Jim Steinmeyer
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Spring 2004

MARY POPPINS

The long-awaited Disney-Cameron Mackintosh co-production will open on stage in Bristol, England this fall, then move to the West End for Christmas 2004. It's scheduled to open on Broadway for Christmas 2005. I've been signed to design the effects for Mary's "magic," several unusual (and challenging) effects that have integrated into the script. It's a great script and a beautiful design with all the well-known songs (and a few new ones, as well). The director is Sir Richard Eyre. The show's designer is Bob Crowley, and the choreographer is Matthew Bourne. I'm looking forward to my work on the production, because the end result will be a very magical show, on many levels.

HIDING THE ELEPHANT

The response and reviews for "Hiding the Elephant" has been really encouraging, and I appreciate all the interest in the book, from magicians as well as the "newcomers" to our mysterious little world. It made the February 2004 Book Sense 76 pick, and the L.A. Times Bestseller List for nonfiction. The book was reviewed by Teller in "The New York Times," and he wrote that "Hiding the Elephant" is

"'a loving celebration of the genius, glamour and gargantuan egos of stage magic from the mid-1800s to the 1920s, when the art was exploding with invention' Jim Steinmeyer knows the outside-in world of magic from the inside. He writes about events a century ago as vividly as if he had been there; and in a sense, he has been. No author has ever better conveyed the way the love of conjuring consumes a magician's life with magic's joys, terrors and longings."

Glen David Gold, author of the best-selling "Carter Beats the Devil," wrote,

"'Hiding the Elephant' is simply the finest, best-told, most graceful history of the Golden Age of magic I've ever read. It belongs on that elite shelf of historical explorations, like Longitude or the Professor and the Madman, which are so entertaining, so informative that the reader with no prior interest will feel educated and enthralled on every page. Ultimately, Jim pulls off the holy grail of scholarship: his terrific yarn will make novelists jealous."

"Hiding the Elephant" is still available in bookstores, from Amazon or in the Catalog section of this website. The paperback will be out this fall, as will the British edition, to be published by Heinemann. If you're interested in background to some of the stories in the book, click on the last newsletter (It's the Fall 2003 edition, in the archives, just to the left on this page.) Included in that newsletter is an interview with Guy Jarrett, recorded in the 1950s.

MARCH KPCC RADIO INTERVIEW

As part of the publicity for "Hiding the Elephant," I did a March 16 radio interview with Kitty Felde on KPCC-a Los Angeles NPR affiliate. You can click here and access their site with my archived interview.

THE NOVEMBER 2003 GENII MAGAZINE

Richard Kaufman's "Genii Magazine" featured an excerpt from the book, three tricks, and a long interview written by David Regal. You can order back issues of "Genii," including this one, by going to their site, here.

THE EIGHTH LOS ANGELES CONFERENCE ON MAGIC HISTORY

That's me with Jay Marshall at our Conference in November of 2003. Our guests at the Eighth Los Angeles Conference on Magic History reported that it might have been the best one ever. I don't have a favorite Conference'but it certainly is nice to have that being said after each one. There's no doubt that we had great speakers and fantastic topics on the bill. On the final night's program, we featured a restored Slack Rope Automaton, Morritt and Maskelyne's Oh! Chair, and Devant's Chocolate Soldier. Closing the show was Shintaro Fujiyama's wonderful demonstration of Japanese conjuring.

I spent months working on the recreation of Devant's Chocolate Soldier, an illusion that dates from 1911. It's a great example of his theatricality and ingenuity, a beautiful modern effect. The photos show Lani Pelino, who played our Chocolate Soldier, just as the illusion is about to begin. Marching atop a raised stool, she was surrounded by three upright pillars of lights, then a triangular enclosure formed by three silk flags. The flags obscured her for several seconds, and when they were pulled away, the soldier had diminished to a tiny marching toy soldier. Steve Dick was the stage manager and assistant for the illusion. Willie Kennedy and Craig Dickens produced the apparatus for the effect; the photo shows Willie with an early test of the effect.

We were also pleased to demonstrate the famous Tanagra Theatre, the famous German optical theatre from just after the turn of the 20th century. Tanagra uses a complicated system of optics to produce the illusion of living, moving, dimensional people, about ten inches tall, that perform atop a small stage. John Carney took the part of Dr. Klein, the owner of our sinister sideshow. Joe Monti and Lani Pelino were the little people who suffered the Doctor's wrath, being trapped in bottles or forced to jump through hoops. The photo shows Joe holding John's discarded cigar-it isn't a trick photo, but demonstrates the three-dimensional illusion created by both performers, live on stage. Tanagra is a wonderful effect, which has sadly been lost for many years. We were proud to be able to reintroduce it to our Conference audiences.

William Stout produced our Tanagra poster. Previously he created the posters for The Blue Room and The Mascot Moth. I always feel lucky when Bill is available for a project like this, as he has the perfect touch for a modern magic poster, with a wonderful mix of Art Noveau and theatrical fantasy. Of course, he's well known as a collectable artist, having produced wildlife paintings, innovative dinosaur artwork, movie posters and comic book illustrations. This year for Tanagra he outdid himself. His Tanagra poster is a beautiful 18 by 24 inch image which captures the strangeness and ominous feeling of the effect. I'm proud to say that Bill's poster was awarded the Silver Award for Advertising from Spectrum, the prestigious fantasy art competition. These posters were printed in a limited edition, but we still have some copies left, and you can order it through the Catalog section of this website.

The program for the Eighth Conference is also available online and it includes articles on Tanagra, the Chocolate Soldier and other features. You'll also see that previous posters and programs are still available.

THE FUTURE PERFECT PREDICTION CHEST

Two years ago, I collaborated with Alan Wakeling and Craig Dickens on a new prediction chest. The results were inspiring and the limited run of chests quickly sold out. We're currently planning on building a few more of these chests, so I wanted to take the opportunity to mention it on the website. So, here's the copy from the advertisement, which originally ran in MAGIC Magazine:

The Future Perfect Prediction Chest has been renowned by professional magicians for its ingenious effect, practicality and perfect mechanism. It's not a prediction chest for the shelf; it's designed to be used. As Max Maven said, "This is the first prediction chest I have ever liked!"

The mentalist or magician displays an antiqued wooden chest, 3 by 5 by 8 inches, handmade in beautiful hardwoods, trimmed with inlay and brass hardware and locked with a brass bar which runs through the chest. It is also tied with a ribbon. The panels of the box are seamless panels of wood. The performer begins his act by handing it to the guest of honor in the audience, with the request that he examine it and guard it during the show.

At the end of the act, the spectator is invited to bring it back to the stage and place it on a table. "I don't want to touch it," the magician instructs him. The spectator takes a scissors and cuts the ribbon. The spectator unlocks the padlock with a small key. He slides the bar from the chest then lifts the lid. The magician has him look inside. There he finds a tray, like a jewelry tray, within the box. Atop the tray is a manila coin envelope containing a 4 by 6 inch sheet of paper, folded into quarters. "Open it up," the magician tells him, "and read what it says."

The paper describes how the contents of this box were locked one week ago, with a record of several predictions made by the magician. The paper instructs the spectator to lift the tray and find the prediction envelope. The spectator does. Immediately beneath the tray is another coin envelope, the size of a playing card, containing a folded 4 by 6 inch sheet of paper. On the paper are a series of predictions, including a full description of the show that just transpired: the names of the spectators who assisted, what they were wearing, what cards they picked, what choices they made. Every person in the audience is assured of the impossibility of the prediction; many of them will be astonished to see their responses foretold.

Of course, the chest can be used in the traditional way, having been held by a committee for a week or longer, then revealing the newspaper headlines of the day's papers. There is nothing palmed by the magician, nothing concealed on his body. His hands are always empty and unprepared. There is no fake key or lock to deliver the prediction. The final prediction appears on a standard 4 by 6 paper, folded in quarters, sealed in an envelope. It is not rolled or pleated in any other way. Most astonishing of all, the performer conducts it in a virtually "hands off" manner: the spectator examines the box, opens the box, lifts out the first envelope, removes the tray, lifts out the second envelope and reads the contents. No confederates responsible for the operation of the chest. No trick tables, no trick chairs. Not a single spring, catch, sliding or hinging panel involved. No batteries or electronics. An elegant, ingenious routine and a simple mechanism combine to accomplish the trick...perfectly.

And now, let me l tell you how it's done: Believe it or not, it's accomplished when the performer slides the box three inches across the tabletop with his finger. The envelope is silently loaded as everyone watches, and it's impossible for anything to be seen, from virtually any angle, even straight above. It's not a tricked table or tablecloth; the effect can be performed on a card table, desk or dining table—on a stage, in an office or a home.

You are supplied with everything: The antiqued prediction chest, inner tray, lock and key, sample envelopes and a special plexiglas tray which holds all the small props, plus full instructions and Alan's suggested routine. You'll marvel at the elegant secret of Future Perfect. It replaces any other Prediction Chest.

Only a limited number will be manufactured of various fine woods. Each is handcrafted to Alan's specifications by Craig Dickens, with Alan's signature on the instructions. This chest will be an important part of your arsenal of effects, and a feature of your shows. The price is one-thousand six hundred dollars. (An additional $30 shipping; $60 overseas.) Please be advised that, because of the way they're manufactured and the limited number produced, we cannot guarantee availability. If you're interested, send me an e-mail through this website...

ABOUT THE CLIENT NEWSLETTER

A quick word about the Client Newsletter: When Bill Elgin first set up this website for me, he suggested adding a password-protected newsletter, and you may notice the navigation buttons for this at the top of the page. The Client Newsletter allows me to share the latest news of projects, to give them a "heads up" and a head start on the latest material. It's not about "secrets," but the Client Newsletter does allow me to discuss news, scripts and presentations that might be of use to professional performers. That's why I restrict access to it. Send me an e-mail if you're a client and are interested in new material, or if you've lost your password.

Thanks, as always, for your interest.
Jim

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