Theatre Survey

RE: Sources: Edited by Nena Couch

THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF MAGIC/LUND MEMORIAL LIBRARY AND OTHER RESOURCES ON MAGIC AND CONJURING

Beth A. Kattelman

How did he do that? This question has been on the lips of audience members since magicians first began delighting and amazing viewers with skills of dexterity and legerdemain. The first-known recorded, secular magic performance dates back to 2500 b.c. when the conjuror Dedi presented a series of tricks for the Egyptian king Cheops at the royal palace. The event was recorded in the Westcar papyrus, a document that was composed around 1700 b.c. but is thought by Egyptologists to have been copied from earlier sources. Yes, magic and conjuring have long been an integral part of popular entertainment, and from these very early beginnings, secular magicians have continued to provide entertainment for audiences of all ages right up through the present day. Magic shows are still some of the hottest tickets of the Las Vegas strip, and touring artists such as David Copperfield can still fill theatres. Magic is also popular on television once again thanks to the work of David Blaine and Criss Angel. Organizations such as the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM) and the Society of American Magicians (SAM) also boast a strong membership.

Beth Kattelman is the Associate Curator of the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute and an Assistant Professor at the Ohio State University. She has published numerous book reviews, and is a contributor to the Gale Group's Drama for Students series. She is currently conducting research on the theatrical aspects of the nineteenth-century Spiritualism movement.