Magic and Museums

Today’s guest blogger is Richard Hatch. He holds Masters of Science and Master of Philosophy degrees in Physics from Yale University. However, deciding he would rather violate the laws of nature than discover them, Hatch has been a professional magician full time since 1983.  He is co-founder of the Hatch Academy of Magic and Music in Logan, Utah.

Richard Hatch is returning to HMNS July 31 – August 2 as an encore to his popular sold-out classes offered last summer. This time we are offering Magic 301, in addition to Magic 101 and 201. If you want to be armed with tricks up your sleeve, don’t miss these classes by magician Richard Hatch.

July 31 – Magic 101: Introduction to Sleight-of-Hand Magic
August 1 – Magic 201: Fundamentals of Mentalism
August 2 – Magic 301: More Sleight-of-Hand Magic

All students are expected to adhere to the magicians’ code of secrecy regarding the techniques taught. Click here for more information on the Magic Classes and to register.

The fantastic Magic! exhibit that ran at HMNS from February 26 through September 26 last year was my first experience working with a museum.

Guest curator Scott Cervine, himself an award-winning magician and a filmmaker, did a great job rounding up and organizing artifacts and performers and working with the museum staff to present them in a truly wonderful way. It was a singular honor to be associated with this exhibit, both as a lender of artifacts, consultant, lecturer on magic history at the associated extension course at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, performer (both close up and on the special stage built for this event) and designer and teacher of the adult magic classes (Magic 101 and Magic 201).

In the latter role, I particularly enjoyed the feedback from students and used it to tweak the classes over the course of the exhibit, leaving out things that took too much class time to explain properly, adding others based on student feedback about what they enjoyed. These monthly classes were a highlight of my participation in the exhibit and inspired me to open a school of magic (and music) in my hometown Logan, Utah, where I moved just a few weeks after the exhibit ended with my wife, violinist Rosemary Kimura Hatch.

Our concern with leaving Houston was how we would keep busy professionally in a new community where we were totally unknown. Rosemary gave up a large studio of violin students in Houston in order to make the move, so it was logical for us to think that she could, over time, find students in our new home, a small college town in northern Utah. I thought that by offering magic classes in addition to Rosemary’s music classes, it would help draw media attention to our new venture. My press releases characterized our venture, the Hatch Academy of Magic and Music, as a “combination of Hogwarts and Julliard” and the local media was intrigued enough to feature us in numerous articles and in radio interviews leading up to the official opening of our school last January.

As a direct result of my participation in the HMNS exhibit, I was hired to perform and teach magic classes at the Discovery Science Place in Tyler, Texas at the end of January. Earlier that month I traveled to Los Angeles to lecture docents of the Skirball Cultural Center in preparation for their exhibit, “Masters of Illusion: Jewish Magicians of the Golden Age” which opened in late April. Just prior to the official opening of the exhibit, I returned to the Skirball Museum to lead media tours. This wonderful exhibit runs through September 4th and focuses on the remarkable contributions of Jewish magicians to the art.

At the Hatch Academy of Magic and Music I offer both group lessons and private lessons. This summer I have added a class called “How to be an Amazing Grandparent” to introduce magic to a more mature demographic. Rosemary and I also started offering monthly performances of magic and music, along with our son, pianist Jonathan Hatch. We are calling these performances “Matinées Enchantées” as a small homage to the great Robert-Houdin (1805 – 1871) whose performances in Paris in the 1840s revolutionized the art of magic and were called “Soirées Fantastiques” (we give our performances in the afternoon, rather than the evening). The venue only seats 56 and the April, May and June performances have all sold out in advance. Rosemary is teaching at Interlochen, Michigan the entire month of July, so we won’t start these up again until August. In the meantime, we are exploring venues for touring with this performance, which is suitable for small theaters with good acoustics and a tuned piano. We particularly enjoy performing in historic opera houses (such as the Columbus Opera House, in Columbus, Texas, where we performed many years ago).

I’m looking forward to returning to the Houston Museum of Natural Science for the upcoming Magic 101, Magic 102, and Magic 103 classes starting July 31. Each class is independent and there are no prerequisites. All students are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding the secrets of magic (the traditional “magicians’ oath”) and we spend the first few minutes of the class explaining why this is important.

Contrary to popular opinion, the secrecy oath is not to protect the secrets of magic, but to protect audiences from those secrets! In addition to the magic learned in class, resources are shared for continuing to learn magic outside the classroom environment.

Magic! Spotlight: Magician Curt Miller

Today’s guest blogger is Curt Miller, a professional magician who will be performing his two-hour theatrical illusion show at The Hobby Center for The Performing Arts on May 28-19, 2010.  This is the largest magic show to appear in Houston in over twelve years.  He will also appear in the HMNS Magic! exhibit August 16-29. Click here to view showtimes.

Step through the portal...
Enter the illusion in Magic! at HMNS. Magician Curt Miller
will be performing live in the exhibition Aug. 16 – 29.

I’m a professional magician, and it’s one of the greatest jobs in the world.  Every night, I meet new and interesting people, and I get to bring a little joy, laughter and amazement to their lives.  The art of magic is universally appealing; people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds appreciate it. I find it fascinating to look into my audience and see a five-year-old and a corporate executive both equally enjoying the show!  I’m spoiled with my job because I know before I walk onstage that the audience is going to have a great time.  It’s not so much because of me; there’s just something really appealing about watching someone do the impossible; especially when it is presented in a fun and entertaining way.  About twenty years ago, I coined the tagline “Magic plus Comedy equals Entertainment,” and I still believe that today.

I started performing magic when I was 11 years old and I had business cards when I was 13.  Back then I dreamed of someday having a large theatrical Illusion Show in the tradition of the Great Blackstone, Thurston and Doug Henning.  Realizing this dream, of course, was incredibly difficult, and it took over 30 years!  Thousands of dollars were spent on props.  Assistants had to be hired and trained, a theatre director was hired to take the show to a higher level and endless rehearsals were scheduled.  It was all well worth it though, and I’m very proud of the show we’ve created.  I have an absolute blast each and every time we perform it.  I get to make people appear, disappear, float in mid-air….how cool is that?!

To keep my passion for being a magician, I am always working on new and wonderful illusions.   At our upcoming Houston show at The Hobby Center for The Performing Arts (May 28-29), I am debuting an original illusion that’s been in development for several years.  Inventing new magic is a real challenge as so many great illusions have been created in the great history of magic.  My new illusion is a twist on a classic.  It’s called “The Miller Self-Sawing.”  That’s right, I am going to saw myself in half!  It looks amazing, and I’m really proud of it.  Hey, worst case scenario I can be in two places at once!  I hope to present this illusion at my appearance at HMNS in August as well.

By the way, I am often asked if I can make a person’s husband, wife or kids disappear.  I am pleased to announce my Summer 2010 Special:  for every relative I make disappear, you get the second relative absolutely free!

How much do you know about magic? It’s time to see through the illusion! The Magic! exhibit is now open at HMNS; check out a preview of what’s in store at the video below. Throughout the run of the exhibit, check back here for exclusive videos and descriptions of the unique items on display

Tales from the Magic Crypt, Part 2: Living Artifacts

Today’s guest blogger is Richard Hatch, a featured performer of our Magic! exhibition, as well as an instructor of the Museum’s Adult Magic classes. He will be performing a special evening of magic and music with his wife, violinist Rosemary Kimura, accompanied by pianist Jo Ellen Hubert, in Houston on June 12.

The Magic! exhibition currently featured at HMNS is unique in having secured the services of some of the world’s leading magicians to act as “living artifacts,” giving performances both close up and on the stage as an integral part of the exhibit. According to HMNS President Joel Bartsch, “As fascinating as the artifacts are by themselves, we became convinced that they were only “complete” when they were accompanied by performances—in our case both live and taped. It is only when these artifacts are animated and brought to life by talented magicians that the dialogue loop between the artifact and the museum visitor is completed.”

The first performer to headline on the exhibit’s stage was John Carney, one of the world’s greatest sleight of hand artists. John performed at the Museum for the first two weeks, then returned after a two week break to perform for another two weeks. Tomorrow evening, May 18, John will be the featured performer on CBS’s popular “Late Show with David Letterman” which is celebrating a week of close-up magic. In the meantime, a video of John performing his original “invisible” coin routine may be viewed online here and is featured in the Magic! exhibit.

Currently featured as headliner on the exhibit stage is Canadian born magician Christopher Hart, winner of many magic competitions and probably best known for his role as “Thing” in the three Addams Family movies: The Addams Family (1991), Addams Family Values (1993) and Addams Family Reunion (1998). Ironically, Christopher’s stage performance has long featured a vignette with a disembodied hand, which both predates his Addams family role and was independent of his casting in that role. Even more ironic, given his Addams family casting, as a teenager he actually worked as a gravedigger and was nicknamed “Lurch” due to his lanky frame!

Christopher is currently closing his stage performances with this signature piece involving the disembodied hand that comes to life. Other highlights of his current performances at the Museum are his superb card manipulation and a demonstration of pure digital dexterity in which the entire audience is invited to participate! Christopher will only be at the Museum through June 6 so make reservations soon to come see him! He truly is “the real Thing”!

For a full listing of the performance schedule, check out the Live Show site.

To read Richard Hatch’s previous blog click here.
Don’t miss your chance to see Magic!, open now at HMNS.

Magic! Radio Cabinet and Come Along Cuffs

How much do you know about magic? It’s time to see through the illusion! The Magic! exhibit is now open at HMNS. Throughout the run of the exhibit, check back here for exclusive videos and descriptions of the unique items on display from curator Scott Cervine.

Radio Cabinet

This “radio cabinet,” built by Massachusetts illusion builder Charles Catulle, was repainted by CBS artists and introduced into the Harry Blackstone Jr. road show, which had a record-breaking run at Broadway’s Majestic Theater.

A woman is tied into a large cloth bag and placed in the cabinet. The top of the bag is drawn through a hole in a tray inside the cabinet, and all the doors of the cabinet are closed. After rotating the cabinet to show all sides, the top is opened and the cloth bag is pulled through the hole in the tray – the woman has apparently vanished.

Come Along Cuffs

A “come along” cuff, such as these, secures only one hand, but has a handle to keep the cuffed prisoner under control. These cuffs were used by Harry Houdini in one of his breathtaking escapes.