Rogue 2018: Whether on the street or inside a theater, these magicians just want to entertain
By William Ramirez
Kyle Elder and Chase Martin have loved magic since they were children. Magic has always seemed to love them, too, but in very different ways.
The Rogue Festival this year is hosting five magic acts. Among those acts you’ll find magicians with different performance styles. Martin is a street magician who relies on people walking by for his audiences. Elder is more a traditional magician who offers ticketed shows inside established venues.
While their styles differ, both came to magic as a refuge. Martin found it to be a way to work for himself, something he desperately needed due to his fatigue and pain caused by his congenital myasthenic syndrome, a neuromuscular transmission disorder. Elder fell in love with the art when his grandfather, who was sick with cancer, bought him a simple coin trick from a magic shop in San Francisco.
They come from different magic worlds.
Martin mastered his craft in the magic community of San Francisco, which he said has a “divided” magic scene.
That divisiveness led him to opt for the stage name “Chase The Entertainer” rather than “Chase The Magician.”
“I don’t typically get along with (traditional) magicians,” Martin said. “Most magicians I have met don’t seem to enjoy themselves, and that’s beyond me, because I’m doing this because I think it’s fun.”
That impression comes from what he described as a very competitive magic scene, which makes it difficult to find camaraderie within that community. He saw that competitiveness frequently as an employee at a magic shop when he was 19.
“Everybody was always so eager to always be the smartest guy in the room, to one-up their competitors,” Martin said.
Editor’s note: Author William Ramirez is a senior print journalism major at Fresno State. To celebrate the Rogue Festival, I’m excited to include work from students in my advanced editing class on The Munro Review.
His experience with street performers and circus acts has been the complete opposite. To him, there is no competition, even with performers who work right next to each other on the street.
The street performers work around each other’s shows, making sure that they never hurt each other’s crowds.
Performers have sacrificed street time so Martin could make his rent, and even removed hecklers that were disrupting his performance, including a preacher.
“Out on the street, I’ve always felt like the San Francisco street performers, we’re a family, we look out for each other. I’ve never gotten that vibe from the San Francisco magic scene.”
To Elder, who has spent his entire magic career in Fresno community, Martin’s observations about traditional magicians come as a surprise.
Fresno, obviously, is a very different environment than San Francisco. In Fresno, there aren’t street performers. Elder said they are usually removed quickly by the police.
He is president of the Fresno Magic Club. To him, divisiveness within the magic community has not reared its head in Fresno or anywhere else he has been.
“We all get along, we all help each other and some of my best friends are in that group,” Elder said of Fresno’s magic community.
And Elder is doing his best to make sure that any magician, street or traditional, is made to feel welcome.
“[The Fresno Magic Club] always makes an effort to reach out to them, invite them if they are going to be in town during our meeting, or any of the lectures we have,” Elder said. “We try to be very welcoming, and help them out any way we can.”
The two men, while having a very different outlook on the magic scene, still respect one another’s styles.
“Street magic is the oldest form of magic,” Elder said. “To make a decent living on the streets, you have to have great crowd management skills,and know how to draw a crowd, and keep the crowd.”
Martin acknowledged how difficult it can be for traditional magicians to sell tickets, and he respects those who are able to make a living from ticket sales. Respect can even evolve into envy.
“There’s always been a little bit of jealousy when I see those guys that are doing two shows a month in theaters,” he said. They sell these tickets, they have these resumes, and they’ve been here, here, here and here.”
Martin also that his own career is heading toward traditional, indoor performances. He knows that with his disability, he will not be able to handle the physical strain of performing outdoors forever.
But he takes pride in what he does. Both Martin and Elder do. They understand the struggles that the magic community is facing.
In separate interviews, both used the same example to illustrate how difficult it can be to draw a crowd as a magician. The saying is that people are quick to declare that “magic is not for me” after seeing one bad show, but they would never say “music is not for me” after seeing one bad musical performance.
Elder believes there is no easy solution to this. All the community can do is make sure talent is recognized and that people continue to work together to help magic grow.
Martin had never met the other four magician performers that will be at the Rogue before he arrive, but he said he wasn’t coming with any predetermined notions.
Perhaps in Fresno, the differences between street and traditional magicians will vanish faster than a rabbit in a hat.
“Magic of Elder,” featuring Kyle Elder, plays 10 p.m. Friday, March 9, and 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 10, Vista Theater, 1296 N. Wishon Ave., Fresno. Tickets are $10 ($3 Rogue wristband required).
“Street Magic Live!”, featuring “Chase the Entertainer” and “Frisco Fred,” plays 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 9, and 1:45 p.m. Saturday, March 10, Spectrum Art Gallery, 608 E. Olive Ave., Fresno. Tickets are $7 ($3 Rogue wristband required).
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