Derek DelGaudio has received rave reviews for his performance In & Of Itself. Thanks to all that positive buzz, the show is getting a fourth and final extension at the Daryl Roth Theatre in New York City. He will now perform shows through August 19, 2018. Act quick if you want to snag tickets; he’s been selling out every night.
The New York extension mimics DelGaudio’s success with the project in Los Angeles, where the run for In & Of Itself at the Geffen Playhouse was extended five times to become the theater’s highest-grossing show ever.
Speaking of mimics, it hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing for DelGaudio. A virtual reality company recently presented a nearly identical experience at Sundance, sparking ire from across the creative and performance community.
Navid Khonsari of Ink Stories has tweeted a letter to DelGaudio and Oz about the Sundance project. Khonsari claimed that the inspiration was also drawn from other examples of similar text art from social justice campaigns and other artists. “There was never a conscious effort to replicated what you had created as yours is a live performance while ours is a virtual reality experience, however, I do understand your concerns and for that I do apologize,” he wrote. He said the “I Am” cards would be modified for future performances. See the full letter here.
Here’s the thing. There aren’t that many totally original ideas under the sun. Most artists have borrowed concepts from each other. DelGaudio’s show certainly isn’t the first to use text, or even to use that specific “I Am” text. If Ink Studios had adapted the concept into an experience with a different end goal, or sparked a discussion about identity through a different set-up, there wouldn’t be a problem. But to take both the general and specific elements of somebody else’s work and plunk them into VR isn’t inspiration. It’s theft. In this particular case, it’s theft accompanied by a non-apology.
Performers often draw inspiration from each other’s acts and adapt each other’s ideas into wonderful new creations. And sometimes performers just rip off an entire concept, which is decidedly not wonderful.
Derek DelGaudio found himself in that situation after his In & Of Itself show was plagiarized at the Sundance Film Festival. In & Of Itself is a storytelling experience that deconstructs identity. The show begins with a wall full of cards printed with statements of self, such as “I am a mapmaker” or “I am a flautist.”DelGaudio wrote and performs the show, with other credits to Frank Oz as the director and Neil Patrick Harris as executive producer.
— DEREK DELGAUDIO (@derek_del) January 27, 2018
DelGaudio tweeted his feelings after seeing photos of something called “The Hero Experience” put on by Ink Stories at Sundance. The concept sure does look identical.
It’s simple. Shitty, but simple.
People saw my show, appropriated the relational aesthetics, and set up shop at @sundancefest. There can be a fine line between plagiarism and inspiration. And it’s often subjective. However, in this case, it’s pretty black and white. Literally. pic.twitter.com/CtHTiUTU1b
— DEREK DELGAUDIO (@derek_del) January 28, 2018
DelGaudio also confirmed that the creators of the copycat had attended a performance of In & Of Itself. His work is a very personal creation, as he’d previously shared in an interview with Stephen Colbert. Not only is Ink Stories’ choice to steal the concept just uncool, but it also denied DelGaudio the opportunity to perform his original idea with that Sundance audience. It’s a tangible business loss as well as a real jerk move.
— DEREK DELGAUDIO (@derek_del) January 28, 2018
Neither Sundance nor Ink Stories appear to have responded to the issue. Although considering they made Yoda this understandably angry, one would hope that an answer is forthcoming really darn fast:
@iNKStories #TheHeroExperience EXCUSE ME. THIS IS FRANK OZ. I'M THE DIRECTOR OF DEREK DELGAUDIO'S "IN & OF ITSELF" IN NYC. QUESTION FOR YOU: WHY ARE YOU RIPPING OFF DEREK'S SHOW? YOU ARE USING WHAT DEREK CREATED, THE "I AM CARDS". STOP IT.
— Frank Oz (@TheFrankOzJam) January 27, 2018
Update: Though A Secret Has Two Faces was originally supposed to ship mid-December, according to Art of Magic, the new expected ship date is mid-March.
Illusionist Derek DelGaudio and artist Glenn Kaino have been busy lately with their collaborative performance art project, A.Bandit. Most recently, they’ve hit big with their stage production of In & Of Itself, but the two have melded the art and magic worlds together with their work in a variety of art halls and venues, as well as a “conceptual magic shop” called The [Space] Between. Now, they’re compiling their work, along with interviews and discussions with some of their respective industries’ greatest performers, in a book called A Secret Has Two Faces.
From the official page hosted by publisher Art of Magic:
This multifaceted project is the latest collaboration between Glenn Kaino and Derek DelGaudio, who work together as the conceptual performance art duo A.Bandit to make magical art which has been exhibited and performed in venues that span a diverse range of cultural activities. A Secret Has Two Faces introduces their pioneering work in the fields of art and magic and contains interviews and stories from noteworthy practitioners within both fields. It will be a generous access point into the normally secret practice from which A.Bandit operates and will contain several secret elements and magical features that distinguish it as a type of performance, in and of itself.
The book will feature contributions by performance artist Marina Abramović, magicians Teller, Max Maven, and David Blaine, art curator Denise Markonish, and more. It’s currently available for pre-order from artofmagic.com for $95, and is expected to ship mid-December.
Walk into a room full of magicians and it’s hard not to notice the disparity between men and women in the room – assuming there are any women in the room to begin with. It’s an issue the magical community is well aware of, though it seems to be at a bit of a loss when it comes to actually what tangible steps could be taken to remedy the situation.
Derek DelGaudio has some ideas about that. From his Facebook page:
Alright, Magicians, time to wake up. Your chauvinism is edging towards misogyny. No more sexist jokes, no more innuendo, no more being a bunch of D-bags. And for the love of god, no more “sexy assistants.”
Look, I get it, you’re awkward and you think magic makes you more charming, more appealing. It doesn’t. In fact, it just highlights how insecure you really are. So, embrace it and figure out what *is* appealing about you. Because I assure you it’s not those shitty sexist jokes.
And to those who still use “sexy assistants,” I understand, you need the pretty girls to squeeze into the boxes and hand you the props you bought. But times have changed and you look like a schmuck. Nobody thinks you’re desirable or powerful because you surround yourself with attractive women. Especially not the attractive women you’re paying (poorly) to stand next to you. Just like making sexist jokes, including a “sexy lady” in your act, JUST FOR THE SAKE OF IT, doesn’t make you look better, it reveals your lack of originality and exposes how painfully oblivious you are to the world around you.
Women deserve a place in magic. And they deserve a hell of a lot better than your tired act.
The discussion that follows his post is frank and enlightening, so take a moment to check it out. Speaking as someone who found herself on the receiving end of a lot of sexist “humor” masquerading as magician patter during Magic Live and Genii Convention…thanks, Derek. Very well said.
In & Of Itself is Derek DelGaudio’s one-man show, but it’s not really a magic show, per se. Rather, it uses magic and illusion are used as a “metaphor for identity and the things we can and cannot see about each other.” We’re not entirely sure what that means in practice, but it had a major impact on Stephen Colbert when he saw it, to the point that he felt immobilized by the end of the show.
The interview is necessarily cryptic to avoid giving away anything that happens on stage, but it certainly sounds like a remarkable experience. You can learn more about In & Of Itself (which is directed by Frank Oz of Muppets fame) or purchase tickets here.
Episode 383 of Nerdist’s You Made It Weird podcast features a lively chat between host Pete Holmes and magician, performer, and creator of the hit stage show In and Of Itself, Derek DelGaudio. It’s a lengthy but fascinating episode, where the two discuss being on the road, how the word ‘magic’ has lost its meaning, and more. But there’s one particular anecdote that’s as hilarious as it is delightful that I had to share, and it involves David Blaine, a bottle of wine, and a handful of expletives.
Around the 1:22:00 mark, Holmes asks DelGaudio if he’d ever performed magic ‘off-duty’; doing magic spontaneously to just impress someone in front of him. DelGaudio responds that he doesn’t normally do that: “[Magic takes] some level of…preparation, in terms of, you actually have to be wanting to do that. That’s not for me.”
That’s not to say he’s against it. It’s just something he wants to save for a special occasion, for it to mean something to someone, to “do something to someone who, I feel like, they maybe haven’t had that feeling in a while.” So, naturally, when the opportunity presented itself to mess with world-famous street magician David Blaine, he took it.
David was going to a wedding, and Derek helped bring some bottles of wine over to his place. One of the bottles of wine had an LED light on it that you could program to display any message you want. So they hang out, Derek heads home, and a few hours later, Derek texts him.
“It says: ‘Name any card, not the Ace of Spades,’” DelGaudio recounts as he reads the texts off his phone. “And David responded, ‘seven of Diamonds.’ I said, ‘Are you sure?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘You see those bottles we brought over?’ And he said, ‘**** you.’ And I said, ‘What, do you see ‘em?’ And he said ‘K.’
“So the ‘**** you’ is preemptive?” Holmes asks.
“He knows what’s coming, he just doesn’t want it to be true,” DelGaudio responds with a chuckle.
DelGaudio has Blaine turn on the light on the wine bottle. Blaine then texts back “Go **** yourself” with a video showing the name of his card printed out in the LED light. DelGaudio replies with a kissy-face emoji, giving to Blaine the same feeling he gives to so many others with his magic.
Magic isn’t just about wowing people by pulling a rabbit out of a hat; it’s about telling a story. We’ve become so enamored with the spectacle of the ‘trick’ that we’ve forgotten that magic is really about forming a dialogue between the magician and their audience. It’s that relationship that Derek DelGaudio, star of the hit one-man show In & Of Itself, explores in a short film for the 2017 Future of Storytelling Summit, entitled ‘Invisible Dialogues’.
“[People] automatically assume that a magician keeps secrets from people,” DelGaudio explains in the video. “A real magician keeps secrets for people. They use that secret to create a moment of astonishment, or a moment of transformation. The secret becomes a hidden narrative.”
It’s a short piece, but an effective one in showing why we’re so drawn to magic in the first place. We don’t just want to be amazed; we want the magician to take us on a journey.