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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The June 2010 entrée: Tom Stone » » Keith Johnstone's influence » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

The Burnaby Kid
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Tom, I read in a different question that you consider Keith Johnstone to be an influence on you. Would you be able to elaborate upon that at all, as well as what you think about improv theater and its potential for overlap (and/or contrast) with magic?

I've been trying to move away from scripted performances in my close-up work, so this general area of theater is really interesting to me. Obviously it's difficult to abandon scripts altogether, but I personally love those moments of deviation.
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TStone
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Fortunately, my first exposure to improv theater was seeing a very good group perform. I've since seen a lot of really horrible improv theater as well, so the genre is not automatically equivalent with greatness.

Keith Johnstone's first book "Impro" was an interesting read, but it didn't do much for my magic.
But then, a few years later, I found his second book Impro for Storytellers, and wow!!! I consider that book to be invaluable, and should be considered required reading, for all performance work that involves interactive communication.

In short, Johnstone's second book teaches you how to recognize even small hints of dramatic elements that naturally occurs during an improvised dialogue, and gives you a truckload of techniques, gambits and tools to, on the spot, weave those dramatic elements into a sound story structure.
Very useful, especially for magicians, as we often break the fourth wall and engages in direct communication with the audience.
The Burnaby Kid
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Tom,

Before I continue with more questions, just a quick dumb one. Are you talking about being able to change your script on the spot to deal with an offer someone gives us, or are you talking about being able to change the magic itself?
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TStone
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The former; to weave the offer into your work.
However, there has been occations when I've done the latter as well, but that's more rare.
The Burnaby Kid
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Ah ok. Yeah, I've been able to work random byplay into scripts for magic, but it's been more difficult to try to make the magic itself improvised. I suppose the best one can usually do is goad a spectator into making an offer you're already prepared to handle.

Thanks, Tom.
JACK, the Jolly Almanac of Card Knavery, a free card magic resource for beginners.
TStone
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Well, if you are "jazzing", for example with a memdeck, then there's a good chance to let the offer guide the direction of the effects.
On stage, it's trickier...
The Burnaby Kid
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Right. I'm guessing it would almost have to be close-up, since that way you don't have to risk a secondary audience getting bored because they don't like way the assistant is taking the course of events.

Interesting that you'd suggest a memdeck, though. Is it just because it puts you that far ahead of the audience? Or are you thinking the effects possible with it are more conducive to jazzing?
JACK, the Jolly Almanac of Card Knavery, a free card magic resource for beginners.
TStone
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Quote:
On 2010-06-13 14:09, Andrew Musgrave wrote:
Right. I'm guessing it would almost have to be close-up, since that way you don't have to risk a secondary audience getting bored because they don't like way the assistant is taking the course of events.

In part, yes - but also, if you're standing there with two silks and a dye-tube, the available options for improvised handling is somewhat limited. It's not impossible though, just tricky.
Quote:
Interesting that you'd suggest a memdeck, though. Is it just because it puts you that far ahead of the audience? Or are you thinking the effects possible with it are more conducive to jazzing?

Both. Smile
Tom Cutts
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Hey Tom,

It's been a while.

I was fortunate to study improv theater with Keith Johnstone as a director. What a stunning experience that was. Also one of the best improv groups, True Fiction Magazine, is based in SF. Great Improv theater is a miracle to behold.

All magicians should witness it at the very least, and study it at the very best. Improv provides such wonderful insight into what is possible in live interactive theater.
Tom Cutts
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I'm going to throw this down. I'm just watching the Tony Awards. Scarlet Johansson's acceptance speech hilights the elements which create live theater. ALL live theater performers should look for the wisdom in her words. They closely echo Tom Stone's thoughts on the subject.
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