Guest Blogger David Stidler
I am 27, and a French magician living in Paris. I have been studying conjuring for the past 15 years. I have always been fascinated by tricks since my childhood and the more I study magic, the more I love it. I learnt mostly through books at first – which incidentally was also the way I have learned English.
I remember buying as a 12 year old a very expensive translation of S.W.Erdnase’s Expert at the Card Table and was hooked by the pasteboards – but it took me several years before realizing what that text represented. I also purchased Roberto Giobbi’s course Card College, which put me on the right tracks to discover serious techniques and principles. At the same time, I was strongly influenced by watching and reading Darwin Ortiz – he has been a major influence on my card magic to this day. I guess he is responsible for my interest in very advanced moves.
The experience of performing magic during the past few years in front of real people challenged my views, raised a lot of questions whose answers I have yet to find, and helped me to see what I wanted to achieve.
I am more and more interested in theatrical events that treat magic with great respect and show people that it can be beautiful and exciting to watch. But it has to be staged as precisely and as expertly as a great play. Thus, performances by Ricky Jay, Derren Brown and other conjurers are a source of inspiration.
I was very impressed when I discovered Michael’s work on his film and DVD projects and therefore I decided to go to London in order to meet him, which was made possible by the master class he held in that city two years ago, it was an exhilarating experience.
It is difficult to pick three tricks because it depends on several parameters. I would prefer to talk about three plots that fascinate me.
1) Thought-of-card: This is a wonderful problem and a very strong piece. How is it possible to read minds? It deals with a profound human fantasy : we wish we could see through other people, we dream about transparent minds and hearts.
2) Order out of Chaos: Cards represent chance and fate. Any trick where order beats chaos (OOTW, strong ending of a gambling routine, cards in perfect order) appeals to me because there is a symbol attached to it. Either the cardshark controls the outcome and metaphorically the wheel of fortune, or if the presentation does not revolve around sleight-of-hand, the cards seem to sort themselves, which is another metaphor for a superior structure in nature and harmony in the universe.
3) A Perfect Vanish or Production: I like to watch something magically appear or disappear if the handling is so convincing that it looks like real magic. There is something inherently beautiful in such phenomena – and again, it touches something deep inside our psyche.
Beautiful tricks contain a wide metaphor – even if subconsciously – that is related to life. Reading minds, finding order out of chaos, apparition & disappearance are ancestral human concerns.
I am attracted to minimalistic staging and uncluttered effects. Magic should be created out of (almost) nothing. That is why I stay away from magic props that do not exist in real life and I would not even use fancy cards or a weird deck. Over the years I became fond of a very purist approach, not in the methods but in the performance, and I dream of effects where there would be no props at all.
Of course I have many different goals when I give a performance. But I can think of three that are more important to me:
1. Like in any art form, to express myself through an instrument I have chosen and at the same time to connect with the audience (I am worried about performing at someone).
2. To give people an experience that only magic can bestow – an “illusion of impossibility” as it is written in Designing Miracles by Darwin Ortiz. Therefore, comedy, humour, jokes and dance should be used to serve our art and not the other way round. Otherwise we would be comedians, etc… I have never understood why some people say magic has to be funny, for me, it must never be boring for my audience.
3. To let the people I have met leave with the idea that magic can be meaningful and artistic. Unfortunately, magic is often held in poor esteem. I do not pretend I succeed (it is a lifetime quest) but at least this is what I have in mind. I think there should be no place for shortcuts and laziness.
I do not know if I can leave the craft better than I found it, but the very least I can do is to treat magic with respect and to give much thought about it. If one person changes his mind about magic and gains appreciation for it after one of my performances, I am happy and consider I served my art. For the rest, I work with passion and dedication.
But should we not also think about preserving the craft? I am very concerned about protecting the techniques and the principles. People sometimes believe that if they knew the secrets, they could perform magic, although there are years and years of practice behind good magic. However, it is the only artistic experience that can be destroyed by those people who can talk and not do. I am sad to see that so many ignore the beautiful notion of a secret. Certainly, the secret is not everything, and there is much more in a great show. But if the audience is not deceived, they will maybe watch good theatre, but they will not experience magic.
Mike’s Guest Blog Commentary
In reading through his contribution, it struck a chord with me on many levels. Firstly, David is a man after my own heart – his appreciation for magic being pure and minimalist speaks to me because there is nothing more powerful than magic being created out of apparently out of nothing. Working with a deck of cards or borrowing items from your audience is a very powerful approach.
David’s thoughts on his top three effects is very insightful; an perfect analysis on his appreciation for what the audience experiences. “Think- a-Card”, “Order Vs Chaos”, and “The Vanish and Produciton” are all archetypal effects which carry a deeper hidden meaning and context beyond the given effect.
I first met David when he came to my Seminar Mastering Magic – he emailed me with concerns about his english and being able to follow the seminar, his english was and is perfect. He made some wonderful contributions the other delegates during the first Seminar. I was really impressed with this card handling.
Take a look at the video below from David’s One Man Show, shot in Paris. He is performing the wonderful effect “Ace in the Pocket” created by Darwin Ortiz.
Read through David’s post again, there is a lot of respect for magic as a craft, the preservation of our secrets and the dignified presentation of it. It is obvious to me that he has a great reverence for magic. I am confident that he will continue to grow and expand himself and his vision and in so doing leave the craft better than he found it.
Thank you David for your wonderful piece.