Monday, May 23, 2011

American Escape Artist

So, the 2011 Society of American Magician's Salute To Magic is now a memory. As I write, I am still sore with bruises on my forearms, wrists and knees. American Escape Artist is a tough show to do and while people tend to think that because escapes are part of magic that it is all theatre, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. While I do take liberties and use magic techniques, when all is said and done, I am still escaping irons, shackles, chains, knives and, in this case, a nuclear water storage tank. These items are real and can, and do, pose injury, even when everything goes according to plan. I will be getting an MRI later this week on my left knee that was injured in the water tank and which of late, is steadily increasing in pain. The tips of my fingers and the insides of my wrists are still painful, but are healing. But, these are the realities of this show and though it might sound like it, I am not complaining. I love the show that I do and love crafting magic and escapes based on the shared experiences of the audience. I would not have it any other way. We began rehearsals off-site more than a month before the show. I introduced several new escapes into the show that evening, including, World Without Oil, Amen which is my performance of a challenge lockable pair of sunglasses, also, I debuted The Tennessee River Water Faucet Torture Test another challenge device which consited of an aquarium that is filled with water and penetrated by 38 cutting instruments. An AC electric winch below is chained to my hands and when the winch is turned on, it slowly pulls me into the tank of knives unless I can escape beforehand. Performaing this in the show, I heard gasps coming from the audience. Another new attraction was the Red Tape Escape which was my rendition of a roped to a chair escape but done with red tape and all the symbolism and metaphor that brings with it. There were handcuff escapes as usual utilizing my Cabinet Obscura and my full view escape from an MTA New York City Subway Revenue Collection Bag. The stage set, which was a rendition of and inspired by my old attic rehearsal studio at my home in Maplewood, New Jersey was designed by George Allison and built the week before out on my driveway. We had priced a local scene shop to do the actual work, but because it was cost prohibitive, we decided to do it ourselves. So George and I spent a week outside measuring, cutting and painting the wood planks that when trucked to the theatre would be assembled on stage to give the appearance of an old attic. We built the set of stairs that I would ascend from below the stage up to the stage in front of the audience, giving the appearance that I was walking into my attic. Part of the platforms of the stage were removed and we crafted a dummy platform to fit over the space in which the stairs would be located. After cutting the wood assembling, and painting, everything was doused in fireproofing material and left to dry. George and I worked four days, eight hours a day out in the sun constructing the set. On Friday, everything was picked up and trucked to the theatre in pieces where it would be assembled on stage. We had eight hour rehearsals on Friday and Saturday with the show beginning on Saturday at 8pm. The set was constructed and assembled on that Friday and while George was supervising the workers on site in this task, I was preparing the magic and escapes so that we could do a run-through of the show that afternoon. Well, as things usually happen, we only had a bare bones run-through of the show late Friday afternoon, before having to leave (theatre rules) by 5pm. On Saturday, we had set a goal of two run throughs and one dress rehearsal even as Paul Hackenmueller and his lighting team worked around us. As Maia and Natalie and I ran lines, George was having the final stages of the set built, Paul was lighting the stage and Adam our stage manager was working closely with George and the technical director Rachael. Our first run through took five hours!!! We then broke for lunch--actually they did--I did not eat and then we did a second run-through and this time it was much faster coming in at 90 minutes. Our audience would consist that evening of many people from the construction field in New York, workers at the World Trade Center Memorial, wounded American soldiers who were guests of Fisher House/Hope for the Warriors and magicians, lots of them.

By this time, it was very close to showtime. We reset the stage and I went to my dressing room for last minute preparations before the premeire of "American Escape Artist."