Q&A: Jen Kramer
Jen Kramer became the only female magician currently headlining at a major Las Vegas property when she made her debut at the Westgate Cabaret last year, and her charming, family-friendly show, The Magic of Jen Kramer, was recently extended for another two years. She’s performing four nights a week in the same room as comedian George Wallace and naughty revue Sexxy: The Show, rounding out the entertainment offerings at a resort celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. And she’s not taking it for granted, constantly developing new illusions for her show and strengthening connections with her audience.
You studied at Yale and founded the school’s Magic Society. Were you already planning a career as a performer during your college days?
I majored in theater studies because I figured there would be a lot of overlap and my professors encouraged me to incorporate magic into whatever we did. I knew I loved magic and I knew I wanted to pursue it full-time after graduation. For me, those college years were about figuring out how do I take this thing I love and turn it into a full-time profession, how do I practically make that happen. And when I interned for Nathan Burton over two summers to get a feel for what the Vegas showbiz world was like, it was a great experience and I learned a lot.
Magic has been historically male dominated. Do you feel like you’re still breaking through?
I do want to recognize there are amazing women doing really cool and exciting work in magic in the past, and currently, and I think magic is moving in a direction where more women are getting involved and that’s great to see. As a kid getting started, I didn’t know of other women in magic. My role models were the magicians I’d see on television, Copperfield and Penn & Teller and David Blaine. I’ve been really fortunate. I’ve been surrounded by people who are incredibly supportive. I have memories of being 13 or 14 and calling the local Barnes & Noble and just saying I’d love to perform for free, do a show in the kids’ area. When I was doing birthday parties and bar and bat mitzvahs and trying to work the New York party circuit, I could see how someone could look at me and think, “This isn’t my image of a magician,” thinking of a guy in a top hat with a rabbit and a wand. But ultimately, you prove yourself, you go in there and do great work and they form an opinion based on what you’re bringing to the table.
When you’re onstage, are you playing a character or just being yourself?
I’m always thinking to myself, how do I create the best experience for the audience? I think my onstage persona is similar to who I really am and that allows me to be more real and genuine and create a connection. I’d say maybe it’s a slightly more outgoing or polished and prepared version of myself. It’s a fun world to be a part of. There are some performers who really embody a character that has certain traits. For me, if I can go onstage and be totally present and reacting in real time, that is what will have them walking out of the theater thinking, “I had a blast!”
Is Vegas still the magic capital?
It is the magic mecca. I remember when I was in college and I was making that decision, that I love magic and I know this is something I want to pursue, where is the best place to do it? Growing up in New York, most of my contacts were on the East Coast, and... that’s why I decided to take the internship in Las Vegas. I think there are more magicians per square foot in Vegas than anywhere else.
Can you describe your creative process in making adjustments to your show?
The first thing I’ll do is think about the ideal experience I’m trying to create. In an ideal world where you’re not thinking about what’s involved or the methods, first it’s what do I want to happen? Once I have that image, how do we make it happen? And how does it fit into the flow of the show? I definitely try to create a whole experience rather than a bunch of disjointed things. It’s a team effort for sure. That’s another thing I love about Las Vegas: Because there are so many interesting creative people here, magicians and consultants and directors, there are a lot of amazing people I can consult with when we’re working on a creative problem. It’s really collaborative. I help them with projects they’re working on, they help me and we learn from each other, and that makes it fun. It’s a tight-knit community.