Crafts and industries of many stripes are trying to do more to foster diversity and inclusion. That includes the performing arts, where the practice of magic has an especially dismal track record when it comes to featuring women, people of color, people in the LGBTQ+ community and those who are differently abled.
A group of magicians, including one local to Boston, is trying to change that. Felice Ling is on the leadership team of the inaugural Inclusivity and Diversity in Magic Conference, which is scheduled to be held next month.
Ling is the founder and executive producer of the Boston Magic Lab. In an interview with GBH’s All Things Considered host Arun Rath, she described the Lab as a monthly showcase where new magicians can develop their skills — and more experienced ones can try out new tricks.
“I think the other mission of [of the Boston Magic Lab] is very related to the mission of the IDM conference,” Ling said, “which is we try to bolster diverse local talent.”
The Lab has been hosting virtual shows during the pandemic, which Ling said has helped them in their goal of presenting a diverse group of magicians.
“When we went online, we had access to talent all over the world,” Ling said. “When you have access to people all over the world, there's really no excuse to have a line-up of all white men.”
Though many performing arts organizations have struggled amid the pandemic, Ling said that going virtual has helped the Boston Magic Lab gain greater exposure.
“When we went online, our audience kind of blew up and became something that people internationally could watch if they wanted to,” she said.
The Boston Magic Lab is set to resume live performances at the Rozzie Square Theater in Roslindale this October. Prior to that, Ling will help lead the Inclusivity and Diversity in Magic Conference, which is scheduled for late August.
The conference’s leadership team includes people of color, people from the LGBTQ+ community, those who are differently abled and a member who is on the autism spectrum, Ling said.
The inaugural conference presents an opportunity to reevaluate magic’s history — which Ling says has been more diverse than might be expected — and to elevate current magicians in a way that’s more inclusive.
“The goal is to have a conference where surfaces the history of performers and the experiences of performers who do exist, but we just don't really hear very much about,” Ling said. “Representation matters.”