We are proud to welcome our dear friend Brian Brushwood as the iTricks guest editor all this week. His new eBook Scam School Book 1 will be released Pi Day March 14th. It contains material spanning 200 episodes of the hit podcast including original audio tracks and embedded video demonstrations. Head to ScamSchoolBook.com for all pre-order information.

I want to show you one of the most influential magic performances I’ve ever seen:

In 1994, I was just starting to learn magic in earnest. I was consumed with the tools and mechanics of the trade, but hadn’t given much thought to presentation… After all, it was obvious how magic was presented: Magicians all wore sequined outfits and played out-of-date 80’s music. Their assistants all smiled as they were cut in half and reassembled. Everything was blow-dried mullets and dramatic magical hand gestures.

And then I saw Simon Drake on the Secret Cabaret.

brian brushwood simon drake.jpgThis was like nothing I’d ever seen. It had a narrative that I cared about. It had a simple, haunting score that still gives me goosebumps to this very day. It was a visceral, graphic depiction of a man mutilated and killed for the intellectual benefit of faceless doctors.

And when he died, he stayed dead. I’d never seen that in magic before. If something was vanished, it had to be reproduced. If it was sliced in half, it had to be reassembled. Magicians were the ones who did the cutting, not the ones split in half and left to die.

This wasn’t magic. This was theatre.

In 1994, World’s Greatest Magic dominated television. Everything in magic was cheerful, colorful, and polished to a mirror finish… and two years beforehand, Simon Drake was doing this.

This was the performance that made me realize the magic could be something different. Something that could both engross and horrify. Magic could be a secondary concern after story, and you’d have a better performance for it.

Looking at my stage show, I can point to routines that are direct homages to this piece. My pale attempts to capture what I felt the first time I saw this in 1994.

I hope it inspires you as well.