This week, Jonah sits down with Ondřej Pšenička to discuss creating magic, Fool Us, and the importance of community. Ondřej is an award-winning magician who has performed at the Magic Castle, on Penn & Teller, and is the creator of the Butterfly Deck.
Ondřej doesn’t really have a story about how he got into magic, it was always just an interest. With the help of his mom, he was able to find a magic club in Prague and soon began to work on his own competition routine. Magic became a career path for him when he met Alan Vejr of Eve’n Alan. Ondřej showed Alan a video of his performance, and, seeing potential, Alan became his mentor for four years until his passing. During his time under Alan, Ondřej was exposed to magic outside of Prague through videos of masters like Dai Vernon, Fred Kaps, and Cardini.
When Ondřej creates magic, he is focused on creating effects that are strong in presentation because it is impossible to come up with something no one knows. However, he still wants to create magic that will fool laymen and magicians. With this goal in mind, Ondřej approaches magic creation by looking for methods and moments that he can implement in unexpected ways.
Ondřej goes on to explain how it’s important to embrace your strengths and weaknesses. For him, clean magic means no sleight of hand. He doesn’t enjoy performing it and prefers the impact of mental effects. The Butterfly Deck is a prime example of how you can create stunning effects with simple concepts used in unexpected ways.
The Butterfly Deck was designed to fool magicians. Ondřej says that it’s not special in any way because everything you need is hidden in the beautiful back design. In response to those who feel like they can’t use marked decks out of fear they’ll be caught, Ondřej says that only magicians tend to check or suspect that the deck is marked. When laymen tend to look at his deck, they just comment on the design. He goes on to say that when you’re working with a marked deck, you should perform effects that can’t be explained away with a marked deck.
When asked why Ondřej would reveal the secrets of the deck, he replies that he wants to see what people can do with the tool he created. If you have a Butterfly Deck, and you have interesting ideas on how to use it, email him at: Ondrej@butterflyplayingcards.com.
Ondřej never had the ambition to go on Fool Us. It wasn’t until he was working on his Magic Castle act that he developed an idea that was perfect for the show. He had this image of him, sitting beside Teller while watching Alyson fool Penn on stage. With this idea in mind, he created a video at the Magic Castle and sent it into the show. His primary goal for the effect was making Alyson the star of the show.
Ondřej encourages you to submit a video to the show if you have an idea that you feel would work. When making your video, he urges you to consider the environment you will be performing; they have monitors where they can watch in detail what you’re doing, meaning they will catch some things but miss others. Additionally, and this goes for any TV performance, work with the directors and producers. They want to make you and the show look as good as possible for everyone watching.
University Magic Course
Ondřej attended the University of Dance and Circus in Stockholm for a magic course. Over the course of three weeks, Tom Stone instructed Ondřej and his fifteen classmates, teaching them various magic methods and concepts. From there, the students split off in pairs to develop and brainstorm tricks that utilized what they had learned. The focus was never on teaching tricks but letting them develop their own material.
Ondřej describes the course as life-changing. He learned the power of working with people to brainstorm ideas and develop tricks. Without his time spent at the university, he wouldn’t have his show, he wouldn’t have had his Fool Us Performance, and he wouldn’t have met the designer for the Butterfly Deck.
While the course is not currently open, it may be running again in July or August in 2019. Follow Tom Stone on Facebook for details.
While there have been prominent Czech magicians like Pavel Pomezny and Lubor Fiedler, there is not much magic in Prague. However, with the KIM club–which focuses on creating a magic community for young magicians in Prague–and lecturers, like Karl Hein, bringing in their magic perspectives, Ondřej says that it is getting better.
He calls back to the idea of community when talking about how the magic culture is improving in Prague. With his upcoming show, 52 Lovers, he says that he is only the tip of the iceberg and owes so much to his magic friends. The material may be his for the one hour set, but none of his ideas would have developed without the assistance of the community.
Importance of Scripting
In Ondřej’s magic club, they were recently talking about Pete McCabe’s On Scripting Magic books. Coming from an acting background, Ondřej sees script writing as one of the most important and beneficial aspects of creating a performance. By scripting, you are able to lay out how you want the audience to feel while weaving in things like callbacks. Ondřej suggests watching the ending of Derren Brown’s Enigma to see the perfect example of how scripting can help you perform powerful magic.
Jonah liked the idea of deadlines and limitations. They breed creativity and make you take action at a rate you weren’t taking before.
Ondřej liked the part about having friends in magic. They are the people who will help you develop and improve.
What do you love about 2018 magic? What do you hate?
Ondřej likes that people are coming back to theatres for the live shows to move away from the special effects in theatre. He feels that magic is going the right direction, and he is excited to see where it goes.
Rico and Lisa de la Vega