An Astronaut’s Guide to Magic

I write this from under the stars in Death Valley. I’ve always been drawn to the stars, as a child counting down every space shuttle launch, answering “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with, “The first person on Mars.” And even if I hadn’t been listening to Commander Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth as I drove here, I have no doubt that my first impression upon getting to the campsite would have been the stars.

They’re innumerable. The sheer sum is overwhelming, in a sublime, jaw-dropping way. They confirm your insignificance and leave you speechless, yet dare you to wonder and ask what meaning you can have. I’m humbled by them.

Serendipitously (a word of particular significance for me), I’m not the only one here. As a couple people immediately responded to me, I’m not the only one to have tweeted about the stars. Teller, too, is here.

“I’m in Death Valley beginning to celebrate my birthday. Who would have thought there were so many stars?” (x)

I am in no small way a fan of magic, and love Teller’s work. His Tempest was amazing. His work with Penn, from the Vegas shows, to his interview in Penn’s Sunday School, Fool Us–I dig him. I want him to be my Giles and teach me magic from large tomes with reverence and skill.

I had the chance to meet him for one of his iconic post-show selfies. In a quick exchange I doubt he remembers, but has stuck with me, I asked him about immersive theatre, citing how much I adored Tempest and longed to live in that world. He told me how he enjoys current immersive theatre trends, and thinks it’s a necessary direction to grow. However, he said magic is extremely difficult and not suited to those settings, for timing, angles, and a captive audience is so integral to the art.All these things truly are. And yet. I struggle to believe that magicians, the people who I have felt such joy, wonder, overwhelming desire, and longing at prestidigitations of–couldn’t solve that.

I know that magic & immersion go hand in hand. I know the sleights, the trust, the deceit, and the wonder can only fuel each other. It’s what draws me to both. And while it is a challenge, for the reasons Teller mentioned and many more, I long to work the problem.

I know that what draws me to magic and to immersion is like the stars–fascination, desire, meaning, and awe.