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Topic: Definition: Close-Up vs. Parlour vs. Stage
Message: Posted by: FatherWilliam57 (Nov 18, 2014 11:59AM)
Having done a search on the forum regarding the terms "close-up," "parlour," and "stage" has left me more confused than ever. My situation is this: I use magic tricks in children's sermons during worship. Obviously, the children come forward and are within arms reach when I perform a trick. As I gather a larger repertoire (and more confidence), I have considered putting together several routines and "taking the show on the road" to other congregations for dinners, seminars, etc. Since my budget is limited, I have to be very deliberate in what purchases I make. For example: I rarely do card tricks because of what I consider visibility problems. I limit myself to tricks where I can use a Jumbo Bicycle Deck....although the kids could see a regular deck, their parents (in the back pew) would have difficulty seeing what is transpiring. Assuming the largest "room" I would do a routine seats 200-300 people (a normal sized sanctuary or social room), can I switch to Phoenix Parlour size cards or should I stick with Jumbo Bicycle? Should I focus more on tricks using decent sized props instead of cards? These are the types of things I try to "think ahead" about when making purchases.

I guess what I am asking is this: Are the terms "close-up," "parlour," and "stage" more a question of what type of tricks one performs, or is it really about room size (i.e., visibility, ability to hear, etc.)? Any guidance would be appreciated. (If this seems an odd question, you should know my college degree is in Philosophy, specifically, Language and Logic, so I do tend to get hung up on terminology...and I would rather move on and learn new tricks!)
Message: Posted by: Dick Oslund (Nov 18, 2014 01:40PM)
DRAT! I just typed a 500 word "essay" on the history of magic after Houdin (Jean-Eugene Robert)made magic "respectable", when he performed in parlors, and drawing rooms, "eons ago". This "infernal electrisch peckenclacker" "disappeared" my literary efforts faster than Harry Blackstone's bird cage! (Yes, I know "disappear" is an intransitive verb! I just used it so some of the magicians who don't know "that", wouldn't feel left out of the conversation!

Check some of Milbourne Christopher's writings for more of the history!

In the early '40s, I never heard the term "close up". We did "pocket tricks". Quintno Marucci, (Slydini) came on the magic scene (mid
40s, sat at a small table, withi a close up mat, and, "shazam"! "close up" was born!

From your post, I doubt that you are thinking of producing a stage show, with a corps of assistants, orchestra, etc.

So, you are most likely to perform a "parlor show" in a social hall. Possibly a "platform show" in a larger hall.

I figured out, early, to learn to perform tricks that involved props that could be presented almost anywhere, for almost anybody. My smallest audience over the years, was a country school in Montana. (Seven students,grades K--5.) I did the complete school show in the classroom.(I would call that a parlor show!) My largest audience,that I remember, was for a Senior High School (about 2,000 students) in an auditorium with a completely equipped stage. (I got a standing ovation in the high school). The props, in both situations, were carried in a 13" x 20" x 8" prop csse that weighed a bit over 20 lbs. The show was ready to start less than five minutes after I got on stage, and was packed, ready to leave about 2 minutes after the show was over.

My criteria in producing the show is/was simple. Here are the NINE IMPORTANT THINGS:

Visual effect...visible prop...versatile effect & prop...angle proof prop...recognizable prop...little, or no, set up...no table needed...spot adaptable...pack small & light/play big...windproof (outdoor shows) --I know! That's TEN! I'm a language man, not a mathematics man! In first grade, the first day, our teacher said: "2" + "2" = "4". I made notes! The very next day,she said: "3" + "1" = "4". I raised my hand, and said: "Please, Miss Smith, make up your mind!"

The only card trick(s) were a routine of fancy shuffles, and very occasionally the cards across.

Props included: silks (color change, serpentine silk,silk knots, silk through microphone stand) rope, golf balls, cards, big needle and balloon,boomerang sticks, six spot card, egg bag 3 linking rings, paper napkins (over the head) sponge balls and purse frame,trouble wit, breakaway fan, comedy wands, coin pail, pom pom stick. and mutilated parasol. That's what I carried. Some props "doubled" in different tricks. A few were strictly for high school and a few were strictly for elementary school.

My book covers the planning, producing and presentation for "anybody, and anywhere".

I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to PM me, if you still have questions.
Message: Posted by: Dick Oslund (Nov 18, 2014 01:47PM)
OOPS! I forgot that 20th Century Silks ware among the silk tricks. "Standard" running time for the schools was/is 45 minutes. For evening family shows, I could do 60 minutes with the props.
Message: Posted by: Newsround (Nov 18, 2014 01:52PM)
I love your way with words Dick, when are you looking at getting your book out?
Message: Posted by: MVoss (Nov 18, 2014 10:07PM)
Close up: Happens close to the audience, no more then 8 feet or so away. Everyone needs to be able to see. It happens in the hands or often on a table.

Parlour: Taking from the name for a room in a house, like a traditional living room, people can be seated or standing, but everyone is on the same level. The show also runs longer generally.

Stage: Elevated above the audience, you perform larger material that can be seen in the whole room.

It sounds to me like what you are doing is between Parlour and Stage, dick correctly points out that is called a Platform Show, though you don't here that as much as Parlour and Stage these days.

You can think about it, in a simplified way, as small, medium, and large. With an audience over a certain size you need to be on a stage so people can see you. But it is a combination of all things, room size, crowd size, etc.

My advice would be to look for things that can be seen up close, and far away, for kids it should be bright and colorful. Also, I'm sure churches have a decent sound systems, but if you can be seen, but not heard, that is also a problem. It might make sense to buy a cheap sound system like a Happie Amp, that lets you control your own sound and is portable. I have one and love it.
Message: Posted by: charlie_d (Nov 20, 2014 06:54AM)
Close up is where you've managed to sneak up on them before they realised you're a magician.
Parlour is where you have them cornered in a confined space.
Stage is where you've booked a gig by posing as a stand-up comedian.
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (Nov 20, 2014 12:46PM)
FatherWilliam57, I would like to confuse you more, the terms are genetic in nature. It is just "jargon" to help make discussion more clear. There is not hard and fast rule to the words.

An example would be the rope trick, Professor Nightmare, aka My Favorite Rope Trick, aka Equal Unequal Ropes. This simple rope trick can be performed Close-up, in a Parlour, and on a Stage. Rope is visual for all to see.

You mentioned card tricks, and that your are using a Jumbo Deck. It is not necessary to use Jumbo Playing Cards. Again going back to Tarbell, all you have to do is tell the large audience groups what you are holding. That is where the assistants from the audience come into play. Not only are they there to help with a trick, they are there to verify what your are saying. Believe me, if you say a red scarf it blue, a child will let you know at one you are wrong.

This is all controlled by your patter. Sometimes is it necessary, to simply say, I have a deck of card. Then you shuffle it. They not only see the cards, they can hear you are shuffling the cards.

For children, instead of using a Jumbo Regular Deck, go to the Dollar Store or Toy Store and buy a children's game deck. There are all kinds of children decks with animals and different kinds of drawing on the cards. Now simply hold the deck up and show the cards. Don't keep them down where no one can see them.

Hope this give you something to think about and you give it a go.
Message: Posted by: FatherWilliam57 (Nov 20, 2014 11:57PM)
Professor: Mr. Oslund, where is your essay?
Mr. Oslund: My computer ate it...
Isn't the 21st Century grand? ;)

I truly appreciate your Nine /Ten Important Things. Not knowing what the future holds beyond children's sermons, very wise advice in the selection and preparation of effects. (BTW, when IS your book coming out?)

Mr. Voss - The concept of "parlour" being at floor level while "stage" is elevated is an excellent point. I have been so focused on "size of room vs. visibility" I was not paying attention to the idea of various elevations (which obviously can come into play when doing effects that use BA, etc.).

Mr. Hegbli - As I reside in the grand old State of Confusion, your comments made perfect sense to me. And I love the idea of using a children's game deck...something they can relate to, but also increases subject matter (depending on the theme of the deck) for creating appropriate patter.

And Charlie D - I believe I may already be an expert at close-up (by your definition), at least in my own home: "Hey, Honey, check out this neat trick! Sweety? Hey, where did you go...?

My thanks to all. I may not be ready to set sail, but you have each helped me to chart a course. :bigdance:
Message: Posted by: Aus (Nov 21, 2014 02:27AM)
Just wonít to echo what Dick has said, versatility is so important. In table hopping/strolling magic where pocket space is at a premium if the prop canít be used for more than one trick and itís performing requirements aren't self-contained you really need to question itís inclusion.
Using Dicks advice I would recommend constructing an act that caters for two audience types but utilise the same props. I personally love these little routine challenges myself, and they harbor creative thinking.

Just some advice in the visibility stakes itís important that how you stage a trick is just as important as the trick itself. Some time ago I attended a Parlour Bar event run by a local magician who ran a competition for amateurs to win prize money and gain experience. It was a great event, he had some headline acts attend just to make sure the ticket price was worth the money and it was always a full house.

The reason I bring this up was that in one show a number of amateur magicians used card tricks as their performance piece. The staging of the event was a fixed spotlight illuminating the performing area well the house lights were turned off placing the audience in complete darkness. Routinely the performers would step out of the spotlighted area into the audience to have a card selected and shown around as opposed to having someone come on stage to select a card which was a lot better and more visual to a wider group of people.

Another was fanning a deck of cards at waist height in front of a spectator who only just selected a card to show the random nature of the deck as opposed to doing the same thing at head height on stage for everyone to see.

Sometime visibility as with everything else is usually in the details.


Message: Posted by: funsway (Nov 21, 2014 06:44AM)
Back in the late 50's when I was being mentored proper like, the distinction was never about size of the audience:

"Close up" meant you were seated and the audience gathered to watch. Effects were selected that needed spectator focus and attention.

"Parlour" meant the audience was seated and you had mobility. Some detractions and lack of focus was expected, so flashy props and story might be needed.

"Stage" meant you were on a raised platform with an audience expecting you to do magic. A more formal context than Parlour.

Especially important was whether you expected a volunteer spectator to come to you in front of the audience or if you went out to them.

In a "stage" effect the Volunteer Assistant might serve as a witness to the effect, while in a "parlour" setting the VA was just a "representative" or alternate pair of hands. In "close up" every spectator was expected to be a VA if requested.
Message: Posted by: FatherWilliam57 (Nov 21, 2014 01:28PM)
Aus: I would also say that versatility equals frugality. For less than $10 (a pack of cards and a used copy of Scarne Card Tricks), one can literally have over 150 effects at one's fingertips. Not counting the creation of appropriate patter and the time and practice necessary, that's less than a penny a trick! Even if I could only master 10 of those tricks (a buck a piece), purchasing 10 different props could cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000...and not necessarily be any more impressive.

Funsway: Another facet I had not considered...mobility. Not to mention the concept of "how many witnesses are present" to keep the performer "honest."

The collective wisdom of forum members continues to amaze me! Thank you all! :applause:
Message: Posted by: Aus (Nov 21, 2014 04:30PM)
FatherWilliam57 versatility and frugality seems to be a lost message in the magic community these days, from being in magic for over 20 years, I can definitely see the 'trick' manufacturing plant in action. So many tricks each week, and at the end of the day, to what end? Honestly, from my studies, the magician doesn't need to know THAT many tricks It is more about storytelling, narrative, and performance to take the viewer through a journey and to create an experience.

If you need suggestions with anything I'm only a message away.


Message: Posted by: T. Durden (Nov 21, 2014 08:00PM)
[quote]On Nov 20, 2014, charlie_d wrote:
Close up is where you've managed to sneak up on them before they realised you're a magician.
Parlour is where you have them cornered in a confined space.
Stage is where you've booked a gig by posing as a stand-up comedian. [/quote]