Like many of you I have long held a fascination for Houdini.
Several years ago I approached the great magician Micah Cover about the idea of creating a show based on the life and magic of Houdini. My major concern was, of course the element of magic. I wanted to focus on the life of Houdini and didn’t want the show to be all about magic after all I am not a magician. So how do you create a show on Houdini without magic? The short answer is you don’t. A few years passed, my interests turned to other characters and Houdini went back into the trunk.
Fast forward and I am performing Einstein at the Firehouse Theater in beautiful Pleasanton California. Now I have performed in this great space several times over the years and have become a bit of a staple in the community. The theatre is packed, and everyone stays after the show for a Q and A session. At some point I am asked what character I’d like to do next. This began a very lively conversation. Now it isn’t often that you have more than 250 people to bounce ideas off of. I threw out a few names and was surprised to not get the reaction I expected and even more surprised to find that some of my favorite characters were almost unknown to the audience.
When I mentioned Houdini however the reaction was universal and enthusiastic. That evening I was booked to return with a new Houdini show.
Now every show, every character has something to teach me. This learning has always been a constant companion and a source of amazement to me, and Houdini is no different.
I begin to really delve into the life and work of Houdini. Ideas come and go and finally a concept for the show emerges from the fog and I think I know what I am going to do. Weeks pass and though I have a concept and a form for the show including specific stories, tricks and illusions when I put pen to paper nothing comes. At some point I am convinced that this show will never come, that I will never get beyond this block and of course will never be able to perform it. This block gets so bad that I am forced to call Pleasanton to try to convince them to change the show. They inform me that the show has been sold out for weeks and there is no way they can change it. I am stuck.
With the performance date fast approaching and nothing on paper a kind of panic starts to set in. Enter Houdini and the first of many lessons he will teach me.
It is late in the evening. I am sitting at the computer, stacks of Houdini books strewn about my office, my mind as blank as the computer screen before me. Finally it occurs to me that my problem might not be lack of ideas but the one idea I am holding on to. I told you that I had a concept for the show. I thought this concept was perfect but maybe this concept was the problem. So I decided to start fresh and throw away any ideas I had and let the show be whatever it wanted to be. The next morning the block was gone and the words began to flow. A whole new concept for the show began to emerge and it was perfect as this concept was actually parallel to Houdini’s life. The entire show was written in just a few days and performed 3 weeks later. It was truly magic.
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