Magic Africa Productions is extremely fortunate to have a fan and a friend in Johann Kupferburger, who is bringing the experience of a lifelong career in theatre to its endeavours. As the organisation’s newly appointed ‘theatre liaison’, Kupferburger hopes to assist Marcel Oudejans – and other entrepreneurs and magicians – in facilitating the booking of appropriate venues, consulting on technical aspects, budgets and related matters.
“Also, to spread the word about magic as entertainment, and the veritable wealth of magic talent in Cape Town within my industry, and help grow the audience for this wonderful form of entertainment,” he says.
Kupferburger was bitten by the theatre bug in the late 1970s, while still at school, when Robert Kirby and Terry Lester let him hang around the old Academy Theatre in Braamfontein. A Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Art at Wits University followed and during the ensuing three decades, Kupferburger has worked as a stage manager, general manager or company manager for nearly all theatres and production managements in South Africa. Currently, he manages the local and international tours of the large-scale musicals, and recent tours have included countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, New Zealand and Tokyo.
“Having begun as an assistant stage manager, I was always attracted to the technical and administrative aspects of theatre and had the good fortune to work with some of the most well-respected production managers, designers and directors in the business,” shares Kupferburger.
During the past 30 years, Kupferburger says almost every show he has worked on has been a highlight, each in a different way, but a world tour of Singin’ in the Rain stands out as particularly special. “Also, touring to Tokyo for the first time with Evita was a wonderful experience,” he adds.
Kupferburger is no stranger to magic, and it’s natural and appropriate he should gravitate towards Magic Africa and it’s theatre company, Cape Town Magic Club; he is already ranked as Monday Night Magic’s number one fan, having attended over 30 shows during its six seasons to date.
As a magician himself, Kupferburger says the level of talent seen in these shows was something to which he could aspire. “The line-up was always varied and hugely entertaining. It was great to get to know Marcel and other performers, and as a dedicated magic hobbyist/amateur, every Monday was always immensely inspiring and enjoyable.”
As for how he got into magic in the first place, Kupferburger laughs: “You don’t really get into magic… magic gets into YOU! Ask any magician. But probably, like most magicians and enthusiasts, seeing my first magician while at preprimary school. I developed more interest through my high school career with a friend, whose dad was a magician.”
“We performed a dove act and substitution trunk illusion to great acclaim (we thought!) at various variety concerts. I am old enough to have had to visit brick and mortar magic shops in the days before online shopping! To this day, I have always enjoyed performing close up magic to friends, family, and colleagues.”
Magic is all about turning your assumptions and expectations against you, says Kupferburger, who believes the thing that differentiates “tricks” from “magic” is not the props but the effect. “And the effect depends on presentation. In the right hands, even the simplest trick can be perceived as a major or minor miracle.”
In Kupferburger’s undisputedly expert opinion, magic is becoming more and more popular in the theatre landscape; one only has to look at the success of The Illusionists which packed out Grand West Arena and Teatro at Montecasino earlier this year. “Close-up and ‘parlour’ magic for intimate audiences is also growing, and thanks to events like Monday Night Magic, the public are tuning into the idea that magic is not simply the old cliché of rabbits out of hats at children’s parties!” he says.
“At the heart of the appeal of magic is WONDER, the turning-upside-down of our beliefs about how the world works. It’s a powerful art form. It restores the sense of astonishment we knew as children, which is why mature and sober adults have been known to yelp, cackle and applaud wildly at a performance by a good magician. Encountering impossibility is fun, but can also be profound in reminding us how much of life remains mysterious.”
While he remains Monday Night Magic’s most loyal supporter, Kupferburger will sadly be missing most of season seven, which launches on October 1, 2018, at Artscape Theatre Centre. “It’s another fabulous line- up, in a new exciting venue but I will be in Johannesburg with Matilda- The Musical…
“I suppose there are always Kulula flights from Lanseria on Mondays,” he laughs…