I have to admit something: I have long been a fan of magic. As nerdy as that sounds, escapologists, illusionists and magicians have always brought me so much joy. But the thing that always bugged me about magic, was the lack of women in the scene. What was up with that?
While it does seem there are more and more talented women breaking into the business all the time, female magicians are pretty rare overall. This is why I was extra excited when I spotted closeup magic expert Kayla Drescher on the lineup for the upcoming Champions of Magic show at the Bluma Appel Theatre here in Toronto from December 19 to January 6, 2019. I decided to chat with her about being a woman in magic, but also her idols and what working in magic is really all about. Take a read!
Edit Seven: How did you become interested in magic – what drew you to it?
Kayla Drescher: I was always the kid that had to understand everything about the world. I asked “why” no matter how many times an answer was given, which made me want to study environmental science focusing on green energy. But I also loved performing and making people laugh. There was a specific memory of my first-grade class play where I messed up and the audience laughed at me. I wasn’t upset and rather wanted to make them laugh more. Magic, which is a very scientific art form (basically, magic works to defy logic with logic), clicked in my brain. I’m able to experiment with methods while satisfying my need to entertain a room full of people.
E7: Why do you think there are fewer women in professional magic than men?
KD: Magic has, for a long time, been a male-dominated profession and art form. The answer is similar to any career that is gender dominated– there isn’t one straight explanation. Magic is both male dominated and female subjected, most magic is written by men, for men, and at the expense of a woman (sawing a lady in half is a great example). However, the magic community is changing rapidly and more women are becoming professionals and role models for a younger generation. I see many young girls developing an interest in magic and not quitting early on as many of my friends did. I’m happy to see the wave of diversity moving through the magic community and I suspect everyone will see that soon too!
E7: Some say that magic is a tough business to get into – what do you say to that?
KD: They are absolutely right. There’s no masters degree in magic. Magic encompasses all other art forms– theatre, comedy, drawing, etc. It takes decades to become a strong performer. Plus, you also have to understand how to run a business. As a magician, you are the business owner, salesman, marketer, assistant, and intern but you’re also the product. It’s a very difficult thing to do but I can’t imagine doing anything else!
E7: Would you say it’s even harder for female magicians to get started in the industry?
KD: Yes and no. I often explain “the brick theory”, where a layer of brick is added to the wall each time a young woman is told or feels like she cannot do magic. For example, magic methods are created by and for men using the male body, male clothing, masculine props, etc. Anyone who doesn’t identify with that level of masculinity often feels excluded. When those layers of bricks get laid, the wall starts small and is easy to hop over. But over time, that wall becomes too tall to hop over and we quit. Luckily, the industry is changing and more and more women are helping to knock down the walls.
E7: How often are you coming up with new material and experimenting with new material?
KD: As often as possible. I’m not always very good at creating a method, but I enjoy creating an experience and routine for a purpose. I enjoy learning something new and putting it up in front of an audience. It’s definitely a great part of the career.
E7: Magic has always had a bit of reputation for being cheesy and dated – how do you think that’s changing?
KD: Audiences now are seeking out an intimate and organic experience. In an age where we live on our phones and on social media, people are constantly looking for a human connection. Magic is definitely changing to fit that need. Magic is no longer about how great and powerful the magician is, it’s about making a connection and creating an experience we can all have together.
E7: Who is someone who has inspired you in your career and why?
KD: Celine Dion and I’m not saying that because she’s Canadian. I respect her so much with the way she has run her career. She is unapologetically herself, humble, kind, and strong. I love the experiences she creates with her performances. Plus, she’s perfectly talented. Celine is a huge inspiration to me.
E7: If you could give advice to a woman who is interested in taking up magic as a hobby or even a career, what would you tell them?
KD: Don’t give up! Seek advice from other women within the community (I can be one of them!) Work hard. Be yourself and NEVER let someone tell you, you cannot do what you love.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Ama Scriver)