As a “good wizard” I believe in supporting fair trade as well as environmental sustainability. Fair trade organizations, such as Ten Thousand Villages, pay artisans, farmers and others in the developing world a living wage for their work. I support this by buying coffee, chocolate, magic props and gifts from my local Ten Thousand Villages store here in New Haven, CT. I also support their fair trade efforts by performing “fair trade magic,” in the local store. I theme the routines to fair trade and use props from the store itself. Fair trade reverses the trend of creating poverty overseas so that we can have cheap and disable goods at home.
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.
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.
I am delighted to be a conspirator in a cabal of magicians casting a spell on New Haven for the 7th year in a row. Magic Week New Haven is an annual celebration of magic that provides magic shows of an amazing variety during the latter half of October. In 2013 the magicians assembled include several mentalists, two wizards and a gritty street magician. The core of Magic Week is the series of free magic shows offered in each of New Haven’s five public library branches. The frosting on this year’s cake, being the shows out of the ordinary, includes a thought-reading and paranormal performance by Keith Zalinger at historic Lyric Hall (Saturday October 19th) as well as New Haven’s newest and greatest evening outing: Comedy Magic Monthly (last Tuesday of each month: 10/29/2013). I will be providing several shows as well. For a complete listing of these events, and magics offered year-round, visit www.magicnewhaven.com. Magic Week New Haven is sponsored by the International Brotherhood of Magicians Ring 59, the New Haven chapter.
Delighted to perform environmental magic at the Annual Hawk Watch Festival and Green Expo, I was also delighted to be out performed. No magic I or any other magician will ever create can match the sheer wonder those gathered felt as rehabilitated hawks flew. Catch this magic, and my own more humble magic, tomorrow as well: 11-3 environmental magic, 11-5 festival. If you can, be there at 4:15 when they release a hawk back into the wild, setting it free after rehabilitation. It will be a truly enchanting experience! http://greenwich.audubon.org/15th-annual-hawkwatch-festival-green-bazaar
It has been a year since I left the Ivory Tower for the Wizard’s Tower. In July 2012 I finished a career of two decades as Yale’s recycling coordinator. Although I miss the worthy work of ensuring 21,000 Yalies recycle all they can, I embrace the more magical life of an environmental magician and educator. The “magic” goes beyond the increase in magic shows, tricks and the small wonders you might expect in the life of a full-time magician. Some of the best sorcery in my magical life has been that of increased sustainability on personal and planetary levels.
Some highlights of this year’s sorcery can be shared in a quick summary. Since July 2013 I have created 5 new magic shows (see below), performed in Las Vegas, created two environmental PSA videos in concert with magician-film maker Jordan Wright, performed in historic Lyric Hall, and was keynote speaker at the first ever sustainability luncheon for community leaders in Gastonia, North Carolina. I even “vanished” my carbon footprint (see earlier blog entry). All of these made for a very busy and very fulfilling year.
Some aspects of this magical year are hard to capture in a summary, however. By working at home I spent more time with wife and children. I was no longer a visitor to the rhythms of my home but a more intimate partner in them. I collected chicken eggs, tended to dogs and helped with chores and childcare. These extra dances during the day hurt my productivity, but helped to heal a soul separated from family too often by 22 years of office work.
Some of this sustainable sorcery is growing beyond what even I had hoped to conjure. Like a successful “Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” I am delighted to see my endeavors to use magic for environmental education growing in all the right ways. I have worked with educators to develop programs using magic to cover mandated recycling issues in public schools. I have trained environmental professionals on how to use magic to strengthen their messages on sustainability.
These various and valuable efforts are now taking shape in the large umbrella of a new program: Message Through Magic. In addition to teaching environmental issues through magic shows, Message Through Magic cross trains magicians, environmental educators and youth to use magicians’ skills in conveying their own messages. Staff at Yale University’s Peabody Museum share in the enthusiasm and are helping to grow the program. As a magician I can pull a coin or two out of the air. To make this dream of environmental education through magic come true, however, takes the greater magic of team work, administration and support.
Please offer your thoughts and suggestions on how to expand and support Message Through Magic. Please let me know if you would like to see a copy of the current proposal. In so many of our popular modern films and novels, magic is the key to saving the day. I feel Message Through Magic is a real-world example of this. Message Through Magic will enable others, as well as myself, to deliver important messages to audiences far and wide. Your suggestions will help us make this magic happen. What topics, partners, events and venues should be a part of Message Through Magic?
New Magic Shows Since Summer 2012
- Little Fairies Big Magic – a whimsical story of tricksy fairies teaches the importance of preserving wild lands.
- The Magic of Hanukkah – the story and the traditions of this magical holiday told through magic.
- MAGITRICITY – a show on energy and climate change developed in concert with the “Seasons of Change” exhibit at Yale’s Peabody Museum.
- Magic of Water – Following a larger pilot project I stripped this down to a very quick and portable “commando” show, performable outdoors.
- Secret of the Dusty Castle – a fairytale adventure which teaches the basics of lead poisoning prevention.