Guest Blogger: Steinar Thelen
I also used to be a dedicated Trombone player and conductor in several brass and wind bands. Today I work with some of those bands creating concerts with music, comedy and magic. In the last 4 years, magic has taken up most of my time and the event business is now only part time.
As a child I saw Finn Jon performing on Norwegian television and since then I was hooked on magic. When I was 11 years old, I learned about the local magic club in Bergen. I was fascinated with sleight of hand and tried to learn from classic books by Dai Vernon and Tony Slydini. I learned the basics of card magic from a Swedish edition of “The Magic Book” by Harry Lorayne. I also learned the Slydini coin routine and Dai Vernon’s Cups and Balls from a Swedish book called “Close Up Magic”. I performed the coin routine many times, but only for the mirror in my room. I was an extremely shy and performing close up magic for real people was too scary.
Later, I learned that I could buy props for magic and I realised that the other magicians in Bergen did stage shows. I followed their advice and developed a stage show. At age 14, I started doing a lot of shows for local organisations and companies. For some reason, I was pretty comfortable on stage, so I left sleight of hand and close up magic behind.
When I was 20 I was so busy that I decided to make a living from performing.
I started getting request for other types of shows and started offering magic, clowning, face painting, balloon decorating and all kinds of family entertainment. After doing this for over 10 years, I started getting tired of what I was I was doing. I wanted to find out why I still was so fascinated with magic with sleight of hand.
After seeing Jeff Mcbride perform in 2009, I was determined to get serious with magic. I decided that magic should gradually take up most of my working hours. I hired other people to take care of most of the event business. I wanted to start with card magic and to learn it properly from a professional.
After reading everything I could find online from different blogs, interviews etc, I found out about Michael Vincent. I had read all the “Guest of Honour” interviews at The Magic Café.
I found out some important things about Mike; he approached magic in a very similar way as a classical musician approaches music. I also learned that he offered online lessons. I started to study with him through Skype and we met several times in London and in Norway. I studied magic almost full time during the 18 month I studied with Mike. Through him I was introduced to Justin Higham and started learning from him and continue to do regularly. I also had skype sessions with Jeff Mcbride and Larry Hass and did two master classes in 2013 at The Magic and Mystery School in Las Vegas, spending two weeks with Jeff, Larry and Tobias Beckwith and also Eugene Burger.
In June 2013 Michael kindly invited me to take part in his show at The Magic Circle.
I got some great feedback and was accepted as a member. A great experience and I hope to be back very soon to attend meetings and lectures.
Question 1: What are your top 3 effects in magic and why?
(I will answer this question twice. In addition to 3 favorites from my own repertoire I have also written down 3 effects that I don’t perform but they have inspired me deeply.
After writing the first list, I read my friend Tim Sutton’s list of favorites and noticed we share 2 of the 3 effects. I believe there is a reason they are classics….
1.Francis Carlyle – The Homing Card
I was inspired to learn this from Stars Of Magic and from Mike. I added the 51 cards to pocket ending that Mike, Giobbi and many others do. Mike convinced me I was ready to perform it. It soon became one of my favorites but I had one problem with it. I didn’t want it to become a challenge to the audience; “Didn’t you catch me the first time? Watch me again”… I wanted it to be more magical and maybe even funny without adding cheap jokes. Larry Hass saw me perform it in Las Vegas and pointed out that there was natural comedy both in the effect and my character. I continued to explore this and changed the script and handling. Suddenly my personality and my script was telling me what sleights to use and not the other way around. I changed the magic to suit me. In December I started getting close to what I am looking for but I am still polishing it.
2. Harry Lorayne – Foursome
I use this all the time when asked to do magic impromptu. I have tried different handlings by Mike, Justin and others but the presentation is close to the original. I don’t do a lot of gambling routines since gambling is completely forbidden in Norway. Most people including myself do not know much about Poker. Foursome is not a gambling trick, but the presentation is about reading tells and seems fascinating and a bit exotic for lay audiences.
3. Dai Vernon – Triumph
I usually do a sloppy in the hands version when performing Triumph. I do one version where the spectator helps me mix the cards into a real chaos. The presentation is about my daughter mixing my cards – based in a real life experience. But the version that gives me the best reaction is Jay Sankey’s “Back in Time”. Not only do the cards straighten out but an indifferent card changes to the selection. The spectator “knows” he is holding an indifferent card. He is totally convinced and then he is shocked by the transformation.
Second list: The 3 most inspiring effects I have seen:
I have included these because I want to make a point. I was extremely inspired by them and try to learn from them without copying.Three different performance pieces by three very different performers. Can I create this kind of experiences for my audiences? I think I can because I have had the experience myself. That genuine passion combined with hard work and love for magic will hopefully make those moments happen.
1. Jeff Mcbride Sorcerer’s Apprentice
I am convinced that this is is the reason I still do magic. Look at the kids face! This is real magic!
2. Eugene Burger – Corner In The Glass
I saw Eugene live in an intimate setting and it is so strong. I was also amazed by how little words Eugene used. He is well known for storytelling but many of his signature effects are very straight to the point.
3. Teller – Misers Dream with Goldfish ending.
I was sitting in the third row in Penn and Tellers show at Rio in Las Vegas.
It was pure magic and I could not care less about the secret. I think we as magicians need these experiences to be able to share the magic with our audiences. We need to practice being a lay person!
Question 2: What is your intention and goal with every performance you give?
It´s all about entertainment, astonishment and fun, but not at any price. I want to entertain with magic and find the natural comedy in that situation. Maybe I add a joke or two but not before it is already naturally funny. Sometimes, I add a story and sometimes I don’t, it depends on the trick, the venue any many other factors. I don’t take anything for granted and the audience has the right to react anyway they want. If I want to be in charge of the situation I need to earn it. By being prepared, flexible and by having a genuine interest in people. Me and my audience have to create the magic together. I use the word magic a lot. A lot of things can be magical – love, children, music, nature etc. Just look at Tamariz, he creates magic before he has performed anything.
Question 3: What are you currently doing to leave the craft of magic a little better than you found it?
I don’t think a lot about improving the craft, but I definitely treat the craft with respect. I read, study and practice for hours every day. I take advice from people I admire and respect. At the same time, I challenge any “laws” that is presented to me. I think that’s one of the things that made Dai Vernon, Edward Marlo and many of my heroes so great. They had a respect for everything created before them. They studied and learned everything and THEN they changed it.
Dai Vernon said “be natural” and that’s a great advice, but who’s deciding what’s natural? Maybe I want to try a technique that Vernon didn’t approve of and see if it looks natural in my hands. Maybe I find out he was right but I learned and experienced it myself.
I have learned a lot by watching videos of myself talking to people without doing any magic. This way, I can build the magic and techniques around my natural body language. I cannot expect people to have a magical experience if I suddenly “become” Slydini for 3 seconds because I need to cover something. As I said earlier, I adjust the magic to me and make it my own. It can be a classic effect but I have to work hard to make it my own performance piece.
Maybe the best I can do to improve my craft is to improve my understanding of myself and other people. Create magic in daily life before I bring out the props.
In addition to that, work hard, and have fun!
Mike’s Guest Blog Commentary
One of my proudest achievements as a professional coach has been the cultivation of students around the world. Through the use of online video conferencing, Skype and eventually travel, I have been able to extend my reach and desire to connect with many dedicated magicians world wide.
Steinar is one of the magicians who I have had the privilege to coach and I am delighted to say that he has become a fine magician and entertainer. Coming from a background of music inspired me with the possibility that here is someone who I felt would work hard and actually become successful. This is because musicians have an inherently strong work and practice ethic. My assessment about Steinar proved to be correct because everyday, I would receive a detailed analysis about the books he had read, the effects and techniques had worked one – this process went on for over two years during his Mastery Program with me through The Vincent Academy.
Through his company, I have had the great pleasure of performing to Norweigen audiences and they have been great. Now, Steinar can spread his magic across his native land and globally. I am confident that he will go from strength to strength and make his career as magical as his personality.