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David Regal
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I very much enjoyed the Penn and Teller backstory regarding the bullet catch, and your description of life on the road.

As a guy who does a lot of close-up magic, but loves mentalism and mental effects, I was wondering what effects or plots you find most effective in the context of a single trick used to impress an individual.

I realize that sometimes the simplest things in the proper dressing can create the most memorable "moment" for a spectator, so I'm not suggesting that there's a mysterious miracle effect out there, I'm just curious as to what, in your opinion, is a sequence that is rock solid.
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HI David,

first let me say thank you for your volume of contributions to our art.

Now to answer the question if I can.

I tend to create or perform effects that can be performed in any environment. By that, I mean an effect that can stand alone, or with a story. This way I can adapt to my environment. If in a loud noisy bar or bat-mitzvah, the effect still kills visually or mime (yes, I have often mimed mentalism, to do so just imagine what you would do if you could not speak.) If in a soft-spoken living room, I can fill it with a story.

So lets deal with the story. Most of us try to get personal. But what does that mean. There are different ways of doing this. One can tell a story about themselves. One can tell a story about someone else they know, or a story they heard. Either way the story should ring some bell of recognition, or sympathy for the performer. In the best of situations it does both. In the best of situations it becomes so personal to the person you are working with that they react beautifully. In the perfect situation it is personal to everyone in the audience.

Now that formula can be a sticky situation, because if we adhere to that last premise, then all our effects start to look the same and drawn out. In an entire show I personally feel that some effects should just speak for themselves. Some should just happen and surprise the performer and some should become very personal. Again. I take a tip from the evangelists here. They truly are a great inspiration when it comes to performing styles. They start our personal then end up just hitting people hard and fast so what they remember at the end are the supposed miracles.

So the sequence for me in a special effect is usually to tell the story to create the emotion needed to personalize it, then do the effect, and if needed recreate the emotion. In the recreation of the emotional attachment I often create false memory of what happened to hide the method. (Sorry, can't go into too much detail here as this gets into methodology)

Thing is, this is not always what I do, Sometimes I will personalize the effect as I go along, sometimes it does not become personal till the very end of the effect. It really depends on where the effect is in the show and what the effect is. To be honest I truly do not think there are any fast rules here. It depends upon your own performing style and personality. Heck, very few can be a Eugene Burger and it took Eugene time to find out who he is, more than likely he tried to follow others styles till he found his own. So many fail when they try to be Eugene. Eugene can tell what formula works for him but that does not mean it will work for you.

In other words, I could give some sort of structure here that works for me, but it would be all-wrong for most others out there. And to be honest, I do not have a set structure. I just do what comes naturally to me. The key here is to find out who you are and work with that. Now you have personalized your show. Your show is you. I do think you can learn from others styles. But the entire package and structure more than likely will cause you to fail at being credulous.

Unless you are one heck of a brilliant actor you will never ring true being someone else.

David, I realize you know this. But wanted to clarify it for a few folks who are looking for direction and have not found themselves yet.

My only advice here is stop looking, you are already who you are. Work with it. Ask someone who you trust what they would suggest you do if you were going to "exaggerate your personality. If you were going to do a caricature of your personality and make fun of yourself."

Asked this way they will tend to be more honest with you and not afraid to hurt your feelings. And if you backtrack to normalcy from this exaggeration you can find out what they truly think of you when it comes to how you come across to other people. Now you have a base to work from and go with.

Hope this helps
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