In magic trade lingo, magician’s assistants are known as “box jumpers,” as a result of to the viewers, that is all of the “lovely assistant” seems to do. She’s there to look fairly, smile large, wave her palms round unnecessarily, and come out from the padlocked field exactly when the magician says, “Ta-daa!”
But magic insiders know the actual story. When the trunk lid closes, the sheet is raised, or the noticed is lowered to the field, it is usually the assistant who does the actual “magic” of the phantasm — releasing the latch on the false backside and cramming herself right into a 10-inch area whereas executing her 9th costume change of the night. All earlier than the dude within the high hat says, “Ta-daa!”
Although magic is undeniably a male-dominated occupation when you solely have a look at the title on the marquee, those that know probably the most concerning the stagecraft behind the magician-assistant relationship say that the trade isn’t as sexist because it seems.
Blaire Baron, who co-produced the 2008 documentary “Women in Boxes” concerning the unsung magician’s assistant, explains that on stage, each the magician and the assistant are taking part in roles, roles that artfully play off the viewers’s gendered expectations.
“The biggest misconception is that magician’s assistants are marginalized, objectified ‘bimbos,’ if you will, who are deferring to some guy,” says Baron, “When actually, in my experience, they are the brains behind a lot of the illusions.”
Baron would know. She married into one of many royal households of magic. Her husband, Dante Larsen, is the son of Irene and Bill Larsen, Jr., 2 of the co-founders of The Magic Castle in Hollywood, the world’s preeminent magic membership. And Irene, who handed away in 2016, was herself an achieved magician’s assistant in her day.
What Magician’s Assistants Do
Baron says that Irene and her era of assistants doubled because the enterprise brains of the operation, maintaining monitor of funds and reserving appearances. And though they performed integral roles in each the planning and execution of illusions, the “old school” assistants by no means needed to steal the highlight from the magician (usually their husband) by billing themselves as equal companions.
Modern magician’s assistants see their position just a little in another way. Hannah Lynne Wagster is 1/2 of the South Carolina-based duo The Wagsters Magic & Illusion, who carry out a weekly present on the Carolina Opry Theatre in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Hannah remains to be primarily the one which will get locked within the bins, however says that she and her husband Brandon are very a lot equal companions on and off stage. Hannah considers herself a magician, not “just” an assistant, and even does a number of solo methods within the act. She additionally runs the present backstage, giving technical and lighting cues to stage managers, and ensuring the subsequent phantasm is lined up and squared away.
But Hannah admits that on the finish of the day, her major position on stage is “to make sure the magician looks good,” which regularly means contorting herself into tight areas or dangling from excessive wires with out giving the viewers a clue about how extremely laborious all of it is — or what number of bruises, scrapes and sprained ankles she’s endured alongside the best way.
And regardless of Brandon’s efforts to offer Hannah equal billing and equal credit score on stage, the viewers usually cannot see past the normal magician-assistant divide.
“After shows, folks always want to talk to Brandon and congratulate him on ‘his magic,'” Hannah says. “They’ll literally push me aside.”
The first magician’s assistants had been the product of a brand new faculty of magic that emerged within the mid 19th-century known as “the illusionists,” explains Dean Carnegie, a veteran stage magician and magic historian behind the weblog The Magic Detective.
In the 1850s, pioneering French conjurers Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin (inspiration for Houdini’s stage title) and Buatier De Kolta created startling illusions that concerned the levitation or disappearance of a 2d particular person, an assistant, Carnegie says. Robert-Houdin’s first assistant was his younger son, however as extra illusionists entered the sport, the assistants had been invariably feminine.
‘Woman in Jeopardy’
Women, it turned out, had been far more efficient “victims” within the minds of the viewers. When a lady was in peril, it raised the emotional stakes. And that also appears to be true, says Baron.
“They’ve tried to reverse it and have the female be the magician in the alpha role and the man as the assistant, and it doesn’t work. No one cares.” says Baron, including in mock dismay, “‘It’s a white guy in a box! Oh no, what’s going to happen?'”
Magic tendencies come and go, and for the second the larger names in magic are specializing in close-up card methods and mind-reading, which do not require assistants, or not less than not seen ones. But there are many acts just like the Wagsters who nonetheless wow with set-piece illusions executed with precision choreography.
Baron, who now runs the Los Angeles Drama Club, a Shakespeare program for teenagers, reminds us that what the viewers sees on stage is itself “a play within a play.”
“The assistants are winking at you,” says Baron. “It’s all very tongue in cheek, because it’s trickery and illusion.”