As seen in a current edition of Lights Camera Read, there is a striving to be a magic neighbor, a role model. And in this blog entry for “Magic Neighbors” we are looking at the process of striving to be a magic neighbor and are borrowing a quote from LCR of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
When our daughter was a toddler we did a lot of community outreach activities in Washington Heights and Inwood in Manhattan, NY. Our Magic Neighbors theater company was an outgrowth of that as we began to do a combination of magic show and the telling of stories, for kids in need such as those whose parents are homeless.
And now with the Pandemic surrounding us, much of our community building activities occur online with projects involving our now middle school age daughter, such as Harry Potter Fan Club NYC, Disneyite and more.
And Now in the Present
If you have anything you are doing that integrates the concept of “Magic Neighbors” please let us know so you can share your adventures with others.
When we started this publication some time ago we knew that we wanted to look at our neighborhood and depict what we saw in it. There has been a lot of unrest lately but with a very good cause: justice.
Justice means that everyone deserves having it. It should not just be designated to one each and every neighbor and not just be regulated for a chosen few.
Promises Need to Be Kept
Without justice we are not America. The United States is founded on the idea of equality and opportunity for all. Lately there has been a call for the fulfilment of those promises. We indeed have magic neighbors.
When I was a kid magic actually saved me. It became pretty clear to me early on that no one was driving this boat and I needed to rely on my own means of self medicating my youth. That solution was conjuring. Being a prestidigitator gave me a singular focus, and although it might be limited, it did get me through my childhood.
My plan had originally been that as a teen I would go to Las Vegas and develop an act to get on stage on a regular basis but instead I was taken off course to Hollywood, where for whatever reason I found myself among film industry elites. During this period I shut magic down. I didn’t even visit the legendary Magic Castle?
Now it’s My Old Guy Period
But my true destiny started very young. And although I have had many distractions throughout my life, my one constant has been legerdemain. As a husband, father and finger flinger helming the Magic Neighbors Theater Company, it’s all gone full circle.
No, we’re not talking about the Magic Castle in Los Angeles where magic entertainers perform, we’re referencing the Magic Castle of Magic Neighbors fame. The castle was a metaphorical place that the crew of actors and artisans created their magic.
Times have changed. The Magic Neighbors Theater Company members are not performing at libraries for kids these days because of the Coronavirus and the fact that groups of children and grownups can’t gather for a show. So instead, those of the M.N. troupe are concentrating on becoming MagicPreneurs.
Where to Focus
Anyone who is a magician or performer or even a person interested in magic can become a MagicPreneur. It means not just focusing on your art, but also looking at the business aspect as seen at MagicPreneur headquarters.
Even in these days of COVID-19, becoming a MagicPreneur offers a solution to those who are magic and entrepreneurs can get help by examining the world of commerce rather than just the domain of the virus. So get on the new path for magicians and enter the Magic Castle.
When starting a theater company always begin with understanding what your mission is and how you will be different than the competition. What is that special thing that you will do? Then choose the name. If possible the name itself should instantly convey what your mission is.
Develop Your Organization as a Promotional Package
Now create a plan. How will your theater company do what you want it to do? Do you have financing? Do you have sponsors? Do you have performers and related artists? All questions you need to answer. And the good news is that once you have all your elements in place in an attractive package, this can be your doorway into getting you sponsorship. You can get promotional ideas from websites like How to Get New Customers. Additionally, look at what other theater companies are doing such as those for kids.
Work with Those Connected to Your Mission
If your mission helps an underserved demographic, the more likely it is that you will find a sponsor to work with. Pick someone to ask for money (in exchange for sponsorship advertising) who is somehow connected to your mission. Maybe they know people such as family and friends who needs what your theater company does.
Consider Fiscal Sponsorship
You have the option of becoming a nonprofit. Or, if you don’t want to deal with the long process it takes to become one, your can get fiscal sponsorship from another nonprofit. This is much faster. It means that they will be your umbrella organization and will process donations for you. It will allow you to receive donations.
Look Ahead at Tax Time
Needless to say you should have a bank account in the name of your organization. All donations coming in for your fiscally sponsored organization, should go into this bank account. And you will need to keep very organized, knowing what money went where. This is especially important in conjunction with doing your taxes.
Strategies to Get Donations
Sometimes people will donate to you if you have a special subset program from your organization that is will be attractive to a certain group of possible sponsors.
And the most important thing of all is that you have passion for what your theater company’s mission is. Break a leg.
New York City is my neighborhood. This website, Magic Neighbors at MagicNeighbors.com, was established to have a forum to talk about neighbors and neighborhoods and whether they were “magic” or not. I have to admit that I watched the most recent democratic debate and none of the participants seemed very “magic” to me. In some ways I watched the debate hoping to see stability in the candidates. I have to admit that Manhattan Magician’s consideration of adding a persona, had me feeling a bit out of whack.
In many ways the debaters were trying to define their own ideas of “neighborhood” and “community” and what version they would it promote if elected. And sadly, I have to say, I wasn’t much impressed with any of the candidates. They weren’t magic to me and each one appeared to have a major achiles heal.
Is Democracy Alive and Well?
In short, I wasn’t proud to be a Democrat. There wasn’t an adult present in the debate and it just seemed like a bunch of 7th graders (or maybe worse) who were saying whatever they thought would play right with the crowd. Seeming to make it up as they went along.
Where Have All the Grownups Gone?
And unfortunately I see this same kind of thing playing out with local politicians in our neighborhood here in Upper Manhattan. Now there’s nothing new with politicians saying what they think you want to hear (especially before an election), but the problem of there not being an adult in the room is pervasive. Advertising to me used to feel as if it had a certain maturity. I think the promotional organization Market Your Journey is in a way making promotion more accountable. They literally leverage your story, your truth.
Are You an Adult?
When I was a kid in a neighborhood in California, it seemed as if there were some actual grown ups around. There appeared to be people who had values and outlooks who were stable and responsible. I believe we need more of this in this day and age. There is the need for people who actually have the maturity to be called an adult.
Events We Do
Of course I strive to be this myself but am not always successful. In our current neighborhood, my partner and I have the goal to give back to the community. This comes with a price though because in the act of giving back, such as literally handing out free things, there seems to be an entitlement on the end of those receiving the free things.
A Crazed Mob
At some events we’ve done, both the young attendees and their parents have manically and in a frenzy come at us as we’re giving away free stuff. It’s like a crazed mob. The parents as manic as the kids. Is this being magic neighbors? Where have all the grownups gone?
A big motivator throughout my life has been conjuring. I am enamored with the idea that a magician is a producer, director and actor all in one. That in fact magic is one of the oldest art forms and still is strong today in terms of its wide reach as entertainment. Magic along with wanting to create something fun and educational for our daughter lead to developing Lights Camera Read.
Kids love magic because it affirms their belief in magic, and grownups can love it too, often in more cerebral magic in the form of what is called mentalism. My most recent performance experience as a magician occurred especially in the early days of Inwood Manhattan, ultimately leading to an interest in mentalism.
The Houdini Connection
Although I no longer perform magic professionally, I am putting together a mentalism act, working very little at a time. Part of what keeps me connected to prestidigitation is my involvement with an organization and an assembly (chapter) that Houdini himself ran in the early part of the 20th century for around 10 years.
Houdini as Marketer
Houdni has remained my idol for even the years that I was less focused on magic. This is because not only was he an amazing producer/writer/director/actor (playing the role of “magician”) but he was also an inspirational marketer. This is why he continues to be a household name to this day and eventually was a part of the inspiration for Lights Camera Read years later.
Potter Shows Up Again
People ask me why, if I am still pursuing magic, do I not do the Magic Neighbors library shows as much anymore, and the honest answer is that my daughter has gotten older and her interests have changed. Now that she’s a tween her passions include Minecraft, Dungeons and Dragons and a great respect for Disney as a highly successful business, including their cruises. Oh, and she’s a big fan of Harry Potter.
Since my wife and I have been taking our cues off of our daughter’s interests, Harry Potter has been a fun one for me. Although I’ve only seen a few of the movies and have not read a book all the way through, I enjoy my daughter enthusiasm for the topic. Especially of course, “magicially speaking.” And speaking of magic, as of this writing we still live in magical Inwood Manhattan.
Being a Parent
That’s the neat thing about parenting. Although you provide guidance and guidelines, you also allow your child to in a sense reveal who she is. You are driven to help her to become a good person, but you also foster this happening on her own terms.
Working with Manhattan Kids Guide and Market Your Journey
August for us in terms of running a theater company is pretty slow. So we often look for other activities that are theater oriented to fill the time. What we’ve been working on this year is a marketing plan. Two other websites that we’ve partnered with are “Manhattan Kids Guide” and “Market You Journey.”
Putting Magic into Theater
Both of our partner sites have different reasons to want to help us develop promotions when things kick in again for us in September. Manhattan Kids Guide has long been a suporter of ours because our primary audience is children. Children, especially younger ones, still believe in magic. And magic is one of our primary components because our founder is a magician.
New Website “How to Get New Customers”
One of the marketing ideas we’ve been working on is expanding what we do to a national level. A source of information that has been helpful to us is the website and team at How to Get New Customers. A lot of the same techniques they use we are finding that we are able to use as well.
Input Always Helps
Even during this time off members still communicate with each other and lots of good ideas are brought to the table as has happened in past years. Additionally, we love the input that we get from Manhattan Kids Guide and Market Your Journey.
As is often the case for community organizations, having a budget is an ongoing issue. For the most part these days we do not have anything coming in as we did during the Lights Camera Read days.
Making a Difference in the Community
As a theater our mission is to make a difference in the community using a format that is part magic show and part storyline. The format we generally use is that Manhattan Magician reads from his magic book as the storyteller and the rest of the cast act out these stories.
Looking Forward to 2020
We believe that 2020 is going to be our best year ever because our expectations are in check and we realize that what it’s all about is impacting kids and maybe even have some of them develop a love of theater from seeing our performance. With the support of “Manhattan Kids Guide” there’s nothing we can’t do!
You are Always Welcome
We also open this process up to you. If you have anything you would like to share with us we would love to hear from you.
When performing with the Magic Neighbors Troop I sometimes get asked “How did the group start?” And aside from my desire for making a difference in the community through entertainment I was also heavily influenced by my idol Harry Houdini. One of the most important aspects of what Houdini achieved in his short lifetime (he died at age 52) was his ability to market himself.
Houdini is Back
About a year ago we did a newsletter on magician/escape artist Harry Houdini (1874-1926) regarding his uncanny ability with advertising/publicity and ultimately as an ArtisticPreneur. As we described in a past edition he was a master at getting publicity by doing publicity stunts like hanging upside down in a straight jacket in the middle of a town square (possibly his best known stunt).
We are revisiting that topic, this time to look at the approach to promotion that Houdini used later in his life after shedding his more physically challenging routines. Instead we going to look at Harry Houdini the Ghost Buster. The difference between Houdini and the Ghost Busters of cinema fame is that he busted not the ghosts by the fraudulent mediums/psychics who falsely claimed they could cause spirits to rise from the dead.
It All Started with an Idea
Houdini made the claim that he could imitate with trickery any effect that those with so called sixth sense could do. This was a brilliant move on his part because he was able to join up with scientific organizations and even offer a reward for any medium or psychic who could do with her or his “powers” something Houdini couldn’t replicate using magic tricks from his conjurer’s toolbox.
This approach won for him being constantly in the papers, as well as intrigued the general public. Plus, as a tie-in he was able to offer demonstrations of ghostly effects for his audiences of his live shows. Why do I bring this up? Because the topic is still relevant today. As I type this on my mini laptop I am currently sitting on the floor outside of my hotel room at a family resort while our room is being cleaned..
Earlier today along with my wife and our 10 year old daughter I was watching television in our hotel room and discovered that much of the content as we flipped through the channels was about people trying to catch apparitions on camera. These so called “reality shows” consisted of bad acting and the no light camera setting that makes everything look greenish and strange.
What is the Point I am Making?
Nobody ever seemed to catch the ghost on camera unless it was really hard to see or was through testimonials of supposed witnesses. But incredibly these shows are successful because there is interest in them.
So am I saying that magicians should try to make a name for themselves through revealing mediums’ tricks of the psychic’s trade? Not at all.
In fact, recently at a meeting of the Society of American Magician’s PA1 (the chapter that Houdini was once the president of) I overheard a conversation between two magicians discussing the downside of revealing the secrets of fake psychics, both because it broke the conjurer’s code but also because there have been lawsuits by mediums/psychics against magicians for taking away their bread and butter.
No, I do not mean one should “out” psychics and other paranormal fakers. Rather, I am challenging all of us (myself included) to think of compelling stories that we can tell that will excite audiences and build visibility. This is an important concept that my brother Mark and I have been utilizing for years. Think of it this way, Harry Houdini told stories decades ago that still have a tremendous impact and he didn’t even have social media!