Iceland 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 Hugadottir 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have updated a trick I developed with the help and inspiration of Jim Sisti 7 years ago. In the original effect, I put recyclables into a trash can and transform them into ashes. This works well in CT where recyclables are burned along with trash if put into the trash can. Performing in Arkansas all next week, however, I needed a version that speaks to landfilling. With this version the recyclables come back out….along with a huge handfull of 50 dollar bills. This showcases that valuable resources don’t get transformed into new and useful items when trashed, and how we are wasting big money in managing them this way. Earlier this year Jeff McBride, offered the suggestion for the handful of 50 dollar bills for a routine on saving money through energy conservation….and it works well for recycling as well!
Join us this Tuesday as we mark a big step forward for Message Through Magic, a program which Yale’s Peabody Museum and I hope to launch there formally in 2014. Beginning at 3:00 pm we will be involving families, off school for election day, in creating video to promote environmental magic. In addition to performing “Recycling is Magic” and “MAGITRICITY”, I will be interacting with children to showcase the use of magic to teach about water and other issues. The resulting video, being artfully crafted by Super 9 Studios, will be sent to a philanthropic magician for consideration. We also hope to use the video in reaching others who may support Message Through Magic and partner with us to advance this program. We hope you can join us Tuesday in New Haven, CT! Facebook has event details. I am especially delighted to use the term “Enviro-Magic” for this milestone event as it was created by my teacher, Master Magician Jeff McBride, at the dawn of the modern environment movement in the 1970s.