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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Ever so sleightly » » What makes a great performer? (31 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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ROBERT BLAKE
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Mr. Schneider, here are some samples.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2CNO_AL_vs homing card
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJ3wR9IClWY his stage act
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pRiTBqcObE his dancing cork
Al Schneider
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Well now.
I would like to make an observation based on the clips you have shared.
One of the things that makes a great performer is being a gentleman.
Al Schneider
Magic Al. Say it fast and it is magical.
Pete Biro
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KAPS was a gentleman's gentleman. He could work behind the bar or at a party for a Royal Familiy.
STAY TOONED... @ www.pete-biro.com
Pop Haydn
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That might not be the best way to put it--a "gentleman's gentleman" is a valet or male servant.

I think it is demeaning and mistaken in most cases to credit good performers with being "naturally" gifted. I have known very few performers who were "naturally gifted" as entertainers. Most have worked their butts off to learn how to be charming and funny.

I knew Bill Malone when he first started performing professionally. He was not very entertaining or fun, though he had marvelous sleight of hand. He worked really hard at finding ways to make his stuff entertaining and fun, and now is one of the best.

The skills that it takes to be a good performer, like the skills it takes to be a good actor, can be learned. It isn't a gift. It is technique. It takes work and experience, but most people can learn it.
ROBERT BLAKE
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I think that some personality is allready there in the performer. it only needs to get out. that is the hard work. jeff hobson discovered that his stage persona works so he worked hard at it. same with Bill Malone.

FRED KAPS 1958: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ej6cGNpnicw
ekins
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Something that I've observed as a spectator that, at least to me, makes a big difference in how enjoyable the performance is to watch is if the performer seems to want to be there and is having a good time themselves. Two examples of this that show the two extremes are a new magician in a magic contest and Mac King.

The new magician is probably uncomfortable performing anyway in a contest environment, and being new is also concentrating on getting their moves right and remembering their script. The audience sees this and has sympathy for the performer, wanting them to do well. But even if there aren't any mistakes it's harder for the audience to enjoy the performance because they're worried about the performer. It's exactly the same thing when watching a musical performance at a recital. Most of the performances are a bit uncomfortable to sit through.

Then you watch Mac King. He seems to be having as much fun, or more, as anyone else and makes you feel like he would rather be there interacting with you and the rest of the audience than anywhere else. You feel completely comfortable with him as the performer and can relax and enjoy his show.

Obviously Mac has much much more experience than myself, and most of us on here, but gaining that level of comfort when performing is something I want to strive for.

I appreciated Pop's comments a couple of posts above. I want to believe that we can all be good performers if we're willing to put in the work. Pop's another good example of a performer that you can sit back and enjoy his show because you feel comfortable you're in good hands. Besides, the magic is pretty good too. Smile

-Brian
Al Schneider
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Pop Haydn
I agree and I was hoping to get some insight on what it takes to be a great performer. I have heard many times that your skill does not matter but it is how you do it. Well, I would like to know how to do it. So far, all I have gotten is that you must work hard; you are born with it, and pretend to be sincere. The last post suggests to be comfortable doint a performeance. I wish there were more details on what it takes to be a great performer. I read one of your books some time ago and there was a bit in it that I will treasure forever. Experienced performers often hear the same comment from audiences. Eventually, the experienced performer will have a quick comeback. You suggested that before offering the quick comeback, you look up and to your left. Then deliver the comeback. That little motion strongly suggests you just came up with the quip and adds a great deal of warmth to the show. I would like to hear more things like that.

I believe that all of life is a technology. As a technology, all can be understood, learned, and possibly acquired. It is a matter of having the right data. I understand that many do not agree with this. So be it.

Al Schneider
Magic Al. Say it fast and it is magical.
ROBERT BLAKE
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U.s.a. we all know how throw a ball. but why is micheal jordan better? hard work? or talent & hard work?
europe we all know how kick a ball. but why is Messi better? hard work? or talent & hard work?

a great performer knows how to handle a situation and how to make it better. on a max maven video he did a routine with zodiac signs. the spectator says:"that is my sign" Max hears this (the audience not) and makes this piece of info in an extra moment. that is a great performer.
55Hudson
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I am another one that does not believe you are 'born with it' or can't be great.

There are many examples of people who started off without great natural talent and still achieved great success in their give field. Outside of magic, think of Michael Jordan famously cut from his junior high basketball team. Apparently not a natural talent and yet achieved significant success In his field. That said, natural talent certainly helps.

Some research has suggested that it takes 10 years or 10,000 hours of practice to become highly proficient, or an 'expert', in a given field.

Finally, there is technical skill or technique, which I believe Mr Schneider refers to as technology.

So there you have it. Three pillars of success: natural talent, practice, and technical knowledge.

Natural talent - upbringing, heredity, or whatever - not much I can do about this.

Practice - 30 minutes a day on a new effect and 30 minutes reviewing other material, five days a week, would keep an amateur in pretty good shape, Now for a pro, perhaps 2-4 hours per day.

Now the hard one, technique. I would split this info two categories: slight of hand skills and acting skills. I wouldn't presume to provide advice to the current contributors here, who are far more skilled than I. However, I hope that this provides a frame work that would suggest acting skills is a critical. Perhaps there is an acting forum that we could access to assist with this question?
Pete Biro
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Dai Vernon once said, "Likability is the key to a performer's success."
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Pop Haydn
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How do you make yourself likeable? The problem with most advice on performing is that it doesn't really help us forward.

Often people say things that are "true" but don't really help us get where we want to go.

Constructing a character and writing a script for that character is hard enough. We have to direct and inhabit that character as well.

It is not enough to "be yourself." My "self" is not very charming or entertaining.

My real name is Whitney Hadden. I grew up in the small town South--in Tennessee and North Carolina. I was an unpopular kid in high school--shy and introverted. I was in drama, chess club, and journalism, and wore black-rimmed glasses held together with white tape. I mumbled and turned red when speaking in public. I was awkward and had a terrible, unfunny sense of humor--mostly bad puns. I didn't understand the difference between a joke and a free-association.

If I were to just "be myself" I would have to be THAT kid.

Fortunately, performers get to write their own characters and make up their own scripts. I can create a character that is smarter than me, and funnier, and faster on his feet. I can come up with snappy comebacks ahead of time. I can rewrite and redo what doesn't work. Like the movie "Groundhog Day" I get to revisit the same little thirty minute sequence again and again until I get it right. Plus, I get to steal from clever and talented and braver folk. I can copy the gestures, expressions and attitudes of people I have known, read about or seen on the screen.

I might be intimidated and uncomfortable around the people I perform for, but I can create and inhabit a character that is not. I can give that character qualities and abilities that I myself do not possess.

"Pop Haydn" is a huge machine that was built and operated by that shy, nerdy high school kid--kind of like Master Blaster. It has taken fifty years to build. I worked on another character, "Whit Haydn" before Pop. That one I used for thirty years or so, and didn't get me where I wanted to go, even though I have carried over and used everything of value that I discovered playing Whit and brought it into Pop.

Advice like "just be likeable" and "be yourself" wouldn't have been very helpful, as important and true as it might be.

The more of your self that you can bring into your character--the more loves and interests, the more attitudes, character and personality of your own--the richer, more believable and more satisfying playing that character will become.

I find Pop to be both very fun to play, and very satisfying.

He is more like the real me than was that scared, shy high school character.

Who puts in four hour days at work? It takes much more than four hours a day to get good at anything.

As for acting, I think that magicians are best served by studying mime, dance and improvisation. These hold the most important and relatable skills to what we do, and sort of crystalize them in a way that is more approachable and useable for most than the more deep and profound studies of the professional actor.

Range, for example, is not that important for us. Following the point of focus, understanding how to share space with other performers and the audience, learning how to trust our instincts and immerse ourselves in the story and such things are far more important, and more accessible, than the type of things we find in acting theory. These can be acquired much more quickly in the study of mime and improvisation.
Al Schneider
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Pop
A long time ago in some forgotten thread you said, (I think) actors do not make good magicians. That statement bothered me. Since then I have been to several performances where actors "acted" like magicians. This first hand experience convinced me that you are right. (If I remember correctly.) In these performances canes were produced, flowers were produced, and some other material. Clearly in each the person was skilled and in each the director had great control of the presentation. In each, the object produced was suddenly there. I did not see it coming. The action was carefully consturcted to divert the attention of the audience there then back to where the item appeared. To me it did not have a magic feel. I pondered this. I came to realize what was going on. In magic we do magic. Part of this act is to show that nothing is there. In good magic, this is driven home to the audience. Then the magician performs some magic act, a wave of the hand or a magic word spoken. Then the magic is revealed. In these stage performances, the first step of showing the initial condition was not there. Tnen the act of DOING the magic was not there. The result was skilfully revealed. I find this most interesting.

And this process of showing the pre-condition of the magic effect, showing the change, then showing the result is technology and key to great magic performers. Each of these three phases must be performed with clarity. View Kaps, Del Ray, Jay Marshall, etc.

All the best.

Al Schneider.
Magic Al. Say it fast and it is magical.
Pop Haydn
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I agree, but more than that, actors don't understand the multi-layered role we play. They act like they believe the magic is real and that they are simply making things happen. They don't have that slipped-mask, Trickster behind the magician quality.

What real magicians do, at its best, has a twinkle and wink. Something that actors generally miss.

The magician represents two or more characters on the stage at once.
TStone
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Quote:
On Mar 29, 2014, Pop Haydn wrote:
I think it is demeaning and mistaken in most cases to credit good performers with being "naturally" gifted.

Thank you!
Quote:
The skills that it takes to be a good performer, like the skills it takes to be a good actor, can be learned. It isn't a gift. It is technique. It takes work and experience, but most people can learn it.

Exactly!
TStone
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This is among the best things I've read in a long time, and I'm just quoting it because I want to read it twice.
Quote:
On Mar 30, 2014, Pop Haydn wrote:
How do you make yourself likeable? The problem with most advice on performing is that it doesn't really help us forward.

Often people say things that are "true" but don't really help us get where we want to go.

Constructing a character and writing a script for that character is hard enough. We have to direct and inhabit that character as well.

It is not enough to "be yourself." My "self" is not very charming or entertaining.

My real name is Whitney Hadden. I grew up in the small town South--in Tennessee and North Carolina. I was an unpopular kid in high school--shy and introverted. I was in drama, chess club, and journalism, and wore black-rimmed glasses held together with white tape. I mumbled and turned red when speaking in public. I was awkward and had a terrible, unfunny sense of humor--mostly bad puns. I didn't understand the difference between a joke and a free-association.

If I were to just "be myself" I would have to be THAT kid.

Fortunately, performers get to write their own characters and make up their own scripts. I can create a character that is smarter than me, and funnier, and faster on his feet. I can come up with snappy comebacks ahead of time. I can rewrite and redo what doesn't work. Like the movie "Groundhog Day" I get to revisit the same little thirty minute sequence again and again until I get it right. Plus, I get to steal from clever and talented and braver folk. I can copy the gestures, expressions and attitudes of people I have known, read about or seen on the screen.

I might be intimidated and uncomfortable around the people I perform for, but I can create and inhabit a character that is not. I can give that character qualities and abilities that I myself do not possess.

"Pop Haydn" is a huge machine that was built and operated by that shy, nerdy high school kid--kind of like Master Blaster. It has taken fifty years to build. I worked on another character, "Whit Haydn" before Pop. That one I used for thirty years or so, and didn't get me where I wanted to go, even though I have carried over and used everything of value that I discovered playing Whit and brought it into Pop.

Advice like "just be likeable" and "be yourself" wouldn't have been very helpful, as important and true as it might be.

The more of your self that you can bring into your character--the more loves and interests, the more attitudes, character and personality of your own--the richer, more believable and more satisfying playing that character will become.

I find Pop to be both very fun to play, and very satisfying.

He is more like the real me than was that scared, shy high school character.

Who puts in four hour days at work? It takes much more than four hours a day to get good at anything.

As for acting, I think that magicians are best served by studying mime, dance and improvisation. These hold the most important and relatable skills to what we do, and sort of crystalize them in a way that is more approachable and useable for most than the more deep and profound studies of the professional actor.

Range, for example, is not that important for us. Following the point of focus, understanding how to share space with other performers and the audience, learning how to trust our instincts and immerse ourselves in the story and such things are far more important, and more accessible, than the type of things we find in acting theory. These can be acquired much more quickly in the study of mime and improvisation.
tomsk192
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Al, I should explain the 'always be sincere, whether you mean it or not" quote. What I was referring to is a total commitment of the performer. Whit Hayd is a shining example of this. And I agree 100% with you, and Whit, and Tom that it is a canard to think that people are 'naturally' good performers.

I have worked as a jazz musician for many years. Just imagine the response when some punter approaches one of my black colleagues and says, "But of course you were marvellous, it must come naturally to you."

At that point I usually go to the bar.
Al Schneider
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Pop

To quote you:
"They act like they believe the magic is real and that they are simply making things happen. They don't have that slipped-mask, Trickster behind the magician quality. What real magicians do, at its best, has a twinkle and wink. Something that actors generally miss."

I know when I act like a magician doing real magic, things go badly.

But about you other comments, I would like to explore this some more. When I read these words, I wonder how I perform. I do not act like a magician. Nor do I believe I am doing magic. I think of myself like my physics professor showing my class an experiment. Physics is not magic although it can be very mysterious. I also do not percieve I am "entertaining." I am showing phenomena and allowing the audience to decide what it is. I attempt to be kind and generous. My patter is often corny simply because I need something to say. My real people audiences tend to be shocked. They laugh and sometimes scream.

I think I have a bit of "twinkle and wink." I do not know what you mean by slipped-mask trickster. I suspect there is something valuable here. I need to know. Can you share more about this?

Al Schneider
Magic Al. Say it fast and it is magical.
TheRaven
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Quote:
On Mar 10, 2014, Al Schneider wrote:
"It aint what you do, its how you do it."
"If the audience doesn't like you, they won't like your magic."


I think the challenge is there are a million ways to "do it" and many of them will successfully entertain an audience. In other words - there is no magic formula. There are many formulas and each performer needs to find the "concoction" that works for them.

I am just an amateur but I have found for me that I can...
1. Show the audience something (fair)
2. Tell the audience a story while showing them something that ties into the story and maybe emotionally engage them in the story (better)
3. Make the audience "believe" they are witnessing an event as it occurs for the first time (best)

In the first two cases they are watching something and maybe being entertained. In the third case they are experiencing something. The differences can be subtle and are not absolutes, but this is what I find works for me.
tomsk192
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It seems to me, although Al is clearly not interested in my opinion(!), that the seasoned performers here are in agreement about the need to develop a 'character', and the need to ruthlessly examine one's own short comings as a communicator. Despite having been on the stage since the age of nine, clearly I know sh*t about it. However, I'm enjoying reading the contributions.

Here is a good example of total commitment in a performance: brilliant.
TStone
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Quote:
On Mar 30, 2014, tomsk192 wrote:
It seems to me, although Al is clearly not interested in my opinion(!)

I'm not sure you should interpret the lack of response as a lack of interest. And thanks for the shout out! Smile
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