Genii Magazine Article (5mb PDF)
The New York Times calls Jim Steinmeyer the "celebrated invisible maninventor, designer and creative brain behind many of the great stage magicians of the last quarter-century." His illusions have been seen from Broadway, London’s West End, Las Vegas, and in Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth. He's the author of best-selling books about magic and magic history, including Hiding the Elephant, and The Glorious Deception. Recognized for his extensive, innovative creations in magic, a recent profile concluded that Jim was "the best living originator of stage illusions," noting his many creations as the "defining illusions in contemporary magic." Jim Steinmeyer has worked with virtually every leading magician around the world, produced magic on television, and written extensively on his illusions as well as his research into the history of magic.
INVENTING AND DESIGNING ILLUSIONS From 1981 to 1987
Jim Steinmeyer was the Magic Designer for Doug Henning, who wrote, "I consider Jim the most brilliant mind in magic." Jim invented impossibilities for four Henning television specials, six touring shows, two Henning Broadway shows ("Merlin," for which Jim received his first Drama Desk Nomination, and "Doug Henning's World of Magic"), and numerous television and Las Vegas appearances.
For one of David Copperfield's television specials, Jim proposed an innovative concept, the scenario and secret by which the Statue of Liberty could "disappear." David used the Statue illusion to close his special and created headlines with the mystery.
Jim has also served as a consultant for Siegfried and Roy, David Copperfield and Lance Burton. He developed magic for Orson Welles, Harry Blackstone, and the Pendragons and many, many others. He is a writer and designer of Mark Kalin's "Carnival of Wonders," the critically acclaimed review show.
Jim currently holds four U.S. patents in the field of illusion apparatus, including a new version of the famous "Pepper's Ghost" mystery, which makes it applicable in a variety of situations, and has also served as an expert witness in this field.
MAGIC ON STAGE
Jim's special illusions have enhanced many favorite productions on the stage. In 2009, the 139 edition of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, “Zing, Zang, Zoom,” became a magical circus, featuring large scale illusions specially designed for the show by Jim and presented by magician Alex Ramon. The New York Times called the show “An artful eyeful, liberally spiced with mystifying magic.” The illusions include the disappearance of a circus elephant while it was in the center of the arena.
He produced the special, enhanced illusions for the highly praised Las Vegas production of “The Phantom of the Opera,” and the critically acclaimed magical effects for the Disney / Cameron Mackintosh stage production of "Mary Poppins," which opened in London and on Broadway. Also in 2009, Jim’s magic was featured in the Mark Taper Forum Deaf West co-production of “Pippin,” directed by Jeff Calhoun.
Other theatrical productions have included the original Walt Disney Company production of “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway, where Jim devised the famous climax of the show, when the Beast was levitated into the air and transformed into the Prince. The show followed with eight companies worldwide. He designed the illusions for the 2002 James LaPine production of “Into the Woods,” and the following year for “Amour.” In October 2003, he produced the eight-foot tall "ghost" of Frank Sinatra for the Radio City Music Hall show, “Sinatra: His Voice, His World, His Way.”
He’s earned two Drama Desk nominations for his effects, for “Merlin” and “Into the Woods.”
Off Broadway, Jim was the effects designer for "Ricky Jay, On the Stem," at the Second Stage Theatre in 2002. Receiving raves for the novel sleight-of-hand routines, ingenious cons and recreations of classical illusions, the show was written and presented by Ricky Jay, and directed by David Mamet. Jim also consulted on the critically acclaimed "Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants," Ricky's 1994 show.
In December of 1998, his illusions were used to recreate H.G. Wells' "The Invisible Man" for the Cleveland Playhouse. The production, directed by Frank Dunlop and starring Jim Dale, set house records and earned raves for the amazing effects. The specially-created illusions included the Invisible Man visibly disappearing in his laboratory, or gradually materializing, from veins, to nervous system to skin, at the end of the story.
In 1998, for Broadway's popular "The Scarlet Pimpernel," Jim added a special effect finale of the hero's seeming execution by guillotine.
In addition, his effects have been used in shows from the Goodman Theatre in Chicago to the Folies Bergere in Las Vegas. In 1996 and '97 he developed the story and illusions for two featured shows for the cruise line Holland America and the illusions for the premiere ship of the Disney Cruise line, the Disney Magic. For Disney and Feld Entertainment, he developed the effects for their worldwide touring show, “Mickey’s Magic Show.”
WRITING ON HISTORICAL MAGIC & THEATRICAL EFFECTS
Jim has been recognized for this writing and research on the history and technology of stage magic. His 2003 book, Hiding the Elephant, is a cultural history of magicians, their technology and their backstage battles. The book was a Los Angeles Times bestseller. Publisher’s Weekly wrote that Hiding the Elephant was "a find." Author Glen David Gold called the book "simply the finest, best-told, most graceful history of the Golden Age of magic I've ever read... a terrific yarn that will make novelists jealous." Magician Teller, of Penn and Teller, reviewed it in the New York Times and called it "a loving celebration," and concluded, "no author has ever better conveyed magic's joys, terrors and longings." Hiding the Elephant was published by Carroll and Graf in New York.
His 2008 book was a biography of the American writer and compiler of unusual phenomena, Charles Fort. The book, Charles Fort, the Man Who Invented the Supernatural, was published by Tarcher / Penguin.
Jim's book, Jarrett, published by Magic Inc., has become a standard text in this area. Through his research he has discovered the secrets and applications of many lost illusions from the early years of this century. Other books on the subject include: Antonio Diavolo and The Mystery of Psycho, The Howard Thurston Workbooks, Volumes I and II (a technical account of America's largest magic show, circa 1915), Device and Illusion, and The Magic of Alan Wakeling. Art & Artifice and other Essays on Illusion, was published in December, 1998. It was hailed as a modern classic in the field, an insightful look at historical illusions and their inspirations to magicians. The Science Behind the Ghost, his 1999 book, has been described as the "definitive work" on this history and techniques of the famous Pepper’s Ghost illusion. He has served as contributing editor for MAGIC Magazine and Genii Magazine.
Jim is especially proud to be one of the organizers of the Los Angeles Conference on Magic History, which has been hailed for its prestigious and informative programs. For many years, the Conference has featured unique recreations of amazing historical illusions, including effects from Guy Jarrett, David Devant, John Nevil Maskelyne, Professor John Henry Pepper, and Dr. Samuel Cox Hooker.
PRODUCING AND CONSULTING FOR TELEVISION
Jim produced the 1997 four hour A&E Television Special, "The Story of Magic," the first documentary history of magic, hosted by Ricky Jay. "The Story of Magic" was highly acclaimed by The New York Times and Hollywood Reporter and recognized as a landmark event celebrating the rich history of an art.
Producing the British television series "The Secret Cabaret" for Channel 4, earned Jim a 1990 Royal Television Society Nomination for Light Entertainment programming. Airing for two seasons, twelve episodes, "The Secret Cabaret" offered a new style of variety entertainment and set a new trend in television magic.
He was producer of Fox Family Channel's "Magic on the Edge," a 1999 pilot, and NBC's 1999 Lance Burton Television Special; he also produced the 1996 NBC special, "The Hidden Secrets of Magic," and was co-producer for the of the 1997 ABC television special, "All Star Magic." He also produced or consulted on Ricky Jay's 1989 CBS television special, "Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women," and the 1996 HBO television production of "Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants."
In addition to his work for Doug Henning and David Copperfield, Jim was a consultant for many television shows, including ABC's 1994 Siegfried and Roy television special, "The Magic, The Mystery," and Lance Burton's 1996 and 1997 NBC television specials. In 1986 Jim served as technical advisor for the NBC series, "Blacke's Magic," starring Hal Linden as magician Alexander Blacke. (In addition to providing the magic, Jim's hands served as Blacke's for some of the sleight-of-hand work.) Other projects include the 1986 Barbara Mandrell Christmas Special (CBS), the film "Young Harry Houdini," (Disney/ ABC), "Magic at the Magic Kingdom," (NBC), and "The Best of Magic" (Thames Television) "A Night of Magic" (BBC).
THEME PARK CONCEPT DESIGN
Since 1987, Jim has worked as a Concept Designer and Consultant/Concept Design for Walt Disney Imagineering, the creative development division for the Walt Disney Company's theme parks. In this capacity he is responsible for overall concepts for rides and attractions, as well as show outlines and scripts. Some of his work has been featured in the Toontown attraction for Disneyland, and EPCOT at Walt Disney World in Florida.
He has served as a consultant for special exhibit attractions for a number of companies and venues, such as Chicago's Field Museum, O'Hare Airport, the Los Angeles Museum of Science and Insustry and Hebrew Union College. He has also been involved in the development of live shows and attractions for Walt Disney World Creative Entertainment in Florida and California, for Universal Studios, Jack Morton Productions, Bob Rogers' Imagination Arts, and Speilberg, Katzenberg and Geffen's Dreamworks.
LECTURES AND AWARDS
Jim has lectured on magic and the creation of theatrical effects for numerous universities, magicians and theatre groups, including The Magic Castle, The Magic Circle in London, F.I.S.M. (the international association of magicians), and in 1998 at the prestigious TED Conference in Monterey, California.
In 1991 he was awarded The Creative Fellowship by "The Academy of Magical Arts" (The Magic Castle), recognizing his continuing inventions. The Fellowship awards, created in 1968, are magic's "Oscars," and constitute a lifetime achievement in the art. Jim, at 32, was the youngest person to ever win a fellowship. In 1996 he received the Milbourne Christopher award in recognition of his many inventions for magicians. In 2002, he received the Literary Fellowship Award from "The Academy of Magical Arts."
Jim Steinmeyer was born in 1958 and raised just outside of Chicago, Illinois. He was graduated in 1980 from Loyola University of Chicago, with a major in communications. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife Frankie Glass, an independent television producer who has worked extensively in Great Britain and the U.S.
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