Monday, August 22, 2011

9/11: Penn and Teller

Teller and John in Austin, March 2011
While Penn and Teller are not composers, they are artists - wonderful magicians who I met in Las Vegas. I became friends with Teller and we worked together for the Las Vegas Chamber Music Society to bring all six Bartok String Quartets with the Colorado String Quartet. Later he conducted a Purcell suite on my farewell concert. I adore his genius and thoughtfulness, and knew he might have something to say about this question. Here is his response:

After 911, Penn and I felt we had to omit from our show our deeply patriotic piece that uses the American flag. The piece, actually written a couple years before in response to experiences in repressive foreign countries, suddenly felt wrong. In our piece, we celebrate the way the flag expresses our pride in the Bill of Rights. In the wake of 911, the image of the flag had become tied to grief, loss, and mourning. To do our trick at that time would have seemed either disrespectful or pandering. As the nation recovered, we were able to restore it to our repertoire, and we now perform it at virtually every live show.

Penn and Teller
They defy labels, and at times, good taste. They’ve performed together for 30 years; skewering the genre of magic, their sold-out audiences, and themselves -- very often all at the same time, within one mind-boggling evening.
September is an exciting month for the duo as they celebrate their fifth year as headliners in their own theater at the Rio All-suite Hotel and Casino, as well as two Emmy nominations for their Showtime series, “Penn and Teller: Bullshit!”
And along the way, Penn and Teller have made the hardest trick of all – a remarkable career that ranges from stage to television to three best-selling books – look easy. And they’ve done it all on their own, distinctively offbeat terms.
They call themselves “a couple of eccentric guys who have learned how to do a few cool things.” Since first teaming up in 1975, when they combined Teller’s silent, occasionally creepy, magic with Penn’s clown college education and juggling expertise, the two have created an entertainment success story that went from the streets to small clubs to national theater tours, and now to a current, multi-year engagement at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

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