Being a magician is a lot more than party trick and sleight of hand. Prestidigitators have to present their performances with patter — a purpose for each panache-packed prestige. They have to talk and tell you a story. Maybe it’s simply the story of the trick — watch the ball go into the cup, watch it disappear, watch it reappear.
For Louisville-based magician Cody Clark, that story has centered on his autism and his work in autism activism. In his show “A Different Way of Thinking,” Clark has used magic as a metaphor for his mind, his life and his way of looking at the world. “A Different Way of Thinking” has played to multiple sold-out crowds in Louisville and traveled to Orlando, Indianapolis and Washington, D.C.
But this weekend, Jan. 25-26, Clark is making a whole new show appear — “The Origins of My Magic” — at The Bard’s Town.
Insider spoke with Clark about the way an artist like him works to turn a string of tricks into a show, and why he wanted to grow beyond “A Different Way of Thinking.”
While the magician always knew he would write another show, he was spurred into action last summer.
“I got advice from a magician in San Diego named Jamy Ian Swiss, who is known as the Simon Cowell of magic because he can be that cruel,” says Clark.
Fortunately, Swiss wasn’t too harsh with Clark.
“He did say I should play to my weaknesses, which was, I’m a great storyteller, but he wanted the magic to be more impressive,” he explains.
Clark adds that a new show could get him more bookings as well.
“There is a big crop of magic-specific venues opening up in big cities, and I want to get on that circuit,” he says. “But on that circuit, having an autism advocacy show doesn’t really work, as those are more pure entertainment venues.”
So how does a new show get made? If you’re picturing Clark hiding out in some cool library full of strange devices and arcane lore … well, you’re pretty much right.
“I do have my magic practice room that has a library of magic books, a library of effects that I’ve bought over the years at magic conventions but have not used yet,” he says.
Next, even though this show is partially inspired by his quest to perform more impressive magic, he decided what stories he wanted to tell.
“I’m telling the story about things I like that weren’t mentioned in ‘A Different Way of Thinking,’ like Dolly Parton, or being in Future Business Leaders of America as a kid,” says Clark. “I’m determining exactly what it was about those things that really sticks out to me till this day, and then I link that with the type of effect I want to do.”
That link can connect to a finite number of “types.”
“There’s only eight types of effects — vanish, appearance, transportation, levitation, escape and so on and so forth,” he says.
The link between magic and storytelling can be the type of trick, or even something as simple as the color and texture of a prop. For an example, Clark offered his Dolly Parton story once again.
“(It’s) about ‘Coat of Many Colors,’ so all I have to do is go to a party store and get a multi-color napkin. And I switch napkins to tell the story of the coat of many colors, pretty much verbatim from Dolly’s lyrics,” he explains.
Once his stories are connected to tricks, Clark has to connect those pieces to create something cohesive. As in theater, dance, literature or opera, there are different scaffolds and structures beyond a simple story.
“This particular frame … is based on the structure of three — like one set of three is the opening, one set of three is the longer stuff, then the final set of threes is sort of the climactic material.”
While the number three has a mystical connection to a cornucopia of gods and goddesses throughout many world religions, Clark connects with “three” because of something a little less cosmic — the rule that comedy always comes in threes.
“Standup comedy is one of the big influences on me in terms of storytelling structure,” he says. “You’re taking me way back in my history because the Comedy Caravan — way back when it was the Comedy Caravan — had magic nights on Mondays. That’s where my first performances were. Back when I was Cody Comet.”
Catch Clark’s current culmination of creativity on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 25-26, at The Bard’s Town, 1801 Bardstown Road. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $20.