I still don’t have much to say. Because of that, I’m posting what I meant to post last week. It’s about magic. I need some more of it in my life:
This week I’m thinking about magic. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE magic. I had a magician for my 9th birthday party and I remember being mesmerized. I think most of us get such a kick out of it because magic explores elements that we don’t get to experience day-to-day. One is the sense of community magic builds. Magicians (or Illusionists) are always utilizing audience participation. When an audience member goes up and is asked to pick from a card we feel a sense of ownership of this moment (even when we are not directly a part of it). The audience member is a representative of all of us. This person is on our side.
Another element at play is the sense of belief. To me at least, an illusion can feel similar to watching someone hit a homerun (GO CUBS!). We’re not expecting it, but we’re hoping it will happen. It is so satisfying in that way. In a card trick, we know that somehow the card that the audience member picked will resurface (we hope it does) and when it does we are simultaneously surprised and delighted. In the same way that a whole stadium clenches their fist and tries to cheer the home run into happening, we hope that imagining the card conjures it. In either case, we don’t really matter. The trick or home run will still happen if we are not there. It is our participation and belief makes it magic.
I’ve been thinking a lot about magic lately because of two productions. The first is The Tempest at Chicago Shakespeare (which I saw almost a year ago). The show, directed by Aaron Posner and choreographed by Pilobolus relied on the power of magic to make the show, well, magical. They used really exciting illusions to tell the story (and most of them really added to the piece as a whole). I’m not a huge fan of The Tempest. It is extremely plot driven (and the relationships feel shallow to me). So much of the play rests on the magic that Prospero is employing and then eventually gives up. In Posner’s production the magic was really powerful, and it made it all the more painful when Prospero relinquishes his power.
Another production that I have been thinking about is one that is currently playing in Chicago and is coming to the Olney in the spring. The Magic Play by Andrew Hinderaker. The container of the play is a Magic show, and through it a story develops giving us insight into the magician and his relationships with his ex-lover and father. I saw a workshop version two years ago and was floored by it. The way that the interpersonal story weaves into the magic act creates a dynamic tension and was absolutely riveting to witness. It also gave the magic so much heart. Magic is amazing when it is on its own, but in conversation with a story and emotional journey it becomes a transcendent experience. The Magic Play is currently at The Goodman Theatre in Chicago and will be at the Olney Theatre Center in April. If you can, it’s worth checking it out.