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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Grand illusion » » Production of an actor for a stage play (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Bert Coules
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Professortango, thanks for your thoughts. I can't give details of the play, but it's set in England and Scotland in 1913 and one of the main characters is a headliner illusionist. We see extracts, mostly brief, from his variety act at various points through the piece. So the magic is actually being presented as magic, not as something unusual and mysterious happening in the everyday reality of the play.

It will be produced open-stage in a smallish studio theatre, with the acting area either at floor level or raised just slightly above it. Audience seating will be raked and there will be minimal scenery and no tabs or other concealment, though there will be wing- and backstage space, accessible through the drapes which will define the acting area. Any loading and unloading will have to be done offstage behind these drapes and the relevant props/box/cabinet or whatever brought on and off in full sight.

I believe that our sightlines will make a tipover box, even if well upstage, tricky. I do like your idea of a freestanding doorway - are you thinking of something along these lines, a frame with a door on its face and a curtain at the rear?

http://hamiltonholtinc.stores.yahoo.net/endoor.html
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professortango
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Exactly! It's a cool mysterious visual and a very quick and easy trick which packs a good punch. I used to do it in my spook show when they conjured up the famous medium. The door would open to a surprised drunken actor getting dressed or relieving himself, depending upon the audience. Always got a great reaction.
Bert Coules
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Thanks for confirming that. I must see if there are any performance videos online: I can visualise the effect but it might be useful to have something to show other people.

I don't think I'll go with the dressing or the peeing, mind.
professortango
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Unfortunately, I don't know the "proper" name for the illusion, so finding a video by searching "magic doorway" or anything such is a fruitless endeavor. Its a nice easy effect that actors can pull off without having to have any skill or flexibility. Also, its an easy build for the master carpenter.

I know I'll be using the concept in an upcoming production of Scrooge this winter.
FrankFindley
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Quote:
On Jun 22, 2018, professortango wrote:
Unfortunately, I don't know the "proper" name for the illusion, so finding a video by searching "magic doorway" or anything such is a fruitless endeavor. Its a nice easy effect that actors can pull off without having to have any skill or flexibility. Also, its an easy build for the master carpenter.

I know I'll be using the concept in an upcoming production of Scrooge this winter.


It is commonly called the Who's There illusion. It is in Mark Wilson's Complete Course in Magic.
Bert Coules
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Googling "door production" turns up some fascinating information on the, er, production of doors.

I would query "without having to have any skill". It definitely calls for carefully co-ordinated movement, timing and confidence, all of which require both skill and rehearsal. The skills called for might not be specifically magical ones but they're definitely skills.

Thanks again for the idea.
FrankFindley
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Does it have to be an appearance or would another dramatic entrance illusion work?

For example, there is a variation of the sword basket/cane casket which is used for impossible entrances that might fit the character; the iron maiden. It starts with a casket like box on stage just large enough to hold a person which is punctured by spears running through it in every direction. There is a character dressed in an executioner outfit who pushes a final one through then rotates the box around showing the fine job he did. Then he exits the stage. Eerie music plays as slowly the spear he just pushed through is pushed back out. Then others start to push out rattling to the floor in pace with the rise in music.. With a final crescendo the last spear flies out, a flash goes off, and the door flings open. There stands the triumphant magician filling the box having cheated the executioner.

I don't have a video of that version, but you can see Paul Daniels open with a cane barrel comedy variation of the same concept (used to be popular in late 70s for in the round venues): https://youtu.be/UNGXYMmAiG8 This presentation was done fair with a talented assistant, but a gimmicked, full size version would require little action on the part of the person in the box.
Bert Coules
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First of all, thanks for that link: I don't recall ever seeing that particular Paul Daniels series before and I see there are several episodes there to watch; splendid.

Many thanks for the suggestion, but it's the essence of the scene that our actor has to appear pretty much instantly, so something drawn-out isn't suitable: the Bryce screen (without the awkward revolve) or the door-frame/Who's There (thanks for the name) are the sort of thing.
FrankFindley
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On Jun 23, 2018, Bert Coules wrote: it's the essence of the scene that our actor has to appear pretty much instantly


With this the case, a flash appearance may be best as that is what it is, an instantaneous appearance.

One very practical one for your venue would be Paul Osborne's King of Clubs illusion as published in Easy to Build Illusions. In the origional a giant king of clubs card is seen center stage. A flash goes off and now the performer is standing in front of a blank card, the "king of clubs" having magically arrived, Instead of a card, some performers use a painting with their image on it. When the flash goes off they are there in front of painting which has same background sans the magician. Another staging is a mirror with image of magician on it. Flash goes off and magician is standing in front of mirror with back to audience and reflection in mirror.

The same booklet also has the Shadow of Life appearance which uses a shadow-box like effect but applied to a doorway instead of box, A similar effect would be Andrew Mayne's Specter Cabinet: https://youtu.be/97L98PA27_w.
Bert Coules
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That sounds like a book I should look at, so many thanks. Unfortunately, the sources that come up from a Google search all report it as currently unobtainable; I'll try the London magic shops.

I never should have left the Circle...

LATER:

Aha! I found a downloadable copy available to buy online. It seems to me that everything depends on the covering power of the flash and smoke, and - crucially - the speed of the mechanism. That step forward has to be as unobtrusive as possible too, of course. If all of those elements are up to it, it could look fantastic.

Also, I reckon it would be far more deceptive if the image on the card *didn't* disappear - doesn't that change offer a pretty hefty clue as to what must have happened?
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Bert Coules
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...though it has just occurred to me that if "coming to life from the card" is the plot, then not only is the image disappearing perfectly valid, so too is the troublesome stepping forward.
FrankFindley
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On Jun 23, 2018, Bert Coules wrote:
...though it has just occurred to me that if "coming to life from the card" is the plot, then not only is the image disappearing perfectly valid, so too is the troublesome stepping forward.


"From a portrait" is a time honored theme for appearances that audiences grasp really well. In fact, in some performances a delay is put in between the appearance and reveal of the portrait which ellicits a gasp on its own. The below is one of the best renditions on the theme (and frankly, just top quality illusion theater in general). While not a flash appearance it shows how well appreciated the theme is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCYOkuspCnM&t=118s

I've sent a PM with more ideas on how the basic "King of Clubs" illusion can be enhanced for stage work with some simple subtleties. The strength of this appearance is that the performer appears in front of the frame (which doesn't move) rather than towards the back like other flash appearance versions.
Bert Coules
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My word, he's got a responsive audience there, hasn't he? Thanks for the link: that's a nice routine and beautifully performed, as you say. The lights behind the table are a particularly good touch.

I'll seek out more of Mr Grandinetti and his shamefully un-named partner.

Thanks too for the PM: I'll take a look at that now.
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