It might be of interest how my Multiplying Candles routine relates to my new one-man show, “A Hanky and a T-T-T-Top Hat,” which is about my growing up and becoming a magician while dealing with my stuttering issues. Here is some background that didn’t make it into the show since it only covers my childhood into my 20s.
For most of my performing life I have done a “silent act” meaning it was a non-speaking act set to music. It never really occurred to me to perform magic that required speaking onstage. While never being a fully conscious choice, it was a natural one due to my stuttering and fear of speaking onstage. And it was also natural that when I first moved to NYC back in 1978, I began taking mime classes and becoming proficient enough to be asked to join the company’s troupe. Mime was a “perfect” medium for this stutterer.
Over the years I was able to work out and master some of the silent routines I am known for; particularly my Coin Act for which I had won many awards. I was successful working silently onstage for many years. However, I gradually developed a passion for mentalism. Previously I had had absolutely no interest in it; probably since it was ALL about speaking onstage – an anathema to me. Eventually my desire to develop a longer show and not just an “act” pushed me to add mentalism to it despite my stuttering. At the time (before getting more speech therapy) my stuttering was much more severe than it is now. And with the shame that is felt by every stutterer, it wasn’t easy. Indeed there were many times that I could barely get a sentence out which led to many awkward performances.
However, I stuck with it and eventually decided to go back to speech therapy which I hadn’t done since childhood. Within a six months my stuttering diminished to the point where it was less awkward onstage. I also received some very positive feedback from various friends in the performing community which boosted my confidence enough to eventually write my first solo show, “Thought Prints,” a whimsical mentalism play that I performed at the New York Fringe Festival. It was the first time in my life that I had ever spoken for that length of time onstage – 60 minutes! And while I stuttered a fair amount during those performances, I considered that, at the time, the greatest accomplishment of my career.
Since performing mentalism and having some very good responses with it over the past 10+ years, I’m still told by some that while they enjoy it, they still like my old silent magic the best. And I appreciate that; having performed those routines for most of my life, I am naturally smoother and more polished with those routines than I am at mentalism. It makes me think back to when Woody Allen first started making more serious films and being told by his fans that they wished he would go back to making those, “funny movies.”
It does take a fair amount of courage to set aside something that has worked for you so well for so long and take the risk of doing something completely different. And for a long while you will likely not be very good at it. And for a performer, that can be tough to take. However, I believe the rewards in the long run are worth it. Just as taking a huge risk going from a silent act to a speaking act, so now, with my new show, I have written the most personal story of my life (and now speaking for 75 minutes onstage). Judging by the responses I have received so far, the risk seems to be paying off.
At some point I may write a sequel about this journey which I hope would be just as compelling.