When I was seven, my parents took me to a magic shop at Pier 39 in San Francisco. I bought my first magic trick, the Imp Bottle. I loved playing with it. Not long after that, my parents bought me a magic set with over 100 tricks. I performed just about every single one of them for the kids at my eight-year old birthday party. Some of them didn’t always work right and I’m not sure the audience was completely attentive but I had fun exploring the mechanics of all the tricks. Years passed and I met many girls who were involved in community theater, but none involved with magic. Without any mentors or peers to encourage me, that magic set ended up in the closet.
As an adult, I started dating a magician, Joe Gold, and I started to see more of the world of magicians. At one of the first shows we went to, I saw a male magician producing a tiger. Then the very next act was a female magician producing a bobcat. It was practically the same trick. I turned to Joe and asked him why they had two magicians doing the same trick. Joe said that happens in magic because the show organizers saw the first magician as an animal act and the second magician as a female act, two different categories.
Although female magicians are certainly in the minority, there are many wonderful and talented female magicians out there, and you can hardly consider them a category. Just like men, they perform in many different styles and types of magic. I’ve seen women do escape acts, dexterous card manipulations, fire acts, and more.
But if you watched movies and television, you might never know that a female magician even existed. Hollywood always portrays women as magic assistants but rarely magicians. Among the few exceptions is the 1907 nine-minute short, The Red Spectre, showing a caped woman battling a devil with magic tricks. In 1974, the French film, Celine and Julie Go Boating shows Celine as a bohemian stage magician. Recently, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone showed the character of Jane, an assistant, who really wants to be a magician. But you barely see her perform any magic. And like most magic assistants, she is only given a first name whereas the male characters have a first and last name.
As Joe and I made the film Desperate Acts of Magic, we wanted to show a female character that was making a living as a magician, and performing lots of magic routines. The film stars Valerie Dillman as Stacy Dietz, a talented magician who has been spit out by the male-dominated magic establishment, leaving her to fend for herself on the street passing the hat to tourists.
When I was a kid, my dad took me to old Chuck Norris movies. Inspired by those films, I wanted to take a karate class and I still do martial arts workouts today. One reason that girls don’t go into magic is that there are so few role models portrayed in the media. I’m hoping that Desperate Acts of Magic will inspire young girls to become involved with magic.
Tammy Caplan is the co-director, co-producer, and co-editor of Desperate Acts of Magic.
Desperate Acts of Magic plays at the Quad Cinema in New York City on May 3rd and the Laemmle NoHo 7 in Los Angeles on May 10th. Audiences can bring the movie to their city by hosting a screening through Tugg.