Patrick Terry takes us inside the magician’s studio with on-stage interviews at Magic Hour

May 21, 2018

Patrick Terry has been performing magic for over 20 years, but it’s his work as an actor, filmmaker, and producer that fuel a new show called MAGIC HOUR debuting in New York City next week. Terry won’t take the stage as a magician, but will rather play the role of host as he interviews each act about their creative processes, their inspirations, and their journeys through making a career and crafting a life in the arts. The four shows will take place in May and June at the Triad Theater, a legendary New York stage that has for decades cultivated rising stars of acting, comedy, music, and now magic.

Andrew Goldenhersh will be the first guest of MAGIC HOUR on May 23rd, followed by Tina Lenert and Mike Caveney on June 6th, Eric Dittelman on June 20th, and Harrison Greenbaum on June 27th. After five years producing Wondershow, his vaudeville-style variety arts project, MAGIC HOUR is an opportunity for Terry to double down on his personal passion for magic and strip away the spectacle. He’s betting that New York City audiences will be interested to see behind the curtain of this art form that remains, by definition, mysterious. We sat down with Terry to talk about turning his conversations with magicians into performance art, the imbalance inherent in a performer’s lifestyle, and the differences between performing and producing magic.

GENIIONLINE: What inspired you to create MAGIC HOUR?

PATRICK TERRY: I started toying with the idea of MAGIC HOUR around 2011 at the Players Club, which is a social club here in New York. At first, it was my 60-minute parlor show where I would invite people into the clubhouse and in an intimate drawing room setting, 30 or 40 people would experience this kind of interactive magic. The idea of a parlor show is one that I think works very well for magic.

As the show evolved, I wanted to think about artists that I really admire and respect, and to showcase their work and their material. I’m almost approaching it like James Lipton and Inside the Actors Studio. An artist performs a headlining set, maybe 45 minutes, and then I will interview them for 10 or 15 minutes. We can go a little deeper and also every week we can feature a new artist. I want to understand their choices, their creative process, and also their inspirations and influences. I think there’s a curiosity about that for audiences, to look behind the curtain. The world of magic is very fascinating, but to understand the human element behind it, that’s also very interesting.

The term ‘magic hour’ is inspired by cinema, that time at dusk or sunrise where the sun is just so, and photographers call that magic hour because the light is very compelling and very cool to capture. I always liked the idea of that, this special time when special things happen. We apply those same rules to MAGIC HOUR, where for the next 60 minutes, special, interesting, magical things will happen.

GO: On a show like Inside the Actors Studio, you can peek behind the curtain and not see anything you’re not supposed to see. How do you plan on getting into some of those questions like process and inspiration and still make the conversation accessible and relatable for a lay audience?

PT: Certainly we’re not going to discuss methods and how they do magic, but the more interesting questions are why do they do magic and how did they came to be attracted to this art form. Whenever someone talks to me at a gig they want to know how I got into magic. It’s such a unique craft that there’s an inherent curiosity to it, not just in the exchange between performer and audience but also between audience and the craft itself. We are all exposed to magic at a young age, whether it’s a birthday party or Harry Potter or an uncle pulling coins out of your ear. The real practitioners remain in that world, but most people just let it go. Then as adults they wonder who are those people that really stayed with it? What compelled them to remain in that way of thinking? After you see a magic show usually it’s just applause, curtain call, good night. But this will allow people to process what they experienced and then also connect with the artist.

GO: It sounds like the concept really seeks to cultivate an appreciation of magic as an art form, as a respectable craft that people will want to learn more about.

PT: That’s right. We’re also revealing all of the discipline that goes into a show and the choices that a magician makes over their career or their life. I’ve curated artists that I’m fascinated by. The interview element is a small but important part of the show. I love magic, I care about it. And I also love the artists that pursue it, and sacrifice so much in order to share these wonders. I think that’s a very noble cause. I’m eager to understand it for myself, in addition to sharing it with the audience.

GO: How do you plan to approach the interview portion of the show? Beyond the typical “how’d you do that”, there’s so much meat to the art and theory of magic that it seems intimidating to have to squeeze that kind of conversation into 15 minutes.

PT: I’m a student of magic. I work with a lot of magicians and understand the vocabulary in a way that I think I’m part of that world. I’m not an objective observer. But for me, I love the idea of what a magician is doing when they’re not doing magic. The human element. One of my mentors is David Oliver, a wonderful magician based in Boston. I met him through Monday Night Magic many years ago and he kind of took me under his wing, which is not a dove pun. One of the lessons I really took away from him, just watching him as a professional full-time worker, was demystifying the business stuff. He told me that all in all, he’s really only performing about 5% of the time. The other 95% is the traffic, the follow up calls, the emails, and the client relationships. Pursuing opportunities and maintaining them.

There’s all of this stuff outside of the actual creative, so you have to love the creative so much that you’re able to manage all of the bullshit around it. I’m fascinated by the people that can manage that love in such an unbalanced equation. You’ve got to love that 5% in such a pure way that you can deal with all those other things. It’ll be fun to think about how magicians live, not just how they perform.

Any artist surviving in the world, but especially in the world of New York, it’s a physical game. Just the survival factor—not only do you have to be brilliant but you have to be really savvy. I’m fascinated by how they navigate all of the ups and downs of a career in the arts, specifically a career in magic. Everyone has a different story, obviously there’s no one story or trajectory. I’m very curious about people’s stories, as a filmmaker and as a magician too. I think the material and the magic is almost surface level. Getting under that and knowing why they decided to maintain this life when perhaps there are more traditional or more structured options—like, why didn’t they go to law school? What kept them in it? Like David Oliver said, you have to love this to be able to survive it. I’m interested in that.

GO: How did you go about selecting the four acts for MAGIC HOUR?

PT: I’m lucky enough to be in the orbit of so many great artists. I started building a list of people that I would like to talk to and whose material would also fit into a venue that is also aligned with my goals. This is not a big stage illusion show. The Triad is an elegant setting, an intimate space, so I was able to find artists that are also engaged by that sense of intimacy. As a producer you only have so much time and so many resources, so I was trying to find artists who don’t require so much, shall we say, smoke and mirrors, or so much production value. You can really strip it down and just connect with them. Finding this theater and then finding the artists that really complement it, that’s been a process, but one that I think is going to serve us all quite well.

I think Andrew Goldenhersh is the perfect guest. He’s known as a minimalist magician, and I think that is a really perfect description because he walks on stage and he is magic. You’re watching an artist perform, you’re not watching a technician play with technology. I would say he’s my favorite magician working today, not just as a performer but also as a craftsman and a philosopher. He’s a poet of magic. When you meet a magician usually, there’s sort of a measuring up phase, we’re going to see where we stand. When I first met Andrew, that didn’t exist. We didn’t need to impress each other with our chops. We just connected as humans who happen to be very passionate about the practice and the performance of magic. Music is a really important part of his act, not only does he perform exquisite sleight of hand but he also plays classical guitar in an exquisite way. He’s as dedicated to that instrument as he is to a pack of cards. You’re dealing with an artist who can really express the power of a moment through an instrument, it can be a guitar or a coin. I think Andrew really embodies that.

Tina Lenert and Mike Caveney don’t work in New York much, so it will be a fun opportunity for magicians here on the East Coast to really enjoy that performance. We’re also showcasing different genres within magic, so Eric Dittelman will be performing on June 20th, he’s a mentalist that is becoming more nationally recognized. Harrison Greenbaum is another great friend I’ve known since Tannen’s Camp. A lot of these performers I do know on something of a social level. But talking to them as an interviewer does change the context a little bit. I’m really thinking about the perceptions of their philosophies.

GO: How do you hope audiences will feel walking out of a MAGIC HOUR show?

PT: I hope the audience leaves with a sense of wonder, of course, but also with a different understanding of magic, an elevated perception of the art form. It’s not just some guy doing tricks but almost a reverence, like a classical musician has to have such discipline for that craft and I’m trying to draw the parallels between classical music and modern magic. The more audiences are exposed to quality magic the better it is for magic over all. Derek DelGaudio is such a perfect example of that; his show In & Of Itself has really raised the bar. Steve Cohen is another one of my mentors, I worked for him at Chamber Magic for many years. I want to honor people that I’ve been lucky enough to be in their orbit. I care about magic so much, I want to honor all of the influences that I’ve had. I think of this show as an opportunity to do that.

And for me, I just want to keep the lights on and keep the budget reasonable. I always think of producing as reconciling the big picture and the bottom line. The big picture is all of these creative goals and ideas, but ultimately there is the business element as well, so I have to keep my eye on all of those figures, not just the creative but also the logistics. But my heart beats with the artists.

GO: The concepts you reference when talking about producing magic are very similar to the way you talk about performing magic. Do you see producing and performing as two sides of the same coin or are they very separate entries for you?

PT: Yes, I do use the same vocabulary. I consider myself a creative producer. It’s my job to know what the narrative is and how we want the audience to feel. I also love collaborating, I love working with other creatives to answer these questions or at least consider them. I think in some ways they are different sides of the same coin because they both need each other. One thing I’ve recognized over the years is that a lot of wonderful artists need a producer. Or at least need someone to help them realize their goals. Sometimes I joke that a producer is a quarterback, a head coach, and a cheerleader all rolled into one. You have to execute plans, and you have to motivate, and you have to be that positive force.

A lot of artists can get really down on themselves and become really self-conscious or self-loathing, so I think as a producer if I can give an artist some sense of hope then that’s a little beyond just “show up here, here’s your call time, here’s the lights, here’s the staff.” I care about the art so much and the artists so much, that I want to share my enthusiasm, if it’s needed, so that they can do their best work. I take the role very seriously, and perhaps it is a role. The role of producer is not just a job. I like acting, I like performing, but I love producing because it speaks directly to the collaboration. And that’s my main goal, to collaborate with artists that I respect and admire.

You can find tickets to MAGIC HOUR shows online through the Triad Theater.