Arts Listings

Magic Circle MagiciansEntertain in Oakland By KEN BULLOCKSpecial to the Planet

Friday February 03, 2006

Celebrating 81 years of good fellowship among magicians, the Oakland Magic Circle marks the installation of a new board of directors with a banquet and gala magic show featuring a tribute to Charles Dickens, himself a conjurer. Open to the public, the fun starts at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, with strolling close-up magicians, at Bjornson Hall (home of The Sons of Norway) on MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland. 

Festivities begin with members of the Magic Circle performing as strolling close-up entertainers, br inging tricks to the table for some intimate mystification. Dinner will follow at 7, with a prearranged choice of entrees for ticket buyers. At 8:15, the gala show will begin, with host Timothy James, followed by “A Touch of Opera” with David Miller and M lle. Jamie, then Dick Newton’s “Tribute to Charles Dickens,” and Incoming Circle President James Hamilton with some “Classic Conjuring,” followed by a grand, if wild, finale with The Flying Calamari Bros. in “Total Insanity.”  

“Timothy James is a young performer who’s appeared at the Magic Castle in Hollywood and here and there,” commented James Hamilton. “He performs comedy magic, offbeat, fun stuff. David Miller will show his marvels—like the Floating Ball—interactively with opera singer Mlle. Jamie.”  

It’s well-known that Dickens performed in amateur theater and read his stories to crowds on his popular lecture tours. The grandfather of today’s solo performance was “Emlyn Williams as Charles Dickens,” the great Welsh actor and playwright reenacting the spectacular Victorian as storyteller and actor behind the lecture podium. But Dickens’ career in conjuring, which Dick Newton recreates, is something less familiar about the great novelist, social reformer and humorist.  

James Hamilton is a longtime Bay Area practitioner of the magic arts; his “Classic Conjuring” is an act aptly named. Hamilton is every inch what’s implied by the moniker of Stage Magician: elegant in dress, eloquent and witty with patter or expressive in silence and pantomime, a master of the repertoire of conjuring, from edgy illusions to mind-boggling conundrums. Familiar to local audiences as The Magician at the Christmas Party in San Francisco Ballet productions of “The Nutcracker,” Hamilton is also a historian of the art, sp ecializing in late 19th century magician Hermann The Great, and is the author of numerous magazine articles, as well as lectures he’s delivered around North America and in London.  

Asked about The Flying Calamari Bros., Hamilton just smiles. “Two big guys go crazy—it’s a wild and crazy comic magic act. The title says it all.” 

Hamilton also spoke a little bit about the Oakland Magic Circle. “It was founded in 1925 by Professor El-Tab, a professional magician who lived in Oakland. Luminaries of th e world of magic have appeared at gatherings of the Circle; in recent years, conjurers of the stature of Harry Blackstone, Jr., Mr. Electric, The Great Tomsoni, John Carney, Charlie Miller ...  

“We’re an organization for both amateur and professional mag icians,” he continued, “a social organization. We hold auctions, lectures—open to members of the public—and in the fall host an interclub magic contest, to which the different clubs around each send a contestant. That’s an open event, too, with a big spag hetti dinner. We also have competitions within the Circle, and sponsor seminars for magicians.” 

Although stage magic is experiencing a new high of popularity, and has changed outwardly in a variety of ways over the years, the classic routines—though some times with a different spin—still entrance aficionados and new spectators alike. Styles change, but the old standbys keep coming around, although, as James Hamilton points out, “all those tricks with cigarettes seem to be passé.” 


The Oakland Magic Circle: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, Bjornson Hall, MacArthur Boulevard, Oakland. Adults, $22; children 12 and under, $15. All children will receive a free magic gift. Reservations are required; no tickets will be sold at the door. Tickets and information are ava ilable at or 1-800-838-3006.› 


Courtesy of James Hamilton 

Magic arts practitioner James Hamilton.›