Allan Slaight Awards

And the Award goes to....

The Allan Slaight Awards recognize outstanding achievement in the pursuit of the impossible. The Slaight Family Foundation established the awards in 2015 and has pledged to give $50,000 a year, over five years, to celebrate exceptional work in five distinct categories. Each recipient receives not only a cash prize, but also a specially engraved iPad to commemorate the achievement.

The Allan Slaight Awards are distributed every year, celebrating extraordinary talent and accomplishments in the world of magic. This year, the recipients are being announced online, spread out over a week. The first award was announced this morning is the Canadian Rising Star:

The recipient is absolutely one of my favourite performers on the planet, Nick Wallace. His 2016 show Séance remains one of the finest live productions I've ever seen. When I was hosting Magic Tonight, Nick was a welcome guest many times. I once described him thusly:

He may pretend to look all sweet and inocent, but I am starting to suspect that he may, in fact, be the devil. Pure evil wrapped in Mr. Rogers’ sweater.
— Me, ca. 2015

Congratulations, Nick, on this well-deserved award. Stay spooky. 

On The Meaning Of Magic

Recently, magician Derek DelGaudio was interviewed by The Creative Independent about his thoughts on magic. Derek recently received the $15,000 Allan Slaight Award for "Sharing Wonder" and his show in New York, In & Of Itself, directed by Frank Oz, has been extended. 

Derek Delgaudio

I don't want to quibble over what is otherwise an extremely thoughtful and insightful interview from someone who is doing very interesting things with the form but there is one line:

I think the word “magician” immediately implies that I’m here to deceive you, which is literally the opposite of what I’m doing. I’m using illusions or sleight of hand magic concepts to deliver truths and communicate the way I see the world.

"Deliver truths" is a weird expression. I think it's our own insecurity which forces us to wrestle with the word "truth". There are things we want to be "true" that aren't in the literal sense and we recoil. There is a desire felt my many (even me sometimes) to say that the works of Shakespeare contain "truth" even though the events in them aren't real. They aren't true, they are insightful. We already have a word for that.

I cringe slightly the tendency, particularly among those in the arts, to take liberties with the definitions of common words. It's a hop, skip and a jump from dishonest politicians and pedlars of pernicious woo. If words stop meaning what they're supposed to mean, then no one can really take you at your word when you say anything.

Magic is an inherently dishonest endeavour. We portray things in a way that is not as they truly are. Trying to pass this off as a "kind of truth" is weaselry. Now, illusion has its value and place, so you don't need to shy away from deception. You can embrace it. It's an honourable thing to sacrifice a bit of your honesty so that others can experience a moment of mystery and amazement. I lie so you can experience an instant of childlike wonder that I no longer can (because I know how the trick works)... at least until someone comes along and does it to me.

The Allan Slaight Awards

Saturday night, as part of a special gala show concluding the 44th Magic Collectors Weekend in Montreal, Magicana presented the Allan Slaight Awards. The awards, now in their third year, were created by the Slaight Family Foundation to honour Allan Slaight. A deeply passionate magician who is better known to the world at large through his work in broadcasting, he is now in his eighties, his idea of a quiet Canadian retirement involves quietly donating millions of dollars each year to various healthcare and arts organizations. 

The awards recognize the best in magic with $50,000 a year in prizes. There are awards for performances for the public and also those who advance the craft, publishing reference material within the field. In the two years the awards have been given previously, some of my favourite magicians have received the awards, including Penn & Teller. 

For the first two years, the awards were presented a private dinner. This is the first time they have been open to see. The winners were:

Max Maven
Lifetime Achievement - $15,000

Derek DelGaudio
Sharing Wonder - $15,000

John Lovick
Sharing Secrets - $10,000

Edward Hilsum
International Rising Star - $5,000

Eric Leclerc
Canadian Rising Star - $5,000

David Ben, John Lovick, Max Maven, Edward Hilsum, Julie Eng - Photo by David Linsell

David Ben, John Lovick, Max Maven, Edward Hilsum, Julie Eng - Photo by David Linsell

This year, I was backstage for the show, so I had a slightly different perspective. For example, here is John Lovick who won the award for Sharing Secrets for a book he wrote in collaboration with Handsome Jack, the world's foremost male model magician. He's having a slight wardrobe malfunction.

Handsome Jack with his pants down... don't ask. 

Handsome Jack with his pants down... don't ask.