New Magic with Michael Blau
In transit from his birthplace of New York to Las Vegas, a five-year-old Michael Blau came across his father’s old magic box. As he began to make sense of his new home, he’d stave off boredom with the objects inside. Contrived from play, an initial sense of wonder molded Michael into an eager student, one who nagged his dad for magic lessons. Around seventh grade, he took his education into his own hands.
“I’m not special,” Blau contends. In a graphic tee and black jeans, he’s as unassuming as most entertainers come. “I’m not this almighty human being who can read your mind. I don’t have superpowers. But I have studied and spent more time than you would imagine perfecting what seem to be simple tricks.”
Michael Blau challenges the traditional portrait of a magician. You’d be hard pressed to find him pulling rabbits out of top hats or color-changing scarves from his sleeves. Instead, he contextualizes his craft in the present, taking advantage of technology and social media platforms to broadcast his talent. I marvel at Blau’s ingenuity as he recounts his TEDxWUSTL demonstration from a few years prior: 200 college students pulling out their phones in unison and opening Instagram. On his profile, a new image appeared, without him publishing it manually or having someone backstage do so on his behalf. “When the audience is so familiar with the app’s properties—what’s possible and what’s not—it increases engagement,” he explains.
The WashU junior, who studies finance and computer science, is visibly meditative on his formulation process, considering the methods and moving parts which translate to a stage-ready routine. “The magic community is pretty small,” he reminds me. “If we hypothetically scale it down to 100 people, probably ten of them are truly novel in their approach. The other ninety people go to magic shops, they buy a trick, they read the directions, and then they perform it.” What the majority of magicians overlook, in Michael’s view, is the opportunity to self-express through their performance. To him, magic is an art form, but only amongst a small group who think critically about the smallest of production details, from background music to stage size. Blau’s commitment to cementing himself in the ten percent is clear.
If you’re examining place as it relates to performance, there are few better individuals to speak with than Michael Blau. He was born in New York, home to “some of the best magicians in the world,” moved to Las Vegas, which he describes as “the magic capital, though not as big or inclusive,” and was selected to perform during grandiose brunches and dazzling nightclub sets at the invite-only World Famous Magic Castle in Los Angeles. Michael reflects on the exclusivity and intimacy of the renowned Victorian parlor setting with a smile, but his experiences with the magic scene and its key players evoke a deeper nostalgia. “The magic community is one of the only communities in the world where you can actually meet your idols,” he says. And he has. From receiving mentalist Asi Wind’s mentorship to serving as a magic trick consultant for David Blaine ahead of his North American tour, Blau’s professional connections have shown him how to be “a phenomenal magician” and reinforced his enduring passion for the art form.
“When you were a kid, everything was magic,” he enthuses. “That’s the greatest feeling in the world. No one can say otherwise. My job is to allow you to be a kid again.” We’re lucky Michael Blau has not strayed far from his childhood fascination with Dad’s magic box.
Words by Kennedy Morganfield
Edited by Haley Harris
Photographed by Arno Goetz
Styled by Priya Kral and Jonah Thornton
Directed by Izzy Jefferis
Published in Armour Magazine Issue 23: Armour & Co