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Jonathan Townsend
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First off I'm utterly in favor of experimenting and watching for what the audience likes. And I like the Lewis Carol story. I watched the senior acting class of 1988 take Gertrude Stein's poem Amonoire and use the lines as script for a fully self created play.

What about the story do you like?

As a clever amusement, the card story accompanied by card magic is good for already interested magicians looking for novelty.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
P.T. Murphy
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Okay...NOW I KNOW JT's magic elixir...Coffee!!! Coffee has allowed this man to post over 14,000 times. I thought he was a robot!

I think many of us are intimidated by the idea of writing our own script. I know I am. Let's be honest. The tasks of the magician can be daunting. We are the playwright, the director, the stunt coordinator, the special effects expert and the star of our own show. Not to mention the publicist, agent, accounted, etc.

And not all of us are great writers!

But that does not mean we cannot formulate meaningful scripts.

My friend David Parr is a wonderful writer. His scripts are beautifully written. I hear them in performance and bubble with glee. I used to get upset that I was not as good a writer. I have learned to stop that. Comparing myself to another does me a disservice. I have learned to get on with who I am as a writer. Which has been hard. But my friend's work inspires me to move forward...AS ME! NOT to copy his ways but to find MY voice. We all need to stop comparing ourselves to others. That is step one in writing a script that works for YOU!

Let's try and take some of the mystery out of script writing.

What is a script? (For us magi.)

On a basic level it is the accumulation of words, in a specific order, that express the ideas we want to share with our audience. (Some of us have elaborated our scripts, but the basic idea is still the same.)

So how do we get these ideas out of our head?

I usually start by addressing what it is that I want to share with the audience. Usually I sit by myself and just start an imaginary conversation, as if I was performing the effect for an audience. I write down the ideas that seem important to what I want to communicate. Sometimes I write down a bit of dialogue, sometimes I write down a specific way I want to instruct the audience or I write down a question that I want to ask. I find that talking to myself in an imaginary performance situation pays off!

Here are some important things I want to do in EVERY routine.

1. I want share something about myself BEFORE I ask others to share. I think this is important and can be as simple as introducing myself, smiling silently or just shaking somebody's hand in a friendly manner. I want people to know that they are safe. I will not insult them or embarrass them. And I do not expect them to share if they do not want to. BUT by showing I am willing to be open and vulnerable, I hope that they will want to do the same on some level.

2. I want to get to the effect in a straightforward manner. If the effect is that a card is chosen and lost in the deck and then magically found in a matchbook, I want to make sure that everything I am talking about before ENHANCES the magic. I try to avoid going off on tangents. When I am involved in the mechanics of the effect, i.e. the picking of the card, the shuffle, etc. I try NOT to complicate the instructions. The audience should be able to describe in a sentence or two what it is they just saw. "The magicians had me sign a card and I shuffled it into the deck and then it DISAPPEARED! Then it ended up in the matchbook I held in my hand!"

3. I want what happens to seem magical. That is MY choice. Some people like to make a joke, some people like to scare, but I want to express the MAGIC of what I am doing. I want them to be amazed but also remain open to the idea that they just saw something very cool. I try to do this by minimizing the words I speak at the end of the effect. I try to let the magic do the talking at that point. But I try to be very gracious at the end of a routine. I have shared my magic and my audience has shared their time. Which is meaningful to me. I try to express, in a simple manner that I appreciate their time.

4. I want to share with people the things that interest me. I try to frame my routines in a way that allows me to share little things about who I am. Whether it is a bit of Chicago magic history or a bit of life philosophy...I try to expose myself, a little bit at a time. (Keeping it legal and tasteful of course!)

There are other things. But those are a few of the most important.

I try not to be intimidated by the process of writing.

Here is a secret: A script doesn't start with a script. A story doesn't start with a story.

These things start with an idea. A thought. A notion. THEN we attempt to formulate the words and structure of our sentences and try to put those thoughts on paper.

We ALL have something to share! The hard part it getting it out of our head. The challenge is to share our ideas in a way that our audience can enjoy on some level.

I suggest we learn to understand who WE are...back to self...if you, ME...listen to that which is living inside of you. If you learn to ask important questions...and I think this maybe where JT is coming from...and answer these questions TRUTHFULLY...then you can begin to formulate a script that may have a little meaning for your AUDIENCE.

JT makes a great point. WHY should they select a card? WHY should they want to?

We MUST ask ourselves those questions. For no other reason than common courtesy for our audience.

One answer is BECAUSE. (I tell my daughter that is NOT a god answer...BUT really it is.) BECAUSE I am the magician (and hopefully I seem like a genuinely decent person who you want to watch) and something MAGICAL is about to happen.


AND PEOPLE WANT TO SEE SOMETHING MAGICAL HAPPEN! They really do.

Sometimes as the wandering magician in a Strolling and Restaurant situation I begin to doubt whether or not what I am doing is relevant to the lives of the people I am hired to perform for.

When that happens I remind myself that most people will NOT see a magician up close. EVER! And that it is a special gift to be able to share something as wonderful as the art of magic with real live human beings! Very rarely do people NOT enjoy themselves and I feel better for sharing.

Sometimes that is all the motivation you need.

Max Maven shared three questions the performer should try to answer. I am not sure where he got them from but they stick in my mind. I think these questions hold true more for the magician/ performers more than they do actors.

Who are you?
What are you doing?
Why should WE (the audience) care?

I think that if you can answer these three questions and formulate your thoughts into words (YOUR WORDS) that help to communicate the answers to your audience then you are on the road to having a fine script.

Hey JT this coffee stuff is AMAZING! I think this is my longest post! Maybe I should put this stuff down. Step away from the Starbucks! MMMMM....coffee!
P.T. Murphy
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tommy
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What is it about the story that I like?
Itís a bit like you John: The story sort of makes you ask questions as it goes along but each answer seems to lead to asking another question. What is that noise? Itís a king sleeping, snoring in a wood! Whatís a King doing there asleep? He is dreaming about you? Why? Well if he wakes you'd go out -- bang! -- just like a candle! Why?
I donít know itís just make believe like magic. It makes you keep asking whatís going to happen next. Like magic there is no end, where did the queen go?
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Bill Palmer
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Quote:
On 2006-09-14 21:25, tommy wrote:
Thanks Bill. That sounds better than acting to me. A more appropriate quality for a magician I mean. But I like the idea of the magician acting. I don't know. I think I like the idea of being showman better.



They aren't mutually exclusive. Back during the "Great Folk Music Scare of the 1960's," I would hear "musicians" say things like, "I'm not a musician, I'm an entertainer," as an excuse for playing badly. Look at Roy Clark. Here is a man who is a phenomenal guitar player, an excellent entertainer and a showman.

But to the current version of the thread --

I'm in an interesting position. As a translator of German Bizarre/Story magic, I get to see different approaches to the script. I have had the honor and pleasure of working with some of the best writers in German Bizarre/Story magic. I know how they think and how they perform. They do a buildup and then the magic happens.

I have quit writing routines based entirely upon the sequence of events in someone else's routine. Now I write scripts with a story in mind, figure out the magic that I need to give impetus and climax to the story, and then I put them all together. This is pretty much the way Borodin works.

Punx worked the other way around. He got the tricks together, then wrote the story. Both approaches work. It's a matter of making things fit properly.
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P.T. Murphy
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Quote:
On 2006-09-15 11:50, P.T. Murphy wrote:

Max Maven shared three questions the performer should try to answer. I am not sure where he got them from but they stick in my mind. I think these questions hold true more for the magician/ performers more than they do actors.



I have been informed that Max Maven "got these" questions from...Max Maven! I should have known.
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tommy
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Who are you? The Magician!
What are you doing? Magic!
Why should WE (the audience) care? Because if you donít that there King, who is dreaming about you, will wake and you'd go out -- bang! -- just like a candle!

:)
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
P.T. Murphy
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And with that the voice of reason was snuffed out...
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Bill Palmer
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The inspiration for a story may be something as simple as a phone call to a friend in a hospital. Or it may be finding a novelty item that emits a pre-recorded sound. Sometimes a story starts with a real event, then takes a turn toward the bizarre. Sometimes a story asks "what if?"

The script and the blocking have to do other things. For example, if it is necessary for the audience to remember that a certain situation existed at the beginning of the trick, and was different at the end of the trick, this needs to be pointed out somehow during the script.

It does no good for the cards to change to red ones, if the audience does not know that they were blue to begin with.
"The Swatter"

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tommy
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Is Magic based on reality and reason and so on or fantasy and belief and so on?

Isnít the voice of reason snuffed out by magic?
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Bill Palmer
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This gets back to the definition of what magic is or is not.

Here we are separating the script from the interpretation by the performer, the execution of the mechanics of the trick by the performer, and the impression the audience has of what has actually taken place. The first two work together to produce the third.

Magic is not chaos. Magic has its own set of rules and logic. These are understood by both the performer and the audience. One of the rules is cause and effect. Magic doesn't just "happen." Something causes the magic to occur. This something may be the magician (his innate power, his mental mojo, or whatever), it may be an object that has special characteristics (a magic wand, a rabbit's foot, woofle dust (GAG!!!) ) or it may be a spell (an incantation, a gesture, the wiggling of the thumb.) Or there may be a pseudoscientific explanation for what occurs -- "beam me up, Scotty!"

But something must occur to make the magic happen.

Magic puts a new twist on reason.

The script, the blocking and the technical aspects must work together tightly to produce the maximum effect. The magician must use his technical and acting skills to convincingly produce the magic in the mind of the spectator.

That's where the magic takes place. It doesn't take place in your hands, on the table or on the stage. It takes place inside the spectator's head.
"The Swatter"

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Lee Darrow
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To misquote Freud: "Sometimes a magic trick is just a g** D******ed MAGIC TRICK!" And sometimes people actually WANT to SEE a magic trick, believe it or not!

Anyone who ever visited the old New York lounge knows that there were very few story tricks done there - the magic was hit-and-run, leave them laughing standup comedy, fast one-liners seemingly shot from the hip material that was far closer to standup comedy that it EVER was to the legitimate theater.

And I submit, ladies and gentlemen of the forum, that this is how the VAST majority of magic today is STILL performed, particularly in the close-up venue.

So wouldn't it make MUCH more sense to study the construction, methods, scripting and delivery of the successful standup comedians (for the majority of close up magi - NOT all, I readily agree) than to go to Stanislavski, Mamet and McGaw (Acting Is Believing)?

Lee Darrow, C.H.
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Jonathan Townsend
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Perhaps that is why David Regal's offerings are so well received.

He was a standup comic in NY. Smile
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Lee Darrow
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And maybe why his material is more to the point for most close up magi?

I look at close up magic from a number of different angles, depending on what I'm doing at the time.

If I'm scripting, I'm looking at it from a number of viewpoints, as simultaneously as I can - from a neurolinguistic standpoint - how can I use the language to achieve the effects that I want - presuppositional statements, nominalizations, pacing, leading and the use of representational systems to connect with and lead the audience in the direction that I want them to go?

I also look at it from a structural standpoint in relation to the mechanics of the effect I am performing WHEN scripting - what words have to go WHERE to cover WHAT, and how do I link that with the neurolinguistic angle?

I also look at it from the comedic structure angle - how well can I use this script to set up the denouement of the effect? And how can I weave the joke INTO that blow off? And how well can I get it to fit into the REST of my set (or module - more on that in another thread)?

And then there's the overall "tightness" if you will, of the script and the effect, as a cohesive unit. Does all of this stuff FIT together? If not, tweaking might need to happen. A word may need to be shortened, lengthened or dropped, a tense might need to be changed or the time setting shifted.

It depends, but this is what I often go through when scripting, believe it or not.

And, sometimes, it just springs up, full grown. And those are usually my best work (if any of my nonsense can be called "best").

Lee Darrow, C.H.
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<BR>"Because NICE Matters!"
Jonathan Townsend
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Gee, scripting, timing, directorial feedback... all we need now is to admit that the skill of deliver is acting.

Is this a "chicken or the egg" type issue? Where until we try to act we are not going to get script/directing feedback? Or until we try to write we won't have the ability to discuss themes and elegance of expression?
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P.T. Murphy
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If you TRY to act you are NOT acting. It is very simple. Acting is doing. Gee I hate to sound like Yoda or Uda...BUT they were on to something.
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tommy
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So If you try NOT to act are you NOT acting then?
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On 2006-10-12 13:13, tommy wrote:
So If you try NOT to act are you NOT acting then?


You can't not act. Nor can you not DO.

The question to face is whether or not we are doing what is best.

At least in plays we have a script, the support of other cast members and the director.
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magicalaurie
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George Ledo
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Wow, old thread, but I'll drop my two-cents' worth in anyway.

Acting technique is all fine well and good, but one of the things that gets left out a lot is motivation: why does the character do this or say that? Motivation comes from what the character wants or doesn't want (and how badly) in terms of the story. Not the script, but the story told within the script.

Someone here mentioned drama students being booted out of their program because they couldn't "get into" their characters, and I totally believe it. Sure, maybe they memorized their lines, got the voice projection down, and learned beats and how to "cheat" for an audience, and all that technical stuff, but if they couldn't summon their characters out of the story and believe in them (and make us believe in them), they were toast.

That's one of the problems I've had with Henning Nelms' book. He treats every subject, even motivation, as so many instructions, like programming a computer. But learning to summon a character out of the story inside the script takes more than programming: it takes some serious thinking and understanding and caring about the character. There are no short cuts.

I'm not into close-up at all, so I wouldn't have a clue how to apply motivation to close-up except in the most superficial manner, but I can believe that it can be applied through really thinking it through.
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Ray Pierce
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I would consider a stage act to be linked to theater but close up is more linked to film work with its increased intimacy and requirement for more subtlety and nuance in performance. No, believable acting isnít a gift everyone has. Creating that moment of inspired spontaneity isnít something everyone can do. As an actor first, my goal is to create an effect that seems both pure and spontaneous as I am creating a special moment with that particular person or group that depends on those special circumstances for its success. On the other hand, if you canít believably pull that off, just tell a good story. Yes, there need to be motivated actions which camouflage the methods. Acting is just creating an illusion of a reality which many can do even without superior acting chops. Do what you can do well and build off that.
Ray Pierce
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