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Topic: Do you use a director or choreographer to improve your act ?
Message: Posted by: David Todd (Apr 9, 2003 06:55AM)
This is a new topic, bouncing off of the topic "Making Zombie look like magic", here:

http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=26712&forum=10&13

I wrote this comment at the end of one of my posts:

[quote]Tim Wright's video includes historical footage of Neil Foster performing Zombie at an Abbott's Get-Together show. Foster is a master of Zombie, as is Dale Salwak. If you can find footage of Foster and/or Salwak performing Zombie, plus the Losander techniques, you will have the right idea of how Zombie should look.

Of course, that's like saying that one could get footage of Fred Astaire dancing to see how dancing should look, but one would have to put in the long hours of practice to look as elegant as Fred Astaire. Same thing goes with Zombie. [/quote]

Also, notice my signature line is from Henning Nelms's great book "Magic and Showmanship". Nelms was a theatrical director in addition to his interest in magic.

All this to lead into starting a discussion on whether or not you have ever used a choreographer or director to work on your magic act?

As I start to return to magic after many years away, I begin to see the wisdom of authors such as Henning Nelms, who advocated approaching magic as one would any other branch of theater (singing, dancing, acting ). Magicians seem to be the exception in that we attempt to go it alone, without coaches, directors or choreographers. Why?


I've been considering trying to put together an act with a writer/director friend of mine. My request to him will be to look at the range of effects I know how to perform or would like to perform (things on my "to do" list from books like Tarbell or Greater Magic) and to actually carve out an arrangement from this mass of mere "tricks" that would actually be constructed along the lines of a play or a choreographed piece, with an actual theme and plot.

This could be an expensive proposal if using an established director, but in my case I'm thinking of using someone who is still a student in theater arts, but has amassed some knowledge and skill in staging. I think it could be very beneficial to have someone who would be willing to put in the time thinking through the construction and choreography/staging of an act, then work with me to observe me as I rehearse, offering critiques and subtle refinements, just as a director helps an actor refine their performance. The actor has memorized all his lines, just as I have memorized the moves to technically accomplish the tricks, but now the director steps in to turn these memorized lines/tricks into an actual theatrical experience.

Any thoughts on using directors?
Message: Posted by: Magicman13 (Apr 10, 2003 09:46AM)
Dai,

This is a very interesting topic you bring up. :goof: I agree with using a director. It is the right way to do things like this. As we all know there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything. I believe this is the right way. Also many of the successful performers today use directors. So that must say something. Yes, it might get costly if you have to hire a director but like you said there is many a student of theatre out there. Also there are many books like the one we both have our quotes from that help magicians that forget to approach it the same way as any other of the performing arts.

Yes, I have the same quote from the same book as you. Good read!!

:bg:

Leon
Message: Posted by: Ronin (Apr 11, 2003 01:43AM)
I've worked with directors for quite a few years.

I began seeking them out when I was writing a theatrical magic play for my own use... I worked with three different directors over the course of the three years it took me to develop the piece. In hindsight, I'm not completely satisfied with the work I did with them, but I did learn a lot about working with directors.

One difficulty I found is that the magician (me) was also functioning as the writer/playwright. This made it difficult to decide "Which to change: the script or the acting?" (in some cases, BOTH were lacking!). It felt like a big plate-spinning act at times. At least when you're working on a production of, say, "American Buffalo", the script is pretty much set.

Right now I'm working with a director who has a number of important things going for him:
1) He's a trained actor
2) He's written several plays that have actually been produced
3) He's a trained mime
4) He's a superb magician
5) (perhaps most important) He's a good friend, so we work well together, but he has NO hesitation in telling me when my work sucks!

My work has moved more into the realm of movement and choreography, and less work with text, so he's a good match. The results have been very satisfying.

Choosing a director and working with one are skills that can take time to develop. I spent about ten years working in theater, keeping my eye out for the director who I thought would be The Right One.

I also have a list of people I consult with on a regular basis— dancers, mimes, puppeteers, actors, writers and just regular folk who happen to have a good eye.

At any rate, I think working with a director is a very good thing; I'll bet that working with the person you've chosen WILL be a big help... even the directors I no longer work with helped me a lot.
Message: Posted by: David Todd (Apr 11, 2003 10:23AM)
Excellent feedback, fellows. This is what I was hoping for. Anyone else have any thoughts on this subject, please share.

I especially appreciated this point:

[quote]One difficulty I found is that the magician (me) was also functioning as the writer/playwright. This made it difficult to decide "Which to change: the script or the acting?" (in some cases, BOTH were lacking!). It felt like a big plate-spinning act at times. At least when you're
working on a production of, say, "American Buffalo", the script is pretty much set. [/quote]

That's what I'm talking about. I know I need coaching/critique/editing from someone who can look at my work objectively and strengthen it from a mere collection of "effects" to something approaching a plot or a story, even if it's a non-linear story. We magicians seem to lose so much of the punch our work could have by concentrating on the tricks and methods too much. It's like watching a movie that is all special effects, but no substance. The movies that work the best are the ones where the audience cares about the characters and finds the story compelling (the special effects serve to enhance the story and add a layer of "suspension of disbelief").

I'm definitely interested in hearing more from those of you who have found it beneficial to work with a director.
Message: Posted by: Magicman13 (Apr 15, 2003 09:47AM)
[quote] "It's like watching a movie that is all special effects, but no substance. The movies that work the best are the ones where the audience cares about the characters and finds the story compelling (the special effects serve to enhance the story and add a layer of "suspension of disbelief").[/quote]

I think that about sums it up! :wavey:

Leon
Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Dec 13, 2003 11:54PM)
My first response to your question is that the two are both needed. One is no replacement for the other.

My wife's background is ballet and professional modeling. Movements count. However, they are more universal to an act than the tricks.

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Message: Posted by: STPAULMAGICIAN (Jan 1, 2004 12:37AM)
I definitely use a director to be the eye for me that catches what I miss as well as having a person be honest and critical with you as to how your effects are playing to an audience. One of my directors is a close friend of mine who works in regional theatre. The first plus is I know that he will not lie to me if a routine or effect will play for an audience and at other times I have overridden the director because I feel that something in my experience tells me it will play and try it and see. I think for a magician it is a working partnership or perhaps a dual directorship so that your finished product has the polish you expect out of your work.

Just a new year's thought

Kurt Scott
St. Paul, Mn
Http://Members.aol.com/Stpaulmagician/Magic.html
Message: Posted by: Big Daddy Cool (Jun 7, 2004 08:29PM)
I use a theatrical director, a magical director, and a choreographer. The three work in tandem to help me create the vision I want.