Today’s topics are: International Magic Festival of San Marino; Behind-the-ear Glimpse
These are The Magic Memories 121, gone online Sunday, April 23rd, 2023, at 0:07h sharp.
All The Magic Memories from 2021, 2022, including the Magic Advent Calendar from 2020, can be found HERE.
International Magic Festival of San Marino
San Marino, located in the middle-south-east of Italy, near Rimini (FISM 2015!), is number four in the list of the smallest independent countries in the world (what are the other three?). Gabriel and his team organized the 24th edition of the Festival internazionale della magia di San Marino. This event is not only remarkable for its magical quality, but also for the fact that it is sponsored by the government. This really is the type of festival-convention we should aim for, as it brings far more recognition to the art and the artists than merely a public show as it is the case for most magic conventions.
I was booked for a lecture and to be part of the close-up show.
I did my lecture on Stand-up Card Magic, which they put on as the very first event of the convention, on Friday at 11:30 am. I was told that in earlier editions of the festival they started the events only in the afternoon, giving people time to come into San Marino. So, I had only about 60 people in the audience, but at least everyone seemed to leave with a happy face.
Nonetheless, 75 minutes are a very tight timeframe for my type of lecture, which I would characterize as a conceptional lecture, where the tricks, techniques and presentations are placed into a larger context: Although I try to give a detailed explanation of the technical construction of the individual items, my focus is on the polyvalent principles that make magic work, and that can be applied to all magic. The result is that even if someone will not do the trick or technique performed, they will still be able to learn something to apply to their own magic.
Since the lecture was delayed by about 15 minutes, but most of the audience was present, I did a “pre-show” by giving a mini lecture on how to take notes, and also mentioned how I transfer the notes in a more sophisticated system using Evernote. This seemed to be very much appreciated by several.
Friday evening saw a stage competition, sponsored by a jeweler of San Marino (lovely idea), with twelve acts. Fortunately I was not asked to be a judge (in theory I’m a FISM judge, but am glad most don’t seem to know…), although the task for once would have been easy, as most were so bad that you didn’t even have to consider them for an award. The standard was one of the lowest I have ever seen, with but three or four acts that should have competed. This, of course, is an eternal problem of all competitions, and the only way to get around it, is to have a pre-selection, which admittedly is a hassle and takes time and nerves, for various reasons we won’t discuss here…
This said, I would still want to express my respect and in a certain way my admiration for all the participants. I learned this from an advertising expert, who, years ago, said to me, “Even those with bad ideas and poor execution have invested a lot of their time and thinking in what they do.” Hmmmm…
This was certainly true of most acts, some of which must have spend thousands of Euros and hundreds of hours making up their props and practicing and rehearsing; unfortunately to no avail. Very much like a beautiful sports car that drives into the wrong direction… One of the conventioneers was overheard to say, “They don’t seem to have any friends…”
But of course we all know how difficult it is to tell a friend that what he’s doing is not as good as he thinks… The only solution I see is to try to take yourself not too seriously, to develop a sense of healthy self-criticism, to learn the tools of the trade, to develop criteria, and to have a small group of friends whom you can ask for their sincere constructive opinion.
In theory a magic club could be such a place, but it is also the place that shows that the difference between theory and practice is even bigger in practice than it is in theory. Reminding my of what Al Goshman once told me when I asked him about his opinion of magic clubs. He said, “That’s were the blinds lead the blinds.” I don’t entirely agree, but I will never forget what he said.
Saturday evening saw the traditional gala show which lasted about two and a half hours, too long like most convention gala shows, but with an enthusiastic audience and a group of talented performers. To comment on all the acts simply goes over the scope of this blog, as all the thoughts and implications would deserve an essay of its own.
I liked the dove act of Maxim a lot (you can see two of his remarkable productions HERE).
I realize that magic with animals in general, and doves in particular, are considered problematic by several, and I don’t want to argue this here. As far as I could judge, Maxim treats his animals really well, and the effects he does with them are truly magical with a poetic quality. In my opinion the appearance of a dove, if done artistically, is the epitome of the symbolism of creation; there is no other type of production that so deeply affects the mind and the heart. A subject that merits to be discussed. (Every convention should have at least one 60-minute format or so that has a panel of competent people discussing topics that are normally not treated in the books and magazines, and there are plenty of them: Let’s make a list of such topics and compare in a future issue of The Magic Memories!
I was also greatly amused and laughed like seldom before by the presentations of my friend Raul Cremona of Milan, who emceed the show and who is a household name in Italy, with hundreds of appearances on TV and full-evening theatre shows were he mixes magic and stand-up comedy.
What is so incredible about him is that he’s a stage animal, I mean he has a stage instinct only few have, and within the first few seconds puts any audience into his pocket. It feels as if he was born on stage, and the stage was his natural habitat. For all of us who struggle with stage fright and similar inconveniences days before a show Raul is inspiring. (Although I did not like so much what he said the next day in his lecture, were he explained that the reason he could feel so comfortable on stage is that he despises the audience. Of course it is still an interesting point, as it seems to work, at least for him. Yet another subject to discuss on a panel: “What are your thoughts towards an audience before, during and after you perform?”
Years ago Raul and I met after a lecture of mine in Bologna (he says he’s a fan of mine and has all my books!), and it was already quite late, midnight or so. The two of us, along with a few friends, were hungry, but didn’t know were to go to eat at this time. It so happened that we were standing on the sidewalk in front of the convention center, under a bright street lantern, and a police car passed by. They suddenly stopped, and one of the policemen shouted out of the window, “Hey, you, aren’t you Raul Cremona!? We’re great fans of yours!”
Raul joked around with them, as is his way, and then said they should escort us to a place we can eat. Said, done. We got in two cars, and the police car in front of us took us to the only Pizzeria in Bologna that was open at this time and that had a line waiting to be seated. Unimpressed by this the two policemen got out, and by their authority got us immediate seating in that great Pizza place. Needless to say that Raul had to give dozens of autographs and make photos. Certainly, this can only happen n Italy 🙂
Before I leave the convention, I would like to comment on two more lectures. One by someone you will never have heard of, Lodovico Marchetti, and whose vocation is not giving lectures. But in spite of his poor abilities as a lecturer, he delighted the audience (and me!) with his original ideas and his superior skill, very much in the style of Vernon’s philosophy of naturalness, as there was not a second were you would suspect a move, and there were many! He lectured on three variations of the Cups & Balls, with truly excellent ideas and handlings.
Although he had a special table, he also showed two ideas of how to provide a table with an improvised servant. One of them was to sit down, place a doctor-type of bag (see in the back in the photo below) on his lap to overtly take out some props and place them on the table. When the bag is removed and placed on the floor or on a nearby chair, the loaded servant is left on the lap. It reminded me of the initial coffin scene on the roads of New Orleans in James Bond’s Live And Let Die 🙂
I’m convinced you would have appreciated him.
The other lecture that impressed me a lot was that of Gabriel Gascon. You can see him HERE fooling Penn & Teller.
He and Julio Merino have done to sponge ball magic what David Roth did to coin magic in the Seventies and Eighties: With their original gimmicks, techniques, handlings and presentations they have elevated sponge ball magic to a level it had never been before. I remember when in the seventies Benito and Giannola Nonino, brought Grappa, in particular Picolit Nonino, to the level of a great Cognac. Now these two have brought sponge ball magic to the level of great card magic…
But what would a convention be without meeting old friends, making new ones and spending great moments in their company!
I have always been a great admirer (and secretly in love…) of Karly Ann from Trieste, one of the few Italian magiciennes who won international awards. Well, I found her as charming and beautiful as ever, and we had a great time remembering our first meeting in Austria years ago…
And then there were several memorable excursions, one to Rimini and the other to San Leo, in the company of my friends José Angel, Victor and Marta from Magialdia, Vitoria, Spain. You can see us on the photo below on the beach of Rimini: In a few months this beach will be populated by thousands of vacationers seeking the sun and waves of the Mare Adriatico.
And what would be a convention report without a glimpse (see below for a real Glimpse…) at one of our legendary meals… here at the Osteria Belvedere (it truly had a superb view) in San Leo.
Reading through an old Swiss magic magazine titled La baguette magique – Der Zauberstab (“The Magic Wand”), one of the earliest periodicals in Switzerland, published in French and German (there are FOUR official languages in Switzerland, in country with just eight million people), in vol. 1, no. 4, of July 1945, I ran across a short article signed Dr. W. Weyeneth, a dentist by trade, who was an active and influential amateur in his time. He was a prolific author, bringing a lot of information from around the world to Switzerland, and corresponding with some of the important professionals of his time, such as Stanley Jaks and Rolf Andra.
Wish you all a very successful week!