The Retreat: Western Adventure - A Diary

By Damian Jennings - Wednesday, September 14, 2022


At the end of August 2022, we assembled a group of adventurous magicians to join us in Utah for The Retreat: Western Adventure. What happened? Let’s find out.

Wednesday

Mystique Dining

The day before the The Retreat: Western Adventure. officially began, some of the attendees took advantage of a bonus add-on option for a stunning evening at Mystique dining. Mystique is one of five purpose-built venues created by Terry Commons specifically to provide a magical dining experience. Patrons enjoy an incredible meal, plus a world-class magic show in luxurious surroundings.

mystique exterior

mystique interior

We were split into two groups. The first group had their dinner (mmm, prime rib) and show, whilst the other group had a talk about how Mystique came to be from Terry himself followed by a surprise lecture from Shawn Farquhar.

We then swapped.

We ate well, we saw wonderful magic and Shawn’s enthusiasm is just so contagious. In the group I was in, we also witnessed how professional and adept he is. He picked a spectator for one trick only to find when the gentleman got up, he needed two canes to walk. How he handled this was exemplary.

Back to the hotel we went for a sleep ahead of an early start in the morning.

Thursday

All aboard! The magicians and their partners all assembled in good time to board our two buses. (How cool is that, by the way, that there is the option to enjoy these once-in-a-lifetime experiences with your partner?)

We had a four hour drive ahead of us, but, luckily, it’s through the most majestic landscape I’ve ever seen. i Since it's a bus full of magicians, it wasn’t long before cards and coins were taken out and the sessioning started. Four hours flew by.

We all then checked into our hotel rooms, freshened up, and prepared for the first event.

Golden Hour Drive
Back on the buses for a tour of Capitol Reef National Park. I’ve never seen anything like it. The photos do no justice to the sheer scale of our surroundings. We picked the ideal time for the drive and got to our location just as the light was perfect, as these pictures prove.

I was inspired, at this point, by the photographic initiative of some of our guests. One of the perks of The Retreat is that we don't want you to worry about having to take photos. Our team takes tons of photos with professional equipment and provides them to all attendees for free. But that didn't stop some of my fellow Retreaters from capturing the breathtaking views on their own.

We did not expect so many cool gadgets to be on display. Two of our attendees brought drones to get slick aerial shots. Others had action cams that they could strap to their clothing for moving shots. And others even brought special equipment to shoot the stars at night.

Andi Gladwin Lecture
The first official magic event of the day was none other than Vanishing Inc.'s cofounder Andi Gladwin lecturing passionately about what he considers to be magic’s most underutilized move—The Reverse Cull. And based on the audience’s reaction, he was almost certainly right. With cards in hand, we all learned along and could do the move very quickly. As ever, Andi’s teaching was thorough and his crediting was solid. This brand-new lecture was both funny and informative.

Stargazing and S’mores
What better way to round off our first full day in Utah than stargazing, s’mores and stories. And who better to share stories than our surprise guest, Mike Caveney! We all gathered around telescopes and listened while Mike regaled us with stories about light and dark.

With the help of two stargazing experts, we all marveled at the craters in the moon, the rings around Saturn and were dazzled by the Milky Way and Jupiter. Then we settled around campfires for s’mores, hot chocolate, and more stories.

Golden Hour Drive

The Gang During Golden Hour Drive

Mike and Tina

Andi Lecture 1

Andi Lecture 2

Friday

Goblin Valley State Park
Our trusty buses safely transported us about 90 minutes away to an unworldly canyon called Goblin Valley. This natural phenomenon was created just with wind and sandstone. From a distance, the shapes resemble goblins, hence the name.

We split into three groups. Group one: "Serious hikers" Group two: "Not-so serious hikers". Group three: "Definitely no hiking for me thanks, it’s far too hot".

After an exciting and action-packed weekend in Vegas, I opted for the last group. And it did not disappoint! We meandered around the park, taking pictures and being gob-smacked. When we got back up to enjoy some shelter from the very hot sun, a group of schoolchildren were there. They asked what we were doing, we explained it was a magic retreat. They asked to see magic. Who were we to say no?

These 14 or 15 year olds, in the middle of nowhere, then got about a 30 minute magic show as various attendees shared some card magic with them. They were reacting like they were on a David Blaine special! Sometimes it’s easy for people who don’t perform regularly to remember what it is all about. Giving that moment of wonder, of astonishment, to a stranger,is a real gift. Those kids won’t forget their visit to Goblin Park, and neither will we.

The other groups returned, exhausted, but excited to tell us about the sights they saw on their hikes.

John Carney Lecture (Part One)
Our second magic event of the trip was the incredible John Carney. I am not going to go into detail about all the contents of any of the lectures, as much of it was specially created for attendees of The Retreat. Indeed, we all were presented with beautiful lecture notes, specially printed to fit into a custom gift box along with a custom pin that even had a trick built in. Suffice it to say, Mr Carney did what Mr Carney does best .. including a very good Vernon impression!

David Ben Show
The Retreat is designed to provide opportunites that both magicians and their partners can enjoy. So, for the next event, the partners were welcomed back to join us for a surprise show from David Ben. While, attendees thought he was only there to lecture, David treated everyone to an astounding 45-minute parlor show.

He then proceeded to share with us his handlings of some classics of magic, and it was a real masterclass in scripting, blocking, material choice, timing and even the use of music. His lecture was as insightful as you would expect.

Another Surprise Talk
Here’s where we learn how devious our hosts are. We had two hiking guides with us throughout the weekend and unbeknownst to the attendees, one of them was previously a professional card cheat. After David’s lecture, this surprise guest spoiled us with a captivating talk about the nefarious things he used to get up to at the card table in his mis-spent youth.

Goblin Park 1

Goblin Park 2

Carney Lecture 1

Carney Lecture 2

Ben Show 1

Branch

Ben Show 2

Saturday

Horseback Riding
I spent the first three days of the trip adamantly warning everyone I had no intention of joining in the horseback riding. Or horse riding as we call it in the UK. No need to specify the part you will be riding on, I reckon.

Anyway, I am scared of horses. They’re big! They can really easily mess you up. But I was persuaded to try. I explained I was nervous when I arrived, and the organizer gave me Bella, a very gentle, calm horse that her eight-year-old grandchildren ride.

I was scared for the first five minutes. Then it just all washed over me. The majestic surroundings of a slot canyon, the feeling of being lucky enough for this beautiful animal to put up with me on her back, and the fear and anxiety faded to nothing as the joy and marvel filled my every pore.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I felt such gratitude for being able to feel that feeling. 10/10 would recommend.

Joshua Jay Lecture
After lunch, a dapperly-outfitted Mr Joshua Jay talked to us about his memorized stack, The Particle System. He proceeded to show us new ideas and routines that utilize what he has spent the last decade working on. He demonstrated how to cut to any named card instantly, as well as unexpected uses for the memorized deck (like in a “Cards Across” plot, as well as a “Do as I Do” routine).

We've tried to convince him to publish this incredible material, but—annoyingly—he keeps tinkering with the manuscript and won’t let us have it! Maybe one day he’ll be done and we can share his work with you. For now though, just the lucky attendees of The Retreat got to see.

Yoga with Tina Lenert
Tina Lenert is not only an amazing mime and magician. She’s also a Yogi. Where else in the world can you get yoga lessons from a magic legend?! Tina’s sessions were incredibly gentle, calming, and grounding. It is a good thing to just stop and listen to your body - especially as a performer. It was a wonderful practise and everyone came away soothed and happy.

David Ben Lecture
After the surprise event the night before, David Ben's official lecture was a real treat.

The amazing thing about David Ben is how generous he is with what he is prepared to share. Yes, we were taught tricks, amazing tricks. I’d expect nothing less. But it was so much more than that. David covered hugely important details covering topics like where to stand and move when working a table to involve as many people as possible, how the use of wine glasses can—quite literally—elevate your magic, and so much more. We were treated to stunning unpublished Ross Bertrum ideas and moves. When someone asked a question, David was happy to dive into detail about angles on a color change, or the timing of replacing a card. The attention and care he pays to both the smaller details and the larger picture that you leave your audience with meant we all left this lecture better magicians.

The Trickies
After dinner, we were the audience for a now-regular occurrence at The Retreat: The Trickies.

Inspired by our team’s passion for The Office, and Michael Scott's annual Dundies awards, this is a special award show where attendees are presented with trophies for such things as “Best Facial Hair”, along with more serious ones like "Most Generous", "Kindest Person", "Hardest Working" and so on.

Many laughs were enjoyed and then, as is tradition, Josh and Andi announced the location of the next Retreat. All will be revealed soon, but let’s just say you won't want to miss it! Remember, alumni of any Retreat always get first dibs on the tickets too.

John Carney Lecture (Part Two)
With all of our lecturers this weekend, we watched a master at work. Every single talk given in Utah provided something practical that we all took away. Be it a piece of timing, a nuance, a full trick, or a brand new (to me) idea.

As it was the last night, it was time to stay up and session; we could sleep on the four hour bus trip the next day! New friends and old friends gathered round tables and shared ideas and tricks until the early hours of the morning. At which point an impromptu Blackjack station was set up and our card cheating hiking guide proceeded to show us the methods and moves he used to get the money back in the day. What a joyous ending to an incredible trip.

Me on a horse

Horse

Carney Lecture2

Ben Lecture

Tina Yoga

The Trickies

It’s easy to very quickly run out of superlatives for this trip. It was breathtaking, awe-inspiring, incredible, beautiful, amazing, and above all else, magical.

Every time we announce one of The Retreats, itsells out within hours. Tuscany (May 2023) proved so popular, we had to run it on two consecutive weekends to accommodate the interest in joining us next year!

So when you see an email about the next rendition of The Retreat, and are interested in joining us, don’t walk, but run to that “buy now” green button in the email. I promise you will not be disappointed.


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