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Steven Kline

Dec15 coverSteven Kline is beat. The weariness comes through in his voice. He has just returned from five weeks in China as the lighting designer for a large-scale magic production produced by Juliana Chen and the Tian Jin Circus. Yang Yang, a young man in his early twenties, stars in the show, which features several hundred thousand dollars in illusions, over a half a million dollars in lighting gear, an acrobatic troupe, a ballet troupe, and a juggler. Steven was hired to design all the lighting for the show, get it loaded into the venue, and manage the tech crew for the first five weeks of its run.

“With this show, I hit the ground running,” said Steven. “I flew fourteen-and-a-half hours from Detroit, landed, and waited two hours for my ride. It picked me up and drove me two-and-a-half hours from Beijing to Tianjin, which is the fourth biggest city in China. It took me twenty minutes to check into the hotel. I got up to my room and got a call to meet in the restaurant in twenty minutes. I spent two hours in the restaurant meeting with the production crew and then was up at 8 a.m. to head over to the theater. We worked twenty-five days straight without a break, but it was a wonderful experience. I learned so much about the Chinese culture and I had time to reflect on my life. I learned so much more about myself; I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
The plan was for the show to run for three months. Unfortunately, the theater it was booked into had already been booked for November, so the run ended early. This may mean a return trip to China for Steven. “Nobody knows where the show is going. If it relocates, I’ll have to go back. Their lighting guy has no magic experience at all.” That last sentence explains why Steven is in such high demand: he has tremendous experience as a magic performer and as a designer and production manager for corporate events and sports competitions. In recent years, anyone with these credentials has become important to the world of magic conventions.

Forty years ago, it was important for a magic convention to have access to a functioning theater, equipped with lights, sound, curtains, and an adequate backstage. Unfortunately, as time went on, the cost of renting such a venue and the associated union labor costs made it impossible to use these venues without dramatically raising the registration costs. Close-up performers at magic conventions had to work multiple times on multiple days (each time for a small portion of the attendees) in order to approximate the “close-up-magic experience.”
Today, magic conventions use the hotel ballroom as their theater. This means rigging a stage, lighting, sound, curtains, and video support. Close-up performers and lecturers also work on this stage. Unless you’re seated in the first few rows, all the performances become “video experiences.” Consequently, a large part of magic-convention-attendee satisfaction depends on the quality of the gear and the skill of the production manager. And this is why someone like Steven is in great demand.

Read the full article here.

Dec15 TOC