Daniel Garcia Lectures on Jan. 18

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Danny Garcia lectures for SAM 206 on Jan. 18.

Daniel Garcia lectures for SAM 206 on Jan. 18.

Save the date: Daniel Garcia, one of the biggest names in magic today, is lecturing exclusively for Assembly 206 on Wednesday, Jan. 18!

Daniel Garcia was featured prominently on David Blaine’s recent TV special and has served for more than 10 years as Blaine’s lead magic consultant.

Daniel also has consulted with Dynamo and many other great television magicians. His DVDs and other products are featured with their own page on many popular online magic sites such as Vanishing Inc, Penguin Magic, Ellusionist.com and Theory11.

Daniel’s lecture will be at 7 p.m., Jan. 18, at All Saints Episcopal, 209 W. 27th.  The lecture is for members only, so bring your checkbook. The annual cost of local dues for 2017 is $25.

Astonishing Mike Pisciotta Wows SAM 206 in November

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img_1611By R.A. Dyer

Vanishing coins and fantastic card effects — SAM 206 guest lecturer Mike Pisciotta delivered those marvels and more during the club’s November meet-up.

Pisciotta, the Magic Castle Close-Up Magician of the Year in 2015, bartends and performs miracles, nightly, at the Castle’s Hat & Hare pub. He popped into Austin on Nov. 16 as part of his Southern Lecture Tour.

Although astonishing to witness, Mike’s close-up effects nonetheless appear to be moderately easy to master for a hobbyist. His coin work, in particular, seemed to be equal parts deceptive and simple.

“Great lecture,” said one attendee. “The effects were amazing. Loved the coins.”

In Devil Makes Three, Mike repeatedly caused coins to melt away from one hand, and then appear in the other.  Mike performed the effect simply, slowly and seemingly fairly. It also was presented as a sort of adult sucker trick, that is — Mike provided the audience with a seemingly logical solution to the miracle, but the solution turns out to be a red herring.

Mike also demonstrated an impromptu rising card effect, and another effect in which a selected card appeared sandwiched between two others in a boxed and shuffled deck.

Pisciotta patiently explained each effect and the basis for his performance decisions. He also shared a bit of his philosophy as an artist.

Besides being named as the Castle’s Close-Up Magician of the Year during 2015, Mike also was featured on the Speakeasies episode of Travel Channel’s Best Bars in America,

About 30 magicians, a mixture of both professionals and amateurs, attended the lecture. Mike’s appearance also attracted several new members to SAM 206.

The new 2017 board also was elected during the November meeting. They are Dan Page, President; Jake Dyer, Vice President; Albert Lucio, Vice President; Will Mannis, Sergeant-at-Arms; and Tammy Dietz, Treasurer. The secretary position for 2017  remains open.

Our October Meeting: Paranormal Entertainment

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saul-ravencraft-at-october-2016-sam-meetingGuest Lecture by Chris Walden/Saul Ravencraft

Reported by Kent Cummins

Of course there were 13 people at the October meeting of SAM Assembly 206!

Members and guests were treated to a trip down the rabbit hole with Chris Walden and his alter ego, Saul Ravencraft, in a fascinating two-hour session on the subject of “Paranormal Entertainment.”

Chris began by introducing us to Saul Ravencraft, who spoke about some of the attractions at Austin’s Museum of the Weird…including the true story of Emily, who haunted the museum until Saul held a séance…well, if you don’t know the story, you need to visit the museum!

Saul then treated us to three of his signature routines which were both mystifying and entertaining. Chris later said that Saul had done these routines more than a thousand times, and it showed.

saul-ravencraft-with-the-boxFirst was “The Box,” in which an audience member makes a connection by selecting a card with an artifact to see if it matches the artifact in the box. After much byplay, the connection was made by Paprika. Saul then did a quick palm reading of everyone in the room, explaining the differences between those who were Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. (I am apparently Fire.)

But the highlight of the performance was definitely “Mystery Trip,” an impossible revelation of a place that Jason was only thinking of. The results went beyond those that could have been achieved simply be a magician’s trick. (Ask anyone who was there about “Prague!“)

Saul took his bow, and then Chris Walden took over with the caveat: “I am not going to try to convince you of anything. Everything I tell you will be through my own unique lens, based on my experiences.” Chris then shared some of those experiences.

“What in the world does it mean to be entertained?” Chris asked the audience, resulting in a long list of activities that might qualify as entertainment for someone. Chris then explained his concept of “Paranormal Entertainment,” which he said must be experiential to be effective. He used his experience in both the realms of traditional magic and paranormal entertainment to contrast the styles and results of each.

Chris explained that he felt that often the results were bigger than just a trick, the effect itself, or a story.

Chris then broke down Saul’s performance, bit by bit, explaining not just how each bit was done, but why it was done the way it was. “The Box” turned out to be inspired by Ed Solomon, based on a trick by Aldo Colombini! The Palm Reading was just that: classic palm reading (no tricks). And the Mystery Trip…well, you had to be there.

Finally, Chris shared his thoughts and experiences in “doing it for real,” admitting that his search as a skeptic had led him to some truly unusual places.

Everyone who attended also got an extensive bibliography of relevant publications.

Magic in the Garden: Family Fun from Assembly 206

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Aaron Parker-Fasel, balloon twister extraordinaire!

Aaron Parker-Fasel, balloon twister extraordinaire!

By R.A. Dyer

Clowning, floating kids and balloon animals — all that and more were packed into the Assembly’s recent “Magic in the Garden” event at East Austin’s Vortex Repertory Theater.

The magic variety show for children was sponsored by Assembly 206 as part of its 2016 mission to promote magic in Central Texas. It was conducted on September 24, a Saturday, in lieu of the assembly’s regular monthly meeting, and directed by Austin veteran magician Kent Cummins.

“We had a fantastic time,” said one happy father of two.

Featured performers included Bertil Fredstrom, John Maverick, Peter the Adequate, Bonzo Crunch, Cranius Astounding, Steve Farmer, Cayden Stapp, Shelby Parsons, Robert Castillo and Aaron Parker-Fasel. Cummins, in his “Felonius the Fool” persona, served as master of ceremonies.

The outdoor event began with John “Mad Man” Maverick, who entertained 50 or so attending children with his kid-pleasing RenFest act. Mad Man Maverick performed on the main stage, which was covered with a pop-up shelter to protect performers from the sun and — as it turned out — the rain.

Early forecasts put the chance of showers at 80 percent and as it turned out, those forecasts were 80 percent correct. The afternoon remained generally dry and not until Bonzo the Clown took the stage did the clouds open up. But Bonzo, not missing a beat, brought eager children to the covered stage to watch his hilarious antics up close.

Bertil Fredstrom then took the stage as Black Bert the Magician. The rain had ceased at this point, which allowed Black Bert to amaze the crowd with his fantastic chair levitation.  Peter the Adequate, as the final stage act, concluded the day with a beautiful sponge ball production and his hilarious “Acme disappearing bandana” comedy routine.

Besides the outdoor stage, the Vortex also includes a patio, the Patrizi’s food trailer and an indoor bar.  Close-up card expert Shelby Parsons performed in the bar and also outside on the patio grounds. He shared those spaces with young Cayden Stapp, a rising young talent from Temple, Texas. Other busking performers included JD Stewart, Robert Castillo, Steve Farmer and Cranius Astounding. 

And if that wasn’t enough entertainment, Aaron Parker-Fasel killed as the Lone Star State’s funniest balloon sculptor. Austin’s Famous Magic Camp also sponsored kid’s magic lessons in an outdoor building, the Pony Shed.

And for the generally contented parents, mercifully, there was a wide and satisfying selection of adult beverages at the indoor Butterfly Bar.  “This was awesome,” said one cocktail-sipping adult attendee as he eyed merrily frolicking children. “What more could you want.”

Cummins, who did a fantastic job as the event director, also put together a program for the event, as well as goody bags for the first 100 children who walked through the door. The bags went quickly.

Financial sponsors of the Magic in the Garden include Assembly secretary Steve Farmer and Assembly VP Cranius Astounding. SAM 206 president Jake Dyer served as executive producer.

Talking to the Ghosts: Leading Ouija Board Collector Shares Fascinating Artifacts

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By R.A. Dyer

Brandon Hodge, owner of mysteriousplanchette.com, appears at the SAM 206 meeting on July 9.

Brandon Hodge, owner of mysteriousplanchette.com, appeared at the SAM 206 meeting on July 9.

Just like Halloween in July — that’s how guests described the SAM 206 mid-summer meeting with talking board collector Brandon Hodge. The mysteriousplanchette.com website curator brought with him a number of fascinating objects — including an artifact owned by Joseph Dunninger himself — and spoke at length about the history of supposed spirit board communication.

“It was fascinating — really great,” said one attendee.

Hodge is widely recognized as possessing one of the greatest Ouija board collections in America. He has travelled extensively throughout America procuring the artifacts. He also has visited with still active spiritualist communities, pouring through their archives and respectfully interviewing members.

The fruits of much of that research can be found on his website, which includes both photographs from his collection and a detailed history of the spiritualist movement in America and abroad.

Hodge also spoke during his lecture of the well-known links between the spiritualist movement and stage magicians, such as Dunninger. Those in attendance gasped audibly when he produced a spirit horn once owned by the iconic magician. He passed the funnel-like device around for inspection, as well as other historic artifacts.

Some of the artifacts from the Brandon Hodge collection.

Some of the artifacts from the Brandon Hodge collection.

Hodge, a former behind-the-counter employee of a magic shop, said it was his fascination with performance magic that first peaked his interest in seances, Ouija boards and supposed spirit communication. Hodge also is a former member of the Society of American Magicians.

Hodge explained during his 80-minute lecture that spiritual experimentation became a popular pastime in America during the late 19th Century, beginning first with table-tipping but leading eventually to the popularity of talking boards. The first known use of an automatic writer occurred in Paris, on June 10, 1853, and the device was an upturned basket with a pencil attached to it. According to his website, the first message was: “I expressly forbid your repeating to anyone what I have just told you. The next time I write, I shall do it better.”

In America, the first person known to have manufactured a spirit communication device was Isaac Pease, of Thompsonville, Connecticut. His “dial-plate” board included a clock-like dial face with letters of the alphabet inscribed around the circumference. The world’s first patent for a talking board was granted to Adolphus Theodore Wagner, for a spirit communication device known as the “Pyschograph.” He applied for the patent in 1854.

In 1860, one year before the onset of hostilities during the Civil War, Boston bookseller G.W. Cottrell began manufacturing planchettes. But the devices didn’t sell particularly well, and it would not be until later that supposed spirit communication broadly captured the attention of the American public. 

This Year’s Magic Showcase at Dozen Street: Hot, Packed and Fun

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Jack Darling and Jake Dyer, foreground on the stage, Albert Lucio in the background, and the side of Matt Dillahunty's head.

From left, on stage, Jack Darling, Jake Dyer and Albert Lucio. Also, at far right, the side of audience member Matt Dillahunty’s head.

A magician escapes from a straight jacket as an audience member downs shots. Another magician wanders blindly around this room with his head wrapped in foil. A third reveals a chosen card … from behind the fly of the magician’s own pants.

Offbeat and edgy, those bits and more were included in this year’s slightly out-of-control edition of the Magic Showcase at Dozen Street. A new tradition for Assembly 206, the showcase was held at the East Austin Dozen Street lounge and included six magicians, a stand-up comic and a piano player. The June 16th fundraiser was produced by Assembly President Jake Dyer and magician Jack Darling.

The club was sweltering hot, especially after it began filling to capacity shortly after 8 p.m. About 30 seats were scattered around the front of the stage, and more audience members stood along one side. Local mojo-man Saul Ravencraft told fortunes before the show and during a brief intermission.

The opening performance slot went to Assembly Vice President Cranius Astounding, who demonstrated his powers of awesomeness by retrieving a selected card from a vicious looking rat trap. Cranius also played one of his crowd-pleasing original ukulele tunes.

Following Cranius was Joe Walden, a rising young talent from the University of Texas Magic Club. Walden performed two very interesting mind-reading bits, including a book test.

Saul Ravencraft came next. He performed a fascinating cold-reading bit — and mixed into it a heaping dose of his uniquely entertaining creepiness.

Magical Mystical Michael, also known as Michael Kaufman, was the last onstage before intermission. Michael had the crowd guffawing with a hilarious rope bit, and he also did a funny routine in which he repeatedly produced and vanished red lights from his finger tips.

The second half of the show began with a beautiful solo from Ezra Reynolds, the on-stage piano player for this year’s showcase. Ezra also provided background music throughout the evening.

Ella Gale,  another non-magician, came next.  The stand-up comic told a hilarious (and slightly filthy) story about vacationing with an old boyfriend.

Following Ms. Gale was Albert Lucio, another Assembly VP. He extracted himself from a straight jacket as an audience member downed a line of soft drink shots. The bit ended with Lucio getting plugged in the face with a cream pie.

Last up were Jack Darling and wife Christine, performing as Turning Tricks with the Darlings.  After a ludicrous mind-reading bit involving differently colored whoopee cushions, Jack and Christine ended the Showcase with their “what’s in my pants” routine in which an audience member extracts a pre-selected card (and other items) from Jack’s open fly.

Assembly President Dyer, who served as co-host for the fundraising event, said that through it he hoped to help promote magic in Central Texas. Implicit in that goal, said Dyer, is working to nourish a magic scene that is unique to Austin. That means reaching out to potential new audience members who may have little familiarity with magic, but who nonetheless frequent offbeat music venues like Dozen Street.

Dozen Street draws an eclectic crowd of college students, artists, musicians and bohemian types. “But we may nonetheless be outgrowing it,” said Dyer. “It was standing room only for the Showcase — which was a good thing — but we may need to find a bigger venue next time around.”

May Meeting Report: Hanging With Friends, Family

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By R.A. Dyer

Found cards, crazy coins and good friends: the May meeting of Assembly 206 featured all of that — plus a live goldfish in a glass of water.

Cranius Astounding

Cranius Astounding

Organized by Cranius Astounding (also known as Assembly Vice President Dan Page), the annual Friends and Family get-together had acts by Steve Farmer, Kent Cummins, Albert Lucio, Tim Dietz, Roger Gorss and Paprika. As per the evening’s theme, any friend of the club was welcome.

The meeting was well attended, with guests grouped around tables set up in the Assembly’s new performance space at the All Saints Episcopal Church near the Univeristy of Texas campus. Cranius Astounding served as master of ceremonies.

First up was Paprika, a longtime friend of Assembly 206. Also known a Connie Leaverton, Paprika is an accomplished variety artist and juggler with experience both in trapeze work and stilt walking. Paprika recently has been adding magic to her act and for Friends and Family Night she incorporated silks and an appearing cane into her already charming Parisian busking bit.

Paprika worked up front, performing before the entire room. The evening’s other entertainers worked as strolling entertainers, rotating about individual tables for 10-minute sets. Cranius, as the ukulele-playing MC, kept everyone on schedule.

Tim Dietz, who performs as Thimeos, produced a selected card from his mouth — pre-folded and marked. He also startled his close-up audiences with the unexpected production of a live goldfish in a glass of water. It was, in a word, awesome.

Steve Farmer — also known as the Blue Saint — performed card miracles and sponge ball effects, each delivered with an infectious million-dollar smile and his impossible-not-to-like countenance. It’s not for nothing that the kids love The Blue Saint.

Cummins performed an amazing card miracle.

Cummins performed an amazing card miracle.

Albert Lucio — also known as Albert Lucio — dazzled with his superb close-up skills. He found cards from various spots in the deck, worked through tough sleight-of-hand routines and added in some interesting self-working bits for good measure. Cards changed color, cards were located and predictions were made.

Roger Gorss, another accomplished close-up performer, dazzled with a number of card and coin miracles — including an unnerving bit in which coins kept reappearing in his hand.

But if an award was given for the evening’s single most amazing trick, that award might go to Kent Cummins. He performed a card miracle in which a named and marked card was found in a quite astonishing fashion. The effect is an original creation of the Austin veteran, and one he may start marketing soon to other pros.

NEXT MEETING: Summer Magic Showcase at Dozen Street — Thursday, June 16, 8 p.m. Follow us on Facebook for latest details.

FREE Now You See Me 2 Advance Screening with Richard Turner

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For the low, low cost of FREE you can attend an EXCLUSIVE ADVANCED SCREENING of NOW YOU SEE ME 2 with an appearance by card virtuoso Richard Turner.

NYSM2This magic-themed film stars Daniel Radcliffe, Jessie Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and more. Although the movie doesn’t open to the public until later, Now You See Me 2 is screening for FREE for SAM 206 members, their friends and others on Tuesday, May 31. You’ll also get a chance to catch one of the nation’s best card magicians, Richard Turner, live and in person.

This is a great opportunity for the Central Texas magic community. But you must RSVP in advance — and as quickly as possible.

WHEN: TUESDAY, May 31, 7 p.m.
Please arrive at least 15 minutes early. RSVP seats will be released on a first-come, first-serve basis at 6:45 p.m.
WHERE: ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE SOUTH LAMAR
HOW: Email Alexia Zamora at alexia@fonspr.com to reserve your spot — but do it ASAP. Really.


Magical Mystical Michael Kaufman

Michael Kaufman to perform at Dozen Street

JUNE 17: SAM 206 Magic Showcase

Join SAM 206 for its summer MAGIC SHOWCASE at the Dozen Street Lounge in East Austin. Expect magic and more. The event is FREE for holders of the SAM 206 event card.  The Dozen Street Lounge is at 1808 E. 12th Street. Show starts at 8 p.m.


For more information about SAM 206 or to see a calendar of local magic events, check out the SAM206.com website. Join the SAM206 Facebook page for the latest updates.

Nick Lewin Slays at Magic Movie Night

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SAM 206 President Jake Dyer, left, with Nick Lewin.

SAM 206 President Jake Dyer, left, with Nick Lewin.

By R.A. “Jake” Dyer

Talk about a trooper. Nick Lewin, one of the funniest magicians around, kept a standing-room-only crowd in stitches for 45 minutes — despite dealing with a tough travel schedule and a brutal head cold.

Lewin, the consummate professional, was the guest of honor for this year’s Magic Movie Night, an annual event sponsored by Assembly 206. The April 17th movie and show were conducted in tandem with the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, with a film presentation of The Illusionist. Lewin performed afterwards at the adjacent Highball Lounge.

“We had a great time — the movie was wonderful and Lewin was so funny,” said one very pleased attendee.

The evening began with lobby entertainment by Assembly 206 magicians Agustin Tash and Cranius Astounding. The magicians performed card miracles and a funny chain escape. They were joined by the Illusionist Stillamazing Joe Walden, a young magician from the UT Magic Club.

Meanwhile, inside the theater, Assembly 206 president Jake Dyer presided over a raffle. Awards were donated by Magic’s Theater, Esther’s Follies and the Alamo Drafthouse. Tickets cost only a dollar, but the proceeds brought more than $200 to Assembly 206.

And then came the 6 p.m. screening of The Illusionist, a 2006 film starring Edward Norton, Jessica Biel and Paul Giamatti. The critically-acclaimed film tells the story of a doomed love between a one-time itinerant magician and an Austrian princess. The film features famous historical magical effects — such as the Pepper’s Ghost illusion and the Orange Tree — albeit enhanced with CGI effects. 

Afterwards the crowd strolled over to the adjacent Highball Lounge, with Nick Lewin taking the stage at 8:30. And just as with the earlier film screening,  the house was packed. Suffering from a tough head cold and an even tougher cough, Lewin nonetheless made his magic seem effortless. And he remained as funny as ever, cracking jokes about his native England, about Texas and Texans and the startling contents of his trouser pockets.

All of it — the film, the raffle, Nick Lewin’s magic show — benefitted Assembly 206. The proceeds will help defray club expenses and help pay for more public entertainment in support of Central Texas magic and magicians, a key mission of Assembly 206.

“What a fun evening,” said one Highball attendee. “I just could’t stop laughing.”

New Space, New Friends for SAM 206

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By R.A. Dyer

High ceilings, great parking, plenty of space and the right price — the All Saints Episcopal Church has everything a magic club could ask for.

And after a year of casting about,  the members of Assembly 206 have made All Saints Episcopal their new home. The club held its first meeting in the church’s Gregg House facility on March 30.

VP Dan Page, who helped secure the spot, explained that by making the move from the Onni SouthPark location the club will save more than $100 each month on rent. The church management also has been extremely accommodating, although it stresses that church activities must take precedence over club events.

“There are currently no conflicts with our programs scheduled for 2016, but there remains the possibility of having to reschedule in the future,” said Dan.

Joe Walden

Joe Walden from the UT Magic Club

All Saints is located just a stone’s throw away from the University of Texas campus, and the new meeting days — the third Wednesday’s of each month — fall on the same day that the UT Magic club meets. But the UT Magic Club meets an hour earlier and so it’s expected that many of the student magicians may find their way afterwards to the SAM 206 meetings.

And in fact many UT Magic Club members did exactly that on March 30th, during our first meeting at All Saints. The meeting was led by Albert Lucio, another Assembly 206 VP, and devoted to card magic.  Albert preformed various card effects and also led a discussion into both the presentation of card magic, and some of the mathematical principles that undergird many card effects.

Albert explained that the possible combinations of a deck of cards can be expressed as a 52 factorial. “That number is huge, there are less grains of rain on the earth,” he said.

A guest performer, Joe Walden of the UT Magic Club, spoke a bit about his club’s history and his involvement with it. He explained that the UT Magic Club has been around for about eight years, and that it now sponsors various charity events. “Our club — we’ve got weekly meetings, and we do magic for Dell’s Children hospital. We also do close-up shows and stage shows,” he said.

New SAM 206 Event Cards are good for special discounts.

SAM 206 Event Cards are good for discounts.

Next up was Andy Lau, another UT Magic Club member and a bio-chem major. Andy performed a card miracle in which one spectator thought of a card and then it was found in the deck — but precisely beneath the number of cards selected randomly by another spectator.

Other performers included UT Magic Club president Fin Gao, who performed a feat in which a selected card kept returning to his pocket, and SAM 206 member Edward Boswell, who performed a feat in which a volunteer discovered he was sitting on a selected card.

The other news of the night was the introduction of new SAM 206 “Event Cards.” The cards are good for discounts and free admission to lectures. Magic’s Theater, in South Austin, also has agreed to honor a $3 discount for any Assembly 206 member who attends a show there and presents a SAM 206 Event Card.