It’s here!

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To pre-purchasers of Bammo Ten Card Deal Dossier: the books have been received from the printer and are being processed for shipping! We hope to have the first batch of preorders in the mail by early next week.

To those who have not yet purchased a copy: do not delay! The pre-publication offer expires in just a few days on April 10. After that, the book will sell for $65 PLUS shipping, so order yours now.

If you are still on the fence about it, perhaps this will tip you over. Bob Farmer has just announced that he will insert an additional “something special” in your already jam-packed book, already stuffed to the gills with hundreds of ideas and routines! It’s supposed to be a surprise, but I can tell you it is from that you must have –  from a working repertoire, and as Matt Field tells us, it is great for ten minutes of stage time and has multiple layers which builds and builds making it a great closer. What are you waiting for?! Order now!

This is a ridiculous offer, but even Bammo has its limits – and this one is on Friday. Get in on the action before it’s too late.

Bammo Offer Exended

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Due to popular demand, we are extending the BTCDD Pre-Publication Offer!

That’s right, save $10 and receive free shipping to the USA, and discounted shipping to all other places, for the Bammo Ten Card Deal Dossier, until April 10!

Order now to take advantage of this fantastic deal!

Order Now


Pay only $55 (USA orders postage free, foreign orders postage add $25). This offer expires on April 10, 2015. After that, the regular price is $65 (USA orders add $5 postage and handling, foreign orders add $25). Visit this page and make your pre-publication order now.

For mail, please make checks (USD) or money orders (international only) payable to Magicana 17 Madison Avenue Toronto ON M5R 2S2 Canada.

The Experts at the Card Table

The Experts

Finally…

We are pleased to announce that our latest publication, The Experts at the Card Table, it is nearing completion. Having been in pre-production for over a decade, it is an understatement to say that this book has been a challenge.

Wait, this is another book on Erdnase?! No, it’s much more than that.

The Experts at the Card Table is a new interpretation of the seminal work on card cheating, Artifice, Ruse and Subterfuge at the Card Table, self-published originally by an S. W. Erdnase, in Chicago in 1902. Here, Ben offers a fresh and new perspective on what he describes as “The Erdnase System for Advantage Play” – that is, an approach for cheating at card play. Ben has reformulated Erdnase’s original prose for greater clarity in order to illustrate clandestine card table artifice.

Interested? READ MORE.

We will soon release details on a pre-publication offer so be sure to sign up to our eList to be the first to know.

 

It’s Bammo!

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At long last, the Bammo Ten Card Deal Dossier is at the printers and will soon be ready to ship! Want to know more? It’s all here.

Ready to order? Do we have a deal for you … Magicana is pleased to make this LIMITED TIME OFFER on a pre-publication deal:

Save $10 and pay no postage (in the USA) if you order by April 1.
If you’re outside the USA, you can still save $10 (add $25 postage) by April 1.


Order Online


Pre-Publication Deal

Pay only $55 (USA orders postage free, foreign orders postage add $25). This offer expires on April 1, 2015. After that, the regular price is $65 (USA orders add $5 postage and handling, foreign orders add $25). Visit this page and make your pre-publication order now.

For mail, please make checks (USD) or money orders (international only) payable to Magicana 17 Madison Avenue Toronto ON M5R 2S2 Canada.

 

Art and Artifice

Magicians of the past: Blackstone, Kellar, Carter, Herrmann, Karmi and Houdini. And present: Solomon, Zukerbrot, Watson, Slaight, Kalush and Smith.

Magicians of the past: Blackstone, Kellar, Carter, Herrmann, Karmi and Houdini. And present: Solomon, Zuckerbrots, Watson, Slaight, Eng, Kalush and Smith.

While many of the images acquired by the McCord Museum, now the Allan Slaight Collection, are unbelievably beautiful, they do not, by and large, constitute fine art. The McCord Museum, however, is a place of social history rather than a house of fine art, and as such, it is the perfect place for this collection.

The magic-related images provide curators and designers with the opportunity to examine not just the performers advertised, the magic that they performed and the places that they played, but also the social issues of the time, and how those social issues are reflected in the context of our time today.

And, as far as Houdini is concerned, the collection could not have a better home. Houdini not only spoke in the building that houses the McCord Museum, but also met his future assailant – Gordon Whitehead – there. Whitehead, of course, delivered what some historians believe was the fateful, if not fatal, punch to Houdini, a backstage blow that started the chain of events leading to his death a week later. The fact that all of this took place in Montreal, and in fact, in the very building that now houses the McCord Museum, appears to have been forgotten – at least it was in the recent A&E miniseries about Houdini featuring Adrian Brody, where the writers took Montreal right out of the equation, keeping all of the action in Detroit instead.

So, for all concerned, the opportunity to capture and to correct history, in the place where that history was made, makes the acquisition that much more enticing.

I, for one, look forward to working with the McCord Museum and exploring these themes.

– DAVID BEN

A Secret No More

Slaight-and-Gattuso

The McCord Museum has just announced the extraordinary acquisition of one of the world’s foremost private collections of stone lithographs from magic’s Golden Age. And, just as significant, the acquisition of a superb Houdiniana collection of posters, playbills, correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks and ephemera of Houdini.

Emmanuelle Gattuso, through her philanthropic foundation – La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso – donated the funds to acquire the collection which she placed in her husband’s name, media mogul Allan Slaight, with the McCord Museum.

The Slaight name is synonymous with philanthropy. In addition to their landmark donations to (among other things) cancer research, the Slaights are also major supporters of the arts in Canada. One of those arts is magic. Their support for it, through Magicana and all of our programs, has been unwavering. Quite simply, we could not do what we do without their support.

Young Allan Slaight in Moosejaw

Their magic interest, of course, stems from Allan Slaight’s lifelong love of magic. He started performing magic as a youth, toured across Western Canada as a mentalist, and moonlighted as a magician while he was in the formative stages of building an empire, based initially on rock’n’roll radio. Somehow, while assembling this billion dollar business, Allan found the time to host magic conferences, and to write and produce 3,000 pages on his magical mentor, the great Canadian inventor, Stewart James.

So magic has been a big part of Allan’s life for well over seventy years, and the Slaight-Gatusso household for over twenty-five.

While the news of this donation is big, for those who know Gattusso and Slaight, it is not the least bit surprising.

In subsequent posts, I will provide some insight into how the deal was done, the nature of the contents, and why it was placed with the McCord Museum.

Stay tuned!

– DAVID BEN

READ and SEE:

Press Release

Media Links

McCord Museum Press Release

Houdini Presents His Own Original Invention The Greatest Sensational Mystery Ever Attempted in This or Any Other Age The Strobridge Litho Co., 1916 213 x 102 cm © Musée McCord/McCord Museum

Houdini Presents His Own Original Invention
The Greatest Sensational Mystery Ever Attempted in This or Any Other Age
The Strobridge Litho Co., 1916
213 x 102 cm
© Musée McCord/McCord Museum


THE McCORD MUSEUM HAS ACQUIRED AN OUTSTANDING COLLECTION OF POSTERS FROM THE WORLD OF MAGIC, THE LARGEST IN CANADA

Montreal, February 10, 2015


The McCord Museum has acquired an outstanding collection of posters and documents related to magic, the only one of its size in Canada. It is considered one of the five most important private collections on the subject in the world. No other public institution has such a collection, particularly one so well conserved. This acquisition was made possible through a donation from La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso, a philanthropic foundation based in Toronto.

Established in 2013, La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso actively supports a number of not-for- profits in the medical and cultural arenas, through both financial donations and fundraising assistance. Chief among these are Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, Camp Oochigeas, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the McCord Museum.

Valued at approximately $3 million, this collection contains 600 posters from the golden age of magic, the 19th and early 20th centuries. It also includes 200 rare books and more than 200 documents – programs, display ads, photographs, memorabilia, correspondence, autographs, and objects linked to the famous magician Harry Houdini (1874 – 1926). The collection is the ultimate reference for all collectors of objects from the world of magic.

“This is an extraordinary acquisition,” said Suzanne Sauvage, President and Chief Executive Officer of the McCord Museum. “We are very pleased to see it become an integral part of Canadian heritage and the wealth of the Museum. We wish to express our deep gratitude to La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso for its exceptional generosity. Thanks to the foundation, the collection will be listed, catalogued and digitized under the direction of Christian Vachon, Curator, Paintings, Prints and Drawings, and the McCord Museum will become a documentation centre on the subject. The public and researchers from around the world interested in magic will have access to the collection online. It will also be the subject of a major exhibition in 2017.”

Emmanuelle Gattuso chose to entrust the collection to an institution in her hometown of Montreal. “I wanted to honour my husband, Allan Slaight, who has been fascinated by magic since he was a child and has written an important three-volume work, The James File, about the magician James Stewart (1908-1996). The most appropriate museum for this collection seemed to me to be the McCord, not only because it is dedicated to social history, but also because of the many great magicians who appeared in Montreal,” said Ms. Gattuso.

Magic and vaudeville shows were extremely popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They attracted large crowds in every city where the best-known illusionists appeared, travelling the world with large amounts of equipment.

Posters were the most common form of advertising. Most of the posters are about 50 cm by 75 cm, but others are much larger, measuring 2 m by 2.75 m. Half of them were created by some of the best American lithography workshops of the time, including Strobridge and Otis, the others by European workshops, such as Friedländer in Germany. The posters promoted artists who toured the world, a number of them performing in Montreal. Alexander Herrmann appeared in Montreal several times in 1892, where he performed at Queen’s Hall, before the construction of the Eaton’s store, and in 1894. His rival, Harry Kellar, levitated his assistant before amazed Montreal spectators between 1896 and 1906. The two men fought a veritable poster war in Montreal, which was the subject of several articles in local newspapers. Howard Thurston, Kellar’s successor and a friend of Harry Houdini, appeared at Loew’s in Montreal in 1933. Houdini gave a series of performances in Montreal, in 1911, 1915, 1925 and 1926. On the latter occasion, during a show at the Princess Theatre, Houdini was invited by some McGill University students to make a presentation about magic, which took place in the ballroom of McGill’s social centre, now the McCord Museum!

 

Source and information:

Catherine Guex
Marketing-Communications Officer, Public Relations, McCord Museum
514 398-7100, ext. 239
Catherine.guex@mccord.mcgill.ca
www.mccord.qc.ca

Media Links on McCord Museum Acquisition

Buried Alive! Master Mystifier Houdini The Othis Lithograph Co. (Musée McCord /McCord Museum)

Buried Alive! Master Mystifier Houdini The Othis Lithograph Co.
©Musée McCord / McCord Museum

Below are a few selected media links about the McCord Museum’s acquisition of one of the world’s foremost private collections of stone lithographs from magic’s Golden Age and, Houdiniana.

 

SELECTED LINKS

Montreal Gazette

http://montrealgazette.com/entertainment/local-arts/mccord-museum-acquires-significant-collection-of-magic-memorabilia

 

The Globe & Mail

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/art-and-architecture/montreals-mccord-museum-gifted-largest-cache-of-magic-related-memorabilia-in-canada/article22872097/

 

CBC News

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/mccord-museum-s-new-collection-shows-history-of-magic-1.2950915

 

Le Devoir

http://www.ledevoir.com/culture/arts-visuels/431357/le-musee-mccord-recoit-une-importante-collection-d-oeuvres-liees-a-la-magie

 

Global News

http://globalnews.ca/news/1822717/unique-houdini-acquisition-contains-moments-of-magic/

 

VIDEO:

http://globalnews.ca/video/1823226/theres-magic-at-the-mccord

 

Canada Times

http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2015/02/mccord-museum-receives-magic-and.html

 

RCI Canada

http://www.rcinet.ca/fr/2015/02/10/une-histoire-magique-au-musee-mccord-de-montreal/

 

24News.ca

http://www.24news.ca/entertainment/96226-magic-at-the-mccord-museum

 

LA Metropole.com

http://www.lametropole.com/article/arts-et-spectacles/art/la-magie-au-mus%C3%A9e-mccord

Erdnase Unmasked – Out of Print

Erdnase Unmasked

We have received a number of emails asking about a possible reprint for Erdnase Unmasked, a composite publication of articles culled from the pages of Magicol – A Journal of Magic History and Collectibles.

The book features the findings of Richard Hatch, the world’s pre-eminent authority on the subject, and sleight-of-hand expert and magic historian, David Ben’s profile of the author of The Expert at the Card Table. Together, they make a compelling case that one man – E. S. Andrews – was the author of the seminal card worker’s text, The Expert at the Card Table. The publication also included Hurt McDermott’s analysis of why The Expert at the Card Table, and books of its ilk, was published anonymously, and in Chicago. Additionally, Jason England, a world-renowned authority on advantage play, provides a detailed description of the published variants and ancillary products.

This was a limited-edition run of only 500 copies, and the book is now out of print.

 

 

 

 

 

The Conjuror: Family Magic

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The Conjuror is enjoying great audiences at Soulpepper and we’d love to see you join us before he vanishes into thin air.

We have two additional shows on Sunday at 12:30 and 3:00 PM and what a great way to celebrate the end of the holidays.

If you come on Sunday, you can also participate in Soulpepper’s family festival where you and your family can enjoy free programming featuring performances by Soulpepper Resident Artists and special guests.

See you this weekend, and Happy New Year!

The Conjuror runs through to Sunday Jan 4 at Soulpepper

The Conjuror: An Illusion

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The greatest illusion in The Conjuror is that it is a one-man show. The show is really a product of many creative minds. Patrick Watson and I co-wrote the show. Bill Schmuck designed the sets and one of the costumes. Kelly Wolf did the others, and Bonnie Beecher has added her own magic with her consummate lighting.

One of the unheralded contributors, whose work is woven throughout the show, is John Lang.

John Lang is a genius.  (And I do not use that word lightly.)

John composed original music for virtually every piece in the show. And his range is extraordinary. By and large, here’s how we worked.  I would choreograph a piece of magic, and then have it filmed in our studio. The video clip would be posted to a private site for John to view.  John and I would then discuss the magic, and the sort of sound – musical styling, country of origin, or mood – that I was after, and he would go to work.  He would post his renderings for me to download and rehearse to.  The results were pure magic.

Magicians are fond of saying that they are really actors playing the part of a magician. While that may be true, I believe that magic is more akin to music and dance than acting, and that a magician must be an actor, dancer and musician.

Either way, if are coming to the show – and we open tonight – feast your eyes on the magic, and your ears on the music.  You won’t be disappointed.

– DAVID BEN
 The Conjuror opens tonight at Soulpepper for a limited 12 run engagement. Some tickets still available.

 

The Conjuror: But who’s counting?

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Two days – but who’s counting.

Okay, I am. And, I can hardly wait.

As you know, it has been twelve years since we last staged The Conjuror.  It has been tremendously rewarding revisiting the show.

We kept most of the original work, tweaked much of it, and added some more. As with all previous incarnations, it is a work in progress.

Today we move from the rehearsal hall to the full stage where lighting designer extraordinaire, Bonnie Beecher, can work her magic to light the production.

It has never looked better. I hope you can join us.

– DAVID BEN

 

 The Conjuror runs for 12 performances @Soulpepper starting Dec 30 at the Young Centre in the Distillery District.

 

The Conjuror: Real Magic

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When it comes to magic, a rose is a rose is a rose.

To channel Gertrude Stein, there are many ways to look at the magic in The Conjuror.

At first glance, they are archetypes of magic, some of the most mystifying feats in the history of the craft.

Second, they are also period pieces, using the actual techniques of master mystifiers, many of which were reconstructed, forensically, over the course of several decades.

Third, they are metatheatrical, giving you, the audience, the opportunity of laughing at us while feeling somewhat empathetic as we bend reality with imagination.

Most of all, they enable us to do what theatre does best, that is, to create a sense of community where we care not about the characters on stage – real and imaginary – but also everyone in the space.

Now that’s real magic!

 

– DAVID BEN

 

 The Conjuror runs for 12 performances @Soulpepper starting Dec 30 at the Young Centre in the Distillery District.

 

The Conjuror: Cassadaga

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Hello friends!

The Conjuror is busy rehearsing so I thought I would help him with this next blog entry.

I fondly remember my last visit some 12 years ago. I am delighted to say I will be there for the reunion – 10 performances – no, excuse me, 12 performances (I forgot we are held over) at Soulpepper starting this Tuesday, December 30.

I know that, over the past 12 years, The Conjuror has been to Egypt, India, Japan, and China, and that many mysteries will unfold … one of which involves me! But shhh! don’t tell him I told you. Let’s keep that it our little secret :)

Arrivederci!

– CASSADAGA

 

 The Conjuror runs for 12 performances @Soulpepper starting Dec 30 at the Young Centre in the Distillery District.

 

The Conjuror: Formula One

Casadega

I have often said that staging The Conjuror is like operating a Formula One race car.

The show is the car itself. A precision-made machine that, when running on all cylinders, simply flies.

However, the real secret is the pit crew – one that must operate at high speed, under duress, and with the finesse of a surgeon.

And then there is me. The driver. Adjusting the speed (the pace of the show) on the fly, based on the conditions at the time, and negotiating with the other drivers (the audience) on the track.

Adjusting the handling – improvising, if you will – or, navigating the conditions of the road can be treacherous, but with enough preparation and practice, the improbable becomes possible and the impossible becomes a reality.

Sure we have crashed from time to time, but there have only been a few fender benders. And, between you and me, we hope to keep it that way!

Hasta mañana.

– DAVID BEN

 

 The Conjuror runs for 12 performances @Soulpepper starting Dec 30 at the Young Centre in the Distillery District.

 

The Conjuror: All it takes is you!

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Without you, there is no show. It is that simple.

And although we perform many of magic’s greatest illusions – some so rare that few, if any others, dare to perform  them – my favourite pieces are those that involve members of the audience.

You just never know what will happen or where things will go when people participate, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And, if you do not want to participate when I ask for a volunteer, simply raise your hand with wild enthusiasm. That way I will know that you are a born exhibitionist unsuitable for the stage!

But then again…

Karl Germain, whose famous Water Jars are part of the show, suggested that magic was the most honest of professions, because we tell you that we will deceive you, and we do.

So, come and see how things unfold.

 

– DAVID BEN

 

 The Conjuror runs for 12 performances @Soulpepper starting Dec 30 at the Young Centre in the Distillery District.

 

The Conjuror: Extended!

2014-05-06 15.36.24-1

News Flash: this just in! There will be more magic!

We are thrilled to announce that The Conjuror has been extended!  Tickets for the initial ten performances have disappeared – and fast.

So, we are pleased to announce with Soulpepper that we are adding two more shows, one at 12:30 pm and the other at 3:00 pm,  both on Sunday, January 4th.  BUY NOW.

And, January 4 is, of course, the last official day of the holidays, and also the last day of Soulpepper’s Family Festival, where there are many fun and free activities happening for the whole family. And, this is it; there will be no further extensions.

So, if you haven’t made plans to see the show, or if you are still looking for a special holiday gift to share with family and friends, please join us.

– DAVID BEN

 

 The Conjuror runs for ten performances @Soulpepper starting Dec 30 at the Young Centre in the Distillery District.

 

The Conjuror: Step Right This Way

image8

The Magical Mystery Tour is coming to take you away.  So wrote the Beatles.

Well, as the road crates indicate, we have embarked on our own mystery tour, this one starting at Soulpepper.

Although we have been preparing for The Conjuror from many weeks, so much of the show is of a larger scale that you really need to be in the space to bring it to life.

So yesterday, we made our list and checked it twice, as our team loaded the show crates for some of the larger illusions from storage, and transported them down to the rehearsal hall at the Young Centre in the Distillery District.

Unpacking those crates and setting up the performance space was like becoming reacquainted with some long lost friends. I couldn’t help but think of all the good times they conjured up in the past, and the fun we will have together over the next two weeks.

I hope you can join us.

Ciao!

– DAVID BEN

 

 The Conjuror runs for ten performances @Soulpepper starting Dec 30 at the Young Centre in the Distillery District.

The Conjuror: Yes and No

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Some who have seen the photo in the subways or streetcars promoting The Conjuror have asked me whether or not the illusion depicted in the photo has anything to do with Martin Scorsese’s film, Hugo, the one about a boy’s fascination with an automaton created by George Méliès, that pioneer of early cinema.

The answer is yes and no.

Yes in that George Méliès was a magician taking over the theatre founded by Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin. Méliès, of course, became a filmmaker and incorporated some of his stage tricks into cinema. Scorsese illustrates Méliès’s interest in magic by having him suspend a woman magically in the air. The illusion they recreated cinematically was Robert-Houdin’s Etheral Suspension, an illusion that we are thrilled to present, live, in The Conjuror in the manner closest to the way that Robert-Houdin did some 150 years ago. (There is no other performer that I am aware of who can perform this feat in the same manner as the originator.) It is both a challenge and a treat to perform.

The past has not only inspired the illusions in The Conjuror, but also some of the advertising.

kellarportraitwithimpsThurston_the_Great_Magician_-_Strobridge_Litho._Co.

When we first produced the show, we pilfered a poster of Howard Thurston’s from 1914. Thurston, of course, obtain the idea for the image from Harry Kellar. Kellar was the first to use the little imps whispering magic secrets into his ear in 1894. The Thurston and Kellar posters are exquisite.

2014-12-19 14.13.05About fifteen years ago, Canada Post was offering personalized postage stamps. They would print, as legal tender, the image you provided onto a stamp that you could use. I supplied them with our image of The Conjuror, the one with the imps. Canada Post refused to print the image. I asked them to review the decision. They refused once more, stating that they could not sanction the publication of an image that promoted devil worship.

Fortunately, I am not the only one with a fascination for little imps.

While vacationing in St. John’s, Newfoundland, this past summer, I stumbled onto a local artist – J. C. Bear – who has been obsessed with imps his entire life. He first became aware of devils when he happened upon a copy of Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary. Later, he decided to sculpt imps in various forms because, to him, skeptical humour seemed an appropriate and often commendable reaction to life as a human in society. He added that he is at home in Newfoundland as it is a place where humour and skepticism are general and valued.

Needless to say, I loved his work, and had great fun transporting one of his bronze sculptures of an imp – carry-on of course – back to Toronto.

IMG_1726IMG_1727

Later I asked Bear to write a few words about the work. He wrote, “Devils are effective precisely because they are not solemn. They have sufficient grace to be concise. They are not actually bad. Rather, they are perceptive – they got the good lines, and they can deliver them. Devils are fun. Most people can see that.”

 

Most people, however, except for Canada Post!

Alla prossima.

– DAVID BEN

 

 The Conjuror runs for ten performances @Soulpepper starting Dec 30 at the Young Centre in the Distillery District.