I just finished talking with my wife about “Four Calling Birds” and how in the 12 days of Christmas song the line used to be “Four Colly Birds.” If we were still performing regularly with the Magic Neighbors troupe doing New York Public Library performances, we might have integrated this fact and other info regarding traditions of the diverse holidays that are celebrated around this time.
But our daughter is older now and not the young toddler who used to enjoy walking around the performance area during us performing near the book stacks with our portable stage curtains. Back then she wanted to be a part of the show, but her interests have developed into other things. And since much of what we do takes its cues from our daughter, for the moment anyway we have hung up our Magic Neighbors costumes in the back area of our closets. Plus of course, COVID-19 has made live performance difficult, substituted with virtual shows.
Origins of a Song
But the holidays are still fun and looking at the meaning and origin behind classic holiday songs is a part of that fun. For example, it turns out that “The Twelve Days of Christmas” began its own evolution in England in 1780 without music but rather as a chant or rhyme.
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.
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.
Magic Neighbors was founded in 2009 by Lights Camera Read. And from the very beginning, the theater projects Magic Neighbors took on had to do with, what else, magic. So in keeping with the tradition of celebrating magic, Magic Neighbors’ founder, who is known by his stage name Manhattan Magician, recently joined the Society of American Magicians. Manhattan Magician was a professional conjurer in his early years which ultimately lead to him becoming a web designer, digital marketer and blogger. He was deeply impacted by Harry Houdini who he not only considers to be the greatest prestidigitator who ever lived, but also a brilliant marketer. The evidence of Houdini’s ability to promote himself can be found by the fact that we are still talking about him today even though he has been dead since Halloween, 1926. One of the reasons that Manhattan Magician joined S.A.M. is because after the summer break is over he will be auditioning to become a member of the New York City chapter that was once presided over by Houdini himself. This NYC based enclave is known as being Parent Assembly 001, the first of many all across the world.