Out of the Box
Somewhere in the hills of Sigtuna, a nervous magician from Finland stepped onto the wrong bus and was caught up in the severe storm sweeping across Europe. With all her suitcases, sneakers, and overcoat soaked, a short walk of 20 minutes felt an hour long. At the top of a hill, the Sigtuna folkhögskola stood peacefully in the rain. Shortly afterwards, she laid her wet clothing to dry in her cozy room. In this picturesque lakeside location, she would be learning the art of magic for a week—for free. (How is that even possible? Read on – it is not a fairy tale.)
By Pauliina Räsänen
When I received the invitation letter for Conjuring A, it was quite clear that this course was going to be challenging. In fact, I was so worried that I could not sleep properly for several nights. We were expected to experiment with and implement new techniques and styles to perform magic. In other words, we should venture into the scary grey area. This challenge was very frightening for me as my previous experience in magic was mostly with large stage illusions. I had gotten comfortable to stay inside the box. But I knew that I had to keep learning as an artist, no matter what I had done before.
Upon arrival, my anxieties dissolved quite quickly as I met my new colleagues from Switzerland, USA, and Sweden. Together we decided to face the rainy weather again. I realised quickly that my new magical friends were not just masters of their art, but also of creative problem-solving. For example, they suggested me to dry my wet sneakers in the baking oven of folkhögskola’s common kitchen.
I was especially happy to see that the Conjuring workshop attracted numerous female magicians, My first female acquaintance was Malinda Lodge, whose expertise, kindness, and peer support became an important part of this journey. In total, we were 43 magicians from 12 different countries.
Tom Stone and Leif Olberius successfully established a supportive learning environment. The pedagogy was well-considered; at first we started with theory, then we engaged in practical exercises to implement and adapt new methods. Working in groups of three, we mutually collaborated to accomplish exercises. Observing fellow magicians was also integral to the learning process. There were just as many creative solutions as there were challenges. Taking thorough notes further facilitated our absorption of all the new information.
The course highlights were numerous. All the techniques we learned supported each other – even if they seemed to be in conflict at times. Tom Stone’s lectures on misdirection and movement vectors were eye-opening to me. Leif Olberius’s generous guidance on combining physical acting and narrative into magic presentation was a valuable tool for creating structured theatrical pieces. We also had a lecture by Håkan Berg, whose words “You’ve got to have guts to be real!” will haunt me forever. The next time I find myself hesitating (yet again), I’ll make sure to remind myself of the GUTS. In Tim Star’s mind-blowing workshop on prop making, I crafted a magic wand from scratch that no-one believed I actually made it. We were taught to use specialized tools for soldering, polishing, sewing, metal cutting, applying paint and varnishing. I certainly look forward to learn more of Tim’s magic in the next course.
We even had a special event exclusively for women, which provided a wonderful opportunity to connect with fellow female magicians and engage in discussions about gender in a male-dominated field. I seized the opportunity to share my culture-historical research about female magicians in Northern Europe in 1880s—1890s. It felt meaningful to demonstrate that women’s history in magic has been overlooked and suppressed, and that we too have our own female role models equal to the male masters during the Golden Age of Magic.
For the ones who still hesitate to sign up, I would like to say that this is a unique opportunity to rapidly improve your art, network, and learn collaboratively with like-minded individuals.I managed to overcome some of my fears that were holding me back, so do not drop out before the game starts. If you don’t grasp “the one ahead, one behind” (like me) in the first year, don’t worry, you’ll have other chances later on. There are continuation courses for those who want to return. But first, you’ve got to have the GUTS to sign up.
Culture Historian, MA
PhD researcher, University of Turku, Finland
Tom Stone – instructor, magic theory
Leif Olberius – instructor, drama
Tim Star – instructor, prop-making
Håkan Berg – instructor, performance
Intro to 3D-printing, with Micke Askernäs
“The Evolution of a Move” with Horret Wu
“Towards a mutual body of knowledge” session with the female participants.
Open Stage performances
Abby Segal (USA)
Alec Tsai (Taiwan)
Cydney Kaplan (USA)
Elias Kvist (Finland)
Giles Beaumont (Isle of Man)
Horret Wu (Taiwan)
Johannes Malkamäki (Finland)
Leopold Novak (Austria)
Malinda Lodge (USA)
Michaelann Awesome (USA)
Pauliina Rasanen (Finland)
Peter Nordstrand (Sweden)
Rosalie Beaumont (Isle of Man)
Sohum Modha (USA)
Tomáš Podzimek (Czech Republic)
Viljo Haapamäki (Finland)
Zacharias Starlid (Sweden)
Åsa Andersson (Sweden)
Adrian Videla (Sweden)
Damian Odess Gillett (Czech Republic)
Elmo Huovila (Finland)
Fritz Alkemade (Netherlands)
Hanna Günther (Sweden)
Joni Pakanen (Finland)
Joonas Puhto (Finland)
Kjell Ljunggren (Sweden)
Kristian Backman (Finland)
Marc A. Herren (Schweiz)
Markus Tervo (Finland)
Martin Cederbom (Sweden)
Peter Boldog (Hungary)
Vilgot Michelin (Sweden)
Botond Kelle (Hungary)
Göran Sjöberg (Sweden)
Håkan Berg (Sweden)
Jonas Sørensen Brennsund (Norway)
Jörgen Sondell (Sweden)
Kalle Nilsson (Sweden)
Lauri Tuhkanen (Finland)
Martin Nilsson (Sweden)
Nikola Arkane (Ireland)
Per Johan Råsmark (Sweden)
Roger Isberg (Sweden)
An evaluation survey was filled in by all participants. These are the results (16 pages).
Also, see Peter Nordstrand’s report at the Swedish Magic Archive (in Swedish).
There were also a report in the Dutch magazine The Buzz(PDF), Vol. 1 No. 8, page 15.