Richard: What is your personal approach to the art of illusionism?
Many times I ask myself: who is the magician? What does he represent to the public and what does the public expect from the magician who tryies to envolve the people?
According to you, who is a magician and what is magic?
JIM STEINMEYER: It’s a theatrical art.
Just as a tragedy or a farce is constructed in a certain way, an illusion is a sort of play involving an apparent impossibility, and the magician is the actor in this.
Very often the magician takes the part of “himself, but now with magical powers,” just the way that Frank Sinatra sang a song very naturally, but still put a great deal of acting into it.
The construction of a joke or a song is also theatrical, having a simple plot which progresses.
My friend Alan Wakeling, a most creative magician, once told me that he thought that many magicians are ashamed to be magicians.
They think of themselves as dancers, or actors or “entertainers,” explaining that it is only them that is important, not the actual effects.
That’s a shame, because there’s nothing embarrassing about magic. If it is well performed and intelligently presented, it will find an audience.
Audiences are naturally intrigued with such wonders.
Richard: What do you think of the euoropean art of magic?
What tips would you give to a person who would like to become a professional magician?
Which illusion really make you sigh…woow this is magic!…?
JIM STEINMEYER: I’m jealous that there are so many opportunities for performers in Europe, and so many opportunities for new material.
It is a great opportunity for creativity, which is why it is sad that so many European builders and performers have chosen to steal my ideas and effects for their shows. As for great magic, I think historically that I’ve always admired Devant’s magic, Jarrett’s illusions (recently, I’ve come to appreciate his PRESENTATIONS even more than the methods), and specific effects like LeRoy’s Asrah, Selbit’s Sawing, DeKolta’s Vanishing Lady.
(All Europeans!) Of modern performers, I love the work of Topas, who presents magic elegantly and simply but makes it important to his audience.
The Pendragons, who I’ve worked with, have been a great inspiration.
But I see many performers who are inspiring in their approach.
Richard: What is your relationship with internet?
JIM STEINMEYER: I recently started a website.
I use it for communications and messages and so my books are available.
Richard: May I ask you for our readers something about your latest project?
JIM STEINMEYER: Right now I’m working with Mark Kalin on some changes in his show “Carnival of Wonders,” involving rewriting several sequences and adding illusions.
It looks like I’ll be involved in creating effects for a couple of shows which are scheduled for Broadway.
And I’ve just completed a few new illusions which are, to me, very exciting ideas. One is called “Cube-ism,” a wonderful vanish and reproduction for a night club or stage situation.
These are just being built now and we’re testing it.
Richard: I would like you to end up this exclusive interview (I think the first in the world conducted with the ausilium of Internet!) with a thought of the art of illusionism in relation with what its happening in the world nowadays.
JIM STEINMEYER: For some reason, interest in magic seems to move in cycles.
It’s always been that way.
A few years ago, we had many, many magic specials on television.
Now there are very few.
Television has lost interest in magic until the next “wave” comes along. But this is an exciting time for magic, because very little real creative work is done when the market is hot; performers are anxious to imitate others and make money. Right now magicians are forced to re-invent what they do and forge new markets.
I think that magic can be an invigorating, positive, hopeful experience for audiences, which is how it reminds us of the emotions and senses of childhood.
This was the message of my late friend, Doug Henning.
For this reason, I think that the international difficulties and tension in the world may be productive times for magicians, who entertain with positive messages.
In the U.S. and Britain, the Harry Potter stories, about a young “wizard” have reminded people about magic again, and to me this indicates the wonderful possibilities for magicians and illusionists.
Great magic, which is performed well, will always find an audience.