Helping the Planet Through Vegas Magic: Environmental Magician Learns the Secret that Fooled Penn & Teller

JeffMcBride

Master Magician Jeff McBride bested Penn & Teller on their Fool Us TV Show with his most recent version of “Rainmaker”, his water bowls routine. He has shared his secrets with Cyril May to aid him in greening the planet one magic show at a time.

November 15, 2017

Environmental magician and Resourcerer, CJ May recently returned from a residency at the Vegas “House of Mystery” where he studied the secrets of the Water Bowls with Jeff McBride, the master magician who bested Penn & Teller on their network TV show “Fool Us”. May seeks to use this groundbreaking magic routine to help the planet by teaching his audiences about the wonder of water.

Before his appearance on the Penn & Teller hit series “Fool Us”, Jeff McBride had experimented and refined his water bowls routine over more than 30 years. Having welcomed Connecticut native CJ May to his House of Mystery, and the Magic & Mystery School for which it serves as home, McBride invited May to learn the water bowls. McBride loved May’s use of magic for environmental education in his shows on recycling, energy and, of course, water.  McBride and May began preparations for this sharing of secrets long before McBride took his beloved water bowls routine, named “Rainmaker”, to national television.

May now has the training for the routine as well as two gleaming “magic bowls”. Anyone is welcome to examine them, however, for as May says “the magic is not in the bowls, it is in water.  That is the most vital lesson and magic I can ever share.”

Master Magician Jeff McBride schools environmental magician Cyril May in The Water Bowls.  – McBride’s Magic & Mystery School. Las Vegas

In addition to the McBride Magic & Mystery School, Cyril John “CJ” May has studied at another venerable institution key to his role as “spokeswizard” for the planet. May graduated with a Master’s degree in Environmental Management from the Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

May performs his environmental magic around the country as well as internationally. When performing environmental magic shows for children he assumes the role of “Cyril the Sorcerer”. When giving his TED Talk style presentations and training programs, with magic included, to professionals and other adults he is “Cyril John May – The Resourcerer.

Supporting May in taking his magic to “The Vegas Level” has been TOMRA, North America. TOMRA is a manufacturer of recycling sorting equipment. May met representatives of TOMRA in 2016 when they shared the podium in presenting at a professional development event for classroom teachers. In partnership, TOMRA funded May’s water bowl studies in exchange for environmental magic and related work.

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Keywords: Environmental Penn Teller water magic Las Vegas McBride recycling Yale

Travel by Magic

Harry Potter carries on the ancient tradition of wizards flying upon the backs of hippogriffs. This beautiful drawing was done by Di Acra

“As a modern sorcerer of sustainability it is fitting that I travel upon wind and sunlight.”

As a sorcerer I continue the ancient tradition of traveling by magic.  According to historic accounts, ancient sorcerers might ride upon hippogriffs, the offspring of the mythical griffin and a mare.  Flying brooms and magic carpets were well-known as methods of transport for witches and other wonder workers far before Harry Potter and Disney’s Aladdin.

When I need to “feed” my “hippogriff” away from home I make use of the EV charging stations popping up around the nation.

As a modern sorcerer of sustainability it is fitting that I travel upon wind and sunlight.  In contrast to the wizards of old my transport is of a new sort for a new age:  a Nissan Leaf.  Fueled by the solar energy generated on our roof, and the grid-based electricity which Connecticut allows us to source from the zero-carbon generators of solar and wind, the Leaf does not pollute or contribute to climate change.  This fully electric vehicle may not have the range of a gasoline vehicle or even the gas-electric Prius which I have so enjoyed owning.  But then again, I don’t imagine the hippogriffs of ancient sorcerers could fly forever either.

Magic in Iceland

img_3001Iceland is a country renowned as a land of fire and ice, Viking settlers and northern lights.  I was fortunate to take in this magical landscape after performing “Recycling is Magic” for several schools in the Reykjavik area.  While I enjoyed sharing my environmental magic with my Icelandic audiences, the utter elemental beauty of the country reminded me that Nature is the greatest magician.

This adventure began with a magic to rival that of Iceland’s beauty:  love.   My wife and I decided to celebrate our 25th anniversary with a visit to a land for which we had such longing.   We were able to combine our own celebration with a partnership with Landervernd, Iceland’s most prominent environmental organization.  I worked with Landvernd’s Caitlin Wilson, Margret Hugadalfholsskoli-kids-and-cjottir and Gundmundur “Mummi” Gudbrandsson (a fellow graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies) to create a bi-lingual version of “Recycling is Magic” for elementary school children.  We made some cultural as well as language changes.  For example, my American “ogres” became Icelandic “trolls”, a strong cultural tie.

Given the love that Icelanders have for their majestic landscape I was surprised to learn that their recycling efforts are mixed at this point.  Reykjavik has curbside pick-up for residences, but recycling at businesses and other locales around the island nation is very intermittent.  As such my offer of recycling magic shows tied well into Landvernd’s efforts to help Icelandic schools participate in a growing international green school effort:  Eco Schools.  It was nice to contribute my own small bit of magic to help such a splendid land in its work to protect its environment.  #iceland #enviromagic #spokeswizard #recyclingmagic #recycling

Magic Beyond Earth Day

As an environmental educator and magician I look forward to April as a Santa Claus performer might look forward to December:  a month busy with shows.    Weeks before and after Earth Day are fun and full.  This year I am delighted to add a number of other magics to the recycling, energy, climate change and other environmental performances I will again be sharing this year.

This Saturday March 29th I will be performing “Escape from the Goblins” at the La Grua Center in Stonington, CT.   This is a storytelling magic show in which I weave tricks into a tale of a woodcutter who is captured by goblins.  Jasper learns magic from his fellow prisoner, an imp, and together they make their escape past goblins, an ogre and the Goblin King himself.   I continue to improve this show by gaining feedback from friends in the magic and theater worlds.   Eventually it will be part of a longer epic storytelling show, “The Goblin Sword.”    Today’s public loves the magic of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and other works of film and fiction.   Ironically, the love of magic has not extended to magicians and magic shows.   I feel this is because magicians too rarely engage their audiences with emotion and story.   Rowling and Tolkien enchant us with their characters, plots and beautiful stories.   If magicians learn to do the same, adding their “magic” to that of great stories, we may find ourselves in a period of magical renaissance.

Abraham's Tent Flash

Performing Hard Times Magic at a homeless shelter

Earlier this week I shared my “Hard Times Magic” show with residents of a homeless shelter.   We shared conversation and food before I shared how magic can help all of us through our tough times.    I told some tales of how I am inspired by Harry Houdini (Born on March 24th) and others to continue onward despite life’s challenges.   Involving residents as volunteers in parts of the show empowered them and, I hope, keeps them optimistic about their own futures.

Magic can play so many roles in our modern world, not just in the tales of bygone days.   It can empower and inspire us by capturing our imagination and pushing us to reconsider just how much power each of us has to save our planet and to save ourselves.

Einstein’s Advice for Parents

Asked for advice on how parents could help their children become more intelligent, Albert Einstein offered a delightful bit of advice.  His words went something along the lines of “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.  If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”   This strikes me as sage advice for parents as well as magicians and environmentalists alike.   Stories capture the imagination.   Fairy tales and magic spark the imagination and help young and old think outside The Box in which we find our minds imprisoned.   I use fairytales of ogres, wizards, goblins and, yes, even fairies, to help tell my environmental stories about recycling, energy and water.   I hope that my magic and stories help my audiences increase their own thoughts far beyond The Box.

Magic Can Change the World

“Magic, by its ability to capture the imagination, can change the world.” – CJ May

This video is a brief introduction to my two most popular shows, “Recycling is Magic” and “MAGITRICITY”, and how they help others see the magic they possess.    The video was created to promote my work in environmental magic to those who might bring me to perform as well as to those who might support a grander effort:  Message Through Magic (MTM).  Message Through Magic would allow me to perform full-time and develop new presentations while also providing cross-training to magicians, environmental educators and youth on how to strengthen their own presentations through the use of magic.

The video was masterfully created by Irene Liebler of Super 9 Studios.  She, and her partner Sandy, showed such creativity in the still and video photography they showed me that I trusted this effort to them.   The finished video exceeded my expectations.

Magic in Arkansas

Using Magic to show children that throwing away recyclables is like throwing away money (photo by Northwest Arkansas Times)

Using Magic to show children that throwing away recyclables is like throwing away money (photo by Northwest Arkansas Times)

A small dream came true last week as I had the privilege of serving as spokeswizard for a great environmental program.   TheEnvironmental Affairs & Recycling Office of Washington County, Arkansas, brought me to local schools to assist in recycling education efforts during the middle of November.   During the week I performed 15 shows for more than 2,000 school children, teachers, administrators and citizens.   While most shows were in schools, I also performed in the gleaming Fayetteville Public Library(rated one of the best in the nation), in the Farmers’ Market, and for school administrators.   The basic message is simple:   everyone has the same power as a wizard to transform the old into the new by using their magic box….their recycling bin.

While I was hired to help Washington County Arkansas deliver the vital message about its recycling program, I was also delighted to receive so much information about and ideas from its environmental efforts.    It hosts a special waste collection site that accepts household hazardous wastes like batteries, electronics and chemicals 5-6 days each week.  This is a rare gem of convenience since most drop-offs operate less frequently.   The Environmental Affairs & Recycling Office also works closely with schools throughout rural Washington County to set up and run school recycling programs.

An additional bit of magic came to me from the very audiences I was hired to educate and entertain.   Most of the children for whom I performed had never seen a magician, let alone an environmental magician.  As such they were especially receptive to the “Recycling is Magic” show.   They enjoyed the story of how a wizard saves a town by transforming all that was trashed by an army of ogres into the new and useful.  The warmth of their “thank you” and the sincerity of the many hugs I received were the finest gifts a wizard can receive.

And the magic continues.    Conversations with hazwaste professionals in Arkansas revived those I had more than a year ago with their counterparts here in Connecticut.   A show about household hazardous waste seems like a great addition to those shows I already have on recycling, energy, water and open space.   Kids need to hear the message right along with their parents.   And a spokeswizard may just be the right person to deliver that message.    My pen was busy on my flight back home…a show is taking shape already.  If you are interested in such a show on household hazardous waste, or would like to offer comment on my draft, let me know.   The best magic is that we create together.