Montreal circademic’s work is an element concept, half observe and all magic

Joseph Culpepper, seen right here at Cirque du Soleil, is a postdoctoral fellow at Concordia engaged on new methods to observe and expertise magic. He calls himself a ‘circademic.’


Joseph Culpepper loves pranks, has cherished them for so long as he can keep in mind: One among his finest pranks ever was sending an imposter in his place to his 10-year high-school reunion. The opposite was convincing two Turkish cops to faux to arrest his finest good friend.

And ever since his finest good friend — sure, the identical one who thought he was being arrested at a youth hostel in Turkey — turned him on to magic as a teen, he has additionally cherished magic. The 2 did their first magic reveals collectively after they had been 14 and for Culpepper, “magic is all the time related to friendship.”

At 18 he began to work in a magic retailer in his dwelling city of Sacramento, CA, that bought all the things from magic methods and juggling tools to rodeo lassoes and exploding pens. He and his boss “would play a lot of pranks on one another.”

Quick ahead a few a long time. Culpepper is 39 and magic stays an enormous a part of his life. He’s doing a two-year industrial postdoctoral fellowship in Montreal at Concordia University’s division of English and on the Cirque du Soleil, engaged on new methods to practise and expertise magic.

Jokingly, he refers to himself as a “circademic.” Severely, by a program collectively funded by authorities, tutorial companions and analysis companions, he’s growing prototypes of items of circus equipment on the Cirque du Soleil’s C:lab, its analysis and improvement centre.

As an undergraduate on the College of California at Santa Cruz, Culpepper studied fashionable literature and language. He minored in French, in a program that required him to be taught French to check its literary works.

“At any time when I might write an essay on poetry, I might write about poetry as magic spell and the poet as magician,” he recalled. “Magic had already modified my mind-set.”

As a graduate pupil on the College of Toronto, he wrote an essay on phrases of magic within the writings of Karl Marx — in his descriptions of how capital seems and disappears and is remodeled.

His grasp’s thesis was on language and energy — on “how phrases have the facility to do what they are saying: I name them magic results,” he stated. That led him to contemplate how magic is tailored throughout varied storytelling media, which turned the subject of his doctoral thesis.

Whereas in Toronto, Culpepper continued to carry out magic semi-professionally and he volunteered educating magic to children in a low-income neighbourhood in an after-school program referred to as My Magic Hands.

“I’ve all the time had a foot in business and efficiency and a foot in magic historical past and tutorial analysis and publications associated to magic as a cultural phenomenon.”

Peter McCabe /


He was drawn to Quebec after graduate faculty partly for its thriving modern circus business — a billion-dollar business, in accordance with Cirque Globale (McGill-Queen’s College Press, 2016), co-edited by Culpepper’s postdoctoral supervisor at Concordia, Louis Patrick Leroux. There’s the Cirque du Soleil, with its world presence; there are troupes like les 7 doigts de la main and Cirque Éloize doing modern work; and the National Circus School of Montreal, the one government-funded elite coaching facility of its variety in North America.

Leroux, a professor of English and affiliate dean of analysis in Concordia’s school of arts and science, helped to develop modern circus research and analysis in Montreal. As a visitor lecturer for Leroux’s course on the circus arts, Culpepper offers a short historical past of the golden age of stage conjuring between the 1880s and the 1930s.

He’s doing a two-year industrial postdoctoral fellowship at Concordia’s division of English and Cirque du Soleil, engaged on new methods to practise and expertise magic.

Peter McCabe /


He’s proposing a course on “magic languages — efficiency and in any other case,” publishing articles, and he’s planning a global symposium that may carry collectively teachers, circus performers and practitioners of magic to contemplate the cultural significance of those selection arts.

As somebody doing practice-based analysis, Culpepper believes it’s vital to dedicate time to performing. He’ll carry out in March at a juggling competition in Waterloo, for example, and in early Could he’ll carry out magic at an occasion on the College of Toronto’s Massey School. “A number of the magic that I develop is unique, a few of it’s an homage or a canopy in my voice and a few of it’s a variation on one thing that’s a whole lot of years previous.”

He teaches magic to kids aged 7 to 9, an after-school program at School Stanislas in Outremont — “I adore it,” he stated — and he’s an affiliate researcher and teacher on the Nationwide Circus College of Montreal: He teaches magic historical past and its adaptation to the circus arts.

“I’ve all the time had a foot in business and efficiency and a foot in magic historical past and tutorial analysis and publications associated to magic as a cultural phenomenon,” he stated. “I’d take extra of an business path or extra of an instructional path — or perhaps I’ll proceed to have a foot in every world.”

Oh, and the good friend who thought he was being arrested that day within the Turkish youth hostel? Culpepper had cooked up the plan with the front-desk man, who’d gotten the 2 cops to faux it was an precise arrest. “I went outdoors the hostel and got here in as if I had been discovering the scene,” he recalled. “My good friend was saying, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know. I’ve to go all the way down to the station to reply questions.”

Everybody else on the hostel was in on the prank and finally Culpepper confessed. His good friend gave him the silent remedy for a time after that, he recalled.

“He acquired his revenge finally, however that’s one other story.”