Review: Inspirations – Performing Magic with Excellence by Larry Hass Ph.D

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Reviewer: Enrico Varella”][vc_column_text]‘Magic: The artful performance of impossible things that generate energy, delight and wonder.’ ~ Lawrence Hass, Ph.D.

The above quotation was his theme in his 17-minute TEDx talk.

When authors broach the subject of the performance of magic, invariably, the notion of plot, method, technique, presentation, script, and audience management will be flung into the conversation. Opinions abound about the attitude, style and presentation of the performer. When we touch on the topic of ‘excellence’, the superficiality of the company dissolves away conveniently, leaving the theorists to punctuate the remaining group with opinions, based on anecdotal evidence, experience and wisdom.

Excellence is a value that presupposes competency – related to ability, skillfulness and talent – and it conveys the concept of mastery, levels of ability and standards. Excellence seems to be the goal of the serious student and practitioner of magic. Max Howard suggests that as a magician, one should constantly think about Purpose, Passion and Process.

With a Ph.D. as your academic title, one would think this would be an academic treatise on magic. This is Lawrence Hass’s second book since his earlier book ‘Transformation: Creating magic Out of Tricks’. I assure you that this book is easy to read, as it is arranged like Tommy Wonder’s ‘Books of Wonder’: essays interspersed with effects (‘Workers’). And to follow Wonder’s DVD-set ‘Visions of Wonder’, Hass provides insight, hindsight and foresight for our magic.

Beyond the wide bibliography (yet, not excessive), you can attest that philosopher-academic-magician Lawrence Hass is well-read, scholarly, practiced, yet his approach to magic is as practical as Eugene Burger, mystically-telling as Robert Neal, and artistic as Rene Lavand. Above all, he is passionate about the Magical Art and the performance of magic.

At 350 pages, this is a medium-sized book to be read and reflect on. It is presented into key chapters with essays covering Technique, Presentation, Performance, Philosophy and Lifestyle. Thus, you can read it any order and interest, and appreciate his direction and directive (as a teacher and performer) towards your performance excellence.

Each chapter, described with essays, is suitably backed by three Performance Pieces (a.k.a. illusions). ‘Three’ is a magical number in magic, and to the initiated, is analogous to the strength of phases, or a clear Beginning, Middle and End.

I was drawn to Appendix 1, 2 and 3: Two essays and one performance piece (‘A Common Plea’); the latter was presented in his TEDx talk, and the poem by Robert E. Neale about a young poet, Cesar Vallejo and presented through an Okito Doll. Another effect which he performed on his TEDx talk was ‘Money From Nothing’, where he explains why he prefers John Lovick’s version of the $100 Bill Change.

My only peeve about ‘Money From Nothing’ was that Roger Klause was not credited with Mike Kozlowski, and that Klause’s version (‘In Concert’ by Lance Pierce) with his ‘Half-Move’ would have also made complete sense for this piece. As you can see – Hass has successfully got me disagreeing with him, and thinking about my knowledge and passion about my magic. To paraphrase Dai Vernon: ‘Magic comprises not one large secret, but many smaller secrets.’

As I read this book in random order, I was drawn to the whispered influences of the Masters of Magic, as well as the elusive portal known as the ‘Magic Underground’. Resonating in Hass’s essays, I detected insights of Roger Klause, Dai Vernon, Tommy Wonder, Max Maven, Bob Fitch, Juan Tamariz, Jamy Ian Swiss, Roberto Giobbi, Darwin Ortiz, and many more. Which calls to mind the Zen saying: ‘When the Student is ready, the Master will appear.’

The key take-away from this book (which should be re-read) is this: Whether you agree or disagree, ask yourself WHY? The ability to reason through your opinions (and beliefs) may inspire you to your next level of your thinking and performance of magic.

This book is dedicated to Jeff McBride (his friend and teacher), and Hass teaches and lectures at the McBride School of Magic & Mystery. It was written by a Student, scholar, teacher, artist and thinker of Magic. These elements of ability and role can inspire us in creative ways.

In the final analysis, we ask ourselves one key question: How can we continue to inspire audiences to enjoy our Magical Arts, and inspire us to create even more stronger and finer transformations?

To quote Master-Magician Eugene Burger: ‘Ultimately, magic is a message of hope. And, in that space of hope – I believe – lies the energizing promise of our transformation.’ Perhaps, Hass will bring you to a thoughtful place, based on the premise of a poem, or the promise of energy, delight and wonder.

Magic is our passion but we are not a magic shop ? You can purchase this here!

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ning
Ning Cai is a Singapore Literature Prize nominated author, who was also long listed for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016. A bestselling writer, she is also recognised for her illusionist/ escapologist stage character Magic Babe Ning, and recognised by Channel News Asia as South East Asia's first professional female magician.

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