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jay leslie
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The bad part about being a magician is that almost every performer has to carry around a batter charger and spare batteries to make some of the new miracles do their thing. I'm not against electronics in the use of a performance because I believe it is the effect that is more important then the principle but a friend asked me a related question. He wanted to know what the best effects for Busking are. In "short order' we both decided the best received performances involved skill and/or some kind of unique ability that people are impressed with, rather then box tricks and comedy magic for the sake of a laugh. SO the question is: Do you believe that the average viewer gives the escapologist credit for skill or they believe there is some kind of trick involved, with everything we do.

To further clairify as part B of the question: There are those of us who present escapes as if there is no trick and it's a real challenge but there are those of us who present our escapes as if we are "in the know" and it's more of a stunt.

SO - If you leave out your personality - and leave out the style you present your show - What are the escapes the audience believes involve skill and what are the escapes the audience views as tricks (or stunts) ?
CARNEGIE
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If you watched PHENOMENON on NBC, that might shed some light on your question. Who won the contest of mentalists? An Illusionist won. Did the audience understand the difference between mentalism and mental magic? No.

But you asked, "if you leave out personality and style, what escapes does the audience believe is skill or tricks?"

Does not the presentation ultimately dictate that? Case in point. Comedy Straight Jacket escape versus Hanging Upside Down Straight Jacket Escape. One is for laughs, one is for drama. But does the audience care about trick or skill? I don't think so if they are entertained.

Britney Spears (before she became a crazy girl) put out albums which she sang on. Then she did concerts which she lip synched. First one is skill, second one is trick. But who cares if they are entertained?

The presentation frames how the escape is perceived. The Water Torture can be done as a spectacular escape or as an illusion. The sub-trunk is mostly done today as an illusion, but there are presentations that lean more towards the escape element. But what skill presentation is going to stand up to the Pendragons instant switch because it looks like real magic.

I do think the audience does have an appreciation for something they think is skill but I think you could debate the merits of skill over trick. David Blaine doesn't seem to exhibit skill or trick, some people think he really does that stuff. For him, the skill is in the endurance stunts, the magic takes care of the other area. But folks are impressed either way.

And that takes care of my two cents for the day.
Merry Christmas to all!

Carnegie

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jay leslie
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Thank you for the response.

What I intended to post wasn't as clear as I had hoped but after reading your answer I believe I can do better. What I would like to avoid is the method and/or style the forum-user employs in their presentation. That topic could be addressed under a different title like "I like performing the strait jacket as a comedy magician, how about you"?

What I would like to read are how the audience views specific escapes and which ones appear to be skill. As an example: Even though we know how easy the Invisible Deck is to perform compared to Trimuph, many times the spectators will give you credit for great skill on the Invisable Deck.

Incidentally, I don't watch too much TV so I can't relate to the Phenonemon show. Would it be easier if there was a list EAs could comment on? Ok. Which escapes given credit for skill and which for trickery?

strait jacket
upside down strait jacket
keller rope tie
thumb tie
thumb cuffs
wrist stocks
handcuffs modern
handcuffs antique
in-again out-again chain cuffs
mail bag
rope tie
chain wrap
milk can
underwater crate
ariel crate
any kind of muff


heres a good example
pulling your hands free, as opposed to picking the lock open

add others if you like.

I know we can all adjust the performance to change the impression the audience gets.
So which is GENERALLY perceived as skill and which others appear to be trickery, according to the audience?

Or is this all a moot point since we are doing something they are not familiar with?
Harley Newman
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Carnegie's point is valid. For the most part, the audience couldn't care less, whether we're doing a "trick" or a "stunt". They're there to be entertained.

I know a guy who can pick 14 locks, in the time I could deal with one. Great skill. But guess what? I'd leave the audience astounded. He'd leave them yawning "Oh, he picked the locks".

It's sometimes said that a skill should be transparent, that technique should never be obvious. I agree, except where it's an important part of advancing the story you're telling. Then, put it front and center. Because our job is to tell a story, and an escape should be just one tool in our repetoire.

I know somebody who does a carefully choreographed milk can escape. It's interesting. He gets applause. I know somebody else, who with 10 minutes and a thumbtip, will convince the audience that they've seen miracles. He gets a standing ovation. I know which one I'd rather watch.

Whether they're familiar with a thing...let's use straitjacket. A lot of people have never seen one up close. Are they familiar with it? No. But they're familiar with the IDEA of it. They know ABOUT it. So the only important question is "How do we make it interesting?" If we do that, they're entertained, and everybody wins.

If one the other hand, we're more concerned with how many locks we can pick, then the audience is left out of the equation, and everybody loses.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

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jay leslie
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Are you saying that a good EA can escape from a wet noodle and people will give them credit for great skill?
Harley Newman
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Yes, absolutely. Technical skills are one thing, showmanship another. Being good at one, is no guarantee of having a clue of the other.

I know somebody who has a huge collection of cuffs and shackles and locks, maybe even a couple of thousand. He can pick them all, which I find amazing. But put him in front of an audience, and he's in the running for World's Most Boring Performer.

Then there's somebody like Mike Rosman, who's a really good juggler/clown. He does one escape. First he complains about it being cold, so he puts on a sweater. A little later, he complains about it being hot, so he takes off the sweater, which takes 3-4 minutes, because he gets horribly tangled in it. Then he picks up a SJ, looks at it, and throws it away. Brilliant!

A wet noodle, you say? Hmmm. That sounds interesting. Let's play with it. Here's a premise...you have to escape a wet noodle, without breaking it. I can think of a couple of other premises. Anyone else?
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

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jay leslie
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You have changed my mind. A wet noodle escape, in the right hands, would be interesting.

So, You break the noodle, under cover, eat it, and offer a replacement to examine. It's like the "vanishing cracker" using the french drop...(or should I say Freedom Drop?)
Harley Newman
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Sure! Why not?

What would happen, to be buried under a pile of them? I think this needs a danger factor, and begs for a dumping of hot spaghetti sauce
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

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Kondini
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Looking at an audience as a cabbage plot (Ken Brooke) You tell them what they are about to see (Show bait on the hook)So if you tell them it is to be a demonstration of skill,,,they will believe it is !!! Tell them it`s an illusion and they will think it`s a trick.

I never mix magic with escapes (I do,,,but the speckies view is that I don`t "!!).

Providing the speckies are entertained it does not matter,,,but the perception of my character does. So when Im Kondini Escapologist that`s what they get (Because I believe, I am). When it`s Kondini entertainer (This covers a much wider field) So I do what I like. Now if they book Kondini,,Human Tool Box,,,,thats what I do, nothing else,,,,,,, So one night I walk off stage as an escapologist, next night entertainer who has used, escapes, magic and fire eating, then the next night Im the freak!!!

Couldn`t care less,,,providing I get the cheque !!!

Ken
Harley Newman
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I disagree strongly with Mr. Brooke. I think it's a terrible performance convention.

The old adage about writing is: tell them what you're going to say, say it, tell them what you've said. It's a formula for mediocrity, and somehow made a transition onto the stage. It's good for technical stuff, but can you imagine a novel with the last chapter first (actually I read one like that, recently, and it was very good, but more as a kind of intellectual curiosity).

If you tell them what you're going to do, why bother to do it? It's like begging for applause. A lot of performers do it, because it's how they learned to work. But it has no relation to doing a good performance.

If you're keeping them interested, you don't have to explain anything. If you accept the reality of the prop, the audience will too. If you accept the reality of what you're doing, the audience will too. If you look at something askance, the audience will too.

One of the best performance conventions is the illusion of the first time. If you can maintain that, even after thousands of performances, your material will still be fresh for the audience, and there are techniques for doing it. So as things unfold, you discover things, and the audience is taken along on the ride.

I guess there are times to tell things ahead of time, as a kind of foreshadowing...but you need a very specific reason to do it.
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Kondini
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I have found that working Street shows in order to keep the speks there till the bottle you have to promise something worthy of their waiting.

Also with a Fakir tented show,,,the promise of ***** on the inside is the only way to get them inside.Like the zibbits,,, curiosity primes them but the verbals gets them in.

Regarding the escapes angle,,,,the climax is expected (Point of escape is the escape)The journey is how ! Why ! so for the how I explain the use of knowledge and skill (Its maybe a lie) But it sells the lie,,,so instead of Oh look he`s out, they see the skillful pick of the lock or cuff which gives a logic to the excercise,,, the more skilled in appearance the more applause at the end,,,,add an explosion or two to this apparent skill and the escape becomes meaningful >>> Without his skill, there was the possibility his head would have been blown off >>> Too many presentations of ,,,,put me in there and I will get out syndrome, without a core (Skill or physical challenge) The escapes all appear somewhat bland.

I don`t think there is a hard and fast rule to this,,,the above works for me that`s all I can comment on. I do know that different parts of the world hold different challenges in presentation ie Phillipines is a joy, the simplest is a miracle, in India colour is the key,I find US speks a lot easier than UK speks because in the US inhibitions are far less, they are out for a good time and let their hair down,,,in the UK the reserve can kill the moment and no one wants to take part and openly enjoy ! So in a nutshell skill would be lost on the Phillipinos, observed politly by the british and applauded loudly by the Yanks,,,The Indians would beam from ear to ear shaking their heads in bewilderment and put the whole sequence down to a religous act.

Ken
jay leslie
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So, am I to take it by the threads here, there is no credit given for difference in the mechanism of any escape but every difference in presentation? If that's the case why did spectators bring challenge locks and cuffs to shows thirty years ago? Does that not mean, most audiences perceive that a trick is involved, for most escapes? Where do we cross the line into skill? OR is more credit (and value) bestowed if the escape has dire consequences, then if it is purely an execution in technique?
Steve_Mollett
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It feels like you're going out of your way to confuse yourself, Jay.

We must always remember that the layman does not know 'how it's done.'

If it's played like a cheap, choeographed trick, they will regard it as such; if it is played seriously, as if real, they will regard that as such.

Escapes, performed convincingly, have the same advantage as well-performed mentalism or fakir feats: the audience is culturally pre-programmed to view it as real.

Whether you use true skill or mechanical gaffs, the lay public is none the wiser either way.
Author of: GARROTE ESCAPES
The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.
- Albert Camus
jay leslie
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Here is what it comes down to

Some EAs slip a pair of cuffs in front of the audience, with no cover, and others pick the lock. Doesn't the audience believe there is less skill the first way? Don't they think the EA just has small hands?
Steve_Mollett
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>"Some EAs slip a pair of cuffs in front of the audience, with no cover, and others pick the lock. Doesn't the audience believe there is less skill the first way? Don't they think the EA just has small hands?"

I guess it depends on your showmanship and persona.

Slipping a set of cuffs quickly and effortlessly, and with a wide, relaxed smile, would probably give the 'no skill' impression.

A performer struggling, sweating and grimacing as he slowly squeezes out, or a 'yogi-type' performer who squeezes out slowly while giving a deadpan, 'entranced' expression would probably appear more skilled.

Also, the persona matters. If you are the 'escapist as locksmith' or 'escapist as modern-Willy Sutton' type, lockpicking is a 'natural.'

If your persona is 'escapist as contortionist' (ala Zamora) or 'escapist as fakir,' squeezing out looks more natural.

I guess what I'm saying is there is no 'hard-and-fast' answer; it depends on your persona and ability as a showman.
Author of: GARROTE ESCAPES
The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.
- Albert Camus
jay leslie
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OK So it seems there are two schools of thought. A. Make the audience believe you do the escape by compromising your persona; safety, for their pleasure B Displaying dexterity and skill to accomplish the feat.

the only problem I have with the first is sometimes people have come up to me after a performance and stated that all I did was dislocate my shoulder to escape from a jacket (Like that would be easy to do) and because they knew the secret..... anyone could do it. On the other hand I've performed the In-again-out-again cuffs and no one questions the method they just have a god time because they don't care how it's done.
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>"OK So it seems there are two schools of thought. A. Make the audience believe you do the escape by compromising your persona; safety, for their pleasure B Displaying dexterity and skill to accomplish the feat."

I'm sorry, I couldn't make heads or tails as to what you were driving at. Could you rephrase the above a bit more clearly? Not an slam, mind you; I really am confused by what you wrote.

'compromising your persona; safety, for their pleasure'?
Author of: GARROTE ESCAPES
The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.
- Albert Camus
AntonDreaming
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My good friend Jason Escape is the best working street escapeartist Ive ever seen. He does a SJ and builds it in a very organic way. He plays it off as real BUT doesn't lose any of the fun or excitement of his regular personality. He shows a great deal of stuggle and concitration but never loses the element of fun. I would compare it to watching some one you know snort hot sauce. Its painful and takes a toll but its still funny as hell!

You say people aproach you and claim that all you did was dislocate your shoulder.

Think about this... My personal fav act to watch is a good contortionist! Some contortionists do nothing but dislocate their shoulders in various ways and people love it! So maybe you need to sell the dislocation!

Im surprised people do not come up to you after the show and say "that's crazy do you haft to dislocate your shoulder to do that?".

Anyway just keep at it and remeber not everyone will love everything you do.

Anton
jay leslie
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Steve

I believe there are two trains of thought. A. The EA demonstrates his ability to withstand pain. B. The EA demonstrates his ability to be clever.

It seems that many EAs pick one or the other as a method of operation and a minority blend both.
- - - - - - - - - -
It's like the magician who performs illusions that are mechanically oriented as opposed to those who perform flourshes between sleights.
Harley Newman
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If you're trying to do a job right, why use only one tool, when facility with several will make it go more smoothly?

Most EAs I've seen, adopt the style of the person from whom they learned, and most never challenge their performance conventions. It does the artform great disservice.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

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