ASHLAND — Wisconsin native Bill Blagg has become one of the premier big-stage magicians in the country, and like most folks who follow that path, his interest in doing magic was sparked when he was just a kid.
“What got me hooked was a surprise package in the mail from my great-grandfather on my 10th birthday,” said Blagg. “My great-grandfather and I used to swap letters and packages through the mail and when I was a kid, I told him that I was interested in magic. So, he would write to me little instructions about magic that I could do with things found around the house. I’d write him back and let him know how I did with it, and ask him if he had anything new. So, after that back and forth for a number of years, he sent me three books on my 10th birthday called the ‘Harlan Tarbell Course In Magic,’ which had thousands of magic tricks in them. But, more than just the tricks in them, the books talked about how to learn the routine of magic shows, and what it meant to perform. It wasn’t just about the tricks. It was about the art of doing a show.”
Blagg specializes in big-stage, family friendly magic that includes fun audience participation.
On Friday, March 10, The Magic of Bill Blagg Live show will take place at the historic Paramount Arts Center in Ashland at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $15 to $40 and all ages are welcome. The venue is located at 1300 Winchester Ave. in Ashland. More information can be found at paramountartscenter.com.
“What was fascinating about what my grandfather gave me as a kid was that they were the three original books on magic that he bought in 1942 from their first printing, and I still got them,” said Blagg. “Then, I grew up as a kid of the 1980s and ‘90s and the annual ‘David Copperfield TV Special’ would definitely inspire me. For folks in the 1970s, magician Doug Henning was big, and later on I got to work with Doug’s illusion designer and the guy that built all of his illusions. Professional magic is like any other industry, as in you get respect by doing it. Once you have done something for so long, and other people can reference the quality of your work and the breadth of what you do — I feel like it all just comes from there. Like my dad always told me, ‘With any type of work in your life, the harder you work, the luckier you get.’”
In a way, according to Blagg, the art of magic is similar to those who create music for a living, as in the pressure to be original, unique and different from others is huge.
“There is a ton of pressure to come up with original pieces of magic,” said Blagg. “Magicians can only do so many things. You can make something disappear, you can make something re-appear, and so on. But, magic is very much like music. Musicians have the same set of notes that have been around from the very beginning, and they take those same sets of notes and orientate them into a melody that works for them. And, it doesn’t necessarily have to do with the tempo and the tone as much as it becomes about the story and what they are saying, and I always thought to myself, ‘Why can’t magic do the same, exact thing, and use the structure of magic like notes in a song?’”
The show that Blagg is bringing to the Paramount is multi-media in nature and not only family friendly, but it is also created in a way that everyone in every seat can see and enjoy.
“‘America’s Got Talent’ TV show calls us every year, but we say no because our style of magic isn’t about, ‘Hey, check this illusion out,’ but instead it is about sitting down and hanging out with us for an hour-and-a-half and take in the whole show,” said Blagg. “We do small magic and we do big magic. But I go big, especially when we come to venues that are as gorgeous and beautiful as the Paramount in Ashland. We have been there in the past and the team there and those behind the scenes that are keeping that place open and bringing live entertainment there work extremely hard. But I like to go big because if I went to a magic show and had to watch it being done on a screen, then I would stay home. I mean, we do some close up things on a screen, but I would say that is 3% of the show.”
That is why Blagg and crew bring so much equipment, because it is needed to make their magic fill up a venue.
“At our show, everybody from the very last seat to the very front seat get the exact, same experience,” said Blagg. “That is why we carry 26,000 pounds of equipment and it takes over 15 people to put on this show, doing audio and lighting, illusion engineers, stage sets and more. I’ve got a really cool piece that we are bringing for you folks on Friday night where I get locked inside of a box that is made of plexiglass, where you can see me the entire time, and that box gets hoisted over 10 feet in the air in the middle of the stage. I’m not going to tell you what happens next, because I don’t want to ruin it, but something absolutely incredible is going to take place. It will floor the audience.”
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