“Why do people like magic? Because lives can be full of problems, but with magic they can escape them for a while,” says David Copperfield. This, he believes, is the responsibility of magicians: to occupy people’s minds in such a way that they forget about their worries for even a little while.
For the first time in India’s magic history, the veteran magician, who performs regularly at the MGM Las Vegas, got together on a video call with 15 Indian magicians: 10 big names themselves, and the others amateurs in need of the right motivation. The call was hosted by magician SAC Vasanth and streamed live on his Facebook page. “David is my friend and I asked him if he could speak with us about how we as magicians, can keep pace during this COVID-19 crisis… How do we use technology to advance ourselves?” says Vasanth.
As it is, magic performance is already in the kind of state where it requires constant developments and innovations to keep the audience engaged, says Vasanth. With the lockdown further shutting down any possibility of live shows in the near future, how are magicians supposed to sustain a living?
The answer, like with everything else, seems to be to go digital: through video conferences. David suggests that magicians use this time to enhance their performances. Putting on a show, an important part of the deal. “When I was young, I would perform with mirrors all around me, to check how I look,” he says. Video calls also allow magicians to pay attention to how they look while performing, as well as the audience’s reaction.
“Everybody needs some kind of live, interactive entertainment. For how long can people keep watching TV?” asks Vasanth. He has been conducting online magic shows for people in Dubai and Japan. While it may be more challenging for grand-scale illusionists who perform tricks like vanishing a bike on-stage to convey the magic on a screen, the field for mentalists and close-up magicians is still wide open.
“In Dubai, for instance, I performed live for 150 families and asked each of them to pick a card from a deck in their own homes. They could put it back and shuffle it, but I guessed the card for all the families,” he says. For an online performance in Japan, he had 15 celebrities on screen, and he vocally hypnotised the audience to separately touch the same celebrity on their respective screens.
“That was a big surprise for them! Of course, we have to constantly work on new ideas, but the credibility is also more because the magic is happening right in your personal space, as opposed to on a stage,” he says.
In the talk, David also mentioned the importance of using this time to hone the art of storytelling. “I found a career in magic but I had a passion for all entertainment forms: movies to Broadway. When Frank Sinatra sang, he would use it to talk about his life, and I wanted to do the same thing with magic.”
Vasanth, also suggested employing their skills to bring more cheer in the world. David’s previous Project Magic involved performing for children with disabilities in hospitals. “I now want to provide entertainment for COVID-19 patients who are in quarantine,” says Vasanth. After all, we could all do with some more magic in the world, right?