asked myself many times -- it speaks to a human condition to hear and be heard for who we truly are, unbeknownst to others... a  desire and danger to share our earnest secrets with someone else -- a showtime confessional. 

Vinny DePonto explores his response to this question in his latest promotional video. He’s a stand-up guy doing some good work:

The video is extremely poetic and visually beautiful. For some reason, it also reminds me of the closing of a poem, Desiderata by Max Ehrmann: “...With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

Cheers,

-- J.R.

What is Magic, cont’d — H.B.’s later thoughts on a text conversation

       Previously published on this blog was a text conversation between me and J.R. Concerning what exactly magic is. His answer, “ARTFUL DECEPTION,” has stuck with me. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with it at the time, but I think now I’d have to disagree. That’s not to say he’s entirely wrong; on the face of it, magic seems like clever lying.

          Yet even as J.R. and I had that conversation, I doubted the definition he gave — I had just read Paul Harris’ essay on astonishment, and there seemed to be something more to this whole magic thing. I’m not very old in magic, of course — indeed, this is my first contribution — but what’s kept me in it is an abiding sense of magic’s profundity. If magic is just artful deception, then the objective is merely to fool people. This mentality encourages magicians to think of magic as a game, where the objective is to outsmart the spectator.

          However, merely fooling people is not enough to keep me practicing magic, nor should it be enough for anyone else. Paul Harris gave me a utopian vision of magic serving a vital role: astonishment, to him, is a tool to discover who we really are. Magic has the power, by giving us something inexplicable, to force us out of the delusions society requires of us to experience something real. But what the real thing Paul Harris wants audiences to experience remains elusive.

          The final pieces of this puzzle, for me, come from John Wilson’s episode of Magical Thinking, and an essay on the definition of magic by Charles Reynolds (it comes to me in Vanishing inc’s free ebook, “Magic in Mind”). I’ll not quote them here, but I highly recommend them both — the gist of the matter is that magic need not be about deception, but about manipulation (Wilson talks about symbols and Reynolds talks about perception as the objects of manipulation). The aim doesn’t need to be to fool, but to create a moment — for Wilson, the moment can be as simple as picking up a tarot card and turning it over, no deception required.

          Magic is about creating moments that are real — moments other people experience consciously. Fooling people is a path to this, but there are others. Wilson’s Tarot card is a wonderful example of a deceptionless real moment.

          As to why creating such moments is necessary, that may be the subject of another blog post entirely. In the meantime, I refer you to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, “Wherever You Go, There You Are.” It’s about, as the publisher puts it, “reclaiming the richness” of moments in life. That’s the power Magic has; use it.

-- H.B.

method, performancesFour Suits
Calen Morelli and Cinematic Magic

     Calen Morelli released another one of his cinematic magic pieces the other day. Personally, I love it. I think it's heading in a proper direction for magic. It's a little outside of staged performance, a little outside of context, but very visually compelling.

     Morelli has always thought & created in an incredibly hyper-visual manner, and a lot of his concepts revolve around the concept of a fixed-frame spectator, because he loves to toy with that frame we view through. While I definitely enjoy the ever-changing frame of the close-up participant, I've been slowly growing to love the frame of the camera, the remote screen viewer, as an anonymous person to perform for.

     Cinematic Magic is something that doesn't necessarily impose the non-fiction boundaries of the Street Magic wave of the 90's, nor is it so deeply rooted in the cinematic pretense of the earlier magic specials of the 80's where there is very a clear performative stage, but combines the complimentary elements of those two styles. It's my proposition that there will be a time for Cinematic Magic in the young adult age of the 2000's (approx. 2015-2025) that will become very popular. (Sort of a knee-jerk societal response to the hyper-real hyper-fake sense of social media and the self, and the media itself we all consume these days.) I know we're doing some work in this area. I know Morelli is doing and has accomplished a lot of work in this area. I wouldn't be surprised if we ran across eachother's paths again sooner than later. 

Cheers, Morelli, love this work,

-- J.R.