May 17-19th, I attended the AbraCornDabra convention at the Airport Holiday Inn, in Des Moines, IA. The convention, advertised as the “Midwest’s Premier Magic Convention” has grown since the last time I attended, seven years ago. Now in their ninth year, they had 200 attendees.
For the first time in years for any convention, I attended without being a dealer. It was relaxing and fun. And, since I had no duties as a dealer, I participated in almost all activities, as follows:
Early arrivers, on Friday afternoon, had the option of selling or buying at the used magic sale. Anyone who had something to sell could grab a table and display their wares. This was the first of three used magic sales at the event. The other two, the silent auction (of small items) and the live auction (of larger used magic) occurred Friday night, after the Close-Up Magic shows.
The Abracorndabra Convention is (as they claim) the only convention that has an over-50 years old contest. It’s a neat idea. I was one of 7 contestants that participated, but only because I wanted to promote my PreDate Trick. I thought it would be a great way to demo the trick for many magicians. So I performed my Total Recoil trick and then the stage version of PreDate.
Mario The Maker Lecture
The first of four lectures was on Friday afternoon by comedy children’s magician, Mario the Maker. He’s as unique as his lecture was. This young magician opened for David Blaine last year for 27 shows. His lecture was filled with enthusiasm and positivity. He uses self-made magic props with customized electronics using Arduino programmable servo motors. This was a new world to me. For a low cost, performers (or anyone) can now create and assemble electronically controlled devices that do anything they can think of and figure out how to control. For example, Mario created an animatronic lamp that could perform a rudimentary chop cup routine and hilariously, repeatedly push a sponge ball off the table for the amusement of the children. More information about custom designed electronics can be found at TinkerCad.com.
Carisa Hendrix Lecture
Friday evening offered the Carisa Hendrix lecture. Ms Hendrix has won a number of awards for her various acts and acting. She has at least two performing personas. For the children, she performs bubbles. Her adult magic persona, Lucy Darling, is a humorous and edgy personality. Two of the most interesting things she described in her lecture were her Harry Potter book production, and her rules of behavior for her character.
The book production is surprising because it’s so straight-forward: A volunteer from the audience looks over a list of best sellers and selects one. She opens the flattened bag she’s been holding and produces the selected book: a large (about 350 page) Harry Potter book. She shared all the work on this. It was enlightening!
She also gave great advice for anyone who performs, but especially has a persona. She wrote rules for her character, such as, “Lucy Darling will never stoop to pick up a dropped item from stage.” How she handles the inevitable drops is hilarious.
Friday night, the two hundred attendees were split into smaller rooms to watch close-up shows by Gazzo, Frank Zak, and Alex Geiser.
All the close-up shows were great. I especially enjoyed watching Alex Geiser perform his coins thru clear glass routine. It is a fooler.
Frank Zak lecture
Mr. Zak is a bar magician from Las Vegas. You may know him for his dice tricks. His lecture included work on the following tricks:
• Coin switch
• Salt in bill
• 4 Ace Production
• Wrong sandwich card
• Restoration Fuse (John Racherbaumer)
• Chop cup w shot glass and olive
• Triple Climax Card to Wallet
• Pinup Pinnacle
Alex Giser Lecture
Mr. Giser looks like a classic magician, dark hair and eyebrows, and well-dressed in suit and tie. A full-time performer from Vegas, he has received rave reviews from Penn & Teller.
I don’t remember if he taught tricks. But he did share his philosophy of performing.
“Magic is an art that should be revered.”
“Our secret weapon is our skill.”
“Act the part. Take time. Show conviction.”
He also discussed the difference between Performing Magic and Doing Tricks.
There was a Kids Kernels Magic Contest for the young magicians.
And there were plenty of Blue Light specials at the MagiK-Mart.
I believe there was also a photographer on hand to take promo pictures.
Gazzo is a well-known street magician. He has the skills to handle any crowd. He’s not known as a “family entertainer” and made references throughout his lecture that he wouldn’t say some of his usual lines because of the children present. But one of the funniest stories he told was on the edgy side. But I laughed and shared the story with others after the convention.
One of the magical items he shared was his Card Forcing techniques.
Jay Jay the Pick Pocket Lecture
Jay Jay is from Australia, but now lives in US. His live demo of his pick pocketing methods was very interesting. Although he also performed in the Saturday night Razzle Dazzle public show, his lecture to the magicians was more interesting to me.
He taught his watch steal technique, while also admitting that it is much more difficult, these days, to find someone wearing a watch.
He also provided an interesting Q&A time.
The Saturday night AbracaDAZZLE public show was great. The fabulous theatre was at the historic Hoyt Sherman Place. Seating was comfortable. It was very pleasant. And it looked like the stage was large enough for a large illusion show.
The show was hosted by Oscar Munuz who is a pro as an M.C.
The performers, that I can remember, were:
Mario the Maker
All performances were very professional and entertaining.
I appreciated the button sale offered during the show to raise money for the children’s hospital. There was also a very touching drawing to give an expensive magic trick to one of the children present.
Saturday night, back at the hotel, the attendees enjoyed the Oscears Awards show and Wrap Party.
Each attendee received, after walking through a long reception line, a Convention poster signed by all featured performers. So attendees had a chance to talk with each featured performer as they signed the posters. The wait was worth it.
Then Steve Daly’s staff also performed for the group.
The convention ended with a great lecture by Rocco.
“Illusionment and enlightenment originate in the mind just like objects originate from the sleeves of a magician,” Rocco quoted from an ancient writing.
I’d never seen Rocco before. I was impressed by his gentle friendliness. And he has a spiritual quality also. He started his lecture by announcing that he starts each of his days with a prayer of thankfulness.
He lectured extensively about sleeving, the Slydini Knots, Water to Wine, and the exploding shot glass, and other tricks.
His production and vanish and re-production of a ball of ice was interesting.
One more quote from Rocco, who quoted another ancient authority:
“It’s the space between the notes the makes the music.”