According to The Amazing Max Darwin, his currently running kid-friendly magic show, The Amazing Max and the Box of Interesting Things, doesn't involve any girls getting sawed in half or jumping out of boxes. What this high-energy show does have, however, is kid-participation, awe-inspiring tricks, and plenty of laugh-so-hard-you-can't-breathe moments.
TheaterMania spoke to The Amazing Max himself about creating a show funny enough to keep parents off their Blackberries and exciting enough to keep little minds engaged. Plus, Max tells us just what makes him so Amazing.
Are you as amazing as your name implies?
You flatter me. The amazingness is what happens when we come together with an audience and create amazing together. It's like, if the tree falls in the forest, is anyone there to hear it, right? If you're performing tricks for yourself in the closet, is anyone amazed? Are you really a magician? I think that anybody can pick up a book or a deck of cards and do some tricks, but what I really strive to do is create unique theatrical moments that bring people together — especially kids. I'm really blessed that with a lot of my audience, I get to be their introduction to theater — what it means to sit in the theater and be an audience member. It goes beyond magic. I get to show kids what it means to enjoy live theater.
What was your path to becoming a magician?
When I was a little kid my parents were street performers. My mom was a juggler, my dad would do some magic tricks, and they did this silent mime act all over the country and in Europe. Sure enough, when I was born, I was thrust into the act because I couldn't object and I was cheep labor. They had an act where they did a miming of the story of becoming parents (I assure you it was very above board), and at the end of it, they would wheel me on in my stroller in a matching jumpsuit and hold me up into the spotlight. It was like the button at the end of their act. So ever since I was a little kid, I've been in a showbiz family. I'm kind of like a circus brat.
What are your favorite kinds of magic tricks?
I love magic, I think of theater, when done well, as magic. The idea of a group of people coming together as an audience and feeling similar things at the same time, that's magic. But the answer that you want is, I like magic tricks that explode and set on fire and… no, I don't know.
You know what I really love about what I do? My favorite kind of magic trick is the magic trick that happens in the hands and the heart of a kid on stage with me. I firmly believe that every kid in the world is born an artist and with a unique sense of timing and honesty in art and in expression. And I love to exploit that by bringing them on stage with me and letting them be their natural, funny selves. This sounds really corny, but my favorite sound in the whole world is the sound of kids laughing really hard, not just laughing but literally laughing as hard as they can till they can't breathe. It's like a drug to me, and I'm addicted to this drug. So in my theater show the kids not only see the magic, but they get to help create [it], perform things, surprise themselves. I love when I can create a moment where a kid surprises himself and a room full of people get to see him succeed at doing something impossible. A simple example is the old trick where your uncle or your grandpa pulls a quarter from behind your ear or something? I do a very simple version of that trick where I have the kid pull coins out of thin air and he blows his own mind. That way he has created the moment and not me. It's nicer.
What do kids love about your show?
They love the energy of the show. And it's a show where they don't have to be quiet and stay organized. At my show, the audience is constantly in dialogue with me. The kids are encouraged to shout and point things out that maybe I don't see, and they actively participate in making the show happen. I think that that is something that they really, really love.
What do the adults most love?
They most love — and I know this for a fact — the fact that we are really striving to create a family show that they will enjoy as much as the kids. There are a lot of shows where dads are checking their Blackberries and sitting in the back maybe not paying attention while they've taken their kid to something that they think he or she will enjoy. Half of the jokes in my show go right over the kids' heads and are directly for the adults, and that is because they bought the tickets and they deserve to have a good time as well.