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A Three-Ring Circus

A Three-Ring Circus

Hocus Pocus is about focus. What are you going to watch? It is the screen? And if so, which one? Or is it me, and which part? Or is it one of the people who have joined me on stage, and if so, which one? 

We’re starting the show with a short film of Ted Annemann catching a bullet in his teeth.  I’ve ask Cam Davis, our video designer, to recut the film, originally shot in 1937 by Sid Lorraine, to acclimatize the audience to making choices. Do you watch the person with the gun or the person who is about to catch the bullet? Most likely, your eyes will dart back and forth. It will be your eyes initially that take you on the journey that is Hocus Pocus.

For me, every performance is a journey. But instead of physically transporting you from one place to another, we are giving you’re the opportunity to create your own journey—with a few subtle suggestions—by creating three rings, and rings within rings, where you must decide where to place first your gaze, and then your mind. 

There is a lot going on; some of it clear, some of it scattered. Rest assured, however, that what ever appears scattered is so by design.

Think Sprezzatura!

Okay, I came across this word recently in the New York Times and had to use it. Mick Jagger used it to describe the process of creating the Stones recently released album of blues standards. It certainly struck a chord, so to speak, with me. Sprezzatura, which needless to say is of Italian origin, refers to “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.” Well, that’s magic!  It is the cumulative effect of hundreds of apparently inconsequential details, the key words being  “apparently inconsequential.” As a magician, my job is to choreography the apparently inconsequential. Sprezzatura!

But how? 

For me, (and I hope that all my friends well-versed in Japanese culture will forgive my simplistic analysis), magic should be performed with deference to shibui—that is, be performed in a natural manner with an economy of form, line and effort. For me, the best magic is natural, elegant, minimalistic, balanced, and economical. My goal is to create something, however brief, that feels timeless and conveys tranquility. It is the only way to transform a three-ring circus into, well, art. Shibui!

I know: easier said than done.


Hocus Post

David Ben is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Magicana. Join his discussion as he shares his catalogue of commentary on the creative process of staging a new theatrical magic show.

Tickets are now available for Hocus Pocus, produced in association with Soulpepper, December 10 - 31, 2016 in Toronto. 

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