September, 2013 Issue

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Mark Toland


Isn't it time we brought a little class back to magic?

That's exactly what magician Mark Toland has set out to do, combining aweinspiring and mind-blowing visual magic and mentalism with a classic hip style that hails back to the days of Sinatra and old time Vegas. It's magic specifically tailored to the campus market.

"I'm trying to get across the point that it's not magic for kids," Mark says. "Which is reflected in my website and promo materials." You can watch just a bit of video on his website and see that he's cut from a different cloth than most of the performers working the market currently. "I think there are a few things that make me different," he says. "The show can be really funny, but I don't consider myself a 'comedy magician.' On the other hand, it can be really dramatic, but I also don't take myself too seriously. I am trying to make the experience as theatrical as I can, without becoming too contrived."

Unlike most magicians, who's technical ability in creating a true experience for an audience is limited to their performance experience, Mark has made the study of the art a priority, and brings in knowledge to his field that even most serious performers lack. "I was a theatrical performance major," he says, "and I kind of look at magic from an acting/theater perspective. I see the show as a play or plot, not a display of skill. It's something that has a beginning, a middle and an end. There are twists and turns, surprises and call backs from different times in the performance. I want audiences to feel like they are sitting down to watch a feature movie, except instead of writing off the amazing things they are seeing to computers and Hollywood effects, they are left trying to figure out what just happened right in front of them, live on stage and involving their own peers."

Because Mark's show is written and performed around this theme of an experience and high drama, he's not locked into any particular "type" of trick. As long as an effect he wants to perform flows with the continuity of the experience, he can put it in the show. This lends him a tremendous amount of leeway with the types of magic he wants to perform. He isn't boxed in to doing only scary mutilation tricks like Criss Angel, or freaking people out with his dark stare like David Blaine, or hauling around large and complicated boxes and rigs for grand scale stage illusions like traditional Vegas magicians. "It's kind of a roller coaster; I find that onesecond I can do mind reading and mentalism, and then turn around and do some sort of bizarre stunt mixed in with some hypnosis maybe. It just keeps things fresh and is a good, eclectic mix of what I like to do."

It truly is an experience for the audience. Mark does not turn it into a "Look at me!" performance where he only wants to show off his skill. What he does is about bringing the audience in as deeply as possible, no matter what the means. "I do some standup comedy, some storytelling and improv games, it's everything I loved doing and watching in college (laughs) and I kind of combined it all into what I think is a new brand of magic show."

Mark grew up in a small town in Kansas, and he didn't become the innovative and interesting magician he is overnight. He credits much of his success to the fact that he was raised in a place where there wasn't a whole lot else to do. "I come from a really small town, and I really think that is why I do magic. I live in Chicago now, and I think that if I had grown up here I would have been out at Cubs games and down in the loop and experiencing all the things there are to see in a big city. I wouldn't have been home with a pile of books and a deck of cards becoming fascinated by my eventual career choice. Way too much idle time with my hands led me here, I was pretty hooked on magic for a long time."

Like so many of us, during his early adult years, Mark went through an interesting personal metamorphosis and changing of perspective that led him away from this path for a time. "I became somewhat disillusioned with magic in college, I started at USC in LA and then finished at Wichita State. I saw so many magic shows that I dragged my girlfriend (now my wife) to, that became just this big blur of the same thing over and over and I kind of fell out of wanting to do magic. I just wasn't excited about it any more. I took a step back and really started to approach it from the mind set of an adult. How would an adult appreciate this art? I didn't want to patronize, I didn't want to pander; I wanted to perform it the way I saw it and give a kind of show that plays to their intelligence and keeps things classy and high brow. I had my ups and downs. I wasn't completely committed to it my entire life, but it has definitely been my passion for most of it and it felt very good to realize that I could come back to it with a fresh perspective and approach that made it exciting for me once again."

See how the classy, chic and truly amazing Mark Toland can make magic exciting again for your campus. Contact him at 855-624-4268 or for more information.