Posts tagged magic castle
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.


Rediscovering Cagigal

    In my (all of our) never ending search to decide how best to present magic, I recently stumbled back across a video I saw quite some time ago. It was of Christian Cagigal performing at the Magic Caste. When I first saw this video I was relatively new to magic, but I knew there was something there that I liked, something that hooked me and wouldn’t let go. At the time I didn’t know what it was, but now I think I have an inkling.

    What this video is to me, is an incredible example of Old Fashioned Storytelling. This is how tales, fables, and myths were told, in little rooms in the dead of winter when the days were short and there was nothing to do but tell stories. They are simple and easy to understand, but also universal and involve larger themes. (This is not to say they are profound, exactly, just that they deal with existing, powerful symbols.) He cleaves fast to the Rule of Three and his strict structure (always closing the music box on the same refrain), literally takes most of his props out of a book and titles them like chapters, and everything he touches looks old, tattered, and dear. Because of this I love it. I grew up listening to Old Stories, and being told about their power and how important they were, and I still firmly believe this.

    But none of this really addresses his magic, which is, after all, why we are here. Since his style of storytelling pulls you into that fairytale mindset and leads you through each beat so clearly, the magic hits you in a different way. In a world where fine nobles ride into your town in carriages and mysterious strangers offer you unimaginable wagers, of course wishes come true and cards transform. Now let me be clear: this is not a bad thing. This magic highlights the stories in enjoyable and fun ways and adds a depth of field to an otherwise two-dimensional fantasy. This is highlighted in perhaps the only awkward moment of the show, during the Gambler and the Stranger where he asks an audience member where to put the coin. This is the only overtly ‘magician-y’ thing he does, and it shows. The audience is suddenly left without the flow of the story to guide them, and is torn between trusting the storyteller and distrusting the magician.

    So in that sense I think I love his storytelling, and inasmuch as his magic serves that end I love it too. That said, I don’t think that show contains any “magical moments”. It certainly has moments of surprise, but they are all in service to, or acting as a satisfying conclusion to, the story, which is great, just different. Because of this, I’d say his Search for Truth (warp card) is the weakest segment. Despite containing what might classically be the “strongest” magic (it is straightforward, visual, and quick), it has the weakest story, and the story seems more like a prop to justify the magic, as opposed to vice versa (magic used to illustrate the story). (Also, incidentally, this is the only portion done with normal playing cards, yes because he destroys them, but the fact remains. This is also why some of Christian’s other work, with a less intense storyline, falls a little flatter for me.)

    In sum, I’d say Christian reminds us all that sometimes magic can simply be the beautiful accents that deepen an enjoyable story, and can still be fun and surprising without being the center of attention.

    (To see how an approach like this can re-center the magic without losing the story aspect, look at the Jerx’s Romantic Adventure style or the seance style of magic. Both tend to be about taking a story we all - to some extent - already know, and then poking around that story until something from the story pokes back, usually in an impossible and surprising way.)

-- Z.Y.