Luca lives in Naples, Italy, and has been performing Quick Change for quite a few years now. He has written a book on the topic which I am listing here for your consideration. Translated from Italian with all the wonderful nuances found in that process.
I met Luca online as he was perusing the internet for historical information on the art of Quick Change. I had begun writing a book in 1989 title “Quick Change in American Vaudeville” which I researched for over 3 years and had accumulated many volumes of xerox copies (Pre-Internet days).
Having posted a few items on this blog Luca was interested in finding out more about the American history of Quick Change. He is from Naples and only knew the artist from his country and Europe. I emailed him and we set up a time/date for an interview. I thought using Zoom would be great. He agreed but then we realized his English wasn’t up to par (and my Italian was terrible!) to do a thorough interview. I then emailed him the questions I wanted to ask him and he answered them in text. Here is the interview and a video clip of our attempt at a Zoom interview. Along with some videos of his performances.
Interview with Luca Lombardo
Q: You are a magician, quick-change artist, magician, and clown. Can you give us a little history about these skills and where you acquired them? What schools you attended or what teachers you studied with?
Luca: When I discovered the art of magic I was 15 years old and it really moved me. I studied every kind of magic for many years attending workshops and conferences of worldwide fame magicians. I decided it was my path when I watched Arturo Brachetti’s theatrical show. So I studied clownery both in Italy and abroad while I was practicing my magic tricks. I came up with the idea of a quick-change act with magic tricks. At first, I started only as a magician I then evolved in time as a clown developing a much deeper understanding of the audience.
Q: Can you tell us about your thoughts regarding the mixing of all these wonderful disciplines?
Luca: You can use as many tools and disciplines as you acknowledge to tell a story. The message is important. I love being and playing the clown because it is the closest to the truth, you can’t lie to your audience. However, my character is not a pure clown and I like to use my character to create my story.
Q: In a few articles I have read they refer to you as “The Crazy Performer”. Can you tell me why you got that title from the press?
Luca: I got this nickname because I always tried to overthrow all theatrical rules still existing in the conservative Italian theatre scene.
Q: I read a quote that mentioned ‘Fregolian Transformation”. Can you tell us what that is?
Luca: The Fregolian Transformation is a transformation not only in the clothes but also in the character, the moves, the attitude. In my act, there is a story and I have to change character not only a costume. In the Russian quick-change instead, the artist changes the only costume and the effort is more in the choreography of it, the story is less important.
Q: While you were in Rome a few years ago you met with Augusto Fornari who helped you write your current show: “Poubelle – Magic Beyond Imagination”. He also directed you in this new show. Can you tell us about the work you did with him?
Luca: Augusto Fornari is also a film director and he is a very much acclaimed artist in Italy. I owe him everything as he believed in my talent and my creativity since the beginning. We are friends and I am very happy to be his friend.
Q: One of the things I heard about your show was the importance of empathy. Can you tell us how important this emotion is for you in your work?
Luca: Empathy is what makes an artist happy. I think an artist needs emotions and if you are able to pass these emotions on to your audience, those will come back to you and it probably means you did a good job! I like to gift my audience an emotional and maybe surreal performance. I feel more grateful when someone says you really moved me instead of appreciating how quickly I was with the changes.
Q: Why do you think “Poubelle” has been so successful?
Luca: The nice thing about ‘Poubelle’ is that despite the fact that the character never speaks, he still manages to reach everyone. Empathy with the public is certainly the key to the success of this character. It is not a traditional show but a story of my childhood, the story of my life. With my dress changes – from Peter Pan to Mary Poppins to Super Mario Bros – I am able to tell my world. And this world then becomes that of the spectator who identifies with Poubelle. The great success of this character makes it clear that we all need magic and to play again.
Q: What does magic represent for you?
Luca: Magic is the ability to bring others into your dream, into your world. Changing the world is becoming increasingly difficult, but each of us can create one of our own in which to transport people. The magician does this by profession
Q: What are you working on now? Any new shows? Luca: It is very hard to think about future projects right now with the ongoing virus outbreak. I am supposed to be on stage in France at the ‘Avignon Off Festival’ next July. If everything goes further I will preview a new interactive quick-change act where a member of the audience chooses the character I change into.
Poubelle is a multitalented show ( Without words) : magic, poetry, comedy, and solo quick change. In this video the quick change it’s in real-time NO EDITING
Photographs of Characters from Luca Lombardo’s show
Now that Bill Irwin has joined forces with David Shiner again to present OLD HATS I thought it right to ‘look back’ at Bill’s earlier success. “The Regard of Flight“. The show was performed in many venues before going to Lincoln Center. An earlier version of the show was performed at the Baltimore Theater Festival titled “Murdoch” which I saw.
Bill Irwin was brilliant in choosing Doug Skinner and Michael O’Connor to share the stage with him in this show. They were great! Doug Skinner provided ‘original music’ and Michael O’Connor was hysterical as ‘the critic’ lurching to the stage with comments and questions throughout the show. Wonderful comic timing together made this show a treat for any audience! For those of you that did not see Bill Irwin, Doug Skinner and Michael O’Connor in “The Regard of Flight”…A wonderfully brilliant show!
“It should be said that Mr. Irwin is a contemporary American performance artist whose name belongs alongside those of Buster Keaton and Marcel Marceau.” Mel Gussow NY Times The New York Times Review
Bill Irwin and David Shiner are currently performing their new show “OLD HATS” at the Signature Theater. “one of the funniest shows of the past few years” the New York Post,
It’s one hundred years since the tragic death of one of the world’s greatest entertainers here in Edinburgh, and we’re marking the centenary with a series of events in libraries.
On May 9, 1911 a devastating fire broke out at the Empire Palace Theatre. Sigmund Neuberger, better known as the Great Lafayette, the self-proclaimed ‘Man of Mystery’, was performing to a sell-out crowd when fire erupted on stage. The fire safety curtain descended preventing the spread of the fire and allowing all 3000 members of the audience to escape unharmed. However, those on stage and behind the scenes were less fortunate. Lafayette perished along with members of his troupe, his horse and his lion.
In an ironic twist of fate, the corpse of Lafayette’s stunt body double was initially mistaken for the magician’s. The remains of the real Lafayette were found the next day under the stage of the wrecked theatre. Huge crowds gathered in Edinburgh to see his funeral procession as it travelled to his final resting place. Lafayette is buried beside his beloved dog, Beauty, in Piershill Cemetery.
The Great Lafayette’s death sent cascades of emotion around the world. But before he died his life was a true rags to riches story. From simple beginnings he rose to command the highest fees for any stage performer of his time – the equivalent of £15,000,000. He had one love in his life – his dog Beauty, a gift from the great escapologist Harry Houdini. The Great Lafayette was a magician, a stage illusionist and a guaranteed success in theatres.
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During my Research for my book on American Quick Change Artist (that never came to fruition), I discovered quite a few documents about Lafayette.
Here are scans of a few of them I think are important to his story.
The Great Lafayette dressed up in his satin wardrobe for publicity photo.
A very tattered promotional page for his booklet “The Great Lafayette”.
His dog ‘Beauty’ (a gift from his friend Harry Houdini) was his pride and joy and upon Beauty’s death he was was struck with remorse.
To get a really clear insight into his amazing life read the new book by Ian Robertson and Gordon Rutter titled:
Inside the promo flyer for Michael McGiveney – history of his father’s act in vaudeville.
In 1979 I began research on a proposed book project titled “Quick Change in American Vaudeville.” I spend numerous hours at the NY Performing Arts library at Lincoln Center and had correspondence with many performing arts libraries around the world. My research was completed in 1981 (my book proposal wasn’t accepted by any publishers) when I realized that this was a ‘labor of love’. Most people I spoke to didn’t know what Quick Change was. Even performer friends that weren’t familiar with the vaudeville days didn’t have any idea what this kind of act was. One of the few remaining American Quick Change artist alive was Michael McGiveney. His father – Owen McGiveney – had been a big success in the vaudeville era (see Trav S. D. blog here for posting on Owen McGiveney) and when Michael was a child he worked backstage for his father’s act as a ‘changer’. I contacted him in hopes he would grant me an interview. He was very cooperative and was also very curious why I was interested in the art of Quick Change.
In 1979 PEOPLE MAGAZINE did a profile on Michael and his ‘est’ seminar realization that he wanted to perform.“I realized how much I wanted to perform the act,”he says. “It was up to me to figure out how.” He sold his condominium to raise $50,000 for sets, costumes and a rehearsal studio, which for a time doubled as his pad. See full article here.
In New York his show was mounted by the producer/agent Arthur Shafman at the Bijou Theatre on Oct.30th 1980. It closed after 5 performances on Nov. 1st, 1980. His show was reviewed by Mel Gussow. It seems Mr. Gussow was very unhappy with the show as he states here in one closing line from his review “At one point, he (McGiveney) tells us that the quick-change artist is an endangered species. One can see why!”
He began to work in his ‘stage manager-lighting designer’ trade after that and did assist Doug Henning in his Broadway success “The Magic Show’ beginning in December 1984 thru 1985 amongst many other shows that he did lighting for and managed stage.
In 2007 he spoke at the TENTH ANNUAL LOS ANGELES CONFERENCE OF MAGIC HISTORY on the ‘McGiveneys’. He was working as a lighting designer and stage manager then as well.On Feb. 23rd, 2008 a small listing in THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW quoted:“Last weekend we had the honor of seeing Michael McGivney give his final performance as a quick-change artist during the vaudeville show at Lake City Playhouse. McGivney has performed the skillful act around the world, learning from his British father who did the act for 50 years before Michael, who still builds theater sets for North Idaho College and Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre.”
When I looked up “Quick Change” in Wikipedia they didn’t seem to list any of the McGivney family. Only current artist like the amazing Italian Arturo Brachetti. Following in the tradition of Leopoldo Fregoli, Brachetti has really made a name for himself around the world except in the USA. Check out his links here
Some other performers have taken the QUICK CHANGE idea a few steps further. Check out this ‘paper’ Quick Change Artist Ennio Marchetto.