Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Long Island Magic Arts Convention- One Geek's Perspective

So I ventured to the town of Hicksville, NY on Long Island for the 2nd Annual Long Island Magic Arts Convention. Before this, I had not attended a "mainstream" magic convention in over a decade (in fact, the only two magic events I attended annually were the Inner Circle of Bizarre Magick Gathering & Tannen's Magic Camp.

After a frighteningly easy commute up, I arrived just in time for the beginning festivities at 10:30am (Yes, I did learn the sun was up that early) which started off with the Junior Parlor Magic Competition. Sitting with fellow ren performer and Stoopid Guy Pete Juris, we were rather impressed with all the contestants, especially since most, if not all, are past or current Tannen's Magic Campers.

One in particular I wish to give a shout out to is Zach Ivins, who did a really solid linking ring routine. Him and I traded ideas back and forth a few years ago and it was nice to see some of those ideas being put to good use.
From there we had little time to rest because we went right into the first lecture of the day- Jon Ferrentino & Joe Silkie. These guys were damned funny, intelligent, and one particular idea concerning the appearing 8ft pole may have saved me the cost of the entrance fee alone.

And the hits kept on coming. We went right from there to the MacGuyver of Magic lecture by Scott Francis. Again, just full of so many ideas I couldn't write them all down fast enough. However, the one that shall be taking up some of my time shortly is how to build really good, compact backdrops for very little money. It helped that it was obvious both him and his wife had such passion for what they did.

A really interesting experience was the close-up show. How they did the show was that there were 3 close-up performers: Mark Mason, Asi Wind, and Daniel Garcia. They split the convention goers into three rooms, and then rotated the performers for each room for 15 minute sets. Which means that every performer had to perform their set 3 times. It worked (at least in our room) and which meant everyone had a good seat. All three performers were top notch, and having never seen Mark Mason or Daniel Garcia live, it was a real treat. The first time I saw Asi Wind at Tannen's years ago was a bit of a disappointment, so seeing him here was nice because he did a great job and smashed my former experience of him.

Then the final lecture of the day was Daniel Garcia. Holy frickin' crap he was good. Funny, engaging, intelligent... it's now clear to me why he's become so popular in the magic world. I've been working on Torn for three days straight and hopefully by June, I'll be adding it to my repertoire. That and many other awesome ideas.

Then Pete and I enjoyed a quick dinner at Panera Bread down the road where we got to throw ideas back and forth about performance, advertising, Gigmasters (Damn you gigmasters! Damn you to hell!) and then went back to enjoy the evening show.

After a very nice tribute to Mama Magic for her lifetime of work with running Tannen's Magic Camp and so much more, the show began.

Scott Francis Emcee'd the show and did a great job. Magic Al opened the show and did the heck of a job like I've always known him to do. Jon Ferrentino was one of the better acts of the night for me. He was frickin' hilarious. The show off show was alright, although I felt it dragged just a bit, along with Francis's segment, but still good stuff. Then we got to the big act of the night, Jay Mattioli. He's got a hip-hop feel to his show and because of that, he was a point down in my book already. It's not his fault, it's just that my hip-hop magician will always be my brutha Elliot Zimet. His act was alright. It had a little bit of original flair to it and I liked that... until we got... to the Snowstorm illusion.

Originality is a really big issue with me. Every effect you put into your show should scream of you. Your style, your experiences, your influences, your character, etc. There are big ways to do this, and little ways to do this. Clothing, story, music, prop design... these things can totally change an out-of-the-box effect into something yours.

Every time I've seen the snowstorm illusion, it has either been a not-as-good copy of David Copperfield's or Kevin James' presentation. Unfortunately, this time was no exception. Even going as far as using the same music as Kevin James used. Which almost seemed tacked on to a pretty original act. And considering it was the closing piece of his act, that's what he left the audience with. That's probably the most bothersome. Now note, this isn't stealing an effect at all. Kevin James sells this illusion and probably even the music accompanied with it... but that doesn't mean I think it's a good artistic choice. I'm stepping off the heavy duty soap box now.

The only other problems I had with LIMAC was that the schedule was so packed, there wasn't much time for the dealers room, and because it was being held in a high school, as soon as the evening show was over, everyone was out and gone. Some of the best conversations happen in hotel lobbies and hospitality suites after the regular events end. But these are minor points for overall a fantastic convention run by great people and I can't wait to return next year.

(A quick shout out to Mike Maione for the pics of LIMAC. I hope you don't mind me using them here)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wicked Faire 2010 & The Escape That Almost Didn't Happen

In this long overdue post, I'm finally going to describe my experience at Wicked Faire 2010 (www.WickedFaire.com). I spent three fantabulous days in the the bowels of New Jersey with a hotel full of some truly awesome people. Although impossible to completely describe, it comes down to being part Renaissance Faire, part Geek Con, part Fetish Con, all-kickass.

I started my weekend getting fixated behind my table, performing close-up magic and pimping my midnight Friday night and Saturday night shows. During this, the great people at the Con Goer Vid Cast interviewed me and did the best job of getting my spoon bending routine on film that I've ever seen, along with being interviewed by the cutest feline correspondent I've seen. (http://www.vidgle.com/podcast/2010/03/12/con-goer-wicked-faire-2010-features-daniel-greenwolf/comment-page-1/#comment-129)

The Friday Night show was well received, despite going up against a Shadowcast of Repo: The Genetic Opera (which is a pretty big deal at WWRF).

During this show, I realized that headset mics make me feel like I'm doing something important. To this day, I have no idea why. It also makes me want to start talking about bottle-nosed dolphins and calling myself "Greg". Unfortunately, that is a lot easier to explain to myself.

Saturday, however, seemed to be the more interesting day for me. As not only did I have my idiotic escape to face at Midnight, I had the nervousness of the Charity Munchausen Project in the afternoon. For those who don't know, the Munchausen Project is a game that is based in improvisational storytelling and responding to the other players. The other players on the panel were Voltaire (www.Voltaire.net), Donna Lynch of Ego Likeness (www.egolikeness.com), writer Hugh Casey (hughcasey.livejournal.com), our illustrious host Zachary M. (www.thepointyearedartisan.com), and the astounding Jeff Mach (The Man Running The Whole Shindig). The back and forth that ensued was apparently epic for all those who beheld it and, in an almost ironic use of the term... you truly had to be there.

One other highlight of the Saturday for me was being able to see Coyote Run (www.CoyoteRun.com) in concert after many years. I had met David Doersch and an earlier incarnation of the band at Rites of Spring many moons ago, so seeing the places they have gone creatively in that time was quite pleasing to the ears and eyes.

Which brings us to Saturday evening and the escape (that I call "Gasp"). For those who have not heard of this, what I do is have 2 people tie me up in 110 feet of rope. I then have a plastic trash bag placed in a cloth bag so one can't claw at it and have the plastic bag placed over my head and tied to my neck so I have about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes to escape from the ropes before I lose enough air to pass out.

I figured, since I was at Wicked Faire, a place where many of the top bondage experts in the US came to sell their wares, lecture, and generally be a part, I would have 2 bondage experts do the tying. This itself was a challenge as the first two experts I approached said that they didn't feel comfortable doing it. An idea that already set me at ill ease. But after a bit of searching and asking around, two pros by the names of Murphy Blue and Ogre agreed. Step One- Done.

Step two was making sure the EMTs were on site in case something went wrong. I spoke to the head EMT, Scott, who informed me that they would be checking my blood pressure before I did the escape to make sure I didn't stroke out during the attempt. Also, being a big guy like I am, they would have the whole team on site. We all agreed. Step Two- Done... or so I thought.

Step Three was working with the sound man (who did a fantastic job, despite a small hiccup that I'll talk about in a second) and trying to psych myself up while also calming myself down so I could focus on what I had ahead of me. Going over every step with my wife and the experts so we were all on the same page as to when things would happen. Anything goes awry, and I'd have to cancel the escape. So far, so good.

So, it gets to Midnight AND... no EMTs. I ask one of the staff if they could locate them because I can't start without them on site. They call in and at first, it seems like there was an emergency at the other main stage. The hall where I was doing the escape was filling up and I was starting to get very nervous, when it came in that the EMTs were at the other main stage expecting me to be there so they rushed to my stage. A small hiccup, but it got me really spooked.

Then the escape begins. The experts start tying me up and, as I'm talking, I remember that the EMTs hadn't taken my blood pressure. WHILE the bondage experts are tying me up, the EMTs decide to take my BP then, which is of course through the roof at that point. They were not happy. I told them to give me a minute so I could calm down and get my BP down to do this. They give me a minute and take my BP again... still too high. They not only warn me to stop the escape, but when I refused to stop, they threatened to cut me out of the ropes and have me arrested (I know... redundant, right?) to keep me from endangering myself. After a bit of an emotional back and forth, I convince Scott to give me a few minutes to calm down so I can get my BP down to do the escape. So, while being watched by a few hundred people, tied up in a lot of rope, I stood there chanting to myself, eyes closed, controlling my breathing. The EMTs came back in and took my pulse... it was borderline for them, but they allowed it. So it was now or never.

My wife Rachel steps in front of me with the bag in hand, in tears. I tell her it'll be okay, and that I needed her now. She then commented that "She had better get sex after this" which was the exact break in tension everyone in the crowd (especially myself) needed. After a good laugh, the crowd went quiet, Rachel threw the bag over my head and tied it to my neck and the music started. Unfortunately, the sound guy played the wrong song, which wasn't a big deal, but it did throw me off for a second mentally.

At the beginning of the escape, I did the one thing I should never do inside the plastic bag, I sucked in the last air in the bag through my nose... which caused the bag to stick right to my sweat-covered face. That tiny bit of air was meant to be a safety net in case it took longer to escape than I planned. Because of my nervousness, I had used it in the starting 10 seconds in the bag. I was now escaping without a net.

10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds go by... not making much progress. Then I start to undo the ropes and around the 70 second mark, I have my hands free, but the ropes are still around my body and I refused to take off the bag until the ropes were entirely off my body. Then somewhere around 1 minute 26 seconds, I get the ropes off, take the bag off... thankfully for me, the audience was as excited as myself. I couldn't hear my own scream over the cheers, and I knew I had done something right here.

After it was all done, the EMTs took my BP and it was through the roof, so they sat me down and hooked me up to Oxygen while I did the after-show meet and greet with the audience. I got to keep the oxygen tube as a macabre souvenir. I had Scott, the head EMT, sign a tag and attached it to the tube. It's now hanging in my bedroom.

Sunday morning, I was greeted with various rumors that I had been arrested, had gone to the hospital, and other things by people who weren't at the escape first hand. Rumors that I thought were absolutely glorious. It's just amazing how a story grows in less than 12 hours (makes you think about the Bible, really).

After saying my goodbyes to all of the amazing people at Wicked Faire, Rachel and I made our way home from NJ to CT (where we learned that Popeye's chicken may indeed be more dangerous to a human being than any escape) and we anxiously await Wicked Faire 2011: Fairy Tales Gone Wrong. Ooooh my brain is already a-brewing.