Guest Blogger: Will Houstoun
I have been interested in magic for a little over ten years, specialising in technical close-up and parlour magic, as well as the history of conjuring.
Since I left university I have been lucky enough to lecture and teach magicians around Europe, the United States, Canada, and the UK. I have also had the opportunity to work on Martin Scorsese’s film Hugo, with the wonderful Paul Kieve, and have written two books: one on late seventeenth-century card conjuring, and the other on the Victorian magician Robert Hellis. I also edit The Magic Circle’s magazine, The Magic Circular, and write book reviews for Genii.
Currently, I am nearing the end of a PhD based on Professor Hoffmann and his influence on conjuring literature. Russ Stevens of RSVP magic has also just released a three DVD set, Modern Magic, featuring my best magic from the last ten years.
Question 1: What are your top 3 effects in magic and why?
This is a difficult question to answer as I have favourites that I love for different reasons. There are pieces I love to perform, performances I like to watch, tricks I enjoy teaching, and so much more. Perhaps I can give you one of my favourites from each category:
To Perform: To my mind Bouncing Shadows, my version of shadow coins, is one of the most magical things that can be done with coins. As the hands are waved over four coins, without touching them, they jump from place to place in the most inexplicable manner. I have developed/performed other pieces that are conceptually more interesting or feature more ingenious methods but I am not sure there is anything more magical.
To Watch: I love Richard McDougall’s cigarette act. Richard is one of my favourite magicians (and people) and his cigarette act stands out. The magic is fooling and flawlessly executed but, more importantly, it is beautifully acted and character driven. Instead of watching an ‘act’ you are given a short window into someone’s life as they are magically frustrated in their efforts to light a cigarette. The characterisation is so compelling that I can’t help but wonder what happens to him throughout the rest of his existence.
To Teach: The jumping rubber band is a simple beginners trick but it is also one of my favourites. On a basic level it allows your students to learn and perform an effective trick reasonably quickly. More importantly it allows you to explain the fundamental ideas of covert vs overt actions, tension and relaxation, and attention control in a way that is easy for the layperson to understand. Your student will not only be able to perform a trick by the end of your lesson, they will have a deeper understanding and appreciation for magic in general.
Question 2: What is your intention and goal with every performance you give?
As someone who has spent some time studying magic I try to share my enthusiasm with my audiences — particularly for the facets of conjuring that might not be immediately apparent. For example, during my last trip to perform at The Magic Castle, I featured a version of a routine that I discovered in a two hundred year old handwritten manuscript. There is something truly ‘magical’ about the idea that something that was astonishing people long before the invention of modern day staples such as telephones, televisions, cars and the Internet can be just as impressive today. I want to share that kind of amazement with my audiences.
Question 3: What are you currently doing to leave the craft of magic a little better than you found it?
Whilst it is endlessly compelling and engaging the world of magic can sometimes be a little limiting. Just over a year ago Richard McDougall and David Owen were generous enough to show me how magic can be used to make the world outside magic a little bit better. I am now lucky enough to work with them, and a few other magicians, for Breathe Magic (www.breatehahr.org), an organisation that teaches specially chosen tricks to children as a form of therapy. The results have been astounding. After attending a summer camp one child said, “thank you for turning my disability into an ability,” and if that transformation is not the most magical thing you can do I don’t know what is.
Mike’s Guest Blog Comentary
I first saw Will as a youngster when he performed as part of The Young Magicians Club, a division of The Magic Circle. I was very impressed with him and to watch his evolution over the last ten years is nothing short of miraculous. I used to watch Will in Magic Circle Council meetings fiddling with a deck of cards, I had to force myself not to laugh, he was in his own world and yet still connected to Council matters at hand.
His sleight of hands execution is the best I have seen for someone as young as he is and for someone of his generation. His card handing has an exacting precision, fluidity, zero tension and grace. His new DVD, “Modern Magic” comes with my highest recommendation because the magic is very beautiful, well constructed and executed fearless with control – practice will be required.
It is wonderful to see how Will along with my friend Richard Mcdougall are using their talents to improve the quality of life for young people less fortunate. Back in the early 1980s, David Copperfield launched a very similar program initiative called “Project Magic” – a hands-on training program designed to support people with physical disabilities. “Breathe Magic” is proving to be very successful in achieving its goal with helping young children feel validated and supported through the learning of magic, improve their co-ordination and motor skills and most importantly, self esteem – thanks to magicians like Will and Richard.
Do make a point of seeing will perform, he will fool you badly and at the same time, inspire you to become a better magician, he did it to me.
Thank you Will for your contribution to my guest blog Wednesday