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Interviews - Lance Burton

Lance Burton is one of those rare magicians who has mastered every aspect of magical performance from closeup card magic to big stage illusions and death defying stunts. He has recently celebrated his sixth year at the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, Huw Collingbourne was able to contact Lance via email and ask him a few questions about everything from learning magic to the perils (or otherwise) of exposure. Magic Bunny reveals all&

Huw: Many thanks for taking the time to do this, Lance, and many congratulations on your first six years at the Monte Carlo. Let's hope that in a few years from now we might get the chance to see you here in the UK?
Lance Burton: I have seven more years left on my contract. But, one day, I do plan on taking the show on a tour of the UK!

Huw: Since we are doing this interview over the Internet, maybe I should start by asking how important the Internet is to you? Has it made a big change to your professional or personal life? I gather you take a laptop around with you. Is that mainly for email?
Lance Burton: I have a laptop computer. I mainly use it for writing. I love e-mail. It is a great invention that allows me to communicate with my friends. I am afraid that I am not very savvy when it comes to computers.

Huw: Do you use any design software, say Corel Draw or AutoCad, for creating new tricks and illusions?
Lance Burton: No. When I design a new magic trick, it is usually with pencil and paper.

Huw: What do you enjoy most about the Internet? Which sites do you like to visit?
Lance Burton: I mainly use the Internet to get the news. I like reading newspapers on line. It is more convenient than an actual newspaper.

Huw: You once commented on the first time you encountered an Internet discussion group on magic that there was so much "yelling and screaming" and people "calling each other names" (Lance obviously wasnt talking about Magic Bunny!) Do you worry that this will put people off (particularly young people) learning more about magic?
Lance Burton: I guess that could be true. A young person who is interested in magic could visit one of those sites and get turned off to magic. The Internet is just like any other tool, it can be used for good or for evil. It is a double-edged sword, just like any other invention.

Huw: I've seen you occasionally posting to moderated newsgroups as a special guest (e.g. KJMagic, ). Are there any groups that you post to on a more regular basis?
Lance Burton: My good friend Kevin James asked me to participate in his KJmagic board. That was a very enjoyable experience. Everyone was nice, and we had some interesting discussions. I dont spend a lot of time surfing the web. Just don't have the time. Doing two shows a night and rehearsing and trying to create new magic is a full time job.

Huw: Do you think the next generation of magicians will generally benefit from the Internet? Or is the Internet just a distraction? It sometimes seems to me that all the online magic shops seem to offer instant tricks guaranteed to get you instant fame, as though all it takes is a few gimmicks and a nice web site to become a great magician!
Lance Burton: The Internet is a valuable tool. Its value is all in how you use it. Magic has not really changed. Magic dealers want to sell their wares. They have always promised "instant fame" and all that. Now they just do it electronically.

Huw: Some sites and newsgroups make a habit of exposing magic tricks? Is that a threat to professional magicians? Or is it a challenge?
Lance Burton: Neither. It is not an issue, never has been to the professional.

Huw: It seems odd to me that computer technology seems (as far as I can see!) to play so little part in stage magic. After all, computer graphics have revolutionised special effects in TV and film. But magical technology still seems to be pretty traditional - mirrors, hydraulics and lighting. How come? Is the computer revolution just going to pass magic by?
Lance Burton: Heres the thing; Magic has NEVER been based on technology. We do use optical principles and mechanical principles on occasion. But, magic is based primarily on PSYCHOLOGICAL principles. Magic is created in the spectators mind. Human beings are essentially the same as they were five thousand years ago. The human mind has not changed. Magic is still built on the same psychological principles that it was five thousand years ago.

Huw: Finally, what tips can you offer to someone (say a certain British journalist by the name of Huw) who's realised, rather late in life, that he's missed his true vocation as a magician? What would you say is the best way to learn magic these days? Books? CDs? Videos? Computers?
Lance Burton: Magic is wonderful profession and a wonderful hobby. All are welcome. You can learn magic from books, videos, DVDs, Computers. A live teacher is a great idea somewhere along the way. I have had some great mentors who taught me things that are not found anywhere else. The main learning tool is experience. After you have learned and practiced for countless hours, go out and perform. Do magic for your friends and for strangers. Do free shows in hospitals and nursing homes. Perform any where you can find an audience. That is the way you learn to be a magician.

Huw: How long do you think it would take for me to progress from a few simple card tricks to, say, vanishing an elephant?
Lance Burton: Vanishing an elephant is no harder than doing card tricks. But the props cost a lot more!

Many thanks to Lance for taking the time to do this interview. If you havent got the chance to fly across to Las Vegas to see his show (if only!), be sure to visit Lances web site at:
By Huw Collingbourne




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