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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » New to magic? » » Opener or Closer (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Wimhek
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What makes a trick an opener or a closer. What are the rules. I have searched for the answer, but I only found examples of tricks.

Thank You.
funsway
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Opinion - for today's audience it should be assumed that a performer does not have the focused attention of the entire audience and that few have experience with whatever type of magic is planned, i.e.
the expectations of any general audience needs refinement and guidance. Therefor, an "opener" should be a multi-stage effect whose purpose is to draw in attention, not confuse late arrivals and establish the performer as one who will be demonstrating the impossible. Naturally, if your goal is "gotcha" or "skill demonstration" none of that thinking applies.

Your use of "trick" is disheartening to me. If you only plan on doing tricks, then tricks are what will be perceived by the audience. Set your goals higher and consider what "effect" will be perceived
and remembered as "So that is what real magic looks like." On the plus side you seem to envision that a performance is more than one effect - and that concern over open, sustain and close are essential considerations. In that sense, a good "closer" is not a finale, but a demonstration that pulls together all of the elements into a long term memory in which magic is the hero.

For example, this is why C&B survives and is ever popular with many variations. A well planned routine can include opener, sustain and closing using the dame props and theme.

As to "rules" - consider the Interrogative speech model: Tell them what you will tell, tell them, tell them what you told them.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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WitchDocChris
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There are no rules. There are only guidelines.

An opener should set the tone and mood for the show. The closer wraps it all up and gives a definite "end".

In my experience, closers are far more difficult.
Christopher
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danaruns
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My only "rule" with regard to openers is magic now! You want to grab attention immediately and show them what kind of show they can expect from you.

If you work from character, it should establish your character. And if you're not a nationally known magician, your opener also needs to let them know that you are someone whose magic they should respect. That last part is important for avoiding hecklers. Your opener must have immediate magic, and it must be strong magic.

Your opener must also serve your performance needs. In close-up and bar acts, I start with a routine that says "Mess with me at your peril," and leaves no doubt that I am doing the absolute impossible. That's because as a woman I start from 50 yards back in terms of audience respect and I sometimes work with people who are drinking. I have to earn their respect immediately. You may discover that you, too, have particular needs when opening shows. Yours might be establishing character or demonstrating your skill. Use your opener to set whatever tone you need to set.

Closers are a flourish. They are big, they are bold, they are fancy. A closer doesn't have to be your best magic, but it needs to put an exclamation point on the show, and leave both a feeling of surprise/wonder and no doubt that this is the end of the show.

In close-up, one oft stated guideline is that the biggest or fanciest prop goes in the closer, which is why cups and balls is so often used as a closer. Sponge bunnies is an excellent close-up closer because the inevitable reveal of a gazillion sponge bunnies exploding from the spectator's hand is an exclamation point. I close with a chop cup routine that has big loads at the end, either my take on Larry Jennings' chop cup routine (ending with three ever-increasing loads) or Porper's Cocktail Surprise (ending with pouring a drink out of the cup I've been using).

Jonathan Pendragon often ends his stage show with Metamorphosis, as it has a "ta-da!" ending. Not the best magic necessarily, but the biggest moment goes at the end. Whatever the nature of your particular act, your biggest "splash" should end your show.

Also, it's not just a matter of opener and closer in isolation. The act overall needs an emotional arc, and the pieces you put at the beginning and the end need to serve that arc.

Finally, your opener and closer need to consider your audience. Jeff McBride smartly says that there are two kinds of audiences (for him): thinking audiences and drinking audiences. Make sure your material is designed to appeal to the type of audience you have before you. You don't want to use a big intellectual or emotional or contemplative piece in a roomful of drunks. You don't want a poker trick to open your children's show. Your opener and closer need to target your audience type.
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
DaveGripenwaldt
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Are we talking opening a stage act? Parlor act? Table hopping set or street busking mental effects? Without knowing more specifics of you and the type of magic you do, the answers here can only be general, but there are some guiding principles that can apply across the board.

Dana, as usual, makes excellent points and has hit a lot of those generally applicable points. I would add just a couple of thoughts...

It also makes a difference whether your audience has gathered to see you or or for some other reason. You have a bit more leeway in how you open a set if you are working at, say, the Magic Castle, where people are there to see magic than if you are walking up to a group at a party, convention or on the street where you are the last thing on their minds.

If someone is there (wherever "there" is) to see a show you have more latitude in the pace and set-up of a given effect. But walk up to a table in a restaurant and your approach to an "open" should include some exit ramps in case they are not into it instead of inflicting your entire set on them as their eyes glaze over.

In veeeeery general terms I think openers need to be:

Short - more visual, less cerebral. Not the place for a 16 phase card routine.

Clear - You rarely have everyone's attention for a first effect, so hey should not be burdened with having to follow a trail of breadcrumbs to a conclusion out of the gate.

Strong - this should be a no-brainer, but I've seen too many performers ramp up to stronger material and you risk losing the audience's attention and interest (and in the case of street magic, losing them literally).
danaruns
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Well said, Dave. Great points.

Another thing about openers that I, personally, like, is to craft them such that it gives the audience a little mystery about who you are. A mystery that gets answered during the course of the show. The magicienne seems like a brash diva, but there's something mysterious about her. What is it? By the end we learn that she studied Santeria from an old witch in the bayous outside New Orleans, where she learned their magical secrets. The magician seems like an innocent young man, but there is a tone of danger about him. What's his real story? By the end of the act they know he's a skilled wizard who plays with dark magic. Stuff like that.

We try to tell the audience who we are. We start with a hint of mystery and resolve the mystery as we go. Or we start with one "face" and throughout the act we slowly reveal a different "face." Of course, we don't have the luxury of developing character over the course of a movie- or play-length show, so we can't do too much character development. But we can say something about who we are, and we can begin it with a question in the audience's minds.

Too esoteric for this discussion?
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
Dick Oslund
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As one of the responders said, There aren't any rules, but, there are guidelines."

I have read this thread, and, I substantially agree with all that has been said.

There's an old "sea story" from my Navy days, as a young man, which may be helpful. A ship was heading out to sea, and an old "salt", veteran of many voyages, and, a young lad, on his first one, were standing at the ship's rail, looking out at the vast ocean. The young man, exclaimed, "Man! there's a lot of water out there!!!" The old timer responded, "What you SEE, is just the top of it!"
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DaveGripenwaldt
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Thank you Dana.

One additional thought on closers.

A closer needs to feel like one. It is not the period, but the exclamation point. It is not the third or fourth coin across...it needs to definitively not be more of the same. It needs to be clearly communicate that its not just the trick that has come to an end, but the set, show, etc.

That means thought has to be put into finding an trick/presentation itself that has the rising energy and punch of a finale. And, since it is entirely possible to leave the audience confused as to if they have permission to react, clear, strategic applause cues need to cap it all off.
landmark
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Quote:
On Sep 27, 2017, danaruns wrote:
Well said, Dave. Great points.

Another thing about openers that I, personally, like, is to craft them such that it gives the audience a little mystery about who you are. A mystery that gets answered during the course of the show. The magicienne seems like a brash diva, but there's something mysterious about her. What is it? By the end we learn that she studied Santeria from an old witch in the bayous outside New Orleans, where she learned their magical secrets. The magician seems like an innocent young man, but there is a tone of danger about him. What's his real story? By the end of the act they know he's a skilled wizard who plays with dark magic. Stuff like that.

We try to tell the audience who we are. We start with a hint of mystery and resolve the mystery as we go. Or we start with one "face" and throughout the act we slowly reveal a different "face." Of course, we don't have the luxury of developing character over the course of a movie- or play-length show, so we can't do too much character development. But we can say something about who we are, and we can begin it with a question in the audience's minds.

Too esoteric for this discussion?

No, excellent. Thank you, Dana.
landmark
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Quote:
On Sep 28, 2017, DaveGripenwaldt wrote:

That means thought has to be put into finding an trick/presentation itself that has the rising energy and punch of a finale. And, since it is entirely possible to leave the audience confused as to if they have permission to react, clear, strategic applause cues need to cap it all off.


Dave's post reminds me that the opener as well should teach the audience how to react: for those who have never seen magic, they may not be sure if they should clap, laugh, call out in surprise, etc. The magician has to explicitly or implicitly set the guidelines with her or his own reactions to the magic occurring.
Dick Oslund
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Those who have read my book, will remember how, I tactfully "teach" the elementary age youngsters, how to respond, and show how they like the program.

In modern society, many young people see only TV shows --and, few of those are "vaudeville" or variety shows.
so, they don't KNOW how to respond. When I started full time work with assembly bureaus, in the mid '60s, I learned QUICKLY, that it was necessary to tactfully show them!

Now, don't misunderstand! I am not encouraging "cheer leading".

Last week, I attended a "state wide" annual "convention". Too many of the "magicians", on the bill, repeatedly asked for a "round of applause", after the audience had already responded. That is poor showmanship!

Another point! Circus performers have a lot to teach us, when it comes to motivating applause. They don't BOW!, they STYLE. "Deep, profound bows, cause the performer to break eye contact with the audience. The audience sees the top of the performer[s head!

I witnessed a young magician perform in Minneapolis, several years ago. After each trick or routine, he placed his hands in front of his crotch, paused, and did a "graduation ceremony" bow. It actually became "funny", after the fourth or fifth time! His performance (?) really didn't rate much applause!
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elimagic
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I propose that there should be two openers to a show, specifically for a magic show (not necessarily a mentalism show).

The first should be something that is short, VISUAL, has a huge magical impact, and is done to the entire audience. A quick way to grab peoples attention. For example, in my magic show, I do a bowling ball production. It is quick, fast, very visual, and has huge audience impact. I don't have to say a single word.

This is the first opener with the criteria mentioned above.

The second opener should be longer, the typical length of a piece in the show. For me, that's around 5-7 minutes. The purpose of this opener is for the audience to learn about you as the performer, and to set their expectations of both you, and the tone of the show. It is also important that you involve the entire audience. In the first opener(bowling ball in my case), they are an audience jus watching, in my second opener, I am still performing to all of them but there is lots of banter back and forth to the audience as a whole, getting them very involved throughout the entire piece. Since my whole show is very interactive and uses audience participation for everything from that point on, this helps set that tone in a way that is not threatening.

A closer, in my point of view, should take threads from the the entire show and wrap them all up. There should be tie ins from other effects, either specifically or at least in themes. This is why a finale prediction is such a great way to end, because it is easy to put themes from the rest of the show into it. Like others have said, the finale should lead to a natural applause cue which then should be a natural highpoint to end on. The audience should be able to 'feel' that it is the end. Just like when watching a musical and there are reprises of the finale song from other songs in the show done previously, usually sung with a large crescendo leading to a natural high point ending, signalling the audience watching to jump to their feet with ovation because they know the show is over.

-Eli
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