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Topic: Studying theater (for close-up)
Message: Posted by: Simon Bakker (Aug 28, 2006 05:55AM)
Hello everyone,

I hope this forum is the right one to ask my question, here it goes:

Can anyone point me to some books or other material on theater(techniques) for close up (and stand up) magicians?

I only perform tablehopping but I want to make a move to more stand up and parlour type situations. I have the feeling I can express my self more through this type of performing, but have very little experience with it. I realise there is a lot that need to be studied (public speaking, body movements, connecting with audiences, etc) and it all fascinates me.

I'm talking about presentational and theatrical techniques for magicians, I'm not searching for effects that are suitable for this kind of performance.

Thanks!

Simon
Message: Posted by: JimMaloney (Aug 28, 2006 08:46AM)
I'll give you some references to books about acting. These are not "acting for magicians" books, but rather books that actors study from. They are just as valuable to magicians.

"An Actor Prepares", by Constantin Stanislavski (this in generally considered the bible for actors)
"Respect for Acting", by Uta Hagen
"A Practical Handbook for the Actor" by Melissa Bruder, Lee Michael Cohen, Madeline Olnek, Nathaniel Pollack, Robert Previto, and Scott Zigler (students of David Mamet)
"Sanford Meisner on Acting", by Sanford Meisner, Dennis Longwell, and Sydney Pollack
"Impro", by Keith Johnstone
"Impro for Storytellers", by Keith Johnstone

-Jim
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Aug 28, 2006 09:16AM)
Save yourself much trouble and find friends in the theater. To date, few magicians have gotten over "clever me" to read scripts, find the magic in scripts and fewer still have gone on to explore ways to bring stories to others.

There is life beyond the mirror. Pleasing ones reflection does not always satisfy.
Message: Posted by: kregg (Aug 28, 2006 09:25AM)
When you tell stories, are people engaged by your story, or do they lose interest?
What makes a good book? The story. Acting technique and magic tricks are only a part of the story.
Message: Posted by: Darkwing (Aug 28, 2006 11:53PM)
I agree with Jonathan. I have been very fortunate in my checkered magical career (for lack of a better term). In the church I attend, we have a very active drama department and have been involved as an actor in productions of dramas, comedies, and musicals. We also have a very active comedy improv group directed by a couple who were once involved with Second City improv. I also have been fortunate to be around some very talented theater folks who also happen to be comedians and magicians. This being said, I feel that it has made me a better performer. It has made me better on my feet, character development, scripting routines, blocking, timing, presentation, stage presence, and the list goes on.

To get better at your art you have to reach out beyond your art and learn acting and other creative techniques. So search out those people outside your magical friends and dive in head first.

Be of good cheer, it's a lot of fun.

David Williams
Message: Posted by: tommy (Aug 29, 2006 04:59AM)
Grand advice! But what about “Close-Up”
Lets assume we have taken the advice and have become wonderful actors. Now how do we marry these new found skills to “close up” magic on a “stage”, which by it’s nature, is not so close-up to an audience. Isn’t close-up magic better performed close up. I am not giving any advice here, as I don’t know, but it seems to me, if you intend doing stage magic, your better off leaning some magic that is suited to the stage rather than the table.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Aug 29, 2006 07:54AM)
[quote]
On 2006-08-29 05:59, tommy wrote:
Grand advice! But what about “Close-Up”
Lets assume we have taken the advice and have become wonderful actors. Now how do we marry these new found skills to “close up” magic on a “stage”, which by it’s nature, is not so close-up to an audience. Isn’t close-up magic better performed close up. I am not giving any advice here, as I don’t know, but it seems to me, if you intend doing stage magic, your better off leaning some magic that is suited to the stage rather than the table.

[/quote]

Since when is acting technique not applicable to closeup? Whether used to play a role in a confidence game or used on stage to play to the balcony or used on TV to get just the right expression and tonality for the viewer ... it's acting. There is little sense in focussing on a specialization of venue till one has a solid foundation upon which to build. Rather than get involved in a gang running cons (closeup acting) it is much safer and simpler to get into the theater.

It this case the larger issue is that of getting comfortable reading scripts, working through scripts to block a performance and then getting feedback from other actors and directors to refine ones ability to communicate.

This is not book learning. This is about DOING in the presence of others who DO and then being attentive to their feedback.

To summarize; whether playing to the dinner table, office gathering, banquet hall or packed theater, it's all coming from the same place... you have something to communicate. Let's take it for granted that most in magic have not performed on stage in theatrical productions and may need some time to get themselves into a theater group and then another season or two to get comfortable. IMHO the sooner the better for this learning.
Message: Posted by: JimMaloney (Aug 29, 2006 08:56AM)
Silent scripts, "The Magic If", knowing the beats, being in the moment, etc. are all things that apply equally to performances where your audience is two feet away or two hundred feet away.

What will change is scale: the size of movements and expressions, projecting your voice, etc. For a larger audience, you'll be somewhat broader, whereas with a close-up audience, you'll want to bring things in a bit. But the source of the emotion, the characterization ... that all comes from an internal place and learning that will give you a huge advantage, no matter the size of your audience.

-Jim
Message: Posted by: tommy (Aug 29, 2006 08:58AM)
I did not say that acting was not as important for close up magic. I say that close up magic is not suited to the stage in a theatre. Simon as I understand it wants to do magic on a stage "I only perform tablehopping but I want to make a move to more stand up and parlour type situations." but says "Studying theater (for close-up)". The study of drama and acting for close up is great but studying close up magic for stage presentation is an althogether differnt thing isn't it?
Message: Posted by: JimMaloney (Aug 29, 2006 09:35AM)
Not if you're studying Nate Leipzig's act. ;)

-Jim
Message: Posted by: tommy (Aug 29, 2006 09:36AM)
Close up magic by it’s very nature is small in scale and meant for an audience of people who are close up, so they can see. If you increase the size of the magic, it’s no longer close up magic. Card magic is not really suited to a theatre presentation. You can use jumbo cards but even a good actor can not palm one. :)
Message: Posted by: JimMaloney (Aug 29, 2006 10:14AM)
In general, yes, I agree with you. But Leipzig was an exception -- he showed that even card tricks (using a normal sized deck) could be done for a large audience. Studying his act can give you a new perspective on what's possible.

-Jim
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Aug 29, 2006 10:23AM)
[quote]
On 2006-08-29 10:36, tommy wrote:
If you increase the size of the magic, it’s no longer close up magic. Card magic is not really suited to a theatre presentation. You can use jumbo cards but even a good actor can not palm one. :) [/quote]

Let's not confound methodology with presentation. Yes there are jumbo card tricks that work closeup and as with split fans etc regular sized card magic that can play in the theater.

Amd as Jim mentioned, you can get a committee on stage and let them serve as proxy for the larger audience. Here it becomes especially important to know how to play to those nearby and to those in the balcony.
Message: Posted by: kregg (Aug 29, 2006 03:46PM)
[quote]
On 2006-08-29 05:59, tommy wrote:
Grand advice! But what about “Close-Up”
[/quote]

"Mr, Demille, I'm ready for my close up."

Acting up close is the same as stage, only it's smaller and if you don't really mean it, you'd better be good at faking it. Unless you're trying to be Ben Affleck?
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Aug 29, 2006 11:14PM)
[quote]
On 2006-08-29 09:56, JimMaloney wrote:
Silent scripts, "The Magic If", knowing the beats, being in the moment, etc. are all things that apply equally to performances where your audience is two feet away or two hundred feet away.

What will change is scale: the size of movements and expressions, projecting your voice, etc. For a larger audience, you'll be somewhat broader, whereas with a close-up audience, you'll want to bring things in a bit. But the source of the emotion, the characterization ... that all comes from an internal place and learning that will give you a huge advantage, no matter the size of your audience.

-Jim
[/quote]

Bang on, Jim. BE there. :)
Message: Posted by: Noel M (Aug 30, 2006 12:30AM)
The performance of magic is 100% acting. There is no art of magic without acting. Knuckle busting, self-working, gaffs, shells, etc are just the props of an actor.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Aug 30, 2006 05:57AM)
If: “The performance of magic is 100% acting. There is no art of magic without acting. Knuckle busting, self-working, gaffs, shells, etc are just the props of an actor.”
Then everything is 100% acting and everything is a prop. I.e. The performance of athletics is 100% acting and the athletes body is a prop. While the great magician acts the part of great magician the great athlete acts the part of great athlete. So ask yourself what makes magic an art and athletics a sport.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Aug 30, 2006 07:11AM)
The distinction is between magic and the mundane.

The athlete may jump to the moon. The magician reaches into his pocket and produces the moon.

I wonder why such basic questions need to be discussed outside the beginner's table.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Aug 30, 2006 07:40AM)
A giant leap for a mankind but a walk in the park for John. :)
Message: Posted by: Whit Haydn (Aug 30, 2006 09:46AM)
[quote]
On 2006-08-29 10:36, tommy wrote:
Close up magic by it’s very nature is small in scale and meant for an audience of people who are close up, so they can see. If you increase the size of the magic, it’s no longer close up magic. Card magic is not really suited to a theatre presentation. You can use jumbo cards but even a good actor can not palm one. :)

[/quote]

Actually, Jack Miller had a successful stage manipulation act using jumbo cards, and he even backpalmed them.

Magic is not 100% acting. But good acting is essential to all magic.

I highly recommend that the close-up performer study the technique of improvisation, and Viola Spolin's theater games are a great way to learn. They can be studied by any group of two or three that are interested.
Message: Posted by: Bob Clayton (Aug 30, 2006 10:00AM)
In the words of Robert-Houdin, "A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician"
Message: Posted by: Patrick Differ (Aug 30, 2006 10:12AM)
Wanting to learn more about acting is cool and a great thing to do. There are many books available, as have been already mentioned, but [i]if you were to ask me[/i], I would say that the best book available for anyone is the one bought from the university or community college bookstore... the one that is the text book required for the class or classes often available at your nearest institution of higher learning.

By all means, read the textbooks. But...NO MATTER WHAT, take the classes and learn from people that have done and still do. The classes are educational, challenging, they earn college credits, and, in most cases, are just downright fun.
Message: Posted by: Noel M (Aug 30, 2006 09:52PM)
I can't imagine what part of the performance of magic is not acting. The technical proficency of our props really isn't enough. If you want to consider that the 100% includes both technical skill and acting ability I'll concede the point. Good acting will boost average skill, but it don't think good techique will save bad acting.

Having seen a few of Mr. Hayden's performances, I would't hesitate to say that what makes his performances so entertaining is his acting ability. I'm thinking now of his linking ring routine with the spectator. How he turns, looks away at critical moments, uses languege and humor effectively etc. all means more to me that how he links and unlinks the rings.

I know I'm somewhat harsh on this subject because I think that the "acting" part of performing magic is overlooked by so many, and I'd like to see it emphasised mare than a new finger palm.

Think of all the great magicians. How many were bad actors?
Message: Posted by: Noel D (Aug 30, 2006 09:58PM)
Acting always helps in ANYTHING that requires you to present yourself.

Acting isn't simply saying a line properly, it's about learnign how to prpoerly emote, the certina beats of thigns, proper timing and structure of theatre pieces (and thus magic) being able to BS your way through anything (ever ahve to ad-lib a third of a play because the lead actor AND the understudy got sick? not easy.)and a lot of other stuff.

For close up, understanding improv is essential, and that's what I spend most of my time doing. Improv is making stuff up, but there's a bit more order to it than it seems. Knowing how to think on your feet is always helpful when you get back a smart comment or something goes wrong.

I began taking acting classes because someone told that if you ever have to do anything in front of anyone for any reason, you should be able to act.

And they were right.
Message: Posted by: Chessmann (Aug 30, 2006 10:09PM)
Combine working with your acting with

- videoing yourself and watching yourself and making adjustments. The videocamera does not lie.

- practice in front of friends who will be honest with you. Mix magi and non-magi, if possible.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Aug 30, 2006 10:19PM)
[quote]
On 2006-08-30 11:00, Bob Clayton wrote:
In the words of Robert-Houdin, "A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician"

[/quote]

That is taken way out of context.

The quote is on page 43 of the Routledge edition of Secrets of Conjuring and Magic in a chapter titled "Escamotage, Prestidigitation."

He explains the meanings of the two words, then he states:
[quote]
"A conjuror is not a juggler; he is an actor playing the part of a magician; an artist whose fingers have more need to move with deftness than with speed. I may even add that where sleight-of-hand is involved, the quiter the movement of the performer, the more readily will the spectators be deceived."
[/quote]

Now, regarding doing close-up on a stage, it all depends on how well you can sell the magic.

Leipzig performed small magic on stage. So did Emil Jarrow. He did that silly trick where you put a dime in a spectator's hand, and switch it for a penny. But he SOLD it!

That requires a very special entertainer.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Aug 31, 2006 05:38AM)
Well I hope you come and see me in the movies
Then I know that you will plainly see
The biggest fool that ever hit the big time
And all I gotta do is act naturally. :)
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Aug 31, 2006 09:17AM)
[quote]
On 2006-08-31 06:38, tommy wrote:
... And all I gotta do is act naturally. :)
[/quote]

Naturally for the character
Message: Posted by: Simon Bakker (Sep 1, 2006 04:48AM)
Thanks for al the replies!
An interesting thread is starting to develop.

Simon
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 1, 2006 07:00AM)
Is the issue worthy of discussion before more have done time as bit players finding meaning behind what they signify?

Bottom's up!

Yes those are references to Shakespeare.
Message: Posted by: JimMaloney (Sep 1, 2006 08:49AM)
Are we going to see a staging of Pyramus & Thisbe at the next convention?

-Jim
Message: Posted by: Whit Haydn (Sep 1, 2006 10:02AM)
I'll ask Bottom. Jon says he is up. He can be such Jack Ass...
Message: Posted by: Lee Darrow (Sep 4, 2006 03:22AM)
Now THAT would be a Midsummer Night's Dream to watch, Whit! Let's hope the performance doesn't Bottom out!

However, on a more serious note (C#), acting in close up is essential. Ask anyone who does TV, movies, commercials or who does voiceover work. Certainly, he technique is not as broad as it is for the big stage, but it is still there.

And, for you Method types out there, the same thing still applies - you just work AS IF talking at the dinner table, as opposed to AS IF talking to someone half-a-block away.

;)

Lee Darrow, C.H.
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Sep 4, 2006 08:01AM)
Acting for camera. Film acting... you know. ;)
Message: Posted by: tommy (Sep 4, 2006 12:16PM)
Acting is essential to both close up and stage magic and going to drama school is advisable for both.
However: Close up and stage magic are not the same thing. Magic can, more or less, be divided in two by those two terms. The differences are due to the different working conditions and the different distances between spectators and the magician. The same principles of magic apply to all magic but you can not simply transfer a close act to theatre working conditions and expect no problems. The examples that have been given of guys doing close up magic in theatre conditions are exceptions to the rule.
The innovation of video transmitted to a screen in theatre conditions, so the audience gets a close up view, is what a lot of close up magicians are using and so on. It would be wise I think to take into account these differences and consider learning effects more suited to stage, if that is where your going to work. You know it seems common sense to me but what do I know.
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Sep 4, 2006 06:17PM)
You looking for an answer to that question, tommy? ;)
Message: Posted by: tommy (Sep 4, 2006 06:58PM)
No Laurie, I am looking for the question. :)

I see "what do I know?." :) No I mean I don't profess to know much.
Message: Posted by: Bob Clayton (Sep 4, 2006 07:22PM)
[quote]
On 2006-08-29 09:58, tommy wrote:
Simon as I understand it wants to do magic on a stage "I only perform tablehopping but I want to make a move to more stand up and parlour type situations." but says "Studying theater (for close-up)". The study of drama and acting for close up is great but studying close up magic for stage presentation is an althogether differnt thing isn't it?
[/quote]
Tommy, I think you may have interpreted Simon's "I only perform tablehopping" too literally. I read Simon’s statement a little differently, to mean that all he is doing at present is tablehopping but that he wants to expand into doing other types of magic (i.e. stage magic). Not that he intends to study close up magic for the stage.
Message: Posted by: P.T. Murphy (Sep 11, 2006 03:58PM)
There is a school of thought here in Chicago that suggests that good acting is living truthfully from moment to moment under imaginery circumstances.

The imaginary circumstances are given to you by the playwright. Living truthfully, as honestly as possible base on the IMAGINERY circumstances you are working under, from one moment to the next. With know thought to the END product.

From "one moment to the next", seems to be the most Zen part of the excercise and where most of us get derailed.


How does the idea of "living truthfully (honestly, sincerely)from moment to moment" apply to magic? Does it?

I don't know...just asking.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 11, 2006 05:36PM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-11 16:58, P.T. Murphy wrote:
... good acting is living truthfully ... [/quote]

The notion of truth there is complex. What is true for the character comes from the script and the director and the actor. What is true for the actor at the moment onstage need have little to do with their personal history beyond the theater.

What is true for the character however may be true across every onstage instantiation by every actor before and perhaps every actor to come. Hamlet will brood and scheme and succumb to a poisoned blade. Such seems (part of) his truth, his fate and his destiny.
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Sep 11, 2006 09:20PM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-11 16:58, P.T. Murphy wrote:
There is a school of thought here in Chicago that suggests that good acting is living truthfully from moment to moment under imaginery circumstances...


How does the idea of "living truthfully (honestly, sincerely)from moment to moment" apply to magic? Does it?
[/quote]

Hey, P.T., Chicago's not alone. ;)

I think the idea of "living truthfully (honestly, sincerely) from moment to moment" DOES apply to magic- absolutely.

I've also received notes on the "10 percent actor". You keep your awareness of performance, technique, through line in that "10 percent actor" in the back of your head-way back there- and don't let him take more than 10 percent. ;)
Message: Posted by: P.T. Murphy (Sep 12, 2006 08:16AM)
Jonathan-

Your answers are interesting. As an experienced actor my question to you is this. Have you ever acted? Is this something you have done in depth? Or are you just answering and offering advice in a "theoretical" sense?

There is only ONE truth when you are up on stage. You are either being honest (sincere, in the moment, call it what you will...) or you are NOT. Any actor worth their salt knows this. Any actor worth their salt also knows that those moments of honesty, truth, call it what you will are fleeting and that your goal as an actor is to be ONE with the moment one moment at a time.

However elusive they prove to be.

Let's not turn this into a semantic or intellectual excercise. To paraphrase Steve Martin...I believe..."Talking about ACTING is like tap dancing about architecture."

The more we talk about this the more we prove that we just don't get it!

Simon Bakker if you are interested in learning more about acting you must GO FOR IT! Listen to your instinct. Just do it. You are in for an adventure!


Posted: Sep 12, 2006 9:22am
-------------------------------------------
Magicalaurie-

10 % actor! YES! I dig it. I have tried to explain this to students in my acting classes. But could not.

This is it!

There really is that small percentage of our brain that MUST be aware of techinique and simple rules like "Don't REALLY stab your scene partner!" And don't upstage yourself! This is acting after all!

That holds true for we magicians as well. We learn the technique and we learn the rules of performance. Then we must allow the other 90% take over. That 90% encompasses our ability to connect with our audience, the willingness to express what lives deep inside of us, our ability to let what lives in our hearts to color our words and inform our script.

Yes...10%...thanks for that one!
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 12, 2006 08:58AM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-12 09:16, P.T. Murphy wrote:
Jonathan-
...Have you ever acted? Is this something you have done in depth? Or are you just answering and offering advice in a "theoretical" sense?...[/quote]

Yes. Before even thinking about magic. I put some of my process work in the [i]Genii[/i] article and suggested the use of sense memory exercises in the descriptions of a couple of items.

IMHO there is no "theory" for getting audience feedback and from that interpreting what a director might say. Such is part of a hands on process of doing. Or better yet, getting feedback from someone who has directed and can compare the script to what they perceive from a performance.

Honesty in the moment? Perhaps from the audience's perspective as the actor is supposed to vanish and leave only the character onstage (again from the perspective of the audience).

IMHO we have a great problem in magic, that of perspective. When making a statement in our discussions, do we address our staging issues or audience perspective? Or worse, flicker between the two?
Message: Posted by: P.T. Murphy (Sep 12, 2006 09:32AM)
JT-
Can you explain what you mean by all if this? I am not sure we are connecting here.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 12, 2006 09:38AM)
Yes I have read scripts, taken direction and been onstage before the public in non-magical theatrical productions.

I see working from a script and taking direction as useful.

I feel our magic discussions online and in print get muddled when statements are not carfully delineated between audience and performing perspective.

I am not able to do, think, be and know at the same instant.
Message: Posted by: P.T. Murphy (Sep 12, 2006 09:56AM)
"I am not able to do, think, be and know at the same instant."

Ah...the Zen of it all...

I think I agree with this statement. As performers we should NOT expect to do, think, be and know in the same instant. I think as magicians we have not been taught this. And that is where we get confused. I think for many of us we feel all of the pressure of writer, producer, director and performer...where as in the "real" world these duties are divided up amongst many individuals.

I see now...I think...

We write. We practice. We rehearse. THEN WE DO. Hopefully we can get out of our way to DO.

As Magicalaurie has suggested we store all of the processed info in that 10% of our brain and allow the 90% that is NOT thinking about those things to FLOW, in the moment of the performance. If we have trained ourselves to listen to our audience we can react to them, entertain them, enlighten them.
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Sep 12, 2006 10:27AM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-12 09:22, P.T. Murphy wrote:
Yes...10%...thanks for that one!
[/quote]

Most welcome, P.T. :)
Message: Posted by: karbonkid (Sep 12, 2006 11:01AM)
I think that some people use the whole acting/presentational approach to magic as an excuse for bad technique. It's not all about technique, but, it's not all about acting either.

I could puke blood when I see magicians perform with their very lack luster, going through the motions, canned patter garbage. The magic looks fine, but it's insincere and robotic because of the performance.

When you ask one of these people, or suggest how they can liven it up, they say they are actors, blah, blah, blah, puke.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 12, 2006 11:29AM)
At some point we need to get our terms down. Here is a short list;

Script (the WRITTEN work as to be performed)

Blocking (what goes where and when - including the peformer's actions)

Magic specific techinque (loads, steals... )

Audience Rapport (yes they have to want to watch you else they change the channel)

Character work (backstory, wardrobe, manerisms, speech pattern)

To KK, I doubt the magic looked fine. I bet the peformance looked like some sort of robot was doing something that may as well have been assembling or painting a car. Does the assembly line look proud when the car rolls off the line or dies it just push them out? ;)
Message: Posted by: Whit Haydn (Sep 12, 2006 12:04PM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-12 12:01, karbonkid wrote:
I think that some people use the whole acting/presentational approach to magic as an excuse for bad technique. It's not all about technique, but, it's not all about acting either.

I could puke blood when I see magicians perform with their very lack luster, going through the motions, canned patter garbage. The magic looks fine, but it's insincere and robotic because of the performance.

When you ask one of these people, or suggest how they can liven it up, they say they are actors, blah, blah, blah, puke.
[/quote]

That may be sometimes true, but it takes away nothing from the import of the argument. The best magicians are both good actors and good magic technicians.

What is the point of talking about anything less?
Message: Posted by: karbonkid (Sep 12, 2006 12:25PM)
Both of you are absolutely true, I guess when I think that the mis-guided magician who is told to be an actor, etc., takes that advice to a very rigid level.

For me, I don't subscribe to the thought of being a skilled actor, as I am who I am, and there is very little if any noticable difference between me and my performance. It is very conversational and intimate, and I like that...but I never feel as though I am acting. Maybe it's because I am one in the same with my peformance.

Does anyone who is actively performing feel like you are acting, or not? And moreover, do you feel like your performance character is drastically different from you?
Message: Posted by: P.T. Murphy (Sep 12, 2006 12:52PM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-12 13:25, karbonkid wrote:

For me, I don't subscribe to the thought of being a skilled actor, as I am who I am, and there is very little if any noticable difference between me and my performance. It is very conversational and intimate, and I like that...but I never feel as though I am acting. Maybe it's because I am one in the same with my peformance.

[/quote]

My friend...you have stumbled onto the WAY! When you are ACTING you do NOT feel as if you are doing ANYTHING.

All great performers should be one in the same with their performance.

In my opinion you have mastered the two hardest parts of performing magic. CONVERSATIONAL and INTIMATE. Really.

Good for you!
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 12, 2006 01:15PM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-12 13:25, karbonkid wrote:...I am who I am, and there is very little if any noticable difference between me and my performance...[/quote]

If you perform as yourself, fine. That is one of MANY options when performing. Seems an unnecessary constraint but if it suffices for you, congrats.
Message: Posted by: P.T. Murphy (Sep 12, 2006 01:59PM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-12 14:15, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
[quote]
On 2006-09-12 13:25, karbonkid wrote:...I am who I am, and there is very little if any noticable difference between me and my performance...[/quote]

If you perform as yourself, fine. That is one of MANY options when performing. Seems an unnecessary constraint but if it suffices for you, congrats.
[/quote]

JT-

I am shocked by your response.

"Seems like an unnecessary constraint…"

You meant that sarcastically I hope?

All we have as performers, magicians, actors, musicians, etc. is our individuality. The seed of any successful performance begins with this understanding and comes into it's own when the performer has the courage to let this be seen by their audience.

As individuals we should be nurtured and allowed to grow.

In our everyday life we are trodden upon by ignorance. The ignorance of parents who don't know better and beat that individuality out of their child. The ignorance of a society that is too frightened to let its member’s blossom, so bent on making sure everybody falls into line.

We deal with enough challenges as everyday people. We as artists should NOT make it harder on each other to move forward. To discover. To change.

Our duty as performers, artists, etc. is to EXPRESS what lives inside of us.

There is NOTHING unnecessary or constraining about that notion.

Any great actor will tell you that the character they play is born out of who they are as people. THEN and ONLY then do the other more technical aspects of character work come into play.

Sure, sometimes you have problems connecting with the character and need to put on the hat or find the right pair of shoes to get you in the right mindset. BUT there is an internal, dare I say magical quality, an inner transformation that takes place when you have figured out who the character is.

That character is NEVER somebody OTHER than yourself. EVER. Yes you are PRETENDING to be another...BUT you are NEVER REALLY another are you?

Perhaps we are discovering the semantic problems with approaching this subject from an "oustiders" point of view and an "insiders" point of view. I realize that what I am saying will only make sense to those that have experienced it.

Karbonkid should be congratulated on having the awareness to understand that the roots of a great performance start with yourself.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 12, 2006 02:24PM)
Very good to start with yourself. But then important to become your character. I watched theater students ejected from the program at SUNY Purchase for making insufficient progress toward their onstage characters.

While we may not go home tonight to a castle in Denmark or Scotland, we may need to explore what sort of "me" would be there.

How would we react to the "weird sisters" on our way home? Would that be right for the Scottish noble with ambitious wife?

Or would we rewrite our classics to suit our own preferences and limitations?

Something about the melancholy Dane's soliloquy performed in angst upon a therapist's couch seems less than dramatic. But still not sarcastic.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Sep 12, 2006 02:40PM)
Yes well there are as many truths as men, as each as his own point of view. Does the actor give his point of view to the audience or the point of view of the character that he is playing. Perhaps he gives his point of view of what he thinks the characters point of view is. Even in a documentary you can not show the audience the truth but you can reflect the truth to them as you see it. What point of view would a real magician have of magic and how would he reflect that to the audience.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 12, 2006 02:42PM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-12 15:40, tommy wrote:...What point of view would a real magician have of magic and how would he reflect that to the audience. [/quote]

Big smile reading that.

A great place from which to explore a character and its backstory.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Sep 12, 2006 03:07PM)
Yes even real magicians would have different points of view of magic wouldn’t they. I guess. They would be different characters, of course. So it comes back to your point view of what you think your magicians character should be. Then you need to go to acting school to learn to play the part. OK I am getting it. So do think it is better for you to think up a character or to ask a good writer to think up a character for you.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 12, 2006 03:18PM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-12 16:07, tommy wrote:
...think it is better for you to think up a character or to ask a good writer to think up a character for you. [/quote]

Perhaps more efficient to try a few from scripts at the start.

I believe it would help a great deal to get some directorial help making that character happen for audiences. It really does take outside perspective to check what's happening internally against what the audience perceives.
Message: Posted by: Clark (Sep 12, 2006 04:46PM)
I'm with Karbon and P.T. Murphy all the way on this one.

With all due respect JT, this isn't SUNY, it does relate somewhat as it is a highly personalized art form, but what these guys see as best for them is hardly "constraining" themselves.

Obviously Karbon IS HIS OWN character himself. The audience sees him perform and feels who he is as a character, himself. Not everyone feels the need to be someone else. If one is genuinely interesting, funny, intelligent, or whatever, the audience will see that is part of the character that they are being exposed to. I don't understand the need to search out something that your not? It seems to me that the acting part of this equation is being pushed past it's rightful limits.

I do however find your post most interesting. I find your desire to expand most fascinating. You are making me give quite bit of thought to the BEST way that I can convey myself as a 'character' to my audience.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 12, 2006 05:08PM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-12 17:46, Clark wrote:
...
With all due respect JT, this isn't SUNY... what these guys see as best for them is hardly "constraining" themselves...[/quote]

Correct, they have a very well respected performing arts program and graduate talented actors, film makers etc. And no actor wants only to play themselves. Though exploring other roles often leads to self discovery as a side benefit.

On the other hand, many magicians seem to have trouble telling a joke and acting as if they believe what they pretend to be doing.

How do you know who you are to the audience? And what is your relationship to the magic you use? Where does it come from? What does it do for you and what do you watch for? What prevents you from picking the winning lotto numbers or finding someone's lost property?
Message: Posted by: Clark (Sep 12, 2006 07:09PM)
I agree they are very well respected, I have much respect for them myself. The fact that no actor wants to play themselves has nothing to do with me as a magician. People as magicians often want to play themselves, I still fail to see the problem. I do see how the discovery that you speak of could be a fortunate byproduct, but that in an of itself doesn't make it a requisite for being a magician.

I agree many beginning performers do struggle with what you speak of, does that mean they should all practice being someone else? I say "beginning performers" because if they are not comfortable with they are doing then they can't really be classified as "magicians" quite yet. You cannot hold them any more or less responsible then you would the acting students that you and I have so much respect for. It takes time to perfect the craft, to bring it all together if you will.

I know who I am to my audience in the same way that I know who I am to my friends. My every action as a magician to my audience is based around who I am and my specific knowledge base and personality. I know they know me, because that is who I am while I am with them. I have personal conversations with repeat customers due to the fact that they feel they know me, once again, due to the fact that I am little , if any, different than when I am performing. Maybe a little less intense, but the same otherwise. I don't have people expect me to be funny or "on" every time I see them on the street as they know I am a real person who does magic, not a character that they cannot separate me from when the show is over.
Message: Posted by: Whit Haydn (Sep 12, 2006 07:45PM)
That is acting.

People tend to confuse an actor's "range" with his art.

Putting on wigs and makeup, adopting various ticks and mannerisms, changing a voice or accent--these are all skills that actors accumulate in order to increase their "range." They want to be able to play a king, a businessman, a Nazi general, a pirate, or a baseball player. But these skills have little to do with the main task of the actor--acting.

There are many actors with very little range, but wonderful emotional intensity and clarity--with great "naturalness" and believability. Edward G. Robinson, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart and others of the same stripe were almost always "themselves" in their voice, appearance, and accent, but always believably living through the events of the story.

Not every actor is expected to be a Lawrence Olivier--a chameleon who can play any character or accent of any social class.

You are acting every time you perform the same lines, present the same effect, adopt the role of someone with magic powers. It might be you, with your voice mannerisms and appearance, but with a history of magic. You have to be convincingly a magician, or there will be no conviction of magic. To do that, you need to be an actor. You don't need to be able to be someone else, you have to be able to be you with magic powers. That is the acting that we are talking about.

I have always had a Southern accent. I used a trained actor's voice for most of my career--more than thirty years. I played a character on stage that was close to my own voice and mannerisms when using my general American accent.

When I started out doing a new character based on my real accent, many magicians complimented me on my "acting." It was really more of a stretch for me before when people assumed I was being "myself."

But the accent, mannerisms and attitudes of the character are the least important elements of acting. Naturalness, being in the moment, point of focus, and emotional clarity are much more important.

Many performers are acting without knowing it. Studying acting helps you to understand and improve what you are already--of necessity--doing.
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Sep 12, 2006 07:53PM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-12 20:45, Whit Haydn wrote:

Many performers are acting without knowing it. [/quote]

Indeed.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Sep 12, 2006 08:02PM)
Whats the difference between a showman and an actor? Many of the great magicians were said to showmen. I watched a thing today about Houdini and it seemed to me he was a bad actor.
Message: Posted by: Clark (Sep 12, 2006 08:03PM)
Point well taken Whit, I see exactly where you are coming from. Your insight has been most helpful to me as usual. Very well stated, thanks for the input.
Message: Posted by: P.T. Murphy (Sep 12, 2006 08:04PM)
Yes! The Whitmeister pulls through! I couldn't agree more.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 12, 2006 09:31PM)
Do you know what makes you you?

Would you still be you if you had one more sibling? Or one less? Or were adopted? What about adopted by fairies?

Till you know the limits of what makes you who you are, what good is a wand or a bag of woofle dust?

What would you have done with those things if you had them ten years ago? And where would that have gotten you? And if you did, who would you be today?

Do you really still want to act as yourself in magic?
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Sep 12, 2006 10:51PM)
:evilgrin: Outta my way! I want the adopted by fairies option!
Message: Posted by: Clark (Sep 13, 2006 06:38AM)
Trust me Jt, I am pretty aware of what makes me, me. Up to this point anyway... ;)

Without going through your questions systematically I will just say, yes, I still want to act as myself in magic. The point of my magic, to me, is to reach people and have more of the life experience that the interaction of magic brings. "Me" is a living, breathing, ever expanding "character" that I enjoy being. I want people to walk away from my performance knowing as much of ME as possible, not someone that I have made up for them to look at.
There is nothing wrong with having a character, having a message, or whatever your performance is to you. That is the great thing about the performance in an of itself, there is no right or wrong. It's what it is what it is to all of us.
Personally, I know that I am only going to get to meet so many people and touch so many lives in my lifetime. A thought which saddens me in a way. So I choose for the ones I do meet to find the real me there, or as much of the real me that I can get across. My magic is that vehicle for me.

**** with all that, I'm with Laurie, I'll take the fairies. :)

Clark
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 13, 2006 06:56AM)
Does our social ecology embrace magic?

What is one of the first things done upon entry to this craft?

Does vanity require narcissism?
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Sep 13, 2006 07:27AM)
"The art of living a part asserts that the main factor in any form of creativeness is the life of a human spirit, that of the actor and his part, their joint feelings and subconscious creation...What we hold in highest regard are impressions made on our emotions, which leave a lifelong mark and transform actions into real, living beings...Aside from the fact that it opens up avenues for inspiration, living a part helps the artist to carry out one of his main objectives. His job is not to present merely the external life of his character. He must fit his own human qualities to the life of the other person, and pour into it all of his own soul...An artist takes the best that is in him and carries it over on the stage. The form will vary according to the necessities of the play, but the human emotions of the artist will remain alive, and they cannot be replaced by anything else." a Stanislavski quote. The Actor's Checklist. Rosary O'Neill
Message: Posted by: tommy (Sep 13, 2006 08:17AM)
I think the most important thing is to relax and chill out. Most guys act fine until you point a camera at then. They can‘t act then because they get tense.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 13, 2006 08:22AM)
The play begins and ends on time.
The character does what they do.

But you have a life to live.
And so must seperate who you are from your art.
Message: Posted by: P.T. Murphy (Sep 13, 2006 08:58AM)
Beware of authourity figures with no credentials!
Message: Posted by: tommy (Sep 13, 2006 09:04AM)
Yes they might be just actors. :)
Message: Posted by: Clark (Sep 13, 2006 09:14AM)
Great point concerning relaxation Tommy.

Most people here would do well to read Murphy's last post several times in a row...
Message: Posted by: P.T. Murphy (Sep 13, 2006 09:16AM)
Hi Simon-

It seems we hijacked your post! I apologize.

Might I suggest Eugene Burgers "Mastering the Art of Magic"? This is a great compilation of Eugene's early works. He offers tons of very practical advice for magicians. As Eugene's main gig at the time was working restaurants and private parties, his advice is particularly helpful regarding those areas. He concetrates on how to create a more theatrical setting for your magic in what might be considered less than theatrical environments.

Also if you are serious about acting and theater I would suggest a beginning acting class. Any class will do. Just jump in. There is WAY TOO much talk on this thread about ACTING. And reading about acting is pointless.

It is called ACTING not THINKING...so it requires you to DO IT!

Remember to have FUN!
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 13, 2006 09:48AM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-13 10:16, P.T. Murphy wrote:

...Also if you are serious about acting and theater I would suggest a beginning acting class. Any class will do. Just jump in. There is WAY TOO much talk on this thread about ACTING. And reading about acting is pointless.

It is called ACTING not THINKING...so it requires you to DO IT!

Remember to have FUN!
[/quote]

On this we agree. Go for it! And let us know what you find out from doing.
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Sep 13, 2006 05:26PM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-13 09:17, tommy wrote:
I think the most important thing is to relax and chill out. Most guys act fine until you point a camera at then. They can‘t act then because they get tense.
[/quote]
Relaxation and control are fundamentals. On mark, tommy. :)


Posted: Sep 13, 2006 6:28pm
------------------------------------------
[quote]
On 2006-09-13 10:04, tommy wrote:
Yes they might be just actors. :)
[/quote]
Or [b]not[/b]. :nod:


Posted: Sep 13, 2006 6:34pm
------------------------------------------
[quote]
On 2006-09-13 09:22, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
But you have a life to live.
And so must seperate who you are from your art.
[/quote]
:no:

Above all...
Message: Posted by: tommy (Sep 14, 2006 06:51AM)
Once a famous actor told me “When I go on stage, I imagine that I am performing for the blind.” or words to that effect. I am not sure if he was serious. We were playing poker and talking about nerve.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 14, 2006 09:55AM)
There's a Mamet quote about getting the lines out that probably matches the advice you heard. :)

[url=http://www.gyford.com/phil/writing/2006/06/28/true_and_false.php]gyford.com[/url]
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Sep 14, 2006 10:20AM)
:evilgrin: Maybe David can tell me where to get the fairies!
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 14, 2006 10:25AM)
Perhaps, though Laurie, ordinarily they come to get you, not the other way around.
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Sep 14, 2006 10:30AM)
You're not kidding.
Message: Posted by: CasualSoul (Sep 14, 2006 04:09PM)
I've been abducted by fairies...it's no laughing matter. :)
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Sep 14, 2006 04:48PM)
I'm not an actor, but I played one on television. ;)

Laurie -- where you are going, you will find lots of fairies. Trust me on this.


Posted: Sep 14, 2006 5:55pm
------------------------------------------
[quote]
On 2006-09-12 12:01, karbonkid wrote:
I think that some people use the whole acting/presentational approach to magic as an excuse for bad technique. It's not all about technique, but, it's not all about acting either.

I could puke blood when I see magicians perform with their very lack luster, going through the motions, canned patter garbage. The magic looks fine, but it's insincere and robotic because of the performance.

When you ask one of these people, or suggest how they can liven it up, they say they are actors, blah, blah, blah, puke.
[/quote]

That is not acting. That's bad parrotting of bad lines. If a good actor is acting, you will be completely unaware of it. I find that when working with a fixed script, I have a much better chance of selling the routine properly. But it has to be a good script.

I would rather see a convincing performance of a good script than a lackluster performance of a trick that is accompanied by, "Well, er ah, this here is a, just a minnit, I had a...oh yeah, where was I? This here is a half a dollar. An' this here is a penny. Hold out yer hand. No, yer clean hand. Oh that was your clean hand. Anyway, hold onta this penny. [b]Ooops![/b] I was supposed to do it this way. Hold onto this penny...."

You obviously never saw Van Cleve do any of his material. Have you seen Charles Pecor or Docc Hilford do "The Ritual of the Flies?" That's funny and it's good magic. And every word and gesture is scripted.

A good actor can make the performance look spontaneous, even after he has done it a thousand times.
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Sep 14, 2006 06:27PM)
From the linked article, if I may:

"There is no character, there’s just you, and you are formed by the decisions you’ve made: roles you take, preparation you do, how you conduct business. You [i]are[/i] your character."
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Sep 14, 2006 07:34PM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-12 21:02, tommy wrote:
Whats the difference between a showman and an actor? Many of the great magicians were said to showmen. I watched a thing today about Houdini and it seemed to me he was a bad actor.
[/quote]

When I think of "showmen," I think of people who "sell" what they are doing. It's a skill that is different from acting. But it incorporates elements of acting. Part of showmanship is knowing how to call attention to the ending or the moment of astonishment to get the maximum impact from it. This may or may not be a round of applause. It may be a gasp.

My father used to say that the late Roy Smeck was more of a showman than a musician. He could play a C major scale on a ukulele, and because of his showmanship, the audience would think he had just played a Mozart symphony. At least they would react like that.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Sep 14, 2006 08:25PM)
Thanks Bill. That sounds better than acting to me. A more appropriate quality for a magician I mean. But I like the idea of the magician acting. I don't know. I think I like the idea of being showman better.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 14, 2006 10:00PM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-14 19:27, magicalaurie wrote:
From the linked article, if I may:

"There is no character, there’s just you, and you are formed by the decisions you’ve made: roles you take, preparation you do, how you conduct business. You [i]are[/i] your character."
[/quote]

Agreed, and that comes in context from an discussion about distinguishing your inner and consistent being from that of the character written by the playwright whose existence THE AUDIENCE is supposed to perceive.
Message: Posted by: P.T. Murphy (Sep 14, 2006 11:01PM)
This Mamet book "True and False" happens to be one of my favorites.

Being a Chicago boy I have had the pleasure of working and learning from many of Mamet's peers, as they are the generation just ahead of me and many of them still teach and perform in the city.

The subtitle of Mamet's book True and Fals is "Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor." In fact he spends most of the book shooting holes in the very ideas about acting that are tossed about in this thread.

One of my favorite quotes is from pg 112.

"You can't live your life believing every ten-penny teacher, critic, agent, etc., and then walk out onstage and be that model of probity and wisdom and strength you admire and wish to be. If you want that strength, you're going to have to work for it, and your first and most important tool is common sense."

The last line of this book is also a good one...

"It is not a sign of ignorance NOT to know the answers. But there is great merit in facing the questions."

There are MANY opinions being expressed in this thread...READ them all...and LISTEN TO NONE OF THEM! Including MINE!

And whatever you do...DON'T read a book about acting. Go out and do it!
Message: Posted by: tommy (Sep 15, 2006 04:55AM)
I was just looking round to see if the word "TWEEDLE" was written at the back of each collar
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Sep 15, 2006 05:26AM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-14 23:00, Jonathan Townsend wrote:

Agreed, and that comes in context from an discussion about distinguishing your inner and consistent being from that of the character written by the playwright whose existence THE AUDIENCE is supposed to perceive.
[/quote]

Who is the playwright of a magician's script?
Message: Posted by: tommy (Sep 15, 2006 05:38AM)
The Devil.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 15, 2006 06:48AM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-15 06:26, magicalaurie wrote:
[quote]
On 2006-09-14 23:00, Jonathan Townsend wrote:

Agreed, and that comes in context from an discussion about distinguishing your inner and consistent being from that of the character written by the playwright whose existence THE AUDIENCE is supposed to perceive.
[/quote]

Who is the playwright of a magician's script?
[/quote]

Being kind about it, it would seem that all too often the "playwright" seems to write as if they were an ignorant, illiterate hack with very little awareness of or genuine interest in their work's intended audience.

This is the sort of writing which takes its lead from Tchaikovsky's adventure composing the Nutcracker Suite, except rather than work from a beautiful sequence of dances, this poor writer seems to work from the secret backstage mechanics required to effect trickery.

Should this sort of "writer" be pressed for explanation of 'WHY DO YOU HAVE THE PERFORMER DOING THIS ACTION' they reply that the backstage mechanics require it, and seem to leave out any consideration of the actions interpretation by an audience.

Now how do you, gentle reader, find a suitable playwrite to help bring your magic to audiences? Perhaps a good start would be to find a good reason for someone to wish to "pick a card", or some interesting reason your assistant delights in scampering into boxes full well knowing a medical procedure involving unsterilized metal blades and no anesthetic awaits.

What's the story?

Time for a first cup of coffee here. If P.T. and others here who have found the magic behind the mechanics care to offer suggestions about making scripts from our cookbooks of deception I encourage them to offer a positive influence.

Is wooffle dust addictive?

Do magic wands get smaller the more you use them?

Does a selected card really try to follow them home later?
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 15, 2006 07:39AM)
Okay, a cup of coffee later and then a flash of insight.

Studying theater? Perhaps for inspiration or to learn from the examples set by others.

BUT such is no substitute for the doing.

On with the doing. Please.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Sep 15, 2006 09:12AM)
As I am not a good writer so I rely on others for a script. Although I would prefer to be my own playwright, I don’t think I am capable. As a pass time, not a profession, I look at little stories that I find interesting and try to figure how to make card tricks from them.
For example here is thing I read this morning and thought this would make a neat story for a card trick:

``It's only the Red King snoring,' said Tweedledee.
`Come and look at him!' the brothers cried, and they each took one of Alice's hands, and led her up to where the King was sleeping.
`Isn't he a lovely sight?" said Tweedledum.
Alice couldn't say honestly that he was. He had a tall red night-cap on, with a tassel, and he was lying crumpled up into a sort of untidy heap, and snoring loud -- `fit to snore his head off!' as Tweedledum remarked.
`I'm afraid he'll catch cold with lying on the damp grass,' said Alice, who was a very thoughtful little girl.
`He's dreaming now,' said Tweedledee: `and what do you think he's dreaming about?'
Alice said `Nobody can guess that.'
`Why, about you!' Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. `And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you'd be?'
`Where I am now, of course,' said Alice.
`Not you!' Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. `You'd be nowhere. Why, you're only a sort of thing in his dream!'
`If that there King was to wake,' added Tweedledum, `you'd go out -- bang! -- just like a candle!'
-Lewis Carol -

Off the cuff I would say: Use this story as patter and show a Red King, place it face down on the table, as if he is asleep. Place a queen face up to represent Alice. Turn the King as if to wake him at the same time vanish the Queen maybe with a snap deal.
I don’t think it is a great trick but I am just using that simple example to show that a magician has at his disposal an endless amount of playwrights that he or she could use.

Do you think it’s theft to use someone else’s story or words like that, to use them as your playwright so to speak?
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 15, 2006 09:18AM)
IMHO Doing a dramatic reading of Alice while fussing with a deck of cards has some merit as a concept. As performance art it is perhaps better than doing the same while standing in a bucket of icewater or as people visiting the exhibit toss crumpled pages of a book at the artist.

That said, what's in this for the audience?
Message: Posted by: tommy (Sep 15, 2006 09:30AM)
I don't understand the question. I mean what is in any story for the audience? If I happen to like a story I like to tell it with card magic just to amuse them. I don't think it is anything deeper than that. When I see a play I don't ask what was in it for me? I just enjoy the story and performance if it's a good story and performed well. So I guess it's enjoyment that's in it for them.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 15, 2006 10:05AM)
First off I'm utterly in favor of experimenting and watching for what the audience likes. And I like the Lewis Carol story. I watched the senior acting class of 1988 take Gertrude Stein's poem Amonoire and use the lines as script for a fully self created play.

What about the story do you like?

As a clever amusement, the card story accompanied by card magic is good for already interested magicians looking for novelty.
Message: Posted by: P.T. Murphy (Sep 15, 2006 10:50AM)
Okay...NOW I KNOW JT's magic elixir...Coffee!!! Coffee has allowed this man to post over 14,000 times. I thought he was a robot!

I think many of us are intimidated by the idea of writing our own script. I know I am. Let's be honest. The tasks of the magician can be daunting. We are the playwright, the director, the stunt coordinator, the special effects expert and the star of our own show. Not to mention the publicist, agent, accounted, etc.

And not all of us are great writers!

But that does not mean we cannot formulate meaningful scripts.

My friend David Parr is a wonderful writer. His scripts are beautifully written. I hear them in performance and bubble with glee. I used to get upset that I was not as good a writer. I have learned to stop that. Comparing myself to another does me a disservice. I have learned to get on with who I am as a writer. Which has been hard. But my friend's work inspires me to move forward...AS ME! NOT to copy his ways but to find MY voice. We all need to stop comparing ourselves to others. That is step one in writing a script that works for YOU!

Let's try and take some of the mystery out of script writing.

What is a script? (For us magi.)

On a basic level it is the accumulation of words, in a specific order, that express the ideas we want to share with our audience. (Some of us have elaborated our scripts, but the basic idea is still the same.)

So how do we get these ideas out of our head?

I usually start by addressing what it is that I want to share with the audience. Usually I sit by myself and just start an imaginary conversation, as if I was performing the effect for an audience. I write down the ideas that seem important to what I want to communicate. Sometimes I write down a bit of dialogue, sometimes I write down a specific way I want to instruct the audience or I write down a question that I want to ask. I find that talking to myself in an imaginary performance situation pays off!

Here are some important things I want to do in EVERY routine.

1. I want share something about myself BEFORE I ask others to share. I think this is important and can be as simple as introducing myself, smiling silently or just shaking somebody's hand in a friendly manner. I want people to know that they are safe. I will not insult them or embarrass them. And I do not expect them to share if they do not want to. BUT by showing I am willing to be open and vulnerable, I hope that they will want to do the same on some level.

2. I want to get to the effect in a straightforward manner. If the effect is that a card is chosen and lost in the deck and then magically found in a matchbook, I want to make sure that everything I am talking about before ENHANCES the magic. I try to avoid going off on tangents. When I am involved in the mechanics of the effect, i.e. the picking of the card, the shuffle, etc. I try NOT to complicate the instructions. The audience should be able to describe in a sentence or two what it is they just saw. "The magicians had me sign a card and I shuffled it into the deck and then it DISAPPEARED! Then it ended up in the matchbook I held in my hand!"

3. I want what happens to seem magical. That is MY choice. Some people like to make a joke, some people like to scare, but I want to express the MAGIC of what I am doing. I want them to be amazed but also remain open to the idea that they just saw something very cool. I try to do this by minimizing the words I speak at the end of the effect. I try to let the magic do the talking at that point. But I try to be very gracious at the end of a routine. I have shared my magic and my audience has shared their time. Which is meaningful to me. I try to express, in a simple manner that I appreciate their time.

4. I want to share with people the things that interest me. I try to frame my routines in a way that allows me to share little things about who I am. Whether it is a bit of Chicago magic history or a bit of life philosophy...I try to expose myself, a little bit at a time. (Keeping it legal and tasteful of course!)

There are other things. But those are a few of the most important.

I try not to be intimidated by the process of writing.

Here is a secret: A script doesn't start with a script. A story doesn't start with a story.

These things start with an idea. A thought. A notion. THEN we attempt to formulate the words and structure of our sentences and try to put those thoughts on paper.

We ALL have something to share! The hard part it getting it out of our head. The challenge is to share our ideas in a way that our audience can enjoy on some level.

I suggest we learn to understand who WE are...back to self...if you, ME...listen to that which is living inside of you. If you learn to ask important questions...and I think this maybe where JT is coming from...and answer these questions TRUTHFULLY...then you can begin to formulate a script that may have a little meaning for your AUDIENCE.

JT makes a great point. WHY should they select a card? WHY should they want to?

We MUST ask ourselves those questions. For no other reason than common courtesy for our audience.

One answer is BECAUSE. (I tell my daughter that is NOT a god answer...BUT really it is.) BECAUSE I am the magician (and hopefully I seem like a genuinely decent person who you want to watch) and something MAGICAL is about to happen.


AND PEOPLE WANT TO SEE SOMETHING MAGICAL HAPPEN! They really do.

Sometimes as the wandering magician in a Strolling and Restaurant situation I begin to doubt whether or not what I am doing is relevant to the lives of the people I am hired to perform for.

When that happens I remind myself that most people will NOT see a magician up close. EVER! And that it is a special gift to be able to share something as wonderful as the art of magic with real live human beings! Very rarely do people NOT enjoy themselves and I feel better for sharing.

Sometimes that is all the motivation you need.

Max Maven shared three questions the performer should try to answer. I am not sure where he got them from but they stick in my mind. I think these questions hold true more for the magician/ performers more than they do actors.

Who are you?
What are you doing?
Why should WE (the audience) care?

I think that if you can answer these three questions and formulate your thoughts into words (YOUR WORDS) that help to communicate the answers to your audience then you are on the road to having a fine script.

Hey JT this coffee stuff is AMAZING! I think this is my longest post! Maybe I should put this stuff down. Step away from the Starbucks! MMMMM....coffee!
Message: Posted by: tommy (Sep 15, 2006 11:05AM)
What is it about the story that I like?
It’s a bit like you John: The story sort of makes you ask questions as it goes along but each answer seems to lead to asking another question. What is that noise? It’s a king sleeping, snoring in a wood! What’s a King doing there asleep? He is dreaming about you? Why? Well if he wakes you'd go out -- bang! -- just like a candle! Why?
I don’t know it’s just make believe like magic. It makes you keep asking what’s going to happen next. Like magic there is no end, where did the queen go?
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Sep 15, 2006 12:40PM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-14 21:25, tommy wrote:
Thanks Bill. That sounds better than acting to me. A more appropriate quality for a magician I mean. But I like the idea of the magician acting. I don't know. I think I like the idea of being showman better.

[/quote]

They aren't mutually exclusive. Back during the "Great Folk Music Scare of the 1960's," I would hear "musicians" say things like, "I'm not a musician, I'm an entertainer," as an excuse for playing badly. Look at Roy Clark. Here is a man who is a phenomenal guitar player, an excellent entertainer and a showman.

But to the current version of the thread --

I'm in an interesting position. As a translator of German Bizarre/Story magic, I get to see different approaches to the script. I have had the honor and pleasure of working with some of the best writers in German Bizarre/Story magic. I know how they think and how they perform. They do a buildup and then the magic happens.

I have quit writing routines based entirely upon the sequence of events in someone else's routine. Now I write scripts with a story in mind, figure out the magic that I need to give impetus and climax to the story, and then I put them all together. This is pretty much the way Borodin works.

Punx worked the other way around. He got the tricks together, then wrote the story. Both approaches work. It's a matter of making things fit properly.
Message: Posted by: P.T. Murphy (Sep 15, 2006 04:12PM)
[quote]
On 2006-09-15 11:50, P.T. Murphy wrote:

Max Maven shared three questions the performer should try to answer. I am not sure where he got them from but they stick in my mind. I think these questions hold true more for the magician/ performers more than they do actors.

[/quote]

I have been informed that Max Maven "got these" questions from...Max Maven! I should have known.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Sep 15, 2006 04:36PM)
Who are you? The Magician!
What are you doing? Magic!
Why should WE (the audience) care? Because if you don’t that there King, who is dreaming about you, will wake and you'd go out -- bang! -- just like a candle!

:)
Message: Posted by: P.T. Murphy (Sep 15, 2006 10:14PM)
And with that the voice of reason was snuffed out...
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Sep 16, 2006 12:40AM)
The inspiration for a story may be something as simple as a phone call to a friend in a hospital. Or it may be finding a novelty item that emits a pre-recorded sound. Sometimes a story starts with a real event, then takes a turn toward the bizarre. Sometimes a story asks "what if?"

The script and the blocking have to do other things. For example, if it is necessary for the audience to remember that a certain situation existed at the beginning of the trick, and was different at the end of the trick, this needs to be pointed out somehow during the script.

It does no good for the cards to change to red ones, if the audience does not know that they were blue to begin with.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Sep 16, 2006 07:35AM)
Is Magic based on reality and reason and so on or fantasy and belief and so on?

Isn’t the voice of reason snuffed out by magic?
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Sep 16, 2006 01:00PM)
This gets back to the definition of what magic is or is not.

Here we are separating the script from the interpretation by the performer, the execution of the mechanics of the trick by the performer, and the impression the audience has of what has actually taken place. The first two work together to produce the third.

Magic is not chaos. Magic has its own set of rules and logic. These are understood by both the performer and the audience. One of the rules is cause and effect. Magic doesn't just "happen." Something causes the magic to occur. This something may be the magician (his innate power, his mental mojo, or whatever), it may be an object that has special characteristics (a magic wand, a rabbit's foot, woofle dust (GAG!!!) ) or it may be a spell (an incantation, a gesture, the wiggling of the thumb.) Or there may be a pseudoscientific explanation for what occurs -- "beam me up, Scotty!"

But something must occur to make the magic happen.

Magic puts a new twist on reason.

The script, the blocking and the technical aspects must work together tightly to produce the maximum effect. The magician must use his technical and acting skills to convincingly produce the magic in the mind of the spectator.

That's where the magic takes place. It doesn't take place in your hands, on the table or on the stage. It takes place inside the spectator's head.
Message: Posted by: Lee Darrow (Sep 26, 2006 05:48PM)
To misquote Freud: "Sometimes a magic trick is just a g** D******ed MAGIC TRICK!" And sometimes people actually WANT to SEE a magic trick, believe it or not!

Anyone who ever visited the old New York lounge knows that there were very few story tricks done there - the magic was hit-and-run, leave them laughing standup comedy, fast one-liners seemingly shot from the hip material that was far closer to standup comedy that it EVER was to the legitimate theater.

And I submit, ladies and gentlemen of the forum, that this is how the VAST majority of magic today is STILL performed, particularly in the close-up venue.

So wouldn't it make MUCH more sense to study the construction, methods, scripting and delivery of the successful standup comedians (for the majority of close up magi - NOT all, I readily agree) than to go to Stanislavski, Mamet and McGaw (Acting Is Believing)?

Lee Darrow, C.H.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 26, 2006 06:20PM)
Perhaps that is why David Regal's offerings are so well received.

He was a standup comic in NY. :)
Message: Posted by: Lee Darrow (Sep 27, 2006 02:03AM)
And maybe why his material is more to the point for most close up magi?

I look at close up magic from a number of different angles, depending on what I'm doing at the time.

If I'm scripting, I'm looking at it from a number of viewpoints, as simultaneously as I can - from a neurolinguistic standpoint - how can I use the language to achieve the effects that I want - presuppositional statements, nominalizations, pacing, leading and the use of representational systems to connect with and lead the audience in the direction that I want them to go?

I also look at it from a structural standpoint in relation to the mechanics of the effect I am performing WHEN scripting - what words have to go WHERE to cover WHAT, and how do I link that with the neurolinguistic angle?

I also look at it from the comedic structure angle - how well can I use this script to set up the denouement of the effect? And how can I weave the joke INTO that blow off? And how well can I get it to fit into the REST of my set (or module - more on that in another thread)?

And then there's the overall "tightness" if you will, of the script and the effect, as a cohesive unit. Does all of this stuff FIT together? If not, tweaking might need to happen. A word may need to be shortened, lengthened or dropped, a tense might need to be changed or the time setting shifted.

It depends, but this is what I often go through when scripting, believe it or not.

And, sometimes, it just springs up, full grown. And those are usually my best work (if any of my nonsense can be called "best").

Lee Darrow, C.H.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 27, 2006 07:04AM)
Gee, scripting, timing, directorial feedback... all we need now is to admit that the skill of deliver is acting.

Is this a "chicken or the egg" type issue? Where until we try to act we are not going to get script/directing feedback? Or until we try to write we won't have the ability to discuss themes and elegance of expression?
Message: Posted by: P.T. Murphy (Oct 12, 2006 08:50AM)
If you TRY to act you are NOT acting. It is very simple. Acting is doing. Gee I hate to sound like Yoda or Uda...BUT they were on to something.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Oct 12, 2006 12:13PM)
So If you try NOT to act are you NOT acting then?
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 12, 2006 12:29PM)
[quote]
On 2006-10-12 13:13, tommy wrote:
So If you try NOT to act are you NOT acting then?
[/quote]

You can't not act. Nor can you not DO.

The question to face is whether or not we are doing what is best.

At least in plays we have a script, the support of other cast members and the director.
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Sep 9, 2021 03:49PM)
[youtube]IoxLUxvdE-g[/youtube]
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Sep 13, 2021 12:38PM)
Wow, old thread, but I'll drop my two-cents' worth in anyway.

Acting technique is all fine well and good, but one of the things that gets left out a lot is motivation: why does the character do this or say that? Motivation comes from what the character wants or doesn't want (and how badly) in terms of the story. Not the script, but the story told within the script.

Someone here mentioned drama students being booted out of their program because they couldn't "get into" their characters, and I totally believe it. Sure, maybe they memorized their lines, got the voice projection down, and learned beats and how to "cheat" for an audience, and all that technical stuff, but if they couldn't summon their characters out of the story and believe in them (and make us believe in them), they were toast.

That's one of the problems I've had with Henning Nelms' book. He treats every subject, even motivation, as so many instructions, like programming a computer. But learning to summon a character out of the story inside the script takes more than programming: it takes some serious thinking and understanding and caring about the character. There are no short cuts.

I'm not into close-up at all, so I wouldn't have a clue how to apply motivation to close-up except in the most superficial manner, but I can believe that it can be applied through really thinking it through.
Message: Posted by: Ray Pierce (Sep 13, 2021 02:57PM)
I would consider a stage act to be linked to theater but close up is more linked to film work with its increased intimacy and requirement for more subtlety and nuance in performance. No, believable acting isn’t a gift everyone has. Creating that moment of inspired spontaneity isn’t something everyone can do. As an actor first, my goal is to create an effect that seems both pure and spontaneous as I am creating a special moment with that particular person or group that depends on those special circumstances for its success. On the other hand, if you can’t believably pull that off, just tell a good story. Yes, there need to be motivated actions which camouflage the methods. Acting is just creating an illusion of a reality which many can do even without superior acting chops. Do what you can do well and build off that.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Sep 14, 2021 12:26PM)
An important note: There are different forms of theater, and different kinds of acting. In some situations, acting in magic requires "broad" or "coarse" acting as in sketch comedy. Broad acting is usually a fault, in that it pulls the audience out of the story. In broad acting, the audience is so aware of the actor and his history that they practically call for him to come out from behind his mask to entertain them. In Cyrano de Bergerac, Cyrano is outraged by the broad, but popular acting of Montfleurry. This same type of acting is essential to sketch comedy. Sid Caesar, Red Skelton and other great entertainers would frequently step out of character to comment on what is going on, or to try to get other actor's to break character. In this, the ability of the audience to emotionally become involved in the story is reduced, in favor of the fun of the process--the game of it. What would be bad acting in most theater, in sketch comedy can be comic genius.

The audience is always aware of two characters in the magician. There is the character being directly portrayed who believes in the magic and is involved in the magical story. But the mask of the sorcerer slips every now and then as we spot the Trickster behind the mask. This awareness of the presence of two characters on the stage at once gives some of the excitement to the play. It is a type of presentation that is complex and interesting.

The audience becomes part of this "theater game."

An example is in this presentation, the Six Card Trick. Here the audience is first seeing the magical character, and as he accidently drops a card, they sympathize with him, "The poor old dear..." When it is apparent that he still has six cards and was just screwing with them, they recognize the Trickster behind the mask--"the *** was playing us!" The tension and humor of this conflict can be very fun:

[youtube]x6FBog5KJVs[/youtube]
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Sep 14, 2021 01:55PM)
The relationship between the Trickster and the Magical Character is extremely interesting. It is similar to the Ventriloquist and dummy. The audience is perfectly aware that there is a controlling, clever, hidden actor behind the magical character, just as they are aware that the vent is putting every word in the dummy's mouth, yet they still end up talking to the dummy not the vent.