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Richard Osterlind
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I have noticed that many new mentalists, when they lay out their intended programs for a future show, usually list an enormous amount of effects they wish to perform. This, in my opinion, is one of the chief faults of new mentalists. They have not learned that mentalism alone is not the answer.

Let me begin my argument by giving an illustration. We can all remember our high school days (perhaps some of you are still there) and how we really liked one teacher over the others. Usually this person joked around, talked about many things and still taught the subject on hand. Now imagine that this same teacher suddenly did nothing but teach, going from one idea to another in the subject matter without ever breaking it up or having a bit of fun. Would you still have liked him/her so much?

That is what a show is all about. Mentalism is heavy duty stuff especially if you just present your material and leave it up to the audience to try to figure out where you’re coming from. They have a lot to think about. You know yourself that if you are deep in thought about some problem, and someone else comes along and gives you a new problem to solve, it is irritating. That is what happens to an audience if you just give them one effect after another. There is no relief.

If you are fairly new to mentalism, and are trying to work out a suitable program, first sit down and figure out how long each effect should take to do. Be realistic and add in a little time for walking around, explaining things in detail and for unexpected occurrences. Things always take a little longer in a show than in rehearsal. Add up all these times.

Then figure out how long your show is going to be. An hour is a great length as it gives you time to connect with your audience, but doesn’t overdue it. (See note below)

The amount of your performance time should be no greater than ¾ of your total performing time and may be as low at 1/2. The rest of the time should be for joking around, introducing interesting stories, etc. You can always have one or two extra effects ready to go if you find yourself finished and still have 10 or 15 minutes to fill.

If you follow this advice, you will find that your audience will like you better and you will be on much friendlier terms. This goes a long, long way in stopping troublemakers and having people do what you say. If the audience is on your side, no one really wants to disrupt a show and, if someone does, the rest will quickly put them down.

Note: One of the reasons why I rarely perform at magic conventions or other magic gatherings is there is never enough time in a show shared by other magicians to connect with your audience as a mentalist. If you are new to the art, don’t get involved in performing in the stage show for your club’s latest benefit or convention. Besides having too many magicians in the audience, there just isn’t enough time! Better to have the stage to yourself and an hour to stretch out and get to know your audience, and them you, for you to begin to understand what really works.

Richard
Mindpro
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Excellently stated. The one thing I regularly see missing from many performers is their ability to entertain. I'm not just saying that of magicians or mentalists, but of any entertainer on any level. You should first be able to, as you say, "connect" with the audience without your said medium. For example, how many DJs rely strictly on their music? This makes them record (or DC or mp3, etc.) spinners not entertainers. A good DJ would be both a music spinner and a good MC and personality. The same for magicians. How many magicians or mentalists focus on the tricks, effects or illusions they're going to perform? The real focus should be on being an entertainer with the medium (a DJs music, a magicians tricks, etc.) as the means to present your entertainment.

I worked with the great George Burns who told me you should be able to entertain anytime, anywhere at a moments notice as an entertainer. This is why standup comedians quickly learn it's more about their style and personality rather than their jokes, stories, etc. The content of their material may change regularly but the one consistant is their (character, style, personna) abilty to first entertain and connect.

I'm glad you posted this because I've been seeing more and more newer people here lately stating they're prepaing for an upcoming show and asking what members here what they think of their outlined set, and they proceed to list 15 effects for a 45 - 60 minute show.

The concept Richard speaks of here is just another example of a true working performer's knowledge, experience and insight. I don't know what triggered Richard to present this topic but is one of the gems that is unfortunately overlooked, minimally understood and greatly disregarded in learning about being an entertainer. I do understand that is in part due to the fact that much of this comes with actual real world experience and a learning curve. But by actually taking the time to understand this can greatly reduce the time spent on learning it the hard way. Many performers never learn this or understand this on the depth and level required to create a good solid performance foundation.

The analogy of the teacher is a great way to understand the importance of this and how it affects us as the performers and our perception to each member of the audience. We are there to entertain. The audience is there to be entertained. Defining and understanding these roles before creating your show or set allows the importance of this to present our performance from the proper perspective. Even experienced pro's can and should take a step back every once in a while to remember this.

Thanks Richard.

Mindpro
Jay Are
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Bravo Richard...

As stated above -- this is a great post.

Don't just be the guy on stage with a clipboard -- emotional connection -- that is what this art should always be about.
xxx
Looch
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An excellent post by Richard & Mindpro

Ken Weber talks in detail about the "emotional connection" in his incredible "Maximum Entertainment" Book. First class stuff
Dynamike
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Thank you for starting this thread Richard. I can understand what you described helps the audience see the mentalist as a friend. The same way we see you as a friend by contributing your time with us.
Kevin Cook
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Excellent posts by Jay Are and Looch, saying excellent post.
RLFrame
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Great advice! I recall a thread several years back where someone asked "What DVD Would You Like To See That Does Not Now Exist?" Most of the responses asked for noted perfomers that had not released material to do so.

I wrote that I thought it would be a great idea to video short acts of several young performers who are just beginning. Then have several seasoned pros go over the show, work with them, and coach them on details, most of which, like Richard's post, are gold but you just do not find them written anywhere. Then video the shows again when the advice has been implemented so that the difference can be seen. As I recall, the idea went over like lead balloon. Everyone wants more tricks.

The three things that I have always struggled with that I find very little information on are:

1) Dramatic structure.
2) How to trasnsition from one demonstration to the next. There always seem to be dead moments as people return to their seats, or when I am getting the notepad and the business cards for the next effect...
3) I struggle with how to rehearse a lot of mentalism, much of which requires interaction with the participants. Cold reading, anagrams, dual reality effects, verbal subtleties and even to some extent multiple outs aren't like cups and balls where you can practice alone and pretty well perfect in front of a mirror. I am always interested in learning how working pros practice some of this stuff!

To me these 'secrets,' as well as how to interact, connect, and get an audience to like you and be one your side are among the most valuable.
MrX
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Thank you, Richard, for the wonderful post. As several great theatre artists in the 20th century have said, the key to our art is the mysterious connection that exists between the live performer and the live spectator. Everything else is secondary.
Brane
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The above posts make this forum SOOOooo worthwhile! In reference to Ken Weber's book, I have a quote from it pasted on my mirror. Speaking of your audiences, post show: "If you haven't made them FEEL something, then what you've done is a lecture."
THANK YOU, Richard for starting this!
brane
phil in KC
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Richard, thanks for sharing your essay on connecting with the audience. I know I'm still struggling with this. Also, it got others to post interesting ideas as well.

Quote:
On 2008-06-03 12:01, RLFrame wrote:
The three things that I have always struggled with that I find very little information on are:

1) Dramatic structure.
2) How to trasnsition from one demonstration to the next. There always seem to be dead moments as people return to their seats, or when I am getting the notepad and the business cards for the next effect...
3) I struggle with how to rehearse a lot of mentalism, much of which requires interaction with the participants. Cold reading, anagrams, dual reality effects, verbal subtleties and even to some extent multiple outs aren't like cups and balls where you can practice alone and pretty well perfect in front of a mirror. I am always interested in learning how working pros practice some of this stuff!

To me these 'secrets,' as well as how to interact, connect, and get an audience to like you and be one your side are among the most valuable.


I'm with you all the way, RLFrame! I'd add to your list --

4. How do you vary the pace of a show? Singers have ballads and up-tempo songs, but how do mentalists vary the energy level between effects. I know I need to figure this out, but I haven't yet!

-Phil in KC
Mick Ayres
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'Varying the pace' comes (as Richard stated) from not overloading your show with effects.

In my hour-long shows, I perform about 6 effects. The rest of the time is spent 'transitioning' between the effects with INTERESTING tales and even music that smooths the path. To me, these transitions provide the theatrical 'rise & fall' of emotions that keep the pace of the show lively. THAT is where each audience member finds the drama, conflict and tension that builds up to the act's strong finale.

Without those critical elements, a mentalism (or magic) show will be nothing more than a series of demonstrations.

Best,
Mick
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NeilS
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What powerful advice.

Mentalism needs to entertain rather than just puzzle. This is what the greats do - and which we need to emulate.
IAIN
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Thank you mr. osterlind and mindpro...

it is excellent advice, its often said too isn't it that the magic/mentalism is YOU as the person, just as much, if not more so than the effect itself...

two mentalists could perform the same effect, even with the same patter - but get either a huge gasp and applause, or have a chair thrown at them....

all my favourite mentalists are charismatic in one way or another - rigg's caring yet occasionally stern demeanour, canasta's over-politeness mixed with his sudden abruptness, derren's cheek and charm, and recently after meeting mr. berglas - his sheer subtle commanding persona mixed with warmth and lust for life...

and I suppose that's the walk-away moment, after the show, peole saying "HE was great wasnt he...the WAY he did this and that..amazing!"...
Blackwood
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Wow, Richard, what a helpful post!

Though not having .0005% of your performing experience, I came to a similar conclusion just based on the old truism "variety is the spice of life." I LOVE mentalism, but even I'd be glassy-eyed watching 15 demonstrations in a row – maybe that's why some people think mentalism is boring?

Just by coincidence, I aim for 6-7 mentalism demonstrations per hour of performance. The rest I fill with other fun things that compliment the topic – jokes, bar bets, odd mind facts and demonstrations like the Stroop Test, the fcat taht our mnid can raed grbaeelld snetneces, Hunter's Knot-tying, and a lot of music. Some day, when I have the mentalism act down cold, I'd like to add a shadowgraphy closer – like the "Wonderful World" one that has become an Internet viral legend.

Harry Anderson is a great magician, but in his show he does a ventriloquism bit, a dramatic monologue from "Nightmare Alley," discussions of classic freak show stars and a old-fashioned chapeaugraphy set – and the audience LOVES it. (In fact, when I saw him he only did 3-4 actual magic tricks – and they were widely varied.)

Again, thank you Richard for sharing with us the wisdom of many years of performances.
bobser
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In a kinda' past life if you will, when about to do a lecture before experienced persons in a particular field, I would open thus:
"Now first of all, can I just say that I'm not here to teach you guys anything new. I am very much aware that your all extremely talented and experienced in your field. However somewhere along the line I just might remind some of you of an import element that you may have forgotten."
It seemed to work then, and if you put the newbies in here aside for just a moment I think it can well be read by some of the more experienced in here also.
Ta Richard.

bobser
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HollyMental
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Richard, thank you so much for your advice and counsel. I take every piece of advice you give to heart because I trust it so implicitly.


Holly
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bobser
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Yeah... I was gonna say that as well.
Bob Burns is the creator of The Swan.
Gerry Hennessey
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Mr. Osterlind,

Your experience is legend. Your advice priceless.

Thank you.


Hennessey
"Every discipline effects every other discipline. You can't straighten out the corporation if your closet is a mess" Jim Rohn

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Sealegs
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Richard will get no voice of discent from me. The points he makes are all extremely pertinent to creating an entertaining performance.

My thoughts though are how do you make those that need to take on this information do just that? By what process are these points going to be adopted by these performers that are waiting in the wings?

I had a conversation at the last Blackpool Convention with another entertainer that went along the lines that the new up-and-coming bunch, in be it in mentalism or close up or whatever, without doubt seemed to have a better grasp of the physical mechanics of the craft than 'we' did at their length of time of involvement with the craft. But what was noticable was that hardly anyone of them, if any one at all, was even half way interesting to watch do anything. There were no 'characters'.... only effects or sometimes only moves.... performed almost as if in a vacuum.

It used to be that a crowded convention of magicians and mentalists could easily be mistaken for a 'nerds and geeks anonymous' meeting. Now magic and mentalism are much more the in-thing and this has attracted a different looking crowd, more sharply dressed and (thankfully) more hygienically groomed.... unyet still somehow they are as disconnected from an audience as the old geeky neerdy crowd ever was. I'm not by the way suggesting that it's only the new guys and gals on the block are lacking. However I believe that for those older guys and gals on the block a lack of progress in either artistic or professional directions is a more obvious indication that some quality might need attending to.

Richard gives some good advice of what practical things can be done. eg: Choose fewer effects, allow more time for each routine, ensure at least 25% of your performing time is spent doing something other than effects.

This is all very helpful advice. I've always suggested that, regardless what your act is, a good idea is to take away what you do; and what you might be expected to do; and whatever else is left after that...THAT's the act. If nothing is left... then quite simply (and sometimes painfully evidently) there's no act.

For a singer, for example, you assume they've got a great voice, will choose great songs and have great arrangements. Take all that away and what's left is; their manner, how the speak, what they say, how they look at the crowd, the pace the rhythm etc...that's what goes to make up the act. The same principle goes for mentalists. It's a given that they're going to do a variety of great effects and leave the audience totally mystified. Whatever's left when you remove that from the performance....that's the act.

But there are two big hurdles to overcome. One is that those that need to take this advice on board are least likely to hear it/act on it. (Those that see the value in it are probably already doing their best to 'make themselves the act'.)

The second hurdle is, unlike learning a move or the mechanics of an effect, where do you go or what do you turn to to learn to 'joke around' and tell 'interesting stories'? Ask most would be mentalists (or magicians) to stand in front of an audience for over 15 minutes and get them to keep a crowd entertained by joking around and telling interesting stories and in the absence of anything else they're going to have to fall back on...their personalities, and on-stage character. It's precisely this though that's usually what's not up to the job so most people fall back to being themselves and unfortunately a good proportion just aren't that naturally engaging.

So how does the information filter into the psychyes of those that most need to hear it? If it was something that could easily be put on a dvd and implimented straight out the wrapper then there'd be no problem. But the answers are all so vague and wishy washy sounding. Books on public speaking, improvisation etc

I guess ultimately the market sorts out those that find their way and those that don't.

Ones thing is for sure, if I wanted to work as a mentalist (I'm fundamentally a comedy magic act) deciding what effects I'd perform would be the least of my worries. That aspect of the show I could sort out over a cup of tea and a sandwich. The rest of it...the persona...the character...the 'joking aroud' ...'the interesting stories'... the style....THE ACT....Well even now I'm not sure I would know how to go about starting.

Neal
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Richard Osterlind
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I just returned from helping my daughter paint her new apartment all day and am delighted to see all the excellent advice and wisdom added to my initial post.

Thanks to everyone who contributed. This certainly makes the Café magicians helping magicians. (or mentalists!) Smile

Richard
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