Tag Archives: Michael Weber

Mind Over Matter

21 Jun

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The calm is now upon us after the thrilling chaos that was Luminato and what are we left with? The satisfying aftertaste of success from  the Mind Over Matter magical series!

Mind Over Matter

For this year’s Luminato, Magicana went with the saying, “Mind Over Matter”, a term originally used to refer to paranormal phenomena, to best describe the magic behind these three performers. While each show was different from the other, they all had a common theme: how magic is essentially delivered and perceived through the power of the mind.

The world’s leading mentalist, Banachek, astounded, intrigued and inspired crowds with his life story through The Alpha Project, while Richard Turner cheated his way into the hearts of Torontonians with his incredible feats in card manipulation. Similarly, Juan Esteban Varela, despite NOT being the blonde with rippling muscles as he claimed to be, resonated strongly with From the Dark, as he made his mark with one of magic’s most experiential, groundbreaking shows to date.

The Alpha Project: Insight into the Life of a Mentalist

The Alpha Project revealed Banachek’s life story. Having gone through a trying childhood – abandoned at age 9 – Banachek embraced these tribulations and used them to support him on his way to becoming a mentalist. At 18, Banachek made headlines when, for a period of four years under close scrutiny, he convinced research scientists at Washington University that he was psychic. Entitled Project Alpha,the purpose of this experiment was to disprove others who claimed to be real psychics and to declare to the world that even scientists, when lacking expertise in the arts of deception, can be easily misled.

With rave reviews from The Toronto Star, Mooney on Theatre and Torontoist, it looks like The Alpha Project fulfilled its purpose in spreading this word!

The Cheat: Why One Should Never Play Cards with Strangers

In between wowing spectators for Luminato, Richard Turner, “The Cheat” also performed for Holland Bloorview and the Parliament Branch Library. Rounds of Texas Hold ‘Em, poker, blackjack and three card monte then ensued between Richard Turner and the audience. The end results, of course, always went according to his liking, despite the inordinate amount of shuffles by audience members and, at some rounds, with limited cards.

Richard Turner, along with boggling the minds of Toronto,  also charmed the hosts of the Morning Show and the CBC’s Eli Glasner. See Richard’s part in this CBC News clip in which Eli Glasner calls today’s age a “Magic Renaissance“.

From the Dark: Magic at Its Purest Form

For the closing weekend of Luminato, we followed Juan Esteban Varela, blindfolded, as he guided us through his new show, From the Dark – the only magic show that happens in absolute darkness. With everyone participating, the show quickly became an experience with a sea of voices in an unknown space. These factors contributed to the show’s overall mystery, which is essentially magic in its base form.  Indeed, Toronto Star and Cadence Canada both agreed that From the Dark was truly unique in its premise and most of all, its effect.

And so, we end Luminato 6 with invigorating vibes and positive feedback from Toronto.

Toronto Star reviews ‘From the Dark’

17 Jun
Juan Esteban Varela in From the Dark - Photo by Aaron Harris / for the Toronto Star

JUAN ESTEBAN VARELA | From the Dark
Aaron Harris/For the Toronto Star

The Toronto Star’s staff reporter, Alyshah Hasham, reviews her experience of a magic show in total darkness, by Chilean magician Juan Esteban Varela, where even the performer is blindfolded.

Luminato: ‘From the Dark’ — A magic show performed in total darkness

By Alyshah Hasham
Staff Reporter
Jun 16, 2012

Traditional magic tricks are all about the grand reveal.

Before your very eyes, promises the magician, the dove will disappear.

But how do you perform a vanishing trick when your audience is unable to see?

That’s the premise of renowned Chilean magician Juan Esteban Varela’s “From the Dark” — a magic show where both magician and the audience are blindfolded.”

Under the fluorescent lights in the lobby of Hart House Theatre I slip on a black blindfold, “surrendering my sight” to Maria Zambrano, the appointed guide for our group of 10.

The reassuring sliver of light around my nose fades as we queue in pairs to enter the darkness of the theatre.

One hand resting on the shoulder in front of us, we shuffle carefully toward Maria’s voice.

The theatre sounds crowded, but when I end up alone for a moment, waiting to be gently herded to my seat, I can’t tell whether the closest person is a foot or 10 feet away. It’s oddly paralyzing.

“If screaming starts we’ll leave,” the optimistic woman on my right tells her friend as we settle in. “For now, let’s embrace the madness.”

It is a magic show after all — though what that entails is the subject of much speculation as we wait in the darkness.

Varela told me earlier in the day that there would be some divination, some card tricks. Oh, and that somehow he’d make something disappear.

In the two years he has been doing this show, he once performed for the King of Spain and his sister Margarita, who has been blind since birth. After the show, she emotionally told him that that was the first time she understood what it meant for something to vanish before.

As I consider this, Maria places a small box on my lap, and tells me to strap it onto my leg.

Inside are various props including cards and a coin. We are all magician assistants in this show it seems.

Finally a hush. Varela speaks. He is sitting on the stage in front of us, he says, himself blindfolded to share this journey.

The theatre is dominated by his voice, which leads us through tricks performed with our own hands and the props from the box. He guesses which hand of a volunteer holds the medallion he gave her, confirmed by its metallic thud when dropped onto a table.

“I don’t want the spectator to have any other explanation,” Varela told me before the show. “They can’t say it happened so fast I didn’t see it. I want them to have no defence for the astonishment. I want the impossible to be a little more impossible.”

It took him 10 years to develop the show, which began as a way to share magic with people who are blind (the Luminato Festival performance is presented in collaboration with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind).

Over time it became a show for anyone, using blindfolds to allow the performance to take place inside the minds of the audience. That’s why Michael Weber, the director of the Canadian premiere of “From the Dark” ensures the theatre is never seen at all.

For Varela, the challenge is giving up the control of sight, being unable to study the faces of his audience and relying on their vocal cues.

As an illusionist he demands trust from the audience. But when you are all blindfolded, the trust has to go both ways.

And trust me, under your very nose, something does vanish.


Last chance!

Varela is performing this unique experience, From The Dark, as part of the Mind Over Matter magic series for Luminato 2012. Magicana is delighted to be presenting this Canadian premier under the direction of Michael Weber.

The show plays Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Hart House Theatre, 7 Hart House Circle, Toronto. It lasts 75 minutes with no intermission. Admission is $35. Limited seats available. UofTtix Box Office / 416.978.8849 /www.uofttix.ca

 

Redefining Magic: Cadence Canada talks to the artists of “From the Dark”

15 Jun

A magic show in the dark?

“It doesn’t start the moment I start speaking. It starts the moment you surrender yourself to the idea, or even before then, when you make the conscious effort to come. Thinking about it, imagining it. And hopefully it doesn’t end when I stop talking. Ideally the magic, the experience, will last long after.” – Juan Esteban Varela

The magician behind the groundbreaking show, From the DarkJuan Esteban Varela and its director, Michael Weber  (also known for his work with The PrestigeThe Illusionist, and Oceans 13) sat down with Asif Hameed, reporter for Cadence Canada.

They breach numerous topics, such as the sister of the Spanish King personally thanking Juan for making her realize what vanishing truly means through his performance, the ten years it took to create an art form that challenges preconceived notions of the magic experience, and the intense love and passion that came with it.

Read the entire interview…

Experience magic at its most intimate form

From the Dark (directed by Michael Weber, starring Juan Esteban Varela), runs June 15–16 @ 8:00 PM and June 17 @ 2:00 PM as part of the Mind Over Matter magic series for Luminato at the Hart House Theatre (7 Hart House Circle).

Ticket information: www.luminato.com

To order tickets by phone, call: 416-368-4TIX/416-368-4849. Tickets also available from Hart House box office (www.uofttix.ca)

31 Faces North

12 Sep

Our sixth 31 Faces North conference – produced in association with Allan Slaight – was held August 14 to 17, 2008. Participants generate programming and this year, we saw unprecedented levels of sharing and collaboration in the art of magic. Honoured guests were Herb Zarrow and Ton Onosaka.

31N2009
David Ben gave a tribute lecture in honour of Herb and Herb’s tremendous contribution to magic. David also highlighted Herb’s vast body of work, sharing some wonderful touches, thoughts and subtleties of Herb’s trademark style. David also commented on his research for the forthcoming volume, ZarrowA Lifetime of Magic. For our second guest of honour, Max Maven interviewed Ton Onosaka, and drew out (bilingually) highlights of Ton’s fascinating life for participants to discover. Most interesting was Ton’s lifetime commitment of bridging magic communities between the Eastern and Western worlds.

2008 Marshall Award Winnner

Another time-honoured tradition at 31 is the presentation of the Marshall Award, (in honour of Jay Marshall). Attendees voted Jim Steinmeyer as the 31er who contributed the most towards the conference’s success. Past winners of the Marshall Award are: Tommy Wonder (2003), Michael Close (2004), Billy McComb (2005), William Goodwin (2006), and David Ben (2007).

Also, thanks to the gathering of 31, Magicana as able to produce two special lectures for the greater Toronto magic community by Roberto Giobbi and Eric Mead. (See our previous post on the seminars and the Tony Eng Youth Challenge.) As promised, Eric brought friends to his lecture and had an all-star magic team, including Jason England, Michael Weber and Jamy Ian Swiss share pet secrets with the enthusiastic audience.

Eric Mead and friendsAs a surprise for all our participants, Magicana released two new publications, How Gamblers Win and Spins & Needles: The Magic of Allan Slaight. Even as the co-host of this event, we were able to surprise Allan at our Farewell Dinner with the presentation of his collected work. Both volumes are now available from our website or from your favourite magic shop.

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