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Mike Robbins
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Anchorage, Alaska
447 Posts

Profile of Mike Robbins
In the past year I've been working on a new act that involves storytelling magic. This is not Bizarre, but is more along the lines of Punx and Borodin.

I debuted my first routine at a ren faire I perform at each June and July. Although I know I can get better, I was quite encouraged by the feedback. I can't describe the feeling of being half-way through a routine, not having performed a trick yet, and finding the audience, both adults and children, literally hanging on your every word. It was amazing how that also seems to have made the impact of the magic even stronger.

The feedback from non-magicians was quite encouraging. The feedback from magicians, as you might expect, was less so. The three primary comments were "You should start with a quick magic effect to set the pace" (Hmmm, I didn't want that kind of pace. Perhaps I should do what 90% of stage magicians do and come out, show a hanky, make a cane appear, and hand it to an assistant.<g>), "There should be more magic and less story" (Eek! Wrong ratio. Not what I was trying to do at all.), and "The story was too long and boring" (It seemed it was so only for the magicians. You know, those guys who just want to see moves).

Of course I accepted their input as it was intended and, in the end, compared it with the input from the non-magicians to determine what I would do to make modifications. In the end, I found that my client list consists purely of non-magicians and used that fact to guide me.

After a long and rambling opening, I'll cut to the chase. I'm interested in hearing of anyone else's experience with storytelling and magic. I'm less interested in the professor's nightmare with the "3 Bears Story" than I am in stories and magic where the magic is in a supporting role versus the opposite. I'm interested in any references to on- or off-line publications that relate to this. I already have Punx's "One Upon A Time" and Borodin's "Sherezade" (both excellent by the way). I've also got a lot of Bizaarist reference material and, although it's been quite helpful, I'm looking for less of the dark tone, mascara, and robes.

I'm particularly interested in hearing if anyone else is doing such a thing either as 1) a routine or two in an existing act, or 2) especially an entire act made up of this type of story/magic mixture. That's what I'm working on now and I'd enjoy hearing the trials and tribulations of any others on this path.


The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
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Profile of drhackenbush
Don't know if this helps, but I just saw a performer at a county fair last weekend who literally did 2 effects during his 45-minute show, and the audience loved it. I think you have the right idea by basing your decisions on the reactions of the non-magicians, since they indeed are primarily the people both hiring and watching you.

I am a children's folksinger who adds magic to my programs, so in a 45-minute show, I might use the World Famous Banana Trick, D'Lites, and Puff the Magic Dragon, and that seems to be just enough magic for my audiences (mainly consisting of toddlers). Most of the time, my program takes the form of an adventure, so in that respect, it is one long, connected story in which we go to Old MacDonald's Farm, the Zoo, Down By The Bay... and so on.

Before I went this route, my programs were "Now we'll sing this. Now we'll sing that." I felt sorta like I was winging it all the time. Once I turned it into a cohesive program that gave everything I did within it a context, I felt more comfortable, and the audience reaction really improved.

Keep doing what you're doing, and Best of Luck!
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Profile of Payne
I too frequently perform at Renaissance or Mediaeval Fairs and have do many story based effects. In a half-hour set I will do three or four effects and it is my goal to get that number down to one.
Punx is a great source for inspiration for the storytelling magus as are the works of Robert Neale. Pure Effect by Derren Brown is another tome I would highly recommend. I would also suggest that you look into non magic books as sources of material. Folk stories and Fairy tales can provide sources for inspiration. Reading up on the history of the time and place of the faire you are performing at can also provide much material. I have a die box routine based upon the selling of fraudulent relics that I came up with after doing some research on the middle ages.
You are also wise to listen to your audiences instead of the advice of fellow magi. Magicians view magic from a completely different standpoint than that of non-magicians and it is your audiences you want to entertain as that is what your services are engaged to do.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
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Oroville CA
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Profile of Bilwonder
It sounds like you have a great start and will probably not find much better magic references than you already have and as Payne has said your best bet it to add you own magical touch to stories you find from non-magic sources. The folk tradition is fasinating and Universites often offer courses that explore it's rich and strange roots that can give you a lot of new material.

Just to add another magic book to your collection, I have used/adapted some routines from the Goodliffe published book called, "The Land of Make Believe" by Fred Barton, which includes routines for such as "Sir Galahad and the Black Knight," "The Crown Jewel," "Hawkeye and the Indians" "Sherwood Sorcery," "Jimmy and the Magic Telescope." and much more.
"You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." Mark Twain
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Milford Haven. Pembrokeshire wales U.K.
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Profile of p.b.jones
such a book was reviewed in August 2003 Linking ring page 108 the book is called Sound fx presentations for the story teller by ed solomon $50.00 86, 8.5 # 11 pages

Briefly 20 magical stories all of which use a magical suprise sound to add mystery.
apparently ED has other books too all rated very highly by the reviewer
contact ED on
Mike Robbins
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Anchorage, Alaska
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Profile of Mike Robbins
Great responses. Thanks! I will investigate your recommendations.

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
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Eternal Order
Philadelphia, PA
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Profile of magic4u02
Thank you so much for posting here. I agree 100% with your p-hilosphy and your personal search to create what I call more entertaining magic.

I myself believe that a themed act based around a story or plot, can be that much more exciting for an audience. You are giving them a lot more then just a magician on stage trying to wow you with just pure skill.

Too many magicians try only to impress themsleves or other magicians. They forget the people they need to impress are the audience members watching the performance.

Magic is entertainment. With this said, I believe that you can give them entertainment with magic skill as well as with storytelling. If the audience is enjoying your performance and they are smiling, what difference does it really make how many tricks you have performed up to that time?

I do a billiard ball act and routine that is so much different then the norm. I wanted to try to see if I could do a billard ball act that was more of a personality peice and told a story through the process.

I did not want to just go on stage and show skill alone without any ryme or reason. I am happy to say that it has gone over so well and the audiences really seem to relate to the story being told. The magic is secondary. The billard ball sequece is really only 3 mins long and the story is much longer.

But I succeed in that the audience is drawn in and they relate to the story. Because of this they feel really entertained with it much more then if I had done 9 mins of pure slieght of hand.
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6439 Posts

Profile of NJJ
Getting feedback from magicians is a double edged sword. Sometimes they really know there stuff and can be a great help but often they just undermine your confidence with their magician's eye.

Story-telling, like anything, is great when done well but can be boring if done poorly. Sounds like your doing it well! Smile
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Profile of calexa
I have done now two shows for kids, where I mainly told stories and accompanied the stories with a little bit of magic. They loved it!

Optimists have more fun.....
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