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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Whit (Pop) Haydn and Character Development (17 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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WhoDeanie
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(open letter to Whit Haydn)

Dear Mr. Haydn,

One of the most difficult and I think most important things in performing magic is character development. After watching some of your videos and seeing your "character" change over time, I was wondering if you can give me and others here in the Magic Café a little history and insight into your character(s) over time, how they developed, and any tips or pointers for the rest of us as we begin, and continue, to develop our characters. Thank you.

Magically Yours,

Dean Burgess
Magically yours,

Dean Burgess
The Burnaby Kid
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You might want to try posting this in the Food For Thought section down near the bottom of the main page. Whit's good about answering questions but I don't know how often he makes it up to the Newbie section.
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WhoDeanie
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Quote:
On 2012-03-09 15:44, The Burnaby Kid wrote:
You might want to try posting this in the Food For Thought section down near the bottom of the main page. Whit's good about answering questions but I don't know how often he makes it up to the Newbie section.


Hi Burnaby Kid,

I think you are right, it would probably be a more appropriate section. Unfortunately, I don't know how to move it. :-(
Magically yours,

Dean Burgess
Pop Haydn
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Well, here it is! That's why its the Magic Café!

I don't think newbies should be worrying about character development. There are so many other important skills to work on first. In general, learning routines and finding out what magic appeals to you the most, getting up in front of a crowd and learning how to relax and keep their attention--these are much more important.

The best thing is to focus on being natural and normal in presentation--to be yourself talking normally to a group, rather than speaking and acting in a declamatory, stilted way.

As you become comfortable with your magic and presentation in front of a group, then I would start working more on character.

There is a big difference between character and theme, and beginners often make a mistake here. They chose a theme like Indiana Jones, or Western Gambler, and for the most part, these are just costumes they put on.

The hat wears the performer, rather than the performer wearing the hat.

A character is much more. He has a backstory, a reason for being here in front of this crowd at this particular time, something he wants from the audience, and something he wants to give them. A cliched costume just sets the theme.

There is a big difference in dressing up like your favorite hero for Halloween and playing a character.

When you are comfortable performing as yourself, you then start constructing the backstory of how you came to have your magic abilities, what makes them work, why you are showing them here, and so forth. It is as if you take your own life story and embellish it with an explanation of how you came to be here like this and what these powers mean to you. You treat your own story and stretch it into a magical character. Still, you only have to be yourself. You don't tell anyone your backstory, you let it infuse your patter and performance so that the audience gets glimpses of it and sense a kind of integrity behind the performance. Once you have learned to play yourself as a character in a story, you have learned the basics of acting. Many actors have had successful careers without much range--almost always playing a version of themselves--Edward G Robinson, Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne. They could play in all sorts of stories, but generally had to play Americans. They didn't have range to change their voices, faces and mannerisms into that of a completely different character. That sort of range is exemplified by actors like Laurence Olivier.

The magician will usually only create one character, and he can play it for life. It is himself, but with a different backstory.

Creating a completely different character for your magic than yourself requires training in acting, or at least a great deal of study. It is fraught with difficulties.
WhoDeanie
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Hi Mr. Haydn,

Thank you so much for answering. My parents have a film of me performing a couple of magic tricks when I was 5 or 6 years old. I loved it, of course, but never really pursued magic except as a hobby for many years. The reason is because I was never comfortable with what I was doing. I mostly saw large stage illusions on tv and that was pretty much the limit of my magical experience. I took to closeop a little better, but of course that was mostly for friends. Then I moved to performing for charities and events, but whatever I was doing still wasn't "me." Oh, I have had several gigs with several hundred people, but I still wasn't happy with my performance because it didn't "click" with me. What has fascinated me lately is watching your progression over time thru your videos and contemplating why you did what you did and how comfortable you seem in your character. I noticed that in your comedy linking rings routine on your video you were a bit younger and your character is fairly different than it is now with the sort of western character. In both you still have, under the surface, that sort of playful trickster type personality. Though your characters are different, BOTH are still YOU. On the surface it seemed so at odds with each other, a person dressed semi-formally and a western huckster. So I began to ask myself, who am I? It freed me because I have stopped trying to play someone else.

I think you mentioned it in your response to me. For me, I am the person with my experiences. The people I know, the places I've been, my observations and such. So I have been busy re-working the stuff I already knew. I have a history, and how I learned magic, the people I saw and the places I have been are all a part of it (real or sometimes even imagined.) My magic suddenly seems honest and fun to perform.

New questions arise now. Things like, what am I trying to say here? What am I trying to portray? What do I want to share with them? And what am I looking for from them? (I think I want to share my story, what excites me, what I find interesting and hopefully what they give back is that they were interested, they enjoyed my story, and the time we shared together...)

Well, I don't know, your metamorphasis or maybe just a progression from the character in your original comedy linking rings video seem so different than your teaching act character, but yet the same. There is still the twinkle in your eye, just maybe more pronounced now. How did you come on the western character and why? Were there any particular folks that you watched that particularly affected your school of thought on magic, and particularly your character? So many questions...I apologize but do thank you for your time.
Magically yours,

Dean Burgess
Pop Haydn
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Well, I started out in the late 1960's as a street performer in NYC. I had a Southern accent (I am from Tenn/NC and my family is from VA). In 1974, I joined a traveling improvisational theater company called the Road Co. I worked on losing my accent, and developing better projection. I had learned to speak loudly on the street, but I would strain my voice. Working with direction, I was able to project loudly without strain. I began doing an illusion/dove act show in amusement parks, and that is where I developed my stage persona.

At that time, I was pretty brash and smart-alecky, and I sounded kind of like Jack Nicholson, who was one of the guys I imitated when trying to lose my accent. At this time, I was not as concerned about character as about constructing solid routines and patter, and learning how to hold the audience's attention. Basic performing skills, and finding solid magic routines that I liked to perform consumed most of my attention.

Once I had the act together and it was entertaining and strong, I started thinking more about character. I moved to Los Angeles in 1975, and there I began developing the Teaching Act. The ring routine and rope routines had been developed as part of my street act in the 1960's. The silk to egg and torn and restored newspaper I added while working in the amusement park stage show.

The two street routines were "teaching" themed routines, and I added the other two to make a whole act of teaching magic, with each routine taking the theme in a different direction. Once the whole act took shape, I began finding things in the material that began to shape my character. I started developing a nervous, slightly out of his depth, but glib substitute magic teacher with an unruly class. The character was "put upon" and the more he was heckled and beset by the audience or assisting spectator, the more funny he became. The character was "dry" without a lot of emotional ups and downs. I played with it for many years, often trying to see just how flat and dry I could take the character without losing the audience.

Eventually, the act began to appeal more to intelligent audiences, and to lose some people. I found that the character didn't have a wide-enough range emotionally, and I couldn't do a lot of magic that I really liked, and I couldn't take the audience as many different places emotionally as I wanted to--I felt straight-jacketed, and began to look for new directions.

In 2005, I was asked to come to Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita for the Cowboy Festival. They wanted me to play the con man, and do the shell game all day on the streets. I jumped at the chance, and put together an Old West costume. I tried to do a Western accent, but it sounded like Gabby Hayes. So I did a Southern accent, based on my grandfather's archaic Southern Virginia accent. It cut through the clutter in a surprising way. People were attracted to the deep, loud Southern accent. I was very surprised by the response.

That is when I began developing the Pop character.
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At first, I had planned to create a Soapy Smith-like character just to do the shell game and other things in that theme. I quickly began find that very limiting. I wanted to still be able to do the Linking Rings and other magic routines, and that didn't seem to fit in with a sure-thing gambler. I also didn't want to be trapped in some kind of re-enactment show that would relegate me to festivals and theme parks.

I first thought of making the character an entertainer/con man. Alexander Pantages, though not a performer, was a bartender for Soapy Smith who left Alaska for Dawson City in the Klondike after being caught stealing from Soapy. He became enamoured of Klonkike Kate, a famous Dawson showgirl. He married her and parlayed her talents into a huge Vaudeville career, founding the Pantages theater chain.

I thought that could be the basis for my character.

Later, I decided that the character would be a medicine show operator and pitchman. This gave me more room for doing comedy pitches. Because the character is a vaudevillian magician, he could do any magic trick he wants, and also juggle and play and instrument.

I didn't want him to be stuck in the past, having to act ignorant of contemporary issues and jargon, I decided he would have to be a time-traveller who is stuck here in the 21st century. I decided to make him a crackpot inventor as well, something the turn of the century was full of. This also enabled me to have him do the Teleportation Device, which I had done for years in my other character. So the story of Pop began to develop.

I created a history for the character, based on my own personal history. The more I knew about Pop's background and history, the more convincing he could be. So I had him born in Clarkesville, Tennessee, as I was, but in 1849 instead of 1949. His family was from Virginia, and he went to school in Virginia, and studied for the Episcopal ministry at Virginia Theological Seminary. I had him drop out of seminary in his last year, as I did, but gave him a more interesting story about being thrown out and embarrassing his family.

He missed serving in the Civil War, having not graduated from High School until 1867. After seminary, he traveled around the world as part of the US merchant marines. This reflected the many years I spent at sea, and enabled me to use my experiences and knowledge of Africa, Hong Kong, Bali, India and Malaysia as part of his character. I got tattoos on both arms that reflected that experience as something from the 1870's. On returning to the US, the character went west, and got involved in Deadwood with sharpers and card cheats and sure-thing gamblers. He eventually ended up with Soapy Smith, and went to Alaska for the Gold Rush. In Alaska, he tired of the con games, and became interested in performing more than the little card tricks he used to entertain his friends and the ladies. He also became fascinated with emerging technology and science, and became a dabbler in radio and electrical experiments, as well as chemistry.

After the Gold Rush, he put together a little company of medicine show performers and con artists and traveled all over California, 1900-1910. An accident with a Tesla-style giant coil in Whitehorse Ranch caused his troupe and all the citizens of the town to be thrown into the 21st Century with no way back.

That is the basic backstory for the character.

None of this is ever explained in performance, it is just the hidden story behind what is actually going on. The cowboys of the town had to find their way in this new century, as well as the medicine show troupe. We do here what we have always done, selling medicine, trimming the suckers, and putting on entertainments.

Pop is sort of based on Professor Marvel from the Wizard of Oz. He is a total humbug and conman, who may be a genius or a crackpot, but if anyone has any "real magic" in his back pocket, it would be him. So Pop has the whiff of time travel, eccentric genius, and travels to the far reaches of the planet with knowledge of shamans and witchdoctors and primitive medicines.

I chose the name "Pop" because con men of the period liked avuncular names, (Dad Ryan, Pop Kriegor, Uncle Bill, etc.) because it made them seem respected and loved, and trustworthy, and made them one up as soon as the name was used. "Just call me Pop, everbody does..." "Good to meet you, Pop!" "Good to know you, son."

I also wanted to avoid the common and overused "Doc" or "Professor." That would put me right even with everyone else in the country doing medicine show.

I wanted to be different, because I did not intend to go into the fair and themepark and reenactment venues.
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That's very interesting. I'm a little surpised that you have developed your backstory that much, but knew there was a lot more there than most of us knew. I find it interesting that in your comedy linking ring video you are actually teaching the volunteer, and then even though you have changed characters, there "Pop" is with his The Teaching Act. And you obviously are very generous with your time and insight here. Baseball players deep down want to be rock stars, rock stars want to be baseball players. Seems you and your characters enjoy teaching?
Magically yours,

Dean Burgess
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That's very interesting. I'm a little surpised that you have developed your backstory that much, but knew there was a lot more there than most of us knew. I find it interesting that in your comedy linking ring video you are actually teaching the volunteer, and then even though you have changed characters, there "Pop" is with his The Teaching Act. And you obviously are very generous with your time and insight here. Baseball players deep down want to be rock stars, rock stars want to be baseball players. Seems you and your characters enjoy teaching?
Magically yours,

Dean Burgess
Pop Haydn
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Well, nothing much gets taught. The Teaching Act has been my standard act for more than thirty years. It is not something you would want to give up to spend another thirty years getting something else right.

The reason for the teaching is that it gives the magical character an ostensible reason to be on stage and showing these effects. "I am here to teach you how to do these old chestnuts of magic." The real motive for the character is always something different. Both Whit and Pop are intentionally hooking the audience with a false promise. Both characters have their own real reasons for being on stage that have nothing to do with teaching.

"Teaching" is a conman ploy by the characters to get around the audience's prejudices against magic, and especially against these particular, hoary old effects.

If someone moans when the rings come out, the character says, "It's a classic, like Silas Marner. It is requiered. You have to learn it."

I don't want to be a rockstar. I just want to be a weird old Southern vaudevillian and medicine man.
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Mr. Haydn,

I know you grew up in Tennessee. I grew up in South Carolina. Some of my fondest memories are sitting on my grandparent’s front porch on their farm, listening to the old folks tell stories. Or watching my grandfather get up early in the morning while the smell of bacon and eggs and grits and coffee filled the air from my grandmother cooking while my grandfather would hook those old wire-rimmed glasses over his ears and would read the Bible to me. Or maybe just sitting out on their back porch all alone on a hot summer afternoon and listen to the thunder in the distance and the foggy haze of the rain in the distance cross the woods and over the fields, the ground spewing up dust as the first few large drops of rain made its way in a sheet and came down on their tin roof. Los Angeles is a heckuva long way from Tennessee, and I notice you said at one point in the theatre you had tried to lose your southern accent. But “Pop” looks and sounds eerily familiar. How much of that did you bring with you, and how much of it do you draw on? I mean, I just spent a bit of time listening to the radio medicine show and….
Magically yours,

Dean Burgess
Pop Haydn
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I draw on it a lot. I grew up in Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. My family is from Virginia. As I said, at first I was doing an impression of my grandfather from southwestern Virginia. As things progressed, I started finding out that as I performed, images of old Southern men that I knew growing up started popping up. In junior high I used to hang out at the stables in downtown Greenville, North Carolina. That is where they kept the ponies for cart-racing. Four or five old men were usually hanging out, spitting tobacco into tin cans and telling stories around the space heater. I helped clean the tack, and shovel the stalls so I could listen to their wonderful story-telling.

I found Pop just automatically falling into their mannerisms and big-eyed facial expressions as well as their language and accents. I added over this some Westernisms to reflect years of working out in the West, and rhetorical flourishe that would have suited a man who studied rhetoric in the 1870's. I also felt that he would have considered himself a Shakespearean actor, and that his years at sea would have given him some sailor's expressions and his booming voice. It took three or four years to get Pop's accent and mannerisms right, and I am still working on that.

But my knowledge of Southern story-telling, Jack Tales like my granddaddy told me when I was little, and hermeneutics served me well in extending the character's range. The cultivated Tidewater accents I heard so much when in Seminary in Alexandria also appealed to me, and added a bit of a cultured veneer to the character. He would surely have copied this accent to some extent in order to sound more like the professors and doctors he admired in Virginia.

So my knowledge of the South, its foods and customs and accent made it the natural basis for my character's early life. I just had to project things back a bit to the 19th Century, which wasn't so hard, since the old men I knew growing up still talked much that way. Accents in the South are not nearly so thick now as they were when I was growing up.
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I was an actor working with a traveling improvisational company headquartered in Johnson City, Tennessee for a couple of years after seminary. I took lessons to lose my Southern accent at that time. I worked for 30 years without an accent, and really only spoke with a Southern accent when I was talking to my mom on the phone or amongst other Southerners. My wife always knew when my mom was on the phone, because in about five minutes I was talking with a Southern accent.

Once I started using the accent again, it was hard to stop, and hard moving in and out of it. People who had seen me perform were very disappointed when they heard me talk without the accent and realized Pop was just "a character."

It was like pullling the head off the ventriloquist's dummy after the show--it was disconcerting. Eventually, I decided I would just stay in character all the time--if a more relaxed, "Off-Stage" version of the character. My friends, wife and Magic Castle members eventually got used to and accepted the new accent--but a lot of people had trouble with it for some time. They didn't realize that the accent and mannerisms were actually much more "me" than the mid-western character they were familiar with...and of course, I worked hard to lower my voice an octave, to give me a more booming and interesting sound.
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I seem to remember you saying once on the topic of young magicians copying material as they learned, that you thought it was ok for young magicians to do that, but then in order to grow they need to evolve and come up with their own material and way of doing things. I believe you likened it to a young art student spending hours and hours practicing and copying works of the masters such as Rembrandt, Picasso, etc. I thought that was a very generous thought. Would you care to expound on that a bit?

Also, I think I have looked at most of your routines that are on video and even a look at your websites. I think they both show a great deal of attention to detail and love for magic. Is there anything you don't like about magic?
Magically yours,

Dean Burgess
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"Is there anything you don't like about magic?" I don't particularly like the business and promotional side of magic.

I have spoken about learning by copying on other threads, and we can start a new one if you like, but let us keep this to the subject of character. Generally, I think we learn best by imitation. I don't say that everyone needs to evolve past that--there is a lot of room for cover acts and copyists in show business, and not everyone is committed enough or talented enough to be original. One can be quite successful in show business without doing anything original at all. It is much more important to be different from those in your venues than it is to be original.

On the other hand, one will never become an artist without the impulse to come up with something new and original, or without knowing how to steal "artfully."

If you don't have something original to say about magic, if you don't have a need to express your own love and joy through magic, if you don't see problems to solve in the routines you have learned, there is no need to be "original."

As far as stealing artfully, if the people you steal from don't notice the theft, you have done it right.
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Indeed. I am trying to keep these questions fairly tightly directed to character development.

It seems the theatre has served you well on multiple fronts. You mentioned a couple of things, though, that I think I have as definite weakness in furthering my skills. One, of course, is that I have a fairly substantial southern accent as well. And though I don't find it necessarily contrary to my character, I do think I need to let go of a great deal of it. Also, Pop's voice has a certain resonance. I'm not sure I have the time or even the inclination to join the theatre, But I have contemplated joining the local Toastmasters. Any thoughts on ajusting accents and maybe trying to develop a more melodic or pleasing resonance?

(And I'm almost done, I promise.)
Magically yours,

Dean Burgess
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And probably my final questions. But first let me try to put it in context.

My character seems to draw upon his experiences, growing up, the places he's been, the people he's met. But he also seems to come to it from a sort of off-center sort of way. I have even thought about a little making my stage name something like Hugh Otto Know, as in You Outta Know I was just pulling your leg. So maybe its the old characters in my youth that has effected me, but the art of the story is important to me.

Anyway, I had read a little a couple of years back a piece about creating and releasing tension in your magic. Then I thought, OK, what if I stretch this and use comedy in my magic to release tension and entertwine that with stories that create tension.

So that's what I did. The stories were emotional, some I had made up myself, some I had heard or read. Here is one to sort of give context. I apologize for its length here, but its only maybe about 5 minutes in the telling on stage.

++++
A young girl grows up on a cherry orchard just above Traverse City, Michigan. Her parents, a bit old-fashioned, tend to overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to and the length of her skirts. They ground her a few times, and she seethes inside. “I hate you!” she screams at her father when he knocks on the door of her room after an argument, and that night she acts on a plan she has mentally rehearsed scores of times. She runs away.


She has visited Detroit only once before, on a bus trip with her church youth group to watch the Tigers play. Because newspapers in Traverse City report in lurid detail of the gangs, the drugs and the violence in downtown Detroit, she concludes that this is probably the last place her parents will look for her. California, maybe, or Florida, but not Detroit.


Her second day there she meets a man who drives the biggest car she’s ever seen. He offers her a ride, buys her lunch, arranges a place for her to stay. He gives her some pills that make her feel better than she’s ever felt before. She was right all along, she decides: Her parents were keeping her from all the fun.


The good life continues for a month, two months, a year. The man with the big car – she calls him “Boss” – teaches her a few things that men like. Since she’s underage, men pay a premium for her. She lives in a penthouse and orders room service whenever she wants. Occasionally, she thinks about the folks back home, but their lives now seem so boring and provincial that she can hardly believe she grew up there.


She has a brief scare when she sees her picture printed on the back of a milk carton with the headline, “Have you seen this child?” But by now she has blonde hair, and with all the makeup and body-piercing jewelry she wears, nobody would mistake her for a child. Besides, most of her friends are runaways, and nobody squeals in Detroit.


After a year, the first sallow signs of illness appear, and it amazes her how fast the boss turns mean. “These days, we can’t mess around,” he growls, and before she knows it, she’s out on the street without a penny to her name. She still turns a couple of tricks a night, but they don’t pay much, and all the money goes to support her habit. When winter blows in, she finds herself sleeping on metal grates outside the big department stores, “Sleeping” is the wrong word – a teenage girl at night in downtown Detroit can never relax her guard. Dark bands circle her eyes. Her cough worsens.


One night as she lies awake listening for footsteps, all of a sudden everything about her life looks different. She no longer feels like a woman of the world. She feels like a little girl, lost in a cold and frightening city. She begins to whimper. Her pockets are empty, and she’s hungry. She needs a fix. She pulls her legs tight underneath her and shivers

under the newspapers she’s piled atop her coat. Something jolts a synapse of memory and a single image fills her mind: May in Traverse City, when a million cherry trees bloom at once, with her golden retriever dashing through the rows and rows of blossomy trees in chase of a tennis ball.


God, why did I leave, she says to herself, and pain stabs at her heart. My dog back home eats better than I do now. She’s sobbing, and she knows in a flash that more than anything else in the world she wants to go home.


Three straight phone calls, three straight connections with the answering machine. She hangs up without leaving a message the first two times, but the third time she says, “Dad, Mom, it’s me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, well, I guess I’ll just stay on the bus until it hits Canada.”


It takes about seven hours for a bus to make all the stops between Detroit and Travers City, and during that time she realizes the flaws in her plan. What if her parents are out of town and miss the message? Shouldn’t she have waited another day or so until she could talk to them? And even if they are home, they probably wrote her off as dead long ago. She should have given them some time to overcome the shock.


Her thoughts bounce back and forth between those worries and the speech she is preparing for her father. “Dad, I’m sorry. I know I was wrong. It’s not your fault; it’s all mine. Dad, can you forgive me?” She says the words over and over, her throat tightening even as she rehearses them. She hasn’t’ apologized to anyone in years.


The bus has been driving with lights on since Bay City. Tiny snowflakes hit the pavement rubbed worn by thousands of tires, and the asphalt steams. She’s forgotten how dark it gets at night out here. A deer darts across the road and the bus swerves. Every so often, a billboard. A sign posting the mileage to Traverse City. Oh, God.


When the bus finally rolls into the station, its air brakes hissing in protest, the driver announces in a crackly voice over the microphone, “Fifteen minutes, folks. That’s all we have here.” Fifteen minutes to decide her life. She checks herself in a compact mirror, smoothes her hair and licks the lipstick off her teeth. She looks at the tobacco stains on her fingertips and wonders if her parents will notice. If they’re here.


She walks into the terminal not knowing what to expect. Not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind prepare her for what she sees. There, in the concrete-wall-and-plastic-chairs bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stands a group of forty brothers and sisters and great-aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother and great-grandmother to boot. They’re all wearing goofy party hats and blowing noisemakers, and taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a computer-generated banner that reads, “Welcome home!”


Out of the crowd of well-wishers breaks her dad. She stares out through the tears quivering in her eyes like hot mercury and begins the memorized speech, “Dad, I’m sorry. I know…”


He interrupts her. “Hush, child. We’ve got no time for that. No time for apologies. You’ll be late for the party. A banquet’s waiting for you at home.”

++++

Now, I think there were probably about 150 or 160 people in the audience and fully 30-40 people came up after I was done and commented on the show, which I'm sure is the most I've ever had and defintely gave the most positive feedback. Although most were on the order of, "I hate you, you had me bursting out in laughter while I was still crying."

Now, I definitely took that and all of their comments as a positive. But I have never performed that again. One is because I have a fear of the story being overbearing on the magic. I could see magicians saying, "Oh, he's not a magician, he is a storyteller that does tricks." So I am very leery to repeat that and allow my character to develop along that line, even though storytelling is a part of me and I think, to a certain extent, a part of my character. I can't remember anyone else doing anything similar to what I did and perhaps it would open myself up to a bit of ridicule in the magic community. Any thoughts?
Magically yours,

Dean Burgess
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Well, I am not a big fan of combining story-telling with magic. Theatrically, one is a once-upon a time theatrical experience which induces imaginative participation and suspension of disbelief, the other is a realtime demonstration that forces imaginative thought by shutting down the deductive reason.

Combining the two is fraught with difficulties.

Story-telling is also different in the quality of emotional involvement from theater in general. It requires suspension of disbelief, but the emotions are not felt or demonstrated to the audience as actors in a play, but resonate in the story itself. In magic, the emotions are touched through the relationship of the performer to his audience in real time. The magician is the one having emotional changes and interplay with the audience--magician in trouble for example.

Story telling is mostly an auditory, almost inductive process.

Magic stimulates the critical faculties, story-telling relaxes them.

Most people are easily moved by stock response, but it is not artistic. It "grieves the judicious," just as does bad or coarse acting. A redemption story such as you have told, and I think you told it pretty well, is always going to have an emotional resonance with people, but it may not really offer anything new or truly stimulating--it is a retelling of the prodigal son. To touch people's emotions so easily, is not artistic, even though it may be effective for most of the audience, it grieves the judicious with its lack of original thought. To enact the part of the girl would take much more daring and have much more actual emotional connection between the performer and his audience. But still, the story is overly familiar. What is new and groundbreaking in the story? You should look for that which actually reveals something new and surprising in the retelling of an old story.

I would not let what magicians say influence your artistic impulses. If you want to create something new and artistic, you have to follow your own interests. On the other hand, if you are seeking to make a living at magic, you may want to consider looking at your act from a commercial rather than purely artistic point of view.

You should work on your voice with a vocal coach, or singing coach. It is less expensive than you think, but it does take work. I do a half-hour of vocal exercises every morning.

You can also practice reading poetry and prose out loud. It helps to use a microphone and headphones so you can begin to really listen to what you sound like.

I would not get over-involved in working on character until you already have a strong magic act that is entertaining.

I have seen magic acts that couldn't hold a dog's attention for more than a few seconds with a piece of bacon in their hands. First you have to know show business--being entertaining and able to hold the audience's attention--before you work on character and acting.

Magic is artistically, about the magic. Everything else you do should serve to make the magic as strong as possible.

I definitely think you should keep your accent, and explore your own story. Create a backstory for your character that brings him onto THIS stage in front of THIS audience. Don't tell them the story, but let the story shine behind the performance.

In a magic show, the audience really wants to meet a magician, not be told about one.
WhoDeanie
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Mr. Haydn,

Maybe just because it was personal to me, but this has been one of the most entertaining and thought-provoking threads I have read here in the Magic Café. Hopefully, others may have gotten something out of it as well. I really do thank you for your time. And great luck on your Teleportation Device Routine and Stage Magician of the Year!

ps. May I call you Pop?
Magically yours,

Dean Burgess
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Please call me Pop. All my friends do, and it sounds so much better than what some of the others call me... Smile
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