The dark era of magic

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.
Andrew Martin Portala
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Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Toledo,Ohio

The dark era of magic

Postby Andrew Martin Portala » December 21st, 2002, 9:04 am

For the past 25 years or more magic been very well-received.
However,back in the late 1940's to the late 1960's was a "dark era". I understand it was hard to get work,ect..
Then in the early 1970's Doug Henning appear and magic was back.
Why did we have this dark era and do you think it could happen again soon?

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Michael Kamen
Posts: 338
Joined: January 18th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: SF Bay Area

Re: The dark era of magic

Postby Michael Kamen » December 21st, 2002, 11:24 am


Thanks for the nice topic -- here are a few opinions I'd like to offer and then sit back and listen.

Television appeared in the 1930's. With that and the rise of the motion picture industry, magic was overshadowed and lost most of its best venues to boot, in spite of many brilliant magicians plying their trade. A concave-up inflection point in popularity occured at the end of the 60's I think for the following reasons:

1. The 60's were a time of radical and generalized re-thinking.
2. Jeff Sheridan set the ground during the late 60's for a "populist magic," that forced magic as art into the attention of huge numbers of people through the Street Magic phenomena he started in New York City. The awe of a real person doing real magic seemed to become relevant again to a generation.
3. Doug Henning had a spiritual essence and underpinning that plugged directly into the times and connected well with his audience. His contribution was unique.
4. Numerous great acts stepped up to the plate in the years that followed.

On the other hand, nothing has changed in the factors that led to magic's popular decline. I do not see any reason to imagine that there is going to be a either mass popular revival or a further decline. As performers I think magicians may always have to sell themselves on the merits of their own performances. Like most artists their ability to commercialize their work may determine their commercial success.

In general, the technology has been superceded -- magic is no longer the exclusive or main reserve of illusion-art and illusion-entertainment. However the art, the craft of the "hand-made/person-made" magic need not disappear as long as there are practitioners fascinated by it and capable of fascinating others with it. I would suggest practicing magic as an art, for its own sake, for your own sake, and for YOUR audience's own sake. Look for and create opportunities. Who knows what the future holds? What cultural forces or marketing genius may lift the art high in the public mind as it was many, many years ago I would not prognosticate -- but would not rule either.

Michael Kamen


Re: The dark era of magic

Postby Guest » December 21st, 2002, 7:37 pm

Like everything else, magic has its highs and lows.
Today, magic is probably in an upswing; at least one (and, possibly, two) generations have been raised on a diet of television, computers, CDs, etc. and a live performance -- especially of a theatrical nature like magic -- is a rare and cherished occurence to many people.
In the 1920s, magic was also in an upswing.
Then it became too expensive to stage full evening shows with huge casts. And it began to fade.
The night-club circuit, in the late 1930s, the 1940s, and the early 1950s was another period of upswing for magic, and it revived for a time.
Then TV cut into its popularity.
And then TV, with its variety shows, did a turn-around and provided another boost for magic.
Later still, TV dropped variety shows and, with them, went magic.
Then came Doug Henning.
And the cycle continues.
In the 1960s, the late Charlie Miller took apparent delight in condemning anything he didn't like, in his Genii writings, by saying "magic takes another leap into oblivion."
Well, most of the critics have gone and magic soldiers on.
As it always will.
With its ups and downs; its highs and lows.
Peter Marucci

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