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Topic: A book worth reading for Bizarrists
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jan 13, 2007 12:56PM)
I just got a neat little book in the mail. You can get this from any magic dealer who wants to order it. It's called [i]Acting For Magicians[/i] by Richard Tenace. It's a small book, but it does cover certain things that are very germane to what we do here, and it covers them very well. He starts with basic character development, goes into your silent script, and discusses the continuity of your costume, props, etc. Most magicians I know could do well to read this book and think about the things in it.

The idea of continuity of your costume and props is very important. These are part of your setting and part of your atmosphere. To borrow an example from his book, if you are doing a character that is supposed to be somewhat on the rough side, and you bring out a shiny, unscuffed Himber wallet at some point in your performance, it's going to send up some interesting vibes that will really put a crimp in your work.

Let's say that you are doing a haunted key routine. You speak about the old key you found in an old house. Then you pull out a chrome-plated skeleton key that is as shiny as it was the day you got it at the hardware store.

You will be sending off shockwaves to your audience.
Message: Posted by: ptbeast (Jan 13, 2007 01:20PM)
On 2007-01-13 13:56, Bill Palmer wrote:
... if you are doing a character that is supposed to be somewhat on the rough side, and you bring out a shiny, unscuffed Himber wallet at some point in your performance, it's going to send up some interesting vibes that will really put a crimp in your work.


I guess it all depends on how long ago you stole the wallet. ;)

Seriously, this is an area that is under-explored. Thanks for passing along the title.

Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jan 13, 2007 02:14PM)
If you think of what we are doing as theatre, you can also think of it in terms of scenes from a movie. The next time you watch a movie, look at the credits. You will usually find a credit for "continuity." The person in charge of continuity will make sure that all the pieces fit -- the furniture, costumes and buildings look correct, the props all fit the period and everything has the appearance of authenticity. When they filmed Urban Cowboy, the fellow who owned the lounge that was portrayed in the movie "Shelley's," which eventually became "Gilley's," walked into the part of the set that was supposed to represent his office. The desk was such a good copy of the desk back in Pasadena, TX, that he expected to find his account books in the drawers when he pulled them open. That's how convincing we should be, I think.

So much of what we do is atmosphere that we need to remember to maintain the continuity.

Imagine if you were doing story magic at a renaissance festival, and you reached into a plastic bag that says "Wal Mart" on the side to retrieve a prop.
Message: Posted by: Bill Ligon (Jan 13, 2007 03:00PM)
On 2007-01-13 15:14, Bill Palmer wrote:

Imagine if you were doing story magic at a renaissance festival, and you reached into a plastic bag that says "Wal Mart" on the side to retrieve a prop.

Or even aluminum cups or rubber balls.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jan 13, 2007 03:30PM)
Exactly. Although aluminum cups might be difficult to tell from, say, silver ones, unless you passed them for examination. I always used a leather cup.
Message: Posted by: egregor (Jan 13, 2007 03:33PM)
I was asked to be director of continuity on an independent film project, and if any of you doubt the complexity of the job, think about this, a scene ends, the director calls for a five minute break. The actors get a drink of water, the scene resets, it's your job to notice as miniscule a detail as the lead actor loosened his tie just a little, if you don't notice, it shows up in the dailies and the scene must be reshot costing thousands of dollars.
I've read some of Richards published works at Visions, and they are quite insightful. Bill has found a gem.
Message: Posted by: magus (Jan 13, 2007 04:26PM)
Watch a movie where someone is smoking a cigarette. As the camera cuts back and forth between actors, sometimes the length of the cigarette/ash gets shorter and longer. Or a clear plastic cup that the character sips from will fill and empty through the scene.
I've read in several sources to light a candle with a stick match, not a lighter or book matches, not because a psychic or medium couldn't or wouldn't light a candle with a lighter, but because it subltly "seems" right to the audience.
Message: Posted by: Bill Ligon (Jan 13, 2007 04:26PM)
And if you have ever seen a watch outline on the wrist of a medieval soldier, you know somebody missed something. That's how difficult a job it can be.
Message: Posted by: SpellbinderEntertainment (Jan 13, 2007 05:58PM)
Someone said this was an area of magic that was unexplored????

There are a gazillion posts on Magic Café about theatre for magicians.
And there are dozens of books which cover this area as well.

Thanks Bill for bringing it up again, since many don’t get the idea.
I do an entire day workshop on this for magicians (bizarre or not).

At least take a community college acting class,
better still get a director for your show.

Why do magicians usually think they can do it all?

Message: Posted by: Dr Spektor (Jan 13, 2007 06:06PM)
Well its theatre but also good theatre! The concept of context/texture of the act being doing is always important - for example - when I do any Twilight Zone effects, I use a viper deck, a special pen and business card case with art deco 1950s black and white pattern - all reminiscent of B&W TV, classy (I hope) mysterious, with some artistic connection to the starry background of TZ... (for close up at least)...always in at least a sports jacket and slacks - no sharpie ever appears etc. nor would I do the effects in jeans (then I might as well go for the Hitchhiker style which involves other props etc). So, to me, its not just about character - its about the scene itself in which your character and your other protagonists (the specs) will be interacting in...i.e. Bill strikes again!

(You'd be surprised how this might also help guide spec selection (well everyone on this thread likely wouldn't be :))...
Message: Posted by: ptbeast (Jan 13, 2007 07:31PM)
Walt, I didn't say that it was unexplored, I said it was "under-explored." Yes, there are threads here and elsewhere in which magicians (usually bizarrists) discuss theatrical aspects of magic. But when you look at all the posts and all the books on magic out there, a very, very small percentage even touch on this important subject. I will stand by my "under-explored." ;)

Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jan 16, 2007 03:13AM)
A good director can make your act 100% better without your having to invest a dime in any extra props or anything else.

Many towns have extension universities that offer classes in theatre. In Houston, there are also "Sundry Schools," such as Leisure Learning Unlimited, which offer classes that help you focus on what theatre is. Even these can help a lot of us.

Nothing is more effective, though, than time on the boards. If you are in a situation where you can get involved in a community theatre, by all means, do it. It will teach you things you need to know.
Message: Posted by: Black Hart (Jan 16, 2007 04:15AM)
My director for our 'Haunted House Nights' was BBC Radio Presnter Gordon Astley. He watched every performance (well he was in them as well of course) and he also sat at the back of each 'Black Magic Theatre Show and Seance'. If he could not hear me loud enough he would put his hand to his ear and if what I was doing was not visible enough the would point to his eyes (of course the audience could not see him as they were facing me). Afterwards we always had a debrief. What worked, what did not work, what was the best position to hold an item etc. etc. Gordon was always very truthful and did not bull****.

This was invaluable to me and helped to hone the act.

It is well worth taking the advice of a professional.

Keith Hart
Message: Posted by: ptbeast (Jan 16, 2007 02:31PM)
I agree that a good director can work wonders for you show. If you can't (or don't want to) go out an hire a professional director, find another performer (it need not be a magician, by the way -- in fact, perhaps it is better if it isn't) and have them do very much what Black Hart describes above. I have done this with other performers (and with other lawyers to improve courtroom performance) and have always found it very valuable.

Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Nov 1, 2008 03:59AM)
The book of Richard L Tenace that Bill presented here is about building a character.

It's not about choosing a good director (which for sure works wonders when one already has built his character and the effects of its act).

It's a "how to" book. Not another lengthy statement analyzing the necessity of having one.

In other words Richard is not in the wishful thinking that spreads in lots of the posts referred to in this thread.

He supplies a real serious path in consistent character building and then in the consistent choice of effects for this character. The structure of the act in relation to the character and the chosen effects (very much in line with ptbeast post) is also gently touched. The choice of clothing and language associated with the character (again not an analysis but an "how to" help) is well treated.

Published in 1998, the book has been unfairly ignored or left in the shadow. It's a gem. I think we should all thank Bill for putting the spotlight on a handy tool instead of doing a moral lecture of what we ought to do as some other magicians tend to do.

I highly recommand this little somewhat interactive book and I'm sure that magicians of the caliber of Whit Haydn who is master at character building would do it as well. If Whit reads this I'd love to have his comment on the book.

The book could probably be further enriched by reading (afterwards) the Edward de Bono Six Thinking Hats book.
Message: Posted by: Steve_Mollett (Nov 1, 2008 07:42AM)
Theatre was part of my major in college, and the classes were a pivotal help in staging routines (sets, music, movement, etc.)
I still have my Scenography & Stage Technology textbook.
Message: Posted by: spook (Nov 1, 2008 04:15PM)
Lawrence O has said it all. This slim, slim volume is worth a thousand internet blowhards.