Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Discovery of Big Daddy Cool

It’s funny the journeys of discovery we go through. This weekend I was privileged to see Jeff McBride’s new show Magic at the Edge. I have seen Jeff perform many times in the past, but was particularly blown away by his new show. One of my all time favorite pieces is his “Transformations.” It has always spoken to me, but this time it brought me to tears because I could relate to it so strongly. It is Jeff’s story of trying to break out of his dependence on the silent White Face character, and his struggle with it. Ultimately he is successful, and he emerges as “himself.”

I have struggled with a similar dilemma. I had made my living and gained professional notoriety as the larger than life character “Big Daddy Cool.” He is a swingin’ zoot suited hepcat circa 1946. Audiences love him, and I love playing him. The problem I encountered though was that I had become so identified with the character that really that was who audiences and clients thought I was. I began to resent that, much like an actor who has been pigeon holed in a role.

Then last October a very well known Nashville magician wrote me an e-mail telling me how the character didn’t work because audiences didn’t get to know me, and that is what they really want. My friend Nelson Griswold told me he was a nut, but the guy is a former World Champion, so I took his advice seriously.

So I started experimenting, going so far as dropping the character name in all advertising and promotion. The majority of my show transformed into new material that I performed as “myself.” I still did a few pieces as Big Daddy, but the show was about John.

The first thing that happened was that ticket sales dropped. They dropped dramatically. While I was selling out houses to audiences eager to see Big Daddy Cool & The Swing Kittens in the Swing Magic Revue, far less had a desire to buy tickets to see John B. Pyka in (insert show name here – I experimented with so many different titles). So I pulled my protégé Lonny Divine along for the ride to boost tickets. It only worked a little. Further, when I performed as myself before playing Big Daddy, the audience did not respond to him as enthusiastically. If I opened the show as Big Daddy, the audience would not accept me any other way because he is so strong.

So, fast forward to my trip to Las Vegas this past weekend. Jeff McBride had graciously invited me (as Big Daddy Cool) to be a performer on the Wonderground. What an honor and thrill! It was amazing – more on that another time. But Jeff told me that because of erratic lighting with The Wonderground my Dancing Cane Routine was a no-no. I had been working on a “commando” routine for a long time, in case such a situation arose. So this was the excuse to polish it and finally put it onstage.

Wednesday prior to my performance I invited my friend Jason Michaels to come over and check out the act. He loved it and was very complimentary. Then he said [you are very comfortable in that character (BDC) and I think you should focus on that.] Hmmm. OK.

Then after my show Saturday night I was discussing with a friend of mine who saw the show about my struggle to break free of this character. She was confused and told me [Big Daddy Cool is such a strong character. People love him! Why would you want to not be him? If I were you I would focus just on being him.] Hmm… Interesting.

Then during his show Jeff looked me dead in the eyes and said [focus on one thing and you’ll find the success you seek.] Whoa! Ok, three people just told me basically the same thing. In my life that usually means it is a word from God and you had better listen!

So Jeff’s “Transformation” tore me up because I need to embrace the thing I’ve been trying to get rid of. That Nashville magician was wrong, and I need to focus on what I do best and that is the swingin’ magic of Big Daddy Cool! So does that mean that I will never be myself again? No, because BDC comes from me, so he really is me. Does that mean that my other characters are dead? No, but they will become secondary as experimental pieces for my creative pleasure, but not for performance. I will no longer focus on trying to create routines for them, and will only do them when specifically requested to do so.

When I appear on stage from this moment on, I will be only one character – “Big Daddy Cool” Johnny Dellarocca. My struggle ends a little differently than Jeff’s but in the end I think the results will be very similar!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How To Produce Your Own Theater Show

The new e-book is out and is a hit!

It's called How To Produce Your Own Theater Show and it is a practical, step by step guide to producing and promoting your own theater show!

It is only $25 and is an instant .pdf download. You can order it, along with my previous best seller Theatrical Magic at or at

Check it out today!

My weekend at Jeff McBride's Wonderground

Well, I just got back from my very eventful weekend in Las Vegas. I was invited to perform on Jeff McBride's Wonderground Saturday night and had a ball working with Scott Hitchcock, Paul Draper, and Bizarro - 3 guys I've wanted to work with for a while. I also got to hang with my awesome friends Erin & Christian, The Dymonds, and Erin even served as my beautiful assistant! She was awesome too! I was priviledged to meet and perform with Jordan Wright as well. What a gifted guy.

I did a set during the close-up buffet, and opened the midnight stage show. I was pleased with the reception from the audience, especially for my brand new BCool Manipulation Routine. The pool cue floored 'em and set the stage for my entire set! I followed that with the ever popular Mack The Knife routine to a wonderful audience reaction. I did make a few minor mistakes, that will need to be smoothed out - I kicked myself for it back stage, but watching the video play back, they were hardly noticeable.

Speaking of the video, it was broadcast live at and you can still watch it by clicking the On Demand button and selecting the menu for Jeff McBride's Wonderground. it is the episode posted on Oct 12. Check it out!

Sunday I was Jeff's guest for his show Magic At The Edge. I've seen Jeff countless times. I've been a fan and a student for a long time. This new show blew me away. In short, he has created a show that takes the audience through the history of magic through his eyes - from the earliest shaman, to his modern interpretation of magic. There was so much new stuff too! I was shocked by how much new material Jeff has created, and the enormous quality it has. Bravo! For long time fans, the favorites are still there - Masks, Miser's Dream, Transformations, The Water Bowls, and his award winning card act. At the end of the show my heart was racing and my jaws hurt from smiling so much.

Further, it was like watching a masterclass in magic performance. I learned more from watching this show than I have in 20 years of reading and practicing. It was a truly unbeleiveable experience!After the show, Jeff let me sit in during his post show production meeting. It was such a wonderful thing to see such a long time pro, a master, still sit down and take notes and direction from his friends and collegues! And guys, he had his notbok with him and really did write it all down! Another fantastic lesson!

There is countless more to tell, but I hope to be returning again soon and spending more time with my new friends. Hopefull the rest of my gang - Lonny, Krista, and Christina will be able to join me next time.

Monday, July 14, 2008

In Defense of Minimalism

An Essay

In Defense of Minimalism: My Theory of Performance and Production.

When it comes to producing a show, I am a minimalist. I like a clean, open, very unadorned stage. However, recently a few people have questioned and even bucked my minimalist style of producing shows and I though t I'd offer some insight as to why I approach performing and production the way I do.

My first encounter with professional level theater was as a Sophomore in High School. I was in the chorus of Anything Goes. It was a show produced by a local community theater company known for their professional level productions. The show is set on a cruise ship and the set was MASSIVE. It took nearly six weeks to build the two-story monstrosity. I thought it was so cool. Steps, and balconies, door and windows. What a joy! By what a pain. It nearly fell over in one performance, and it took two days to destroy the dang thing after the show closed.

That was the status quo in my theater world for the next several years and I discovered that the sets we built were a part of the audience draw. Many came to see how we could out do the last behemoth. It is what I thought was the norm.

Then some things happened that changed my paradigm. I saw a production of Cotton Patch Gospel at the Ohio Playhouse in Cleveland. It starred Wayne Turney and used a compliment of 4 bluegrass musicians. No set – just the theater drapes hung on the stage. Only two props – a mission style table and a chair that became a boat, a pulpit, a hangman's platform… And this production was done in the original style – as a one man show, so Turney played all the characters. One man, a table, and a chair and nothing more. It was one of the most captivating magical theater moments I have ever seen. Turney filled the stage with characters and persona, and personality, not props. The title of the show aside, that was a religious experience for me.

I noticed the same minimalism from stand-up comics who could hold an audience spellbound with but a microphone and their persona. I saw dance companies who filled the stage with color and majesty in the costuming, and lit up an otherwise barren stage.

I began looking around and noticed a similar phenomenon on Broadway – hit shows using little or no scenery. Shows like Pippin, The Fantasticks, A Chorus Line relied on the characters and the stories they had to tell rather than the sets and scenery they told them on. I went on to do several shows myself that used representational props and scenery. The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit had a set that was only a flat wooden framework of a building. The Music Man that only used a gazebo, the production of The King & I that only used leveled platforms. And then there was the tour of Closer Than Ever. No set, only 3 wooden stools and a Grand Piano. That show set the new standard for me…
Early on I set out to be as minimalistic and representational onstage as possible because I began to realize that monstrous sets and scenery for most productions were just hiding and masking the lack of talent on stage. The smaller the talent pool the bigger the set and scenery must be. Don't believe me? Go see a musical at your local community theater. They will have built these massive sets, and invested a lot of man power into creating scenery, but the lead actress can't seem to quite sing on pitch. Another big offender is Las Vegas. Your can put any talentless jackhole on stage in Vegas and it'll still be entertaining because of the spectacle of scenery.

You see, it boils down to this for me; as a performer – actor, singer, dancer, magician, comedian, whatever – you should be able to fill a stage with your persona, and personality, with your energy and enthusiasm, and most importantly your talent. You are the scenery! If the audience starts looking around at the scenery rather than looking at you and paying attention to you, then you have a bigger problem than what is or isn't on the stage.

When I do shows I want a clean, uncluttered stage. I may use a great drop or backdrop, and whenever possible fabulous lighting (but even that must enhance and not detract), but for the most part, my desire is almost always to fill the stage with larger than life characters whose personalities are the scenery. I may fail at times, but at least it is I who fail, not the moving parts of the set – yes, it's true that sometimes those monster sets come crashing down. I've been there, done that, got the t-shirt!

So, next time you are in a show that I create and you lament the absence of an elaborate set, know that it is not there because you do not need it. If you did, you wouldn't be cast in the show!

Next: Costumes – the outward expression of the larger than life character!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tricks of my Trade July 2008

Well, July has only just begun and it brings sad news to the Nashville Magic Community. First, It's Magic!, Nashville's only magic retailer is closing it's doors. This is sad because we have such a large magic community here, and because the theater in the shop is such a nice space to play and perform and practice. It has been a valuable tool for both pros and aspiring pros. The shop closes July 19th. Everything is on massive clearance.

Second, the Nashville OnePaper has also closed it's doors. The OnePaper has been a huge friend to magic over the last 5-6 years, and even gave me my own bi-weekly column on magic. I'm sad to see it go, but I could use the free time.

So, with Nashville losing these two magic friends, what will the state of magic in Nashville become? Well, it may just mean a return of Music City Magic. I know I plan to work hard to get the show back up and in front of an audience, to provide again a format to allow magicians to hone their acts in front of real-world audiences. Stay tuned...

Also, there is a new Magic Theater project in the works. I can't say anything more than that, but be watching this space for more info...

AND there is still some big news to come in August. I can't spill it yet, but I am so excited that I am ready to burst!!!

Catch ya on the Flip-Side!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Larger Than Life Review

Well we did it again. Our run of Larger than Life at the Center for the Arts was a huge success! In particular, we got great video and awesome photos - some things we needed more than anything to grow this show and make it a huge success!
We also got a great review from columnist Bob Pierson. See it below.
Thanks to everyone who came out!
Larger Than Life
Review by Bob Pierson

In March, I reviewed the debut of John Pyka's Larger Than Life. John called me two weeks ago and told me that he had made quite a few changes and invited me to review the show again. I am a fan of John's work so I eagerly agreed. This was one of the best decisions I've made in recent weeks. When the show debuted in March, I was impressed. The show that I saw on Sunday completely blew me away. The word triumphant comes to mind!

John has taken the advice and direction given to him, and sifted the chaff to make this show one of the best variety reviews I've ever seen. Period.

The show is in essence a magic and variety review. It is an inaccurate description to call it a magic or illusion show, as it is really a complete variety show in two acts. Sure it has spellbinding magic and illusion, but John's and the Kittens' vocal music infused into the magic and illusion made it far more than a "magic show." It was a magical show!

John's concept for the show is outlined in the program and then addressed again early in the second act. Basically, he and Lonny Divine (teaming with John) have split the show into two acts – act 1 shows the performers playing different characters, while the second act was about John and Lonny and the Kittens removing their masks and letting the audience get to know who they were under there.

It worked splendidly. John and the Kittens opened the show by taking the audience back in time to 1946 ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Chicago, as John portrayed his signature character Big Daddy Cool. This is the character John is best known for, and who many people expect to see when they come see his shows. He didn't disappoint. He performed his award-winning Dancing Cane and Mack The Knife Routines, along with a fabulous Bill In Lemon and two music only numbers, Minnie The Moocher and Jump, Jive & Wail. The audience loved Big Daddy Cool & The Swing Kittens!

Then Lonny took the stage to transport the audience into the far future where robots provide man's entertainment, and this robot does some spectacular sleight of hand with Jumbo coins. Lonny really could create a master class on jumbo coin manipulation. It was stunning.

John followed with another character that is gaining popularity in theater venues, Uncle Eddie Sparks. This character piece for the Egg Bag was both a hilarious parody, and an entertaining commentary.

Lonny followed with Willy the Entertainer, a redneck magician recently released from prison. Willy performed a very funny cup & ball routine using a tin can and a ball carved from prison soap! Willy was an instant hit with the crowd.

Then Michele and Patricia set the mood for John's next piece. They sang and danced to Magic Man (originally made famous by Heart) and Michelle even performed a short but nicely done Zombie Ball routine. The whole number was sexy and electrifying.

Next, John reappeared, this time as The World Heavyweight Champion of Magic Johnny Awesome. This character could only be described as a cross between Harry Houdini and Hulk Hogan, and is something John has been testing out in doses. The audience seemed to get it right away and had a fun time interacting with the Extremist! John performed a version of the "spiked" trick, but with a very cool twist. He was joined onstage by Kitten Michelle Timbres and an audience member who could "sense and avoid" danger. It was a very entertaining presentation and I can't wait to see more from Johnny Awesome. Johnny Awesome closed Act 1.

After intermission the curtains opened to reveal 3 of the Kittens who sang and danced to Ain't No Other Man. On cue, John and Lonny rolled out a large box, showed it empty and then produced the 4th Kitten. They finished the number with some impressive dance with John, who is also a trained dancer, and despite his size is remarkably graceful.

John followed this with a version of the Sword Basket in which he also sang Billy Joel's classic "You May Be Right" as he thrust the swords through his assistant Candice. The sword basket has replaced John's earlier version which utilized Andrew Mayne's Voodoo Box. This piece was fun, exciting, and a little scary. I loved it!

After the sword basket John stepped forward to catch his breathe and to address the audience. He explained the concept of the show a little more in depth and then introduced Lonny Divine again, who performed a wonderful and very original ball manipulation routine. Look out Arthur Trace, Lonny Divine is nipping at your heels.

John followed with his poignant and true story about his father inspiring him with the tricks (or games of chance as he called them) designed to get John to do chores. It was a very funny and amazing piece.

Next Lonny joined John onstage for a brand new escape piece. Lonny was chained in a strait jacket style, and Jessica and Candice sang Chain of Fools while Lonny escaped from the chains. This was the second piece that Lonny and John worked together to create, and they really work well together. It was nice to see two magicians with such starkly different styles working so well together. I hope to see more of this from the two of them in the future. Jessica and Candice's vocals were very strong and the two really compliment each other well. This was a very well done piece.

The next number was a song and dance piece performed by Michelle and Patricia. The first time I saw this number the set-up about the death of a sister, made me uncomfortable. This time John set-it up more appropriately and it worked. It was a very magical piece.

This piece was followed up with Jessica "escaping" from a plastic bag, and singing Fever while Michelle and Patricia brought a man up from the audience and danced around him and flirted with him. The whole sequence was very fun, flirty, and sexy in a very tongue in cheek manner.

The final three pieces really showed off John and his abilities as both a singer and illusionist. He led off with his moving Linking Ring routine set to an A Cappella version for When I Fall In Love. He followed this with a breathtaking levitation of Patricia as he sang Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera. It was one of the finest magical pieces I've ever seen, and John's voice was stunning – reminding everyone why he has performed on Broadway and at Carnegie Hall. John ended the sequence with his "Snowstorm In Armenia" routine. This is a classic snowstorm that tells the true story of Nadia Romanova, a girl in war torn Armenia whose only wish was that it would snow because the soldiers stopped fighting when it snowed. John augmented the story with the song Believe. Again, John's vocals were powerfully moving, and this final piece brought the audience to their feet.

I was thoroughly impressed with this production. John has trimmed the fat and created an even stronger show than he had previously debuted in March. I predict that sooner than later, this show will be touring theaters on a regular basis, and with the way John has structured it, it could easily play a cruise ship or casino. When this show comes to a theater near you, do yourself a favor and make sure to catch the show.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tricks of my Trade June 2008

Middle TN Magic Happenings in June!

Hello all. June is upon us, and you know what that means – Baseball, Cookouts, and Magical events and happenings!

If you like to be amazed and entertained then you are in luck! June brings the launch of a new theatrical magic and illusion show starring a pair Nashville’s premier illusionists, Lonny Divine and yours truly!

Lonny and I will be teaming up to present Larger Than Life at the Center For The Arts in Murfreesboro June 27, 28, and 29th! Larger Than Life is a celebration of dreams and the escape from reality. The show fuses amazing magic and illusion, powerful vocal music, high energy dance, and unforgettable, larger than life characters that do amazing and impossible things. The show is geared towards grown-up audiences, so it is the perfect opportunity for parents to get a sitter for the kids and have a fun night out together!

For those of you unfamiliar with my magic, I perform theatrical presentations that fuse magic and music. I’m an international award-winning magician, and I’ve been all over the world and on national TV several times. Lonny Divine is also an award-winning illusionist specializing in sleight of hand magic, and like me adds an unique theatrical presentation to his magic. Accompanying us are our backup dancers “The Kittens.”

Show times are 8 PM on June 27 and 28, and 3 PM on June 29. Tickets are just $12 in advance, $15 at the door. To reserve tickets call the Center for the Arts at 615-904-ARTS.

For those who are interested in learning magic, Nashville based magicians Jason Michaels and Scott Cantrell have created a web-based learning resource at Members of the site can learn and study magic with one on one video sessions with Scott or Jason. It is a very cool and sleek website, so take a look!

And for those who are already performing magicians, but want to hone their skills, Vegas headliner Fielding West will present a teaching lecture hosted by the Nashville Magic Club. Fielding West is not only a magician's magician, but he possesses that very rare and impeccable sense of comedic timing that has landed him the opening spot for some of the biggest names in show business. A winner in the prestigious Desert Magic Seminar's Comedy Magic competition, Fielding has opened the show for such A-list celebrities as Liza Minelli, Glen Campbell and dozens more.
Fielding will be lecturing for the Nashville Magic Club Thursday June 12th at 7:00pm in the It's Magic! Theater. Admission for the lecture is $5 for NMC Members, $15 for Non-Members. For more information, visit

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hey Gang!

This month is the start of something new. Each month, I am going to be posting a sample from one of my my books. Up first is a sample of the first chapter of Theatrical Magic, published by Leaping Lizards Magic. Enjoy it. This sample is free to you! If you like what you read, then you can buy the full printed version right now! Included with the purchase of Theatrical Magic, you'll also recieve 3 routines not found in the book, plus 4 hours of personal coaching via phone!

Next month I'll be posting the first chapter of How To Produce Your Own Theater Show & Make Money Doing It! to be released as an exclusive e-book in August 2008.

So what are you waiting for? Dig into and enjoy this sample section of Chapter 1 of Theatrical Magic!

Chapter 1
What Is
Theatrical Magic?

"Have you ever closed your eyes and wished that you could be someone else? Maybe even live in a different time or different place? I have. You see, growing up wasn't always easy for me. I wasn't cool or popular, and I was often made fun of and picked on - mostly because of my weight.
I discovered that I could escape my reality through music, and theater, and magic. I learned that I could create unforgettable, larger than life characters that could do amazing and impossible things. It made me special. It made me unique."
John Pyka, from The Really B!G Show

I never set out to be an entertainer. I thought I was going to be a comic book artist. But looking back, theater and entertainment was my destiny from the beginning. When I was around the age of 6 or 7 I began creating variety shows at family gatherings and holiday events. Eventually these evolved into productions staged for the neighborhood, and I charged a nickel to come see the show. These shows always included songs, skits, and dance. The shows were most likely horrible. But my die was cast.

At the age of 8, I saw a magician performing in a mall in Ft. Wayne, IN. It was the first magician I ever saw live and I was spellbound. He performed a bird production act that ended with the production of a large parrot. I decided that I wanted to learn how to do that. On the back of one of my comic books was an ad to earn cash and prizes. One of the prizes was a magic kit. I sent away for the kit and about 4 weeks later a package arrived in the mail. It was full of 11 boxes of greeting cards. All I had to do was sell 9 boxes of the cards to win the magic kit. I sold all 11. I got the kit and $2 cash to boot! I learned all of the tricks within a week and began adding magic to my dreadful neighborhood variety shows.

As I entered Jr. High School, I became very active in theater and music. I would go on to pursue acting with a passion throughout High School and win numerous local, state and even national awards. Because I am a skilled singer, I performed in a lot of musicals, and was even cast in The Hi-Los. I mostly pursued magic as a separate interest. That was, until I saw the MUMS on TV. They blended magic, juggling, and Commedia Del Arte. It was the first time I began to think about blending art forms.

As I grew into adulthood I began to blend music, magic and theater more and more, until one day I finally realized that they were not separate art forms at all, but one and the same. I now hold to the theory that Magic is a theatrical convention used to tell a story. This is also true of music, dance, Commedia, masks, pantomime, etc. They are all theatrical tools that should aid in telling a story.

Many will disagree with me, and say that magic is an art in and of itself, with no tie to the other conventions. I used to think along these lines as well. I did not believe that theater should have any more of a purpose than to entertain. Period. All of those plays and songs that made a "statement" or tried to "make people think" or were going to "change the world" just made me want to vomit. Oh, I loved a good, moving story but in large I felt that entertainment was just entertainment for entertainment's sake, and the entertainer had no mandate to create art.

I liked fluff. There, I said it. And because of that, one of my all time favorite shows was the Broadway musical Cats. I loved that musical for the reason most people hated it: No story, meaningless song and dance, nothing but music and dance spectacle. It was bliss. Then it all came crashing down around me.

If you are not familiar with Cats, the premise is simple; Based on T.S. Elliot's narrative verse "Old Deuteronomy's Book of Practical Cats" several cats are presented as candidates to ascend to the Heavyside Layer, and come back to a new life. One by one the characters boast of their merit to have the honor. Mr. Mistoffelees, the magical cat, even saves Old Deuteronomy (their "king") from a kidnapping attempt. In the end it is Grizabella, the former glamour cat, who has squandered her life and alienated everyone who ever knew her, who gets the honor. Huh? What? That makes no sense. It was such a glaring inconsistency that one could only ignore it and enjoy the spectacle. At least that's what I thought, and it was easy to do because the story was deeply buried in spectacle.

After adoring this musical for well over a decade, one day it hit me. The story isn't meaningless, it is deeply profound, but so simple that you miss it. You see, it wasn't the cat that deserved a new life that got the honor, it was the cat that needed the new life the most that got the gift. Wow. That revelation shook me to the very core. Seriously. Everything I believed about theater and entertainment was personified by Cats, and I had just learned that I was completely off base. Theater must have meaning.

Now, many of you will say "but John, magic isn't theater," or "magic is entertainment in and of itself," or "the amazement is the meaning." While I do agree that magic can (and should) be entertaining, I also believe that it can be so much more. A magic show doesn't have to be a string of special effects and nothing more. It can tell a story, make a statement, or even instruct or educate. Unfortunately too many performers have created shows that are nothing except a string of special effects, that has no meaning or relevance. This is one of the reasons that many people regard magic as meaningless diversion (usually for children). It is because so many magicians have made it so. We have removed all meaning and relevance from our magic. How sad.

So, how do we fix this? Well, I hope that this book will help make a difference. And you, by reading it may well be a part of the change.

Theatrical Magic, in the simplest terms, is magic that is character and story driven.

Whether it is known as Story Telling Magic, Bizarre Magic, Gospel Magic, or some other title, it is magic is that is used by the performer to accomplish several goals. 1) To tell a story, 2) to establish or showcase their character, 3) to solve a problem, 4) to make a statement, or 5) to instruct/educate. Often, magic accomplishes several of these goals at once. Of course it should go without saying that a fundamental purpose of theatrical magic is to entertain, amaze, and create wonder within the story...

To read more visit


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tricks of my Trade - April 15th 2008

The Perfect Entertainment For Your Summer Event

Many experts on marketing are going to call me crazy, but I am going to recommend that when you are planning your Summer family or company event, that you not call me. Instead, I recommend you hire my friend and student Lonny Divine. Why would I do this, you may ask? Good question. I'm glad you asked.

Well, for starters, I focus almost exclusively on performing in theaters. Most Summer events are outdoor events, and I sweat a lot!

Second, I also focus on performing for grown-up audiences and most of these events have a lot of kids running around.

So, in the end it is really best to have a performer great for families and is a little bit more adaptable to different performance situations.

Enter, Lonny Divine. Lonny is a great guy, and a fantastic performer. He provides the perfect balance of mind blowing magic and family friendly entertainment.

I highly recommend Lonny for your Summer event. Call me for more details or to book Lonny today!

Now, if you are planning an event in a theater or for an event for a convention or trade show, then I'm your man!

Call me for more details at 615-480-8946.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Morning After

So, here it is the morning after the world premiere of my 1st production show in almost 2 years, Larger Than Life.

Over all, this show was a huge success. Strong audience turnout, performances went off without any hitches, and the audience was entusiastic about their expierence.

Personally, this show was a huge triumph for me. I performed some brand new material for the first time ever, including some illusions I've wanted to perform for years - some dating back to 1989! I proved to myself that I could go and be the illusionist that most magicians dream of being. Further, I feel pretty good physically. My ankles are sore, and my back is a little stiff, but nothing near what I felt the Morning after that show in July 2006 when I really hurt myself! I am immensly satisfied with the experience!

However, as Axel Rose said "every rose has it's thorn" and this was no exception. This particular thorn was that not one single friend or colleague came to see me. The audience was comprised entirely of strangers. Normally this wouldn't bother me, but because this show was so special for me and important, I went to great lengths to let my magic club colleagues know about it and to invite them to be there. I also took a lot of time and effort to let my Nashville friends and family know about it. Not one of them showed. I promised myself that I wouldn't expect anything from anyone and that it wouldn't bother me if they didn't show.

However, it is sad to me. Of course, this show was important for me because it was my first big show in a long time. But it really hurts my heart for Lonny & Krista. We share magic colleagues, and that should be even more reason for them to come out and support the show. But more, Krista is my lead assistant, and she is 8 weeks pregnant. This may have been her last big show for a while - after all, it's going get more difficult to get in and out of those boxes. it would have been nice for the Nashville magic community to come out and send her off in style.

As a side note their was a TV producer from LA there to see the show. I have been pitching an idea for a TV project, and he really liked what he saw, so you never know...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Winter Carnival 2008

Continued from

Well the big news is that Bairefoot didn't show, so I guess that officially makes me the winner of that contest.

Congrats to Jason and my good friends Christian & Katalina on the 1st & 2nd place wins in the stage comp! Way to go! I was a little off my game for this one and was furious at myself. After I saw the video and then read the judges comments I realized that I was a lot harder on myself that anybody else was. Really, unless you had seen the act before, or were a musician, you probably wouldn't have noticed. It's what they call "ring rust' in wrestling. I've been on the sidelines rehabbing my back and have to work a litle harder to regain that lost step. But, overall the video I got looks good and I hope to post it soon.

Let me say this - and I'm going to be BLUNT and not pull any punches (after talking with Obie O'brien I believe that the time for being polite is long past). At Saturday night's show I saw the most amazing act ever with Charlie Frye, and the most horrendous act ever with the Mirror Images.

Guys, c'mon. That was horrible. At least script your show and take some acting lessons. Good looks and a lot of money do not equal a good act. I mean, really - did anyone see this act before they booked it? And if they did see it, did they actually think "wow, this is exactly what we need!" I mean c'mon!

There I said it. I was harsh, I know. A lot of you will say I am way off sides. But these guys need to hear the harsh truth now, while they can still change the direction of their 6 year old career. And because I am the one offereing such harsh criticism, I will also be the first to offer to help them change it. I did see potential in their act if they would do what needs to be done. I will even offer myself as a director - guys I can make that act gold if you are willing to do exactly what I tell you to do!

Next year - if you want an illusionist, Jason Michaels is just up the road in Nashville. For that matter, Lance Johnson and Robert Jones are right up in Chattanooga. There was no excuse for such a poor act on a Saturday night show.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tricks of My Trade Feb 2008 - Naked On Stage

No, it's not what you think... Not exactly...
A few years ago I was watching an episode of Fear Factor. I had never really been a fan, but there was nothing else on that night and so I tuned in while I did some work on the laptop. The first challenge immediately got my attention. The contestants were going to face one of the top 3 fears people have - public nudity! To do this, they would participate in a naked fashion show! That's right, all 6 contestants had to strip naked, and walk the catwalk in front of an audience of about 350 people, all with cameras flashing. They had to walk the cat walk and pause at the end and pose for 1 minute, naked, and turn and walk back up the walkway. Guess what? They all did it. Further, it was so dramatic a challenge that not one contestant was eleiminated in the following rounds. They each had become invincible. It would be the final challenge - a time relay challenge - that would ultimately decide the winner.

This episode got me thinking about the invincibility that the contestants felt after an excruitiating few moments of vulnerability, and what it means for a stage performer. I began to notice certain things about great entertainers. They were all willing to be vulnerable in front of their audiences, to expose themselves - to be naked on stage.

I'm not talking about literal nudity on stage. I'm talking about the willingness to show your vulnerability in order to gain invincibility.

A recent example is that of Hillary Clinton. She had her naked moment when she cried on stage, in front of a rally of supporters. You'll also notice that after that, her numbers soared. She for a time became invincible.

So, how can we as performers and entertainers exploit this principle? We'll explore that next month...

Big Daddy Cool stars in Larger Than Life!

Nashville - In October 2007 in front of a sold out audience at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville "Big Daddy Cool" John B. Pyka announced to the world that "Tonight marks my return!" On March 28th he will follow through with that promise with the debut of a brand new theatrical stage production called Larger Than Life.

Larger Than Life stars "Big Daddy Cool & The Kittens" and is the theatrical fusion of magic, music, and theater - and so much more. "Most people recognize the character of Big Daddy Cool as the star of the magic musical Swingin' At The Roxy" says Pyka, "but this production goes far beyond the zoot suited swing magic I've become known for." While Larger Than Life does include what Pyka calls "classic BDC," it also includes pop music and cutting edge contemporary magic, magical interpretations of classic Broadway songs, and a few other treats and surprises for longtime fans. As is John's style, all of the magic will be accompanied by soaring vocal music and high energy dance. It will be a complete Las Vegas styled variety review for a grown-up audience but with something everyone will love.

Joining John onstage are his magical assistant Krista Chilton, and The Kittens: Michele Timbres, Jessica Ottow, and Candice Byrd. Rounding out the troupe is long-time collaborator Patricia Lefler, who will perform and serve as choreographer. In 2000 Patricia and John collaborated to create the hit magic musical Swingin' At The Roxy, but it has been over five years since the pair have worked together. "Patricia was one of the key ingredients to making Roxy a smash hit" says Pyka. "Having her as a part of this new production is a true thrill!"

Larger Than Life debuts at the Center For The Arts in Murfreesboro March 28th at 7PM. Tickets are $15 and are available by calling the Center's box office at 615-904-ARTS. For more information about John B. Pyka, visit

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Tricks Of My Trade - Jan 08 2008

New Years Resolutions

2008 is here, and most of us have already broken our New Year Resolutions (if we made any at all). I made some. I know what you’re thinking – what kind of resolution does a magician make? Well, believe it or not, in the world of entertainment, goals are very important.

First, I have made a resolution to return to performing full time by the Summer of 2008. You see, I’ve been rehabbing a back injury and have been unable to perform at the level I have, and took a self imposed 1 ½ year hiatus. In October I announced my intentions publicly at Magicpalooza, and now it’s time to do it.

Second, I have made a resolution to debut a new theater show. This ties into the latter, but when I say new, I mean new! My most successful show has been a 1940s magic musical called Swingin’ At The Roxy. While it’s been good to me, it is time to create something fresh. Watch this space for more. Oh, and I am seeking dancers and singers for this project…

Third, revitalize Music City Magic. I launched Music City Magic 5 years ago and made it Nashville’s only weekly Magic and Variety Revue. After our 4th season, the venue closed and we (myself, Jason Michaels and Scott Cantrell) have been searching for the perfect venue to call our new home. We are very close, and hopefully Music City Magic will live again very soon!

Finally, sell 50,000 copies of my book Theatrical Magic (available at magic dealers everywhere).

So there you have it. Those are my goals for 2008. Maybe not as glamorous as you had hoped, but important to me. Over the next several months, I will be using this column to report on progress in each of these areas, so you will be the first to know the latest news!