INTERIOR OF A THEATER -- EVENING
The curtain opens on a darkened stage. A chime permeates the air, signifying the top of the hour midnight. A glowing clock face is the sole illumination as a tuxedo-clad figure appears out of the darkness. With a wave of his hand, the clock face dims and the chiming fades. The lights come p revealing the man with the ability to stop time. Posed next to an elegant grandfather clock, his cordial smile assures the audience that he will only use this power for good.
Thus begins the FISM Award winning act that has taken George Saterial around the world several times. His international credits include Broadway, a performance for the King and Queen of Sweden, the Magic Castle in Hollywood, the Magic Circle in London, cruise ships and theatres across five continents. In addition, he is the only magician in history to receive the Gold Medal at both the S.A.M. and I.B.M. international competitions. Referring to George's performance as a "magic act" seems unsuitable. He has worked hard to create a "theatrical experience".
What makes an international magic champion? Let's turn back the clock for some insight into a magical journey that began a couple of decades ago.
George grew up in Medford, Massachusetts, a suburban community just north of Boston. At age eight, came the interest in magic. His father, George Sr., showed him a magic trick that he had learned from a co-worker. Young George was amazed and immediately hooked. He began making frequent visits to the library to take out books on magic. Building props from whatever materials were available not only became a source of pride but also was a strong indication of his resourceful upbringing. With his mother Josephine's artistic abilities in sketching, painting and sewing, combined with his father's ability for woodworking, it was inevitable that George would be creative. His parents were very supportive of his hobby in other ways as well. They helped him work on new props and drove him to magic shops and meetings. George's sister, Joanne, even got in on the act, literally, by assisting him at several of his shows.
Some of George's earliest magical influences were the local magicians that he met through his father. As a registry of motor vehicles police officer, part of his father's job was to travel to schools and teach traffic safety. At one school, he met principal Bill Dempsey, who was also a part-time magician. Through Bill, they learned of the local magic clubs and retail stores, including Ray Goulet's Magic Art Book Studio and Hank Lee's Magic Factory. At the local magic clubs, George also met Jim Rainho and Dave Cresey who were kind enough to share their knowledge with George.
Another big influence for George was television. Growing up he watched Bill Bixby as "The Magician", Doug Henning's magic specials, and shows such as Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas that regularly featured variety acts. After being motivated by television, he put on his own magic and variety shows for family and neighbors. His first paid gig, at a local party, earned him a whopping $5. The grandmother at the event said to George "Now you're a professional." George was on his way.
In addition to magic, George had other interests, throughout high school. He became very active in hockey, track, and lacrosse. He credits the disciplines learned in athletics, as being paramount in helping him prepare for the magic competitions he would later enter. Although, George performed for the occasional party, when it came time to graduate, he decided to attend college and study mechanical engineering. It seemed like the sensible thing to do at the time.
While attending U-Mass Lowell, George's repertoire was versatile enough to do family shows and corporate events. He also worked weekends doing close-up magic at local restaurants. I remember the first time I became aware of George the magician. I was working as "Bingo the Clown" at the Ground Round restaurant in Peabody, Massachusetts. I was in the office of the restaurant when I saw a business card on the bulletin board that read "George the Magician". I thought I might have some competition. It turns out we were working different days at the same restaurant for almost a year before we had the opportunity to meet. When we did, we quickly became good friends. If you've had the good fortune of meeting George yourself, you know why. He's very friendly although an admittedly shy person offstage. His unassuming demeanor often makes him disappear in a crowd. I have seen this phenomenon first hand when audience members don't recognize him after a show.
We soon joined forces with several other Boston area performers and created The Boston Vaudeville Company. The group (which included George, Peter Gross, Jim Vetter, Alexander Feldman, and myself) would gather monthly to brainstorm, work on new ideas and critique each other's acts. Through this mutual support, it became a very fertile ground for developing material.
George has made close friends, both in and out of the entertainment business. In college, his roommate Ken, having an interest in magic, asked George to teach him some tricks so he could entertain his family and friends. When Ken returned after his weekend excursions home, he would complain about his cousin Holly, who would try to ruin the tricks on him. Apparently, she wasn't a big fan of the magical arts at the time.
When it came time for George to put together his first promotional brochure, he needed some female models to spice up the photo shoot. Ken recommended his cousin Holly. She did such a great job, George asked her to assist him in a variety show that he and Ken were producing. A few weeks later he asked her to dinner. Years later, he asked her to be his wife. She said, "Yes".
After graduating from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering, George quickly got a job as a design engineer and gave the nine to five thing a shot. It wasn't quite the creative process that he had anticipated. It was a lot like work. Meanwhile, he was developing the stage act that he would continue to hone to this very day. With magic gigs coming in, and the emotional support of Holly, he quit the day job and put his efforts into a full time career as a magician.
Earlier versions of the stage act included the "Zombie" ball effect, which George was inspired to do after seeing it performed by Boston area magician, General Grant. He then went on to develop multiplying zombie balls, and eventually dropped the floating ball effect from the act. Although his influences were the classical magicians that he saw on TV - Norm Nielsen, Richard Ross, Shimada, Marvyn Roy, and Channing Pollock, it was the mid-eighties, and George also had the influence of pop culture as well. In 1985 I saw him compete at the S.A.M. Convention in Boston. He was introduced. The pulsing beat of new wave music by Duran Duran brought him to the stage. He was dressed in a full-length, Colonial style jacket and black boots. Playing cards and candles materialized effortlessly. Silver spheres multiplied and levitated.
In addition to his meticulous technique and commanding stage presence, I thought the act was pretty hip and trendy. One of the judges of the competition had an important question for George -
"Who are you?"
"I'm George Saterial," he replied.
"No, who are you on stage?" the judge inquired.
"George Saterial," he repeated, still unaware of the deeper meaning to the question.
The judge went on to explain his theories on character development. This query was a turning point for George as a performer. He began studying acting, voice, and corporeal mime, which emphasized body language and how it translates to an audience.
After this initial competition, George decided to add doves to his act. However, he was not keen on the concept of using a cage to place them in. He felt the image of an empty cage telegraphed to the audience that birds will eventually be produced. He labored over several concepts but wasn't satisfied. One day, while walking through a furniture store, he noticed an ornate grandfather clock. It was interesting, but he initially dismissed it. Over several months, however, the idea began to grow on him. He also realized that the grandfather clock could become a trademark that would distinguish him from other acts.
After purchasing some blueprints and using his mechanical engineering skills, George built a prototype of his own clock from cardboard. Things soon fell into place, and a poetic theme began to emerge. A magician creating the illusion of stopping time, and establishing a world where anything is possible.
Once the act was developed to a certain degree, he put it to work at various conventions and events. Soon he was spending most of his time pursuing corporate shows and running the daily operations of his magic business. This left little time for the creative process. George began to feel the act was becoming stagnant. He had wanted to make improvements on the act but lacked the time. To give himself a deadline, he decided to enter the stage magic competitions at the S.A.M. and I.B.M. conventions in 1999. As mentioned earlier, he had entered contests before, but this time the motivation was different. He wasn't just pursuing medals, his goal was to make his act the best it could be. He edited new tracks of music, changed some of the movements and handling of his routine, and rehearsed repeatedly in his garage. He even rebuilt portions of the clock. Through all this hard work and determination, he was ready. It was time.
In June of 1999 George flew to Little Rock, Arkansas to compete at the annual I.B.M. convention. He went into this contest with the feeling that, at the very least, this would be a good warm-up for the S.A.M. contest the following month. With several years of performing experience behind him, countless hours of training and rehearsal, it all came down to one show. On this particular night, the guy with the grandfather clock knocked it out of the park. He got the gold. A jaded person could try to dismiss this as a fluke, but this was something more than luck. Two weeks later, in Cincinnati, George took the gold again. As a bonus, he also received the people's choice award. In addition, George was asked by the S.A.M. to represent the U.S. at the F.I.S.M. convention in Lisbon, Portugal in July of 2000. He graciously accepted the offer, and tied for third place in the general magic category at the most prestigious of competitions. Not bad for a humble guy from Massachusetts.
Throughout his career, George has had success in interesting and varied venues. He has been the opening act for a heavy metal band, he has been the novelty act in an all male revue, and he recently performed for a hearing impaired group of 900 at their annual convention. An ice show called "Ice Chips" hired George as a featured act to facilitate their "magic" theme. The producers were prepared to place a carpet on the ice for George to walk on. He surprised them by showing up with his hockey skates prepared to work directly on the ice. During the show, the ice was ankle deep in dry ice fog. As George was introduced, the curtain at the end of the rink parted, and George appeared to float out. In actuality, he got a skating start from behind the curtain and straightened his legs out at just the right moment before going through the curtain. All those years playing hockey really paid off!
In 1997, George received a call from a casting agency in Boston. They were auditioning for the part of a magician in a motion picture that happened to be filming in town. George put on the tux, gathered the doves and was off to give it a shot. At the audition, George produced a dove that became airborne, as birds tend to do. The creature landed on a lamp and knocked it to the floor with a loud crash. Ever the professional, George continued on with his routine, playing off the mishap. Slightly embarrassed, he gathered his belongings, apologized, and left with the confidence that he would never hear from them again. Well, he did hear from them and George was offered the part of a street magician working Harvard Square in Cambridge, only this time there would be no birds. George wasn't exactly sure what the movie was about, but gathered his bunny, and was off to the film set. Arriving on location, he waited with the background extras. Much to his surprise, he was instructed that he had his own dressing room trailer to prepare for the scene, and was quickly escorted by a production assistant. "I could get used to this!" he thought.
A crowd gathered while the scene was filmed, a young couple, out on their first date watching a magician and his rabbit. George had a blast. Months later, George and Holly were invited to the star studded premiere of the film Good Will Hunting. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the entire scene had been cut from the film's final version. At the premiere party after the screening, the film's director, Gus Van Sant, apologized, explained that it had to be done for time, and thanked George for a great performance and a very memorable audition. Several months later George and I were in a video store, where I found the DVD for the film. I read the cover and exclaimed, "Hey, it has eleven deleted scenes." George replied in his typical modest fashion, "Apparently I was number twelve." That's show biz. Since the film, George has played roles in music videos for James Taylor and Pat Metheny, and his impressive list of credits continues to grow.
What's next for George Saterial? He's in the process of incorporating illusions into his act, but not your typical tricky boxes. Instead, these effects will naturally blend with his current theme and appear to be part of the scenery. I don't want to give away all the surprises, but like the current act, it's sure to be theatrical, masterfully executed, and it should take George Saterial's career to the next level. It's about time! Continued on next page
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Copyright © by George Saterial - All rights reserved.