Last month, I had the opportunity to meet Jonathan Levit; magician, actor, television personality, producer, and all around good looking funny dude who catches the TV cameras’ eyes. Mr. Levit delivered a very insightful and focused lecture last Thursday as a part of Misdirections Magic Shop’s 2010 lecture circuit. Special thanks to owner of Misdirections, Joe Pon, for convincing Mr. Levit to dawn the scholarly cap and present this lecture (Mr. Levit rarely presents lectures for magician, making this exclusive evening even more of a treat).
Now, to the disappointment of some of the magician’s attending, this wasn’t a trick-heavy lecture. Only a dozen or so effects were covered over the three hours, almost entirely card effects. Talking with magicians afterwards, some expressed their disappointment with the lack of variety and number of tricks. Also missing from the lecture were heavily innovative moves or gimmicks (well…except for one very controversial one)!
However, here’s the main thing I liked about this lecture and why I felt it was a great night out: it had a clear focus which Mr. Levit stuck to.
It is Mr. Levit’s belief that likeability as a performer, and a personal connection with the audience members are the key to a successful and meaningful performance. I second this completely. The first effect of Mr. Levit’s lecture, and parlor show, shows this philosophy in action . The triple card selection and divination allows Mr. Levit to create three connections with audience members, right off the bat. A scripted mini-failure conveys humility, and allows for comedy byplay. Make ’em laugh and make ’em like you.
Mr. Levit’s use of different methods to accomplish the above feat makes each divination more powerful than the last, and creates a magician fooler. (Although I did recognize the final method. Sorry John!)
I also appreciated Mr. Levit’s approach when it comes to complex sleight of hand. He is capable of the knuckle-busting moves so many strive for, yet he explains that the most important thing to do once you master these moves is to “forget it.” Watching Mr. Levit as a layman you see no complex cuts or fans, or tricky grips; watching as a magician, you witness no tells of difficult sleights. If all goes according to Mr. Levit’s plan for the performance, he will not need these moves.
Mr. Levit is a magician who honors a little line from the code of magic which many of us forget about: Never tell your audience what you are going to do before you do it! With mystery of effect on his side, Mr. Levit reserves his sleight of hand to adjust or even change effects mid-effect if something doesn’t go his way. It’s great thinking which fries magicians even more than laymen, simply because magicians fall into a garden path style of thinking which laymen are oblivious to.
Talking with Mr. Levit afterwards, I inquired about his secrets of success, specifically his television appearances and host roles. His response “Always be prepared.” I like that.
Unfortunatley, this lecture was a rare event for Mr. Levit, and as much as I would recommend you attend the lecture in a city near you, the short tour is completed. But, in the future, if you ever hear “Jonathan Levit” and “lecture” in the same sentence, ask where to sign up!