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Topic: Whit (Pop) Haydn and Character Development
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 9, 2012 12:43PM)
(open letter to Whit Haydn)

Dear Mr. Haydn,

One of the most difficult and I think most important things in performing magic is character development. After watching some of your videos and seeing your "character" change over time, I was wondering if you can give me and others here in the Magic Café a little history and insight into your character(s) over time, how they developed, and any tips or pointers for the rest of us as we begin, and continue, to develop our characters. Thank you.

Magically Yours,

Dean Burgess
Message: Posted by: The Burnaby Kid (Mar 9, 2012 02:44PM)
You might want to try posting this in the Food For Thought section down near the bottom of the main page. Whit's good about answering questions but I don't know how often he makes it up to the Newbie section.
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 9, 2012 02:58PM)
[quote]
On 2012-03-09 15:44, The Burnaby Kid wrote:
You might want to try posting this in the Food For Thought section down near the bottom of the main page. Whit's good about answering questions but I don't know how often he makes it up to the Newbie section.
[/quote]

Hi Burnaby Kid,

I think you are right, it would probably be a more appropriate section. Unfortunately, I don't know how to move it. :-(
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 9, 2012 05:18PM)
Well, here it is! That's why its the Magic Café!

I don't think newbies should be worrying about character development. There are so many other important skills to work on first. In general, learning routines and finding out what magic appeals to you the most, getting up in front of a crowd and learning how to relax and keep their attention--these are much more important.

The best thing is to focus on being natural and normal in presentation--to be yourself talking normally to a group, rather than speaking and acting in a declamatory, stilted way.

As you become comfortable with your magic and presentation in front of a group, then I would start working more on character.

There is a big difference between character and theme, and beginners often make a mistake here. They chose a theme like Indiana Jones, or Western Gambler, and for the most part, these are just costumes they put on.

The hat wears the performer, rather than the performer wearing the hat.

A character is much more. He has a backstory, a reason for being here in front of this crowd at this particular time, something he wants from the audience, and something he wants to give them. A cliched costume just sets the theme.

There is a big difference in dressing up like your favorite hero for Halloween and playing a character.

When you are comfortable performing as yourself, you then start constructing the backstory of how you came to have your magic abilities, what makes them work, why you are showing them here, and so forth. It is as if you take your own life story and embellish it with an explanation of how you came to be here like this and what these powers mean to you. You treat your own story and stretch it into a magical character. Still, you only have to be yourself. You don't tell anyone your backstory, you let it infuse your patter and performance so that the audience gets glimpses of it and sense a kind of integrity behind the performance. Once you have learned to play yourself as a character in a story, you have learned the basics of acting. Many actors have had successful careers without much range--almost always playing a version of themselves--Edward G Robinson, Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne. They could play in all sorts of stories, but generally had to play Americans. They didn't have range to change their voices, faces and mannerisms into that of a completely different character. That sort of range is exemplified by actors like Laurence Olivier.

The magician will usually only create one character, and he can play it for life. It is himself, but with a different backstory.

Creating a completely different character for your magic than yourself requires training in acting, or at least a great deal of study. It is fraught with difficulties.
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 9, 2012 08:56PM)
Hi Mr. Haydn,

Thank you so much for answering. My parents have a film of me performing a couple of magic tricks when I was 5 or 6 years old. I loved it, of course, but never really pursued magic except as a hobby for many years. The reason is because I was never comfortable with what I was doing. I mostly saw large stage illusions on tv and that was pretty much the limit of my magical experience. I took to closeop a little better, but of course that was mostly for friends. Then I moved to performing for charities and events, but whatever I was doing still wasn't "me." Oh, I have had several gigs with several hundred people, but I still wasn't happy with my performance because it didn't "click" with me. What has fascinated me lately is watching your progression over time thru your videos and contemplating why you did what you did and how comfortable you seem in your character. I noticed that in your comedy linking rings routine on your video you were a bit younger and your character is fairly different than it is now with the sort of western character. In both you still have, under the surface, that sort of playful trickster type personality. Though your characters are different, BOTH are still YOU. On the surface it seemed so at odds with each other, a person dressed semi-formally and a western huckster. So I began to ask myself, who am I? It freed me because I have stopped trying to play someone else.

I think you mentioned it in your response to me. For me, I am the person with my experiences. The people I know, the places I've been, my observations and such. So I have been busy re-working the stuff I already knew. I have a history, and how I learned magic, the people I saw and the places I have been are all a part of it (real or sometimes even imagined.) My magic suddenly seems honest and fun to perform.

New questions arise now. Things like, what am I trying to say here? What am I trying to portray? What do I want to share with them? And what am I looking for from them? (I think I want to share my story, what excites me, what I find interesting and hopefully what they give back is that they were interested, they enjoyed my story, and the time we shared together...)

Well, I don't know, your metamorphasis or maybe just a progression from the character in your original comedy linking rings video seem so different than your teaching act character, but yet the same. There is still the twinkle in your eye, just maybe more pronounced now. How did you come on the western character and why? Were there any particular folks that you watched that particularly affected your school of thought on magic, and particularly your character? So many questions...I apologize but do thank you for your time.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 10, 2012 11:41AM)
Well, I started out in the late 1960's as a street performer in NYC. I had a Southern accent (I am from Tenn/NC and my family is from VA). In 1974, I joined a traveling improvisational theater company called the Road Co. I worked on losing my accent, and developing better projection. I had learned to speak loudly on the street, but I would strain my voice. Working with direction, I was able to project loudly without strain. I began doing an illusion/dove act show in amusement parks, and that is where I developed my stage persona.

At that time, I was pretty brash and smart-alecky, and I sounded kind of like Jack Nicholson, who was one of the guys I imitated when trying to lose my accent. At this time, I was not as concerned about character as about constructing solid routines and patter, and learning how to hold the audience's attention. Basic performing skills, and finding solid magic routines that I liked to perform consumed most of my attention.

Once I had the act together and it was entertaining and strong, I started thinking more about character. I moved to Los Angeles in 1975, and there I began developing the Teaching Act. The ring routine and rope routines had been developed as part of my street act in the 1960's. The silk to egg and torn and restored newspaper I added while working in the amusement park stage show.

The two street routines were "teaching" themed routines, and I added the other two to make a whole act of teaching magic, with each routine taking the theme in a different direction. Once the whole act took shape, I began finding things in the material that began to shape my character. I started developing a nervous, slightly out of his depth, but glib substitute magic teacher with an unruly class. The character was "put upon" and the more he was heckled and beset by the audience or assisting spectator, the more funny he became. The character was "dry" without a lot of emotional ups and downs. I played with it for many years, often trying to see just how flat and dry I could take the character without losing the audience.

Eventually, the act began to appeal more to intelligent audiences, and to lose some people. I found that the character didn't have a wide-enough range emotionally, and I couldn't do a lot of magic that I really liked, and I couldn't take the audience as many different places emotionally as I wanted to--I felt straight-jacketed, and began to look for new directions.

In 2005, I was asked to come to Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita for the Cowboy Festival. They wanted me to play the con man, and do the shell game all day on the streets. I jumped at the chance, and put together an Old West costume. I tried to do a Western accent, but it sounded like Gabby Hayes. So I did a Southern accent, based on my grandfather's archaic Southern Virginia accent. It cut through the clutter in a surprising way. People were attracted to the deep, loud Southern accent. I was very surprised by the response.

That is when I began developing the Pop character.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 13, 2012 02:07PM)
At first, I had planned to create a Soapy Smith-like character just to do the shell game and other things in that theme. I quickly began find that very limiting. I wanted to still be able to do the Linking Rings and other magic routines, and that didn't seem to fit in with a sure-thing gambler. I also didn't want to be trapped in some kind of re-enactment show that would relegate me to festivals and theme parks.

I first thought of making the character an entertainer/con man. Alexander Pantages, though not a performer, was a bartender for Soapy Smith who left Alaska for Dawson City in the Klondike after being caught stealing from Soapy. He became enamoured of Klonkike Kate, a famous Dawson showgirl. He married her and parlayed her talents into a huge Vaudeville career, founding the Pantages theater chain.

I thought that could be the basis for my character.

Later, I decided that the character would be a medicine show operator and pitchman. This gave me more room for doing comedy pitches. Because the character is a vaudevillian magician, he could do any magic trick he wants, and also juggle and play and instrument.

I didn't want him to be stuck in the past, having to act ignorant of contemporary issues and jargon, I decided he would have to be a time-traveller who is stuck here in the 21st century. I decided to make him a crackpot inventor as well, something the turn of the century was full of. This also enabled me to have him do the Teleportation Device, which I had done for years in my other character. So the story of Pop began to develop.

I created a history for the character, based on my own personal history. The more I knew about Pop's background and history, the more convincing he could be. So I had him born in Clarkesville, Tennessee, as I was, but in 1849 instead of 1949. His family was from Virginia, and he went to school in Virginia, and studied for the Episcopal ministry at Virginia Theological Seminary. I had him drop out of seminary in his last year, as I did, but gave him a more interesting story about being thrown out and embarrassing his family.

He missed serving in the Civil War, having not graduated from High School until 1867. After seminary, he traveled around the world as part of the US merchant marines. This reflected the many years I spent at sea, and enabled me to use my experiences and knowledge of Africa, Hong Kong, Bali, India and Malaysia as part of his character. I got tattoos on both arms that reflected that experience as something from the 1870's. On returning to the US, the character went west, and got involved in Deadwood with sharpers and card cheats and sure-thing gamblers. He eventually ended up with Soapy Smith, and went to Alaska for the Gold Rush. In Alaska, he tired of the con games, and became interested in performing more than the little card tricks he used to entertain his friends and the ladies. He also became fascinated with emerging technology and science, and became a dabbler in radio and electrical experiments, as well as chemistry.

After the Gold Rush, he put together a little company of medicine show performers and con artists and traveled all over California, 1900-1910. An accident with a Tesla-style giant coil in Whitehorse Ranch caused his troupe and all the citizens of the town to be thrown into the 21st Century with no way back.

That is the basic backstory for the character.

None of this is ever explained in performance, it is just the hidden story behind what is actually going on. The cowboys of the town had to find their way in this new century, as well as the medicine show troupe. We do here what we have always done, selling medicine, trimming the suckers, and putting on entertainments.

Pop is sort of based on Professor Marvel from the Wizard of Oz. He is a total humbug and conman, who may be a genius or a crackpot, but if anyone has any "real magic" in his back pocket, it would be him. So Pop has the whiff of time travel, eccentric genius, and travels to the far reaches of the planet with knowledge of shamans and witchdoctors and primitive medicines.

I chose the name "Pop" because con men of the period liked avuncular names, (Dad Ryan, Pop Kriegor, Uncle Bill, etc.) because it made them seem respected and loved, and trustworthy, and made them one up as soon as the name was used. "Just call me Pop, everbody does..." "Good to meet you, Pop!" "Good to know you, son."

I also wanted to avoid the common and overused "Doc" or "Professor." That would put me right even with everyone else in the country doing medicine show.

I wanted to be different, because I did not intend to go into the fair and themepark and reenactment venues.
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 14, 2012 08:54AM)
That's very interesting. I'm a little surpised that you have developed your backstory that much, but knew there was a lot more there than most of us knew. I find it interesting that in your comedy linking ring video you are actually teaching the volunteer, and then even though you have changed characters, there "Pop" is with his The Teaching Act. And you obviously are very generous with your time and insight here. Baseball players deep down want to be rock stars, rock stars want to be baseball players. Seems you and your characters enjoy teaching?
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 14, 2012 09:53AM)
That's very interesting. I'm a little surpised that you have developed your backstory that much, but knew there was a lot more there than most of us knew. I find it interesting that in your comedy linking ring video you are actually teaching the volunteer, and then even though you have changed characters, there "Pop" is with his The Teaching Act. And you obviously are very generous with your time and insight here. Baseball players deep down want to be rock stars, rock stars want to be baseball players. Seems you and your characters enjoy teaching?
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 14, 2012 12:44PM)
Well, nothing much gets taught. The Teaching Act has been my standard act for more than thirty years. It is not something you would want to give up to spend another thirty years getting something else right.

The reason for the teaching is that it gives the magical character an ostensible reason to be on stage and showing these effects. "I am here to teach you how to do these old chestnuts of magic." The real motive for the character is always something different. Both Whit and Pop are intentionally hooking the audience with a false promise. Both characters have their own real reasons for being on stage that have nothing to do with teaching.

"Teaching" is a conman ploy by the characters to get around the audience's prejudices against magic, and especially against these particular, hoary old effects.

If someone moans when the rings come out, the character says, "It's a classic, like Silas Marner. It is requiered. You have to learn it."

I don't want to be a rockstar. I just want to be a weird old Southern vaudevillian and medicine man.
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 14, 2012 12:49PM)
Mr. Haydn,

I know you grew up in Tennessee. I grew up in South Carolina. Some of my fondest memories are sitting on my grandparent’s front porch on their farm, listening to the old folks tell stories. Or watching my grandfather get up early in the morning while the smell of bacon and eggs and grits and coffee filled the air from my grandmother cooking while my grandfather would hook those old wire-rimmed glasses over his ears and would read the Bible to me. Or maybe just sitting out on their back porch all alone on a hot summer afternoon and listen to the thunder in the distance and the foggy haze of the rain in the distance cross the woods and over the fields, the ground spewing up dust as the first few large drops of rain made its way in a sheet and came down on their tin roof. Los Angeles is a heckuva long way from Tennessee, and I notice you said at one point in the theatre you had tried to lose your southern accent. But “Pop” looks and sounds eerily familiar. How much of that did you bring with you, and how much of it do you draw on? I mean, I just spent a bit of time listening to the radio medicine show and….
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 14, 2012 06:13PM)
I draw on it a lot. I grew up in Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. My family is from Virginia. As I said, at first I was doing an impression of my grandfather from southwestern Virginia. As things progressed, I started finding out that as I performed, images of old Southern men that I knew growing up started popping up. In junior high I used to hang out at the stables in downtown Greenville, North Carolina. That is where they kept the ponies for cart-racing. Four or five old men were usually hanging out, spitting tobacco into tin cans and telling stories around the space heater. I helped clean the tack, and shovel the stalls so I could listen to their wonderful story-telling.

I found Pop just automatically falling into their mannerisms and big-eyed facial expressions as well as their language and accents. I added over this some Westernisms to reflect years of working out in the West, and rhetorical flourishe that would have suited a man who studied rhetoric in the 1870's. I also felt that he would have considered himself a Shakespearean actor, and that his years at sea would have given him some sailor's expressions and his booming voice. It took three or four years to get Pop's accent and mannerisms right, and I am still working on that.

But my knowledge of Southern story-telling, Jack Tales like my granddaddy told me when I was little, and hermeneutics served me well in extending the character's range. The cultivated Tidewater accents I heard so much when in Seminary in Alexandria also appealed to me, and added a bit of a cultured veneer to the character. He would surely have copied this accent to some extent in order to sound more like the professors and doctors he admired in Virginia.

So my knowledge of the South, its foods and customs and accent made it the natural basis for my character's early life. I just had to project things back a bit to the 19th Century, which wasn't so hard, since the old men I knew growing up still talked much that way. Accents in the South are not nearly so thick now as they were when I was growing up.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 14, 2012 06:21PM)
I was an actor working with a traveling improvisational company headquartered in Johnson City, Tennessee for a couple of years after seminary. I took lessons to lose my Southern accent at that time. I worked for 30 years without an accent, and really only spoke with a Southern accent when I was talking to my mom on the phone or amongst other Southerners. My wife always knew when my mom was on the phone, because in about five minutes I was talking with a Southern accent.

Once I started using the accent again, it was hard to stop, and hard moving in and out of it. People who had seen me perform were very disappointed when they heard me talk without the accent and realized Pop was just "a character."

It was like pullling the head off the ventriloquist's dummy after the show--it was disconcerting. Eventually, I decided I would just stay in character all the time--if a more relaxed, "Off-Stage" version of the character. My friends, wife and Magic Castle members eventually got used to and accepted the new accent--but a lot of people had trouble with it for some time. They didn't realize that the accent and mannerisms were actually much more "me" than the mid-western character they were familiar with...and of course, I worked hard to lower my voice an octave, to give me a more booming and interesting sound.
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 14, 2012 09:52PM)
I seem to remember you saying once on the topic of young magicians copying material as they learned, that you thought it was ok for young magicians to do that, but then in order to grow they need to evolve and come up with their own material and way of doing things. I believe you likened it to a young art student spending hours and hours practicing and copying works of the masters such as Rembrandt, Picasso, etc. I thought that was a very generous thought. Would you care to expound on that a bit?

Also, I think I have looked at most of your routines that are on video and even a look at your websites. I think they both show a great deal of attention to detail and love for magic. Is there anything you don't like about magic?
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 14, 2012 11:17PM)
"Is there anything you don't like about magic?" I don't particularly like the business and promotional side of magic.

I have spoken about learning by copying on other threads, and we can start a new one if you like, but let us keep this to the subject of character. Generally, I think we learn best by imitation. I don't say that everyone needs to evolve past that--there is a lot of room for cover acts and copyists in show business, and not everyone is committed enough or talented enough to be original. One can be quite successful in show business without doing anything original at all. It is much more important to be different from those in your venues than it is to be original.

On the other hand, one will never become an artist without the impulse to come up with something new and original, or without knowing how to steal "artfully."

If you don't have something original to say about magic, if you don't have a need to express your own love and joy through magic, if you don't see problems to solve in the routines you have learned, there is no need to be "original."

As far as stealing artfully, if the people you steal from don't notice the theft, you have done it right.
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 15, 2012 08:03AM)
Indeed. I am trying to keep these questions fairly tightly directed to character development.

It seems the theatre has served you well on multiple fronts. You mentioned a couple of things, though, that I think I have as definite weakness in furthering my skills. One, of course, is that I have a fairly substantial southern accent as well. And though I don't find it necessarily contrary to my character, I do think I need to let go of a great deal of it. Also, Pop's voice has a certain resonance. I'm not sure I have the time or even the inclination to join the theatre, But I have contemplated joining the local Toastmasters. Any thoughts on ajusting accents and maybe trying to develop a more melodic or pleasing resonance?

(And I'm almost done, I promise.)
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 15, 2012 08:40AM)
And probably my final questions. But first let me try to put it in context.

My character seems to draw upon his experiences, growing up, the places he's been, the people he's met. But he also seems to come to it from a sort of off-center sort of way. I have even thought about a little making my stage name something like Hugh Otto Know, as in You Outta Know I was just pulling your leg. So maybe its the old characters in my youth that has effected me, but the art of the story is important to me.

Anyway, I had read a little a couple of years back a piece about creating and releasing tension in your magic. Then I thought, OK, what if I stretch this and use comedy in my magic to release tension and entertwine that with stories that create tension.

So that's what I did. The stories were emotional, some I had made up myself, some I had heard or read. Here is one to sort of give context. I apologize for its length here, but its only maybe about 5 minutes in the telling on stage.

++++
A young girl grows up on a cherry orchard just above Traverse City, Michigan. Her parents, a bit old-fashioned, tend to overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to and the length of her skirts. They ground her a few times, and she seethes inside. “I hate you!” she screams at her father when he knocks on the door of her room after an argument, and that night she acts on a plan she has mentally rehearsed scores of times. She runs away.


She has visited Detroit only once before, on a bus trip with her church youth group to watch the Tigers play. Because newspapers in Traverse City report in lurid detail of the gangs, the drugs and the violence in downtown Detroit, she concludes that this is probably the last place her parents will look for her. California, maybe, or Florida, but not Detroit.


Her second day there she meets a man who drives the biggest car she’s ever seen. He offers her a ride, buys her lunch, arranges a place for her to stay. He gives her some pills that make her feel better than she’s ever felt before. She was right all along, she decides: Her parents were keeping her from all the fun.


The good life continues for a month, two months, a year. The man with the big car – she calls him “Boss” – teaches her a few things that men like. Since she’s underage, men pay a premium for her. She lives in a penthouse and orders room service whenever she wants. Occasionally, she thinks about the folks back home, but their lives now seem so boring and provincial that she can hardly believe she grew up there.


She has a brief scare when she sees her picture printed on the back of a milk carton with the headline, “Have you seen this child?” But by now she has blonde hair, and with all the makeup and body-piercing jewelry she wears, nobody would mistake her for a child. Besides, most of her friends are runaways, and nobody squeals in Detroit.


After a year, the first sallow signs of illness appear, and it amazes her how fast the boss turns mean. “These days, we can’t mess around,” he growls, and before she knows it, she’s out on the street without a penny to her name. She still turns a couple of tricks a night, but they don’t pay much, and all the money goes to support her habit. When winter blows in, she finds herself sleeping on metal grates outside the big department stores, “Sleeping” is the wrong word – a teenage girl at night in downtown Detroit can never relax her guard. Dark bands circle her eyes. Her cough worsens.


One night as she lies awake listening for footsteps, all of a sudden everything about her life looks different. She no longer feels like a woman of the world. She feels like a little girl, lost in a cold and frightening city. She begins to whimper. Her pockets are empty, and she’s hungry. She needs a fix. She pulls her legs tight underneath her and shivers

under the newspapers she’s piled atop her coat. Something jolts a synapse of memory and a single image fills her mind: May in Traverse City, when a million cherry trees bloom at once, with her golden retriever dashing through the rows and rows of blossomy trees in chase of a tennis ball.


God, why did I leave, she says to herself, and pain stabs at her heart. My dog back home eats better than I do now. She’s sobbing, and she knows in a flash that more than anything else in the world she wants to go home.


Three straight phone calls, three straight connections with the answering machine. She hangs up without leaving a message the first two times, but the third time she says, “Dad, Mom, it’s me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, well, I guess I’ll just stay on the bus until it hits Canada.”


It takes about seven hours for a bus to make all the stops between Detroit and Travers City, and during that time she realizes the flaws in her plan. What if her parents are out of town and miss the message? Shouldn’t she have waited another day or so until she could talk to them? And even if they are home, they probably wrote her off as dead long ago. She should have given them some time to overcome the shock.


Her thoughts bounce back and forth between those worries and the speech she is preparing for her father. “Dad, I’m sorry. I know I was wrong. It’s not your fault; it’s all mine. Dad, can you forgive me?” She says the words over and over, her throat tightening even as she rehearses them. She hasn’t’ apologized to anyone in years.


The bus has been driving with lights on since Bay City. Tiny snowflakes hit the pavement rubbed worn by thousands of tires, and the asphalt steams. She’s forgotten how dark it gets at night out here. A deer darts across the road and the bus swerves. Every so often, a billboard. A sign posting the mileage to Traverse City. Oh, God.


When the bus finally rolls into the station, its air brakes hissing in protest, the driver announces in a crackly voice over the microphone, “Fifteen minutes, folks. That’s all we have here.” Fifteen minutes to decide her life. She checks herself in a compact mirror, smoothes her hair and licks the lipstick off her teeth. She looks at the tobacco stains on her fingertips and wonders if her parents will notice. If they’re here.


She walks into the terminal not knowing what to expect. Not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind prepare her for what she sees. There, in the concrete-wall-and-plastic-chairs bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stands a group of forty brothers and sisters and great-aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother and great-grandmother to boot. They’re all wearing goofy party hats and blowing noisemakers, and taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a computer-generated banner that reads, “Welcome home!”


Out of the crowd of well-wishers breaks her dad. She stares out through the tears quivering in her eyes like hot mercury and begins the memorized speech, “Dad, I’m sorry. I know…”


He interrupts her. “Hush, child. We’ve got no time for that. No time for apologies. You’ll be late for the party. A banquet’s waiting for you at home.”

++++

Now, I think there were probably about 150 or 160 people in the audience and fully 30-40 people came up after I was done and commented on the show, which I'm sure is the most I've ever had and defintely gave the most positive feedback. Although most were on the order of, "I hate you, you had me bursting out in laughter while I was still crying."

Now, I definitely took that and all of their comments as a positive. But I have never performed that again. One is because I have a fear of the story being overbearing on the magic. I could see magicians saying, "Oh, he's not a magician, he is a storyteller that does tricks." So I am very leery to repeat that and allow my character to develop along that line, even though storytelling is a part of me and I think, to a certain extent, a part of my character. I can't remember anyone else doing anything similar to what I did and perhaps it would open myself up to a bit of ridicule in the magic community. Any thoughts?
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 15, 2012 11:58AM)
Well, I am not a big fan of combining story-telling with magic. Theatrically, one is a once-upon a time theatrical experience which induces imaginative participation and suspension of disbelief, the other is a realtime demonstration that forces imaginative thought by shutting down the deductive reason.

Combining the two is fraught with difficulties.

Story-telling is also different in the quality of emotional involvement from theater in general. It requires suspension of disbelief, but the emotions are not felt or demonstrated to the audience as actors in a play, but resonate in the story itself. In magic, the emotions are touched through the relationship of the performer to his audience in real time. The magician is the one having emotional changes and interplay with the audience--magician in trouble for example.

Story telling is mostly an auditory, almost inductive process.

Magic stimulates the critical faculties, story-telling relaxes them.

Most people are easily moved by stock response, but it is not artistic. It "grieves the judicious," just as does bad or coarse acting. A redemption story such as you have told, and I think you told it pretty well, is always going to have an emotional resonance with people, but it may not really offer anything new or truly stimulating--it is a retelling of the prodigal son. To touch people's emotions so easily, is not artistic, even though it may be effective for most of the audience, it grieves the judicious with its lack of original thought. To enact the part of the girl would take much more daring and have much more actual emotional connection between the performer and his audience. But still, the story is overly familiar. What is new and groundbreaking in the story? You should look for that which actually reveals something new and surprising in the retelling of an old story.

I would not let what magicians say influence your artistic impulses. If you want to create something new and artistic, you have to follow your own interests. On the other hand, if you are seeking to make a living at magic, you may want to consider looking at your act from a commercial rather than purely artistic point of view.

You should work on your voice with a vocal coach, or singing coach. It is less expensive than you think, but it does take work. I do a half-hour of vocal exercises every morning.

You can also practice reading poetry and prose out loud. It helps to use a microphone and headphones so you can begin to really listen to what you sound like.

I would not get over-involved in working on character until you already have a strong magic act that is entertaining.

I have seen magic acts that couldn't hold a dog's attention for more than a few seconds with a piece of bacon in their hands. First you have to know show business--being entertaining and able to hold the audience's attention--before you work on character and acting.

Magic is artistically, about the magic. Everything else you do should serve to make the magic as strong as possible.

I definitely think you should keep your accent, and explore your own story. Create a backstory for your character that brings him onto THIS stage in front of THIS audience. Don't tell them the story, but let the story shine behind the performance.

In a magic show, the audience really wants to meet a magician, not be told about one.
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 15, 2012 12:09PM)
Mr. Haydn,

Maybe just because it was personal to me, but this has been one of the most entertaining and thought-provoking threads I have read here in the Magic Café. Hopefully, others may have gotten something out of it as well. I really do thank you for your time. And great luck on your Teleportation Device Routine and Stage Magician of the Year!

ps. May I call you Pop?
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 15, 2012 12:11PM)
Please call me Pop. All my friends do, and it sounds so much better than what some of the others call me... :)
Message: Posted by: funsway (Mar 16, 2012 05:01AM)
As usual, I heartely agree with 90% of what Pop says and have problems with 10%

"Story telling is mostly an auditory, almost inductive process.

Magic stimulates the critical faculties, story-telling relaxes them."

are opinions geared towards the idea of "I want to me the best magician possible" Great -- if that is your goal. Research everything Whit has ever posted and buy his effect package with his "Story" included.

However, if you desire to be the best story-teller possible it will take as much work as becoming a great actor or a great magician. It is possible for a Story-Teller to cause a "suspension of disbelief," fill the senses with images of awe and wonder, shock a listener into Wht's False Dilemma and create a "30 year memory" of the magic that occurs. ( you can describe a magic effect and cause the same memory response as actually seeing it)

Should magic tricks be employed in a such story-telling? Carefully, as Whit mentions, but not eliminated off-hand. A properly applied magic effect can be a visual aid or dissonant note or a way of sustaining attention.

Orson Wells could (and did) captivate an audience by reading out of the phone book. He was also a magician. I never heard of his combining the two, but his performance were consider "magical" by many. The War of the Worlds event was magic in results if not planning.

With either goal (and others too) -- volunteer at a hospital an read stories aloud to listeners with as much passion and empathy as you can muster. The tell stories of your own. The make of your own life a story worth telling. Magic will fit in there somewhere
Message: Posted by: Johnny Butterfield (Mar 16, 2012 09:25AM)
[quote]
On 2012-03-16 06:01, funsway wrote:
( you can describe a magic effect and cause the same memory response as actually seeing it)[/quote]

I don't believe this is so. Could you do this for us? A video, an mp# or something, and get the same response from me as seeing a magic trick? I would love to experience this.

[quote]
On 2012-03-16 06:01, funsway wrote:
his performance were consider "magical" by many. The War of the Worlds event was magic in results if not planning.[/quote]

You're equivocating. Nobody would call that a "magic trick", nor a "magic show" nor that it was "performed by a magician". Do you understand that "magical" is used as an adjective to describe something, and that doesn't always mean that it is "our magic"?
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 16, 2012 12:19PM)
I think it is fine to use magic tricks as story-telling aids. But in that case, the magic is meant to serve the story--magic is used as a transitional device, or a thematic accent. This is fine, but it isn't magic as an art. It is story-telling. When magic is used in this way, the rules of good magic must be sublimated to the needs of the story--the rules of theater and story-telling apply, and the needs of the magic are only satisfied afterward. Here magic is only a kind of "special effect" and not an artform in itself--not "Our Magic."

Putting a coat of paint on a car or house is "painting," but it isn't the Art of painting.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 16, 2012 01:49PM)
Story-telling can not provoke the Dilemma. The dilemma is caused by a conviction of the reality of the experience of the impossible, knowing that it could not have been a real experience.

A story about the dilemma, is a story of someone else's experience of the impossible, not the listener's. If the argument for the impossible is not convincingly made in the presentation of the magic, it becomes less important, and the point of the story becomes the important focus. The spectator is wrapped up in the imagery and meaning of the story and is not paying enough attention for the magic to provoke a strong sense of conviction. It is pushed to the side. It becomes merely a special effect for the story. If it is too dilemma-inducing, it will overwhelm the story and it's meaning--like a too convincing guillotine in a performance of Tale of Two Cities. If the audience is shaken by the believability of the execution of Sidney Carleton, they will forget all about Carleton in thier concern for the actor.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 16, 2012 01:57PM)
Ken, I have stipulated this many times. I do not intend to talk much about the Theater of the Impossible or Theater of Charlatanry. When I am talking about magic, I mean "Our Magic"--the Theater of the Dilemma.

That is all I do, and that is the subject of every thread on this board. If you want to use magic to tell a story, that is fine. I have nothing against it, and I think it can be done artistically.

If you want to hint to people that your wisdom comes from some magical knowledge and shamanistic ability, the hint and suggestion of magic "happening around you" can be very effective, though I believe it to be a form of Charlatanry and not really a part of the story-telling; it is designed to add to the "ethos" of the speaker, and not to the story itself.

Magic assisting a ghost story is a good example. You can add to the scare of a ghost story with a candle suddenly blowing out, or something still on the table suddenly moving. But these are special effects.

The spectator is aware that he is listening to a "story" about a ghost. When he tells about the experience later, he will say they told a great and scary story, and made me jump. They will not say they met a real ghost.

A magic trick is like meeting the ghost yourself.

If someone creates the experience of meeting the ghost for the spectator, and he goes around telling people he "could have sworn that he met a real ghost," that is like a magic trick.

When someone listening to this spectator's story objects, the spectator will offer him the "proofs" that were given to him by the "magician," not just his belief in ghosts, or merely a retelling of a story told to him.

The spectator experienced in an upsetting way, the reality of actually meeting a ghost.

He knows it wasn't a real experience, but can't shake off the conviction that it was real.

This is what causes the dissonance that accompanies a true dilemma of the impossible.

It may be that his need to tell the story is an attempt to resolve the dilemma and ease the dissonance.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 16, 2012 02:32PM)
BTW, I was born in Tennessee, and my family is from Va, but I spent all my formative years in Eastern North Carolina, and just between you and me, WhoeDeani, there really shouldn't be any mustard in any decent vinegar-based BBQ sauce. I know you were raised in South Carolina, and I don't want you to remain in the same kind of mental darkness as those others you grew up with in S.C. who insist on the peculiar and unhappy practice... just sayin'.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 16, 2012 02:47PM)
One thing more, about theft, from the Boss:

"Instead Springsteen confined himself to playing music critic for nearly an hour, and he's a good one. The doo-wop music he heard on his mother's kitchen radio in the '50s was "the sound of silk stockings rustling on backseat upholstery." Roy Orbison dramatized "the tragic unknowability of women" and made the listener feel that despite the "romantic apocalypse" his songs portrayed, "the ruin was all worth it."

The Animals' version of the Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil song "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" inspired "every song I've ever written" with its class consciousness. "Listen up, youngsters," he said after demonstrating how another Animals song inspired his "Badlands" riff, "this is how successful theft is accomplished."

"He parsed the difference between "frightening" and "shocking" in regard to the Sex Pistols, who were the former, he asserted, and in part inspired his 1978 "Darkness on the Edge of Town" album. James Brown was the showman no rocker could ever follow on stage, and Bob Dylan "is the father of my musical country." The kids who grew up in the '50s and '60s felt something was wrong with the world, but couldn't articulate how or why until Dylan's songs came along, Springsteen said. Dylan "gave us the words ... to understand our hearts."

In the same way, Springsteen tried to give South by Southwest a philosophy to make sense of now. A fragmented musical world is not necessarily a lesser one, he said. At heart, he urged open-mindedness, an ability "to keep two completely contradictory ideas in your head and heart at all times."

"Have iron-clad confidence, but doubt that keeps you awake and alert," he said. "It keeps you honest."


All this is from Springsteen's keynote speech in Austin at SXSW:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-03-15/entertainment/chi-bruce-springsteen-sxsw-keynote-springsteen-speech-at-south-by-southwest-20120315_1_bruce-springsteen-sxsw-musical-memoir
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 16, 2012 03:04PM)
[quote]
On 2012-03-16 15:32, Pop Haydn wrote:
BTW, I was born in Tennessee, and my family is from Va, but I spent all my formative years in Eastern North Carolina, and just between you and me, WhoeDeani, there really shouldn't be any mustard in any decent vinegar-based BBQ sauce. I know you were raised in South Carolina, and I don't want you to remain in the same kind of mental darkness as those others you grew up with in S.C. who insist on the peculiar and unhappy practice... just sayin'.
[/quote]

LOL! I was tempted earlier after I had taken a look at one of your websites to enlighten you on the epicurial delights of mustard based sauce!<g>

I'll chime in and go a little further on my experience of the magic and story-telling mixture. I had a couple of reasons for doing it, of course. One was the thought of creating and releasing tension. It was an experiment if they could work together. Although, admittedly, the humor, magic and story all three did those things on their own. Secondly, it was an attempt to reveal sort of a warm, folksy type person to them, me. Did it work? Well, it was indeed a rollercoaster of emotion, from laughter to the other extreme, and back again. But I think Pop might have hit on it a little as he explained the difference between the two. There was a bit of raggedness to it. And I don't mean because you were laughing or crying one minute to the next. There is a difference between the way you are illiciting their response, (or getting them to play together with you...or just mostly observe). I'm not sure the two things play together in some ways. I think Pop gave a clue about this in his response to me. Interesting thought, and I guess you can explore it from all sorts of ways. Probably would have helped me had I studied a little theatrical theory in college. *shrugs*
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 16, 2012 04:02PM)
I will continue to pray for you and your brethren for spiritual enlighenment about pork butt...

Actually, most of these ideas are Magic Theory, and come from a close study Maskelyne and Devant's "Our Magic"
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Mar 17, 2012 05:54AM)
I have a theory that the reason Germany has such a strong tradition of storytelling magic is because magic all by itself is a really, really hard sell. The culture is too "rational". Even if you could work a true miracle, your average person would be mildly amused and wonder how you disguised doing what you did by a non-miraculous method. Storytelling misdirects away from magic as an art form by making the magic an accessory to a different purpose altogether. So people are caught in the spell of the story, and are startled by the special effects (as Pop acutely phrased it).

I very much like the style, and find it can be done very beautifully and effectively. Someone like Christian Cagical, for example, is one of the very few magicians on my "must see even if I've gotta drive hundreds of miles out of my way" list.

But I agree with Pop that it is something different than "Our Magic". That doesn't make it inferior, of course.

Regarding barbecue: I'm non-partisan, as I was born in California. Texas has the best barbecue. That stuff out east is mighty tasty, but it ain't barbecue. It's just [i]called[/i] barbecue. Talk about misdirection!
Message: Posted by: Alan Wheeler (Mar 17, 2012 09:35AM)
[Stone, don't you think red bikes would look better in your current avatar, more like the iconic source to which you may be alluding...]

I am blessed by the review of key principles in this topic as I copy-and-paste as fast as I can, praying too for revelation about the barbecue...
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Mar 17, 2012 12:39PM)
[Alan, my current avatar was actually made back in the days of the icon, and was meant to be a direct parody--hence I chose a fanning deck so that it wouldn't be...ah...too much of a direct imitation. Thinking back, maybe I should have used blue bikes. lol!]

I too await Pop's attempt to defend vinegary pork as "barbecue". Barbecue is whole animals smoked for at least 24 hours and covered with a sauce made according to secret recipes handed down through generations, having passed through the hands of extraordinary chefs of all races and genders in places as far east as Memphis and as far north as Kansas City, but reaching perfection by Toby in Abilene, Texas.

That's my opinion, and Pop is more likely to sell me a case of miracle oil than changing my opinion. On barbecue, that is.
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 17, 2012 12:42PM)
[quote]
On 2012-03-16 17:02, Pop Haydn wrote:

Actually, most of these ideas are Magic Theory, and come from a close study Maskelyne and Devant's "Our Magic"
[/quote]

Just purchased and downloaded to my e-reader....isn't the 21st just wonderful?
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 17, 2012 12:54PM)
I will add you to my prayer-list, Jeff, of those in mental darkness concerning BBQ...

and, yes, I think the 21st Century is wonderful, Whodeanie!

Can't think of anyplace I'd rather be.
Message: Posted by: Vick (Mar 18, 2012 09:56AM)
WOW!!! BRAVO!!
:applause: :applause: :applause: :applause:
:applause: :applause: :applause:

Thank you Pop!
and thank you WhoDeanie for starting and asking ....

This is one of the best threads ever to appear on the Magic Café


Please return to your regularly scheduled programming
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 18, 2012 10:53AM)
Thanks, Vick!

By the way, Jeff, your avatar creeps me out.
Message: Posted by: RickThibau (Mar 26, 2012 03:28PM)
Great thread! Many thoughts...!

Than you!!!
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 26, 2012 06:07PM)
Jeff: In North Carolina, we prefer to cook the whole pig in a pit. A "Pig Pickin'" would have our wonderful, healthy, vinegary sauce. We avoid the corn syrup, molasses, sugar and tomatos that the unenlightened use. It isn't easy for me to Pit BBQ a pig here in Los Angeles, so I have to settle for pork butt cooked in a crock pot. It is not the same, but it is still mighty good. If you want to try real Eastern NC BBQ, you will need to cook the whole pig in a pit.

You have been horribly misled about BBQ, and I am sorry for that...

Perhaps we can get back to the subject.

Did anyone have any questions about Pop and the character work involved?
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 26, 2012 08:28PM)
Pop,

I probably could have asked tons more questions but was trying to be respectful of your time...I was so greatful of the time you gave me. Besides, it gave me lots to think about.

For instance, one, your back story. Did you have like a Eureka! moment or was it slowly developed as well?

Another, when you are looking through tricks and effects to add, what are you thinking of as far as your character? You know, I can sorta see it both ways. A character sort of gives you something to develop your effect along, something to hang it on. But I suppose at times your character may be sort of confining as you are considering effects to perform. Sheesh, even your closeup and bar work seems to be so tightly woven into the same character, it just really seems more of a work of art to me. That's why I picked you to ask. (besides being so generous with your time of course.)

Anyway, hopefully more people will chime in. This seems to be a very fertile area for exploration.
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 26, 2012 08:43PM)
BTW, I had never really considered that the back story gives the character so much depth and weight...just very interesting. Very creative and colorful. Of course, we can't all be Pop Haydn, but it sure makes me want to strive to create tightly woven effects and routines that flow so well together with a rich back story full of depth. Interestingly, it is also making me rework scripts, think about economy of words, pauses, phrasing, etc.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 27, 2012 01:55AM)
I think a magician starts with the magic. You begin by examining what the needs of the effect are--what points do you have to get across to prove the argument. First all the magic must be made as strong as possible, Then you start working on how to present it.

Character and story are all secondary to the argument of the trick. That comes in after you know how to kill the heads of the audience. Then you work on making it fun.
Message: Posted by: funsway (Mar 27, 2012 04:46AM)
[quote]
On 2012-03-26 21:28, WhoDeanie wrote:
Pop,

I probably could have asked tons more questions but was trying to be respectful of your time...I was so greatful of the time you gave me. Besides, it gave me lots to think about.

For instance, one, your back story. Did you have like a Eureka! moment or was it slowly developed as well?

[/quote]

Whit has a wonderful set of effects for sale that he sometimes bundles as a package at a great price. It includes stories of his development as a magicain and of his Pop character. Better than snippets of information and great effects to perform.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 28, 2012 07:25PM)
Thank you, Ken. I have four pdf files available--The Mongolian Pop-Knot, Chicago Surprise, Intricate Web of Distraction, and Street Magic. All four are available for $35. Anyone interested should message me.

Whodeanie, please don't worry about asking me questions. I love to talk about this stuff. Ask anyone on the Magic Café... ;)
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 28, 2012 08:19PM)
Hi Pop,

Will be gone for a week or so but may peek in here and there and will probably order something from you when I get back, maybe those things just mentioned, but have been particularly interested in your Teleportation Device for some time. I've been experimenting with several bill in lemon routines, but yours seems to fit my purposes the most. As I've sort of mentioned, I enjoy pulling on characters from my past. One of the characters, most of us kids called "The Robot Man" because he lived on the outside of town and he had constructed a large robot (20 ft tall) that would light his eyes up and turn his head and move his arms. He could do this via remote control and had a closed circuit camera so he could make it move when he saw people watching. Of course, this caused quite the stir for teenagers, we would ride out there, park the cars, and sit and wait for that robot to do something, then we would get the heck out of there and cause the legend of the Robot Man to grow at school. Anyway, the old guy was actually a retired college professor and he just liked to weld different art together and of course he had a fondness for electronics etc. I sorta thought that the time I spent with that cooky old professor might be some sort of lead-in to the Teleportation Device. I just sort of want to get my premise, etc sufficiently away from outright theft, as we spoke. Also, one other concern, I have also been working on a Zone Zero routine in which I claim that the professor had been working on a time machine or teleportation device and that this one piece of board, a door off his machine, was pretty much the last I had seen or heard of the professor after a loud explosion and he had vanished and I would demonstrate some odd properties that it still seems to contain. Both in the same act may be too much reference to the professor, however. So I'll think it thru a bit more. Hopefully, if I do decide to order performance rights to the Teleportation Device it won't be too difficult to construct. (Any advice about the above is appreciated)

Hopefully, I will have made my way through "Our Magic" during the week and may have some questions along those lines as well. Have a great week!
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 28, 2012 08:30PM)
Pop,

BTW, I'm sure all the folks up for nomination of Stage Magician of the Year are great in their own right, but I will be pulling for you. So good luck and break a leg (but try to wait till after).<g>
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 29, 2012 11:59AM)
[quote]I sorta thought that the time I spent with that cooky old professor might be some sort of lead-in to the Teleportation Device. I just sort of want to get my premise, etc sufficiently away from outright theft, as we spoke. Also, one other concern, I have also been working on a Zone Zero routine in which I claim that the professor had been working on a time machine or teleportation device and that this one piece of board, a door off his machine, was pretty much the last I had seen or heard of the professor after a loud explosion and he had vanished and I would demonstrate some odd properties that it still seems to contain. [/quote]

Why not be the professor? Why tell them an old story of yours, instead of giving them a new one all their own?
Message: Posted by: Stonewick (Mar 30, 2012 03:17PM)
[quote]
On 2012-03-09 18:18, Pop Haydn wrote:
As you become comfortable with your magic and presentation in front of a group, then I would start working more on character.
[/quote]

This is the stuff that brings me back to the Café. I have a very definite character I've been working on. (Including a good deal of back-story and motivation). I've been happily studying "An Actor Prepares" and "Creating a Character" both by Stanislavsky. After reading this thread I realize I have been stressing over the character too much rather than getting comfy-cozy with the performance.

[quote]
On 2012-03-15 12:58, Pop Haydn wrote:

I would not get over-involved in working on character until you already have a strong magic act that is entertaining.... Create a back-story for your character that brings him onto THIS stage in front of THIS audience. Don't tell them the story, but let the story shine behind the performance.

[/quote]
Wow.
I am encouraged by these words to just have fun with the performance and let the back-story percolate through: when and where it pleases.
Thanks Pop!

I must also add...Lexington Style Pig Baby!
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 30, 2012 03:53PM)
Having fun is the important thing.
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Mar 31, 2012 01:44PM)
[quote]
On 2012-03-30 16:53, Pop Haydn wrote:
Having fun is the important thing.
[/quote].

I agree. The best shows are where I wonder if I am going to be aable to hold it together from laughing. But you spoke earlier about cutting their heads off. One of the most baffling things to me is that you can perform a routine nine times and at that moment you see the mouths fly open and maybe even an audible gasp as the try to replay in their minds what they just witnessed...then the applause. But on the tenth time uou perform perform just applause. And I replay it over and over again in my head to think what I may have done differently...baffling.

Watching one of those mid afternoon florida thunderstorms nnow...
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 31, 2012 05:32PM)
BTW, I will be appearing at the World Steam Expo May 26-28, 2012 in Dearborn, Michigan, along with Sophie Evans as Tesla Girl.

[img]http://www.medicine-show.com/images/Tesla%20Girl.png[/img]

This show is going to be a lot of fun...
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Apr 2, 2012 12:46PM)
Hi Pop,

You know, I have seen the old medieval tools the dentists used to extract teeth...don't make me use those to extract the results of the envelope....
Message: Posted by: Brad Burt (Apr 2, 2012 01:25PM)
The image above in lower right corner is just classic!
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Apr 2, 2012 05:46PM)
The Academy of Magicial Arts (Magic Castle) Awards show was held at the Saban Theatre tonight.

Congratulations to all the winners!

I am a huge fan of every one of them...

And the winners are:

Stage Magician of the Year: Rob Zabrecky
Close-Up Magician of the Year: Derek DelGaudio
Parlor Magician of the Year: Helder Guimaraes
Lecturer of the Year: Howard Hamburg

Magician of the Year: Lu Chen
Message: Posted by: tommy (Apr 2, 2012 06:07PM)
I love Derek DelGaudio’s Truffle Shuffle.

Facinating thread by the way, thanks.
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Apr 2, 2012 06:10PM)
Congrats to all the winners and to all those nominated...both are great achievements.
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Apr 3, 2012 08:15AM)
Hi Pop

You know, I was thinking last night and woke up this morning thinking about the relationship and importance of the character to the magic. I know you said to start of with the magic, make it strong. But I am thinking about the magic that I have seen that I really enjoy. I'm not so sure that that interaction between the magician and the audience isn't at least as important. You sorta feel like they are taking you on an adventure, a wild ride with them. And I don't seem to enjoy the large stage illusions nearly as much as standup or something just a little more intimate at least. I am wondering if that's simply because there isn't as strong of an interaction between magician and audience. I think even about Davic Copperfield, certainly very accomplished, but his more intimate stuff just seems more enjoyable and strong. I guess it could be a matter of personal taste as to why I don't like the large stage illusions as much. Now, I guess that it may be an inherent difficulty in large stage illusions that you don't have intimacy with your audience. Or maybe it has simply been a matter of magicians rely so much on that illusion that they fail to try to develop that intimatcy. I guess I could be chasing up the wrong tree here altogether, and its just two separate things. But if not, how do we go about developing that intimacy, what do we think about, and how should we structure to achieve that. Or maybe we just do strong magic and go along for the ride ourselves and let our personality and character come through as we make our way with the audience.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Apr 3, 2012 02:22PM)
Follow your instincts about what magic appeals to you. Learn that. Find out how to do it so your audience begins to share some of your enthusiasm and love for the effect. As you learn to share what you love about the magic, you will learn more about it, your character, and your audiences. You will have more to share.

Don't try to do everything from the head. That will only get you so far...let the performance of magic teach you.

Enjoy your work. Think about it as you do it, and afterwards. Always be looking for ways to improve it. Always be trying to define what it is that fascinates and draws you to it. Help the audience to find the same things in it.

Always look for what is surprising and unexpected...does the magician need to hide his powers? Is he embarrassed by them? Bored?

It is that which is most eccentric and unique that is most believably real and also the most interesting. Your character should not be what the audience expects from a magician, but what is surprising and provocative. The character should be someone who people want to spend time with, and want to get to know more about...A magician should be liberating and thought-provoking--someone who makes you wonder, imagine, and contemplate the possibilities of this life.

The real art of magic is to share your love for magic with the audience, so that they can understand, and hopefully even to some extent share your passion.

What do you have to say about magic?

The more you perform it, study your performance, and let the audience inform you, the more you will have to share.

Just do it. Don't be afraid to be bad. Don't look at your accent, personality or looks as problems, let them become assets. Make them part of the surprising uniqueness of your magical character. They are God-given tools for you.

Remember, YOU are the Coyote, the Trickster, the Raven, the Rabbit--the embodiment of those who survive by their wits, wiles, knowledge and cleverness instead of by brute strength.

You don't tell stories about the Coyote; You ARE the Coyote. People tell stories about you...

You become a magician because you are drawn not just to Magic, but to the Trickster.

Something within you resonates with that ancient Archetype.

Find out what that is, and you will understand magic and yourself much better.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Apr 3, 2012 02:55PM)
The real job of the magician is to fascinate and hold the attention of the audience with Our Magic, and thereby make them lovers of Our Magic.

A magician uses deceit and chicanery to celebrate deceit and chicanery.
Message: Posted by: Devious (Apr 4, 2012 02:34AM)
[quote]
On 2012-03-31 18:32, Pop Haydn wrote:
BTW, I will be appearing at the World Steam Expo May 26-28, 2012 in Dearborn, Michigan, along with Sophie Evans as Tesla Girl.

[img]http://www.medicine-show.com/images/Tesla%20Girl.png[/img]

This show is going to be a lot of fun...
[/quote]

Gorgeous work by your graphics guru! It was very nice to meet him as well Brother.
See ya' soon and break a leg at the steam expo!
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Apr 4, 2012 09:46AM)
Well, I really like the simple classics of magic. After all this time there really is nothing more magical or enjoyable to me than a well-done rope routine, etc. You know, over the past year I've put a great deal of time trying to perfect my stuff technically, then turning my attention to interaction with the audience. And I've been thinking a great deal about the things you've said in this thread. After reading what you just wrote I was in a self-evaluation mode last night. You know, I think spending so much time on the technical aspects, I believe when I am performing I'm not thinking about how trully magical and wonderful magic is to me. I think, really, I've stopped putting the magical aspects of what I am doing first. I'm not really sure that isn't the greatest sin a magician could commit...:-(

***Enjoying reading "Our Magic"***
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Apr 5, 2012 03:29PM)
Here is my most recent performance of the Teleportation Device, from last week in the Palace of Mystery at the Magic Castle:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0r6zXjAxnw&list=PLBAC0B960C21FF60A&index=1&feature=plpp_video
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Apr 5, 2012 08:59PM)
[quote]
On 2012-04-05 16:29, Pop Haydn wrote:
Here is my most recent performance of the Teleportation Device, from last week in the Palace of Mystery at the Magic Castle:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0r6zXjAxnw&list=PLBAC0B960C21FF60A&index=1&feature=plpp_video
[/quote]

Wow! No way!
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Apr 6, 2012 02:37AM)
Way.

;)
Message: Posted by: BarryFernelius (Apr 6, 2012 04:16PM)
This is the thread I was hoping to read a few years ago. Thanks, Pop!

I have a question: Do you have some words of wisdom about costuming a character?
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Apr 6, 2012 05:28PM)
Hi Pop,

What all comes with the performance rights to the teleportation device? Does it come with a script, methods, etc? And where would one order that from?
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Apr 6, 2012 06:45PM)
It comes with a DVD with a live performance, complete patter, a complete description of the props and handling, and performance tips. Along with that comes a CD with photos of several different devices inside and out and a crude wiring diagram. Any modestly skilled electronics hobbyist would be able to build one with less than $50 worth of parts.

Ownership of the DVD gives you all performance rights.

The DVD/CD and performance rights are $50 to pop@pophaydn.com at PayPal.
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Apr 6, 2012 07:37PM)
[quote]
On 2012-04-06 19:45, Pop Haydn wrote:
It comes with a DVD with a live performance, complete patter, a complete description of the props and handling, and performance tips. Along with that comes a CD with photos of several different devices inside and out and a crude wiring diagram. Any modestly skilled electronics hobbyist would be able to build one with less than $50 worth of parts.

Ownership of the DVD gives you all performance rights.

The DVD/CD and performance rights are $50 to pop@pophaydn.com at PayPal.
[/quote]

Is that all? Shut up!
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Apr 6, 2012 08:27PM)
Will order when I get back home. Thanks
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Apr 6, 2012 10:50PM)
You shut up... :D

Barry: The main secret to costuming is to look for the surprising and the different. It is so easy to pick a name like Doc, a Gambler's hat and a handful of card tricks and think you have a character. That is just a costume. You are "telling" the audience who the character is...

It is better to have a costume that reflects the individuality of the character, and you should think about what he would choose to wear from what was available.

I was very careful to choose a hat (a Hamburg) that looked right for the period, but was not the derby or top hat that people tend to go for...

I had jewelry made for Pop that reflected his experiences at sea and in the Gold Rush. I wanted a tie that looked more modern, but had a distinct 19th century flavor. I used a modern man's tie, but with a big knot and a stickpin through the knot. I first saw this on of photo of Soapy Smith. At first I used fancy gambler's vests, but since I have used a plain black frock with matching vest. It is more "businessman" looking.

The little things, the details, are very important. They give the costume uniqueness and character. A necklace under my shirt carries a Fairy Stone cross from Virginia and a piece of scrimshaw on walrus ivory from 19th Century Alaska. No one sees these, but they help me remain in character. They are totems from my back story.
Message: Posted by: Jim Sparx (Apr 7, 2012 10:06AM)
Interesting I should be reading this now. I'm developing a character and spending more on costuming than I am on the magic used in the performance. Difficult for someone on SS who's goal is free performances in the USO wounded warrior project and children's hospitals.
I will be 74 next month and consider this one of the most important projects I have ever done.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Apr 7, 2012 10:47AM)
How wonderful! Good luck with your project!
Message: Posted by: tommy (Apr 7, 2012 11:46AM)
How do you go about telling your audience the story of your jewelry for example?
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Apr 7, 2012 12:04PM)
I don't. It isn't there to be discussed. It is part of who I am. The video above shows the extent of story-telling in the act. It gets more of the story through than the teaching act.

The medicine show reveals more of Pop's story, but in the same, indirect way. It isn't about that story, Pop's history--it is about the story of Pop meeting this particular audience on Thursday night, March 29th.

The history of Pop is not really the point, is it? It is the backstory. It is what makes Pop "real" and three-dimensional.

The "point" is [i]the story that the members of the audience will tell[/i] later... WHAT and WHO did THEY experience?
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Apr 7, 2012 12:31PM)
[quote]
On 2012-04-07 13:04, Pop Haydn wrote:
I don't. It isn't there to be discussed. It is part of who I am. The video above shows the extent of story-telling in the act. It gets more of the story through than the teaching act.

The medicine show reveals more of Pop's story, but in the same, indirect way. It isn't about that story, Pop's history--it is about the story of Pop meeting this particular audience on Thursday night, March 29th.

The history of Pop is not really the point, is it? It is the backstory. It is what makes Pop "real" and three-dimensional.

The "point" is [i]the story that the members of the audience will tell[/i] later... WHAT and WHO did THEY experience?
[/quote]

It still seems a fight though...there is an urge to lay it out there and put it right up front, instead of sort of letting the back story be once removed from what is happening at the moment. I wouldn't say its a difficult concept. I think you are there for the magic and you want to keep that first, but there is just a lot of temptation to bring the backstory out front. Its a fascinating use of character though, where you only reveal little bits of the backstory but remain focused on the moment.

I've been trying to imagine sort of a "typical" magician in a nice shirt and sportscoat that could possibly have nearly as much depth of character...
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Apr 7, 2012 12:44PM)
Also, what is it that makes Pop a character, instead of becoming a caricature that we often see when folks put on a custume? Is there a line you feel that you walk? I'm wondering if a full-on revelation of the backstory in the performance would lead to turning Pop into a caricature? I love it...we just get hints...Tesla, 21st century, electronics, etc...but it never actually takes you off the moment.
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Apr 7, 2012 12:51PM)
Here's one: Does "Pop" consider himself a magician?
Message: Posted by: Jim Sparx (Apr 7, 2012 01:46PM)
[quote]
On 2012-04-07 13:51, WhoDeanie wrote:
Here's one: Does "Pop" consider himself a magician?
[/quote]

I watched his video from the MC and I bought into the idea he was a character from the past.
I've always thought of myself as an actor playing a magician. I remember seeing Ballentine a dozen times, and always thought of him as an actor playing a bad magician. And he did it with with such inept grace and character building, a guy in a tux with a sign that misspelled magician to start off his act that let everyone know, things were going to go wrong.
Message: Posted by: Jim Sparx (Apr 7, 2012 01:54PM)
[quote]
On 2012-04-07 13:44, WhoDeanie wrote:
Also, what is it that makes Pop a character, instead of becoming a caricature that we often see when folks put on a custume? Is there a line you feel that you walk? I'm wondering if a full-on revelation of the backstory in the performance would lead to turning Pop into a caricature? I love it...we just get hints...Tesla, 21st century, electronics, etc...but it never actually takes you off the moment.
[/quote]

I don't know if the general population is famliar with Telsa, considering what they are taught in school. I'm familiar with him because I've subscribed to the Borderland Sciences for the last 40 years. I think more people relate to the movie, Back To the Future than to Telsa. When I was a kid I had Flash Gordon and the Frakenstein movies with all those electrical props.

I'll shut up now
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Apr 7, 2012 02:50PM)
What would the general population's familiarity with Tesla have to do with things, spartacus?

What makes Pop a character instead of a caricature?

Layered character, Acting ability, emotional honesty, costuming, and backstory.

Does Pop consider himself a magician?

Of course! Why else would he be doing 100 year old magic tricks in front of a 21st Century audience?

Pop considers himself a wonderful stage magician as well as a talented card magician, an actor, comedian, dancer, singer and all-around vaudevillian. He was at one time a sailor, a cowboy, a gambler, and a con man. He is now a man of medicine and science in the 21st Century, trying to pay his bills selling medicine and doing his show business with his fellow expatriates from 1910.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Apr 9, 2012 07:38AM)
Thanks Whit I got it now. I just thought when said “I had jewellery made for Pop that reflected his experiences at sea and in the Gold Rush.” that you were using Symbolism as in the practice of investing things with a meaning or character. For example one takes a piece of jewlery and while showing it to a fellow one tells a story about it, from thereon the piece becomes an instrument of knowledge as it evokes or reminds the fellow about the it whenever the piece is shown to the fellow in the future.

Fans for exmple might be told once about the story of the stick pin, it might have been aquired in some adventure or other, and when they come to see it again when they come to see you it means something to them by just by seeing it again.
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Apr 9, 2012 08:43AM)
Hi Pop

Just curious as I've only gotten to mostly see clips of individual routines...but what do you close your show with and why?
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Apr 9, 2012 10:54AM)
Normally, with the Gene Anderson Tear, because it has a big punch and gets a solid response.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIzHb2zTW44
Message: Posted by: WhoDeanie (Apr 9, 2012 11:14AM)
[quote]
On 2012-04-09 11:54, Pop Haydn wrote:
Normally, with the Gene Anderson Tear, because it has a big punch and gets a solid response.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIzHb2zTW44
[/quote]

Hi Pop,

Yes, I saw that and thought it might be your closer. The reason I asked is because we often try to use our biggest effect for last. This maybe wasn't quite as strong as linking rings or the Teleportation Device. (Basically saying it wouldn't have been my first intinct to close with that) But to me, after seeing it, it pulls the show back, puts Pop into the audience perspective once again of warmth, but says, errr, this was still all just an illusion...all in fun...which to me sort of strengthens the character and gives warmth. So was wondering if that was part of your thought process in choosing that particular effect.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Apr 9, 2012 01:49PM)
It has a punchier climax to end on...

But it is more of a direct magician to audience moment--less frenetic than the T-Device, less theatrical and multi-layered than the Linking Rings--and helps to re-focus the relationship of the audience to the magician.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Sep 2, 2018 02:45PM)
Just an update. I usually end with the Tantalus Tubes (multiplying bottles) these days.
Message: Posted by: Bill Thompson (Sep 19, 2018 12:23PM)
Https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Z34pWoSDGU&feature=youtu.be&t=2m48s

I found this on YouTube a few years ago and found it interesting to watch. This is about 3/4 of Pop's Teaching Act as performed at the Super-Stupendous Machine of Death Magic & Variety Show on November 17, 2011. I find it fascinating to watch Pop perform in front of an audience outside of the Magic Castle, an audience not made up of magicians and lovers of magic. This particular audience is made up of a bunch of cynical young adults who are fans of a game called The Machine of Death. These crowds aren't the forgiving type... they won't play along. Watch Pop's reception and how the crowd responds to him. Watch him win them over and become their friend. I have hunted and hunted for the rest of Pop's performance and it is nowhere to be found...

For the record I know he finished the teaching act with the newspaper tear and he also did the teleportation device. If anyone has any good quality video of the entirety of Pop's act at this show I would love to view it!
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Oct 4, 2018 02:10PM)
There are plenty of videos of my performances in front of tough and vociferous audiences at www.youtube.com/whithaydn

There are videos from every stage of development of my Pop Haydn character.

Here is a fun private party show in front of a challenging group:

https://youtu.be/hGcZ_KN6VEk

https://youtu.be/BFJ5tL2vnq8

https://youtu.be/dwi9KLAxBKA
Message: Posted by: critter (Nov 24, 2018 10:59AM)
Well this thread is a straight up masterclass. Thanks, Pop.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Nov 8, 2019 07:54PM)
You are welcome.