Sometimes it takes more than one magician to realize a fantastical illusion. With Teller in the lead and Thompson as his magic designer, the two came together to craft and actualize the mesmerizing spells cast by Prospero in the show.
His job is to help figure out the logistics of an illusion with magicians. In essence—he helps to make their magic reality. Together they bounce ideas off each other and find solutions. With many years of magic under his belt as well as being one of the few lasting general practitioners—a magician versed in all forms of magic from close-up to stage magic—Thompson has served as the go to source for Penn and Teller.
Thompson first met the duo of Penn and Teller in 1976, when Thompson saw them perform at the Philadelphia Magic Convention. Over the years the three would continue to run into each other—with Thompson even helping them to secure another magician’s trick for a book the duo was writing. The trio officially cemented their working relationship of over 15 years when Penn and Teller turned to Thompson for help with their first show in Las Vegas at Bally’s Hotel & Casino.
“They come up with ideas and I find ways to bring them to fruition,” Thompson explains.
With their history of work it was only natural for Teller to bring on Thompson for this adaptation of The Tempest. Early on, the two met with Posner to discuss their goals for incorporating magic.
“From there Teller and I started working out the logistics of where we should put magic in the show; we didn’t want to just throw magic in for no reason. We wanted it to further the story exposition.”
Working with magic in the context of a play offered challenges of its own. Teller and Thompson had to devise the illusions with how the audience sees the action—sight lines and angles—in mind and that many of these illusions had never been done before. Luckily, the cast has been more than capable of taking on these challenges.
He credits actor Nate Dendy (Ariel) and Christopher Rose, the show’s magic technician and Ariel understudy, as being both fine magicians and fine actors. Thompson also found that Tom Nelis (Prospero) was a natural for the craft, “I could show him something and he would do it correctly…he was a quick study. We never had a problem. He was great.”
|Nate Dendy (Ariel) Joby Earle (Ferdinand), Tom Nelis (Prospero) and Charlotte Graham (Miranda) in The Tempest. Photo: The Smith Center/Geri Kodey|
The Tempest has been an experience Thompson finds incredibly rewarding.
“The magic is really very unique and fits the show perfectly. One of the best things I’ve done. I’ve had a lot of fun working on it.” The audience reactions from Las Vegas to Boston have been overwhelming and even more satisfying. “When we first opened at the Smith Center, I had people come up to me and say, ‘I never thought I’d enjoy Shakespeare, but this is magnificent.’ And those are the kind of things that make it worthwhile.”
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