Monday, August 09, 2010

Project 365 Two-Fer (231-232)

.:231/365: Jay Mata:.

This bit features Jay and yours truly, but it at least opens with Jay, so it’s a lot more appropriate than any of our other tandem vids online. For some weird reason, I can’t find his old website online, either, but once he reads this, I’m sure he’ll fill you guys in.

Anyways, Jay Mata, who is totally not related to Erik Mana, is a professional mentalist who has recently decided to give up on Children’s Parties and almost all mainstream appearances (Because he refuses to be a sellout like yours truly. LOL.) in his quest to achieve some measure of “street cred” as a serious mentalist. One of the biggest followers of Derren Brown in terms of performing style, he is also one-half of the tandem known as “Kel and Jay” (Mel and Jay are not amused.), having performed multiple times as a tandem in various shows, albeit still maintaining very divergent individual careers.

The reason I’m featuring Jay Mata here despite his ready admittance that he is far from a pillar or magic in the local industry is twofold: one, he was the one who helped me turn pro in 2006 by giving me ideas about routining, and what it means to be a performer rather than just a guy who does tricks; and two, he’s my partner in crime in the magic world, and by writing about him and mentioning myself in the background, I get to avoid the uncomfortable situation of actually making an article about myself here. In not writing an article myself, I thereby underscore the fact that I don’t recognize myself as a pillar of anything in the industry, either.

But enough with the vestigial attempt at modesty. Let’s talk about why I think Jay plays a significant role in the magic industry today, and sneak in some shameless self-promotion along the way.

As a performer, Jay takes after the likes of Derren Brown. He utilizes humor, but acts in a very dry, deadpan manner, providing an immense contrast to most of his contemporaries whenever they also try being funny. This style is wholly British in nature, and he has committed himself to it. Jay’s character is an extension of himself, and his quasi-serious approach at performing often engenders comparisons between him and Erik Mana, especially since they have similar family names. Nonetheless, he has an approach that sets him apart from his contemporaries, and ensures that he never visibly overlaps with anyone else he goes with onstage.

In the tandem of Kel and Jay, many people consider Jay to be the “Teller” of the equation, mainly because of his height, and because he talks significantly less than his more boisterous, overbearing associate. Nonetheless, while they are often called “The Penn and Teller of the Philippines,” such a title is clearly only a hook to help people understand what they’re up to. Very little about their shows scream “Penn and Teller” particularly because they both talk. What keeps their performances very interesting, though, is how their very diverse styles meld together to form a coherent unit. Kel slides back from his mentalist persona and becomes a neo-classical magician with Vaudevillian influences. Jay steps up his serious persona and becomes a curious mix of David Blaine and Derren Brown. From color schemes to vocabulary choices, everything about the tandem is delineated by an invisible line that sets them apart, but also inexplicably holds the act together.

Having said that, I’m especially grateful to Jay because four years ago, he reignited a passion for magic in me that has allowed me to be doing this Project 365 now. Ironically, I’ve been into magic longer than he has, but it only goes to show that when one wants something bad enough, they will work harder at it than most anybody else. One thing Jay has made clear through his professional years is that at the risk of coming off as very haughty, he maintains a dignity as a performer that refuses to allow himself to demean the art form in the same way some unscrupulous performers may have in the past. He loves and respects the magic industry far too much to allow its name to be sullied through him, and as such, if you would liken him to a movie, he is less “Titanic” and more “Memento”. This very indie charm is what holds him in high regard: few performers would look at a lucrative booking and turn their nose up because they believe it is demeaning to the art form, but he does it more for the sake of magic, than for his own sake.

Despite his less-than-mainstream approach to things, he has still gained a lot of respect and recognition over the years, as his off-the-wall ideas often bear fruit and inevitably spill over into the public consciousness. His glass walking routine has always been a much-talked about performance, to the point that we felt compelled to have him do it again at last year’s “Bound and Gagged”, after already having it in “Laughs and Gasps” the previous year. He has lectured, taught, and overall imparted his knowledge and his rigorous sense of discipline onto other budding magicians, and most of those who heeded his advice have gone on to have respectable careers as performers both in and out of the magic industry.

For that and more, while nowhere near as historic as majority of the other figures we will be talking about this month, Jay Mata surely deserves a spot in Project 365. After all, when one has already written about Criss Angel and Bearwin Meily, anyone else is bound to be a fit in Project 365. ;)

.:232/365: Q and A with Jay Mata:.

1. Who influenced you to become a magician? How long have you been doing it?

I got into the art after watching David Blaine’s TV specials for the 1st time. I wanted to do able to do what he did.

2. What is your definition of magic? And since you’re also a mentalist, what is mentalism?

Magic is the art of entertaining people by giving the illusion that you have superhuman abilities. I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be mentalist and I realized that it really is no different than magic… Mentalist just re-packaged it to be more intellectual and less… cartoony. It has more basis in Science than it this in smokes and mirrors but the end goal is still the same… entertainment through wonder.

3. What was your best experience while performing?

I once performed at a debut in Clark. It was the best reactions I’ve every gotten… lots of gasps and approvals both during and after the performance. It was also the best experience in the sense that that particular gig taught me that the simplest tricks are often the best… I don’t need complicated routines to be the best.

4. What was your worst experience while performing?

You already know that. Guest spot in (TV show that we both guested in recently.). Never have I seen so little regard or respect for a performers art. I’ll leave it at that.

5. Which celebrity do you think would make a good magician?

Most local celebrities are too flashy and “good-looking” to be a magician. Their focus becomes too much selling themselves than the effect that they are supposed to highlight. A magician should have charisma but it shouldn’t overshadow the magic. I’m not that in tune with the local celebrity scene but I would say Vic Sotto back in his prime could do it. Not when he is doing slapstick comedy mind you but when he is subtle like when he hosts noontime shows. The guy manages to exude the right amount of star charisma and humility.

6. What advice can you give to those who want to be magicians?

Know what it means to perform. If you are only getting into it to impress people or be cool you will never get to the deeper levels of the art. It is about the audience not the magician. Also please for the love of god practice the trick a hundred times before you try it on real people… not five minutes after you learn the secret. It is more than just knowing how to do it.

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