As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m something of an amateur musician. That “something of” modifier alludes to the fact that I’ll have to get a lot better before I can properly describe myself as “amateur.” For now, I’m just the annoying guy walking around at parties, doing the “Hey look! You’ve got a coin in your ear!” routine that makes people suddenly pretend they have to go to the bathroom as an excuse to get away from me.
I think the main reason I stick with it is because it gives me the opportunity to attend magicians’ gatherings, and see the people who really do know what they’re doing perform.

Last weekend, I attended the Magicians’ Alliance of Eastern States Convention in Cherry Hill, N.J., and had a blast. On both Friday and Saturday night, the convention staged magic shows for attendees. Wow! The word “amazing” barely covers it.

Every performer was great. As an added bonus, you could go up and talk to them afterward.

One of my favorite acts of the weekend was “The Crescent Circus” from New Orleans, featuring Nathan Kepner and Morgan Tsu-Raun. They combined stage magic, juggling and acrobatics. Their whole act was like pure, distilled entertainment value.

I’ve included a Youtube clip so you can see what I’m talking about. Nathan agreed to answer a few questions about the act, and about his journey from Central Pennsylvania to New Orleans.

Q: How long have you been performing?

A: I became interested in magic when I was about 5 and started performing for birthday parties when I was 12 or so. I started in the juggling arts 5 years ago in 2007 while Morgan started hooping just around that time, although we didn’t meet until 2009.

Q: Can you talk a little but about what the Crescent Circus is?

A: The Crescent Circus started out as just our duo show that combines magic, quick change, juggling, hula hooping and acrobatic stunts. While we normally perform an hour stage show, we’ve done everything from casinos to strolling entertainment to haunted houses. I suppose the Crescent Circus is simply our blend of arts which became influenced by our move to New Orleans – The Crescent Circus. More recently we’ve begun collaborations with a third member, Leah Kahn, who is an accomplished aerialist.

Q: As a long-time Central Pennsylvania resident myself, I’m kind of amazed that you made the transition from there to doing a magic, acrobatic and juggling act in New Orleans. Can you briefly give me the story about how that happened?

A: New Orleans was a draw for both Morgan and myself, though it wasn’t necessarily an obvious choice at first. We both had been to New Orleans once, coincidentally both of us were 16 during our visits. As the question usually arises when people hear we live in New Orleans, we don’t take part in the drunken revelry that is New Orleans to most people … like many others that live here we even have to avoid the craziness of Mardi Gras. What did, however, attract us to the city was the music, the eclectic people and the broad and unique artistic community.

On the practical side of things, we weren’t sure if we were going to be performing full-time or not. We did know, however, that New Orleans always has an audience for street performers so we always had the opportunity to make an income of some kind.

Q: Are you full-time performers now?

A: When we first left to find an apartment in New Orleans I was offered a job teaching high school chemistry after having a telephone interview if I could make it to the city in 3 days. We got in the car and were off … but I only made it about half way before receiving a message that they hired somebody else instead of waiting the 3 days. Without a job, we signed a lease for an apartment to start in a month or so and I walked into any school I could find with resumes in hand before heading back to Pennsylvania. As it turned out, none of those resumes paid off, but just before the school year started a job did come through.

I taught chemistry for the year and we got our feet on the ground in terms of the community. It was a bit of a risk, but I left teaching at the end of the year to pursue performing full-time. I’m happy to say that at the end of August we have officially been full-time self-employed for one year.

Q: How did you learn these skills? Are you completely self-taught?

A: Neither of us have had any formal training in any of our performing arts. I hesitate to say we were completely self-taught, though, because we would not be where we are today if it weren’t for all of our friends and fellow performers that we’ve worked with.

Q: When you’re developing some of these elements of your acts such as the acrobatic stunts, what are the logistics? Do you have a room (presumably one with a padded floor) where you just keep practicing until you get it down?

A: Logistics are a challenge! We practice wherever we can … our apartment doesn’t provide much room, so we’ve worked stuff out at a local park, on the street and even between trolley car lines. In April we were heading to Vegas and performing a new illusion. The effect needs to be taken in piece by piece, then repacked in its crate (or assembled). Once assembled, our front door is virtually blocked which as you can imagine makes practicing pretty tough…I’m not sure how the other guys do it! Hopefully we’ll build up to that point.

Q: How many times a year do you perform, and where are some of the venues you’ve been?

A: Since January we’ve had about 60 bookings, so were averaging 75 bookings or so a year. That includes everything from stage shows to strolling to birthday parties. More recently we’ve been doing more and more colleges thanks to being picked up by House of Wally, a college entertainment agency. Some of the most notable venues have included The Orleans Casino in Las Vegas, Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans and The Magic Circle in London.

Q: Your act struck me as kind of a throwback to classic vaudeville. Is that how you think of yourself? And is there much of a demand for that type of performance these days?

A: I definitely think we harken back to vaudeville, if for nothing else than the variety of arts that we bring to the stage. I used to describe ourselves as vaudeville, but our style has evolved into something else slightly so I don’t throw the term around too much. It seems like now if you say vaudeville people expect handle bar mustaches and bowler hats, which we just can’t pull off.

Q: Who are some of your major influences as performers?

A: I have always regarded Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr as two of the greatest entertainers. Their casual and cool attitude on stage made them a pleasure to watch…and whether they were singing, dancing or doing comedy it didn’t matter what they, but how they did it.

Magically speaking, the finesse of Channing Pollock, the originality of Dan Sperry and the artistic approaches of the likes of Tommy Wonder and Arthur Trace have all earned my utmost respect. Just at this MAES convention I had the pleasure of watching close-up magic from Asi Wind which really left me dumbfounded and remembering why I got into magic in the first place.

Strangely, we aren’t as involved in the circus world. While we are amazed by the caliber of many performers, we haven’t been so influenced by specific ones.

Q: Do you have any new projects or venues coming up that you’d like to discuss?

Admittedly we’re still in that “where’s working coming next?” stage and haven’t found our niche for self-developed projects. Sure, we’re always working on new material, but the places to perform it are yet to be determined. We are hoping to make a bigger footprint in the casino market and hopefully someday make it to cruise ships. We’ve been learning that old lesson that it’s not what you do but who you know. We’re bumping into contacts along the way, though, and we’ll do what we can to make the most of it!

See their Website here:

http://nathankepner.wix.com/thecrescentcircus#!

See a Youtube clip here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsT91Jc_w9E

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