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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Interesting talk with a non-magician friend (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

George Ledo
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The other day, at Thanksgiving dinner, I was chatting with a friend who's not involved in magic at all, but who knows I occasionally build props for Stevens Magic. He asked about my current project and I showed him the page on Stevens' web site. He thought the piece was beautiful and then started asking questions about it: what woods did I use, why I chose them, what about the stain and the hardware, and so on and on. Everything except the "secret."

This all led into the idea behind the box itself and the performance, and I caught myself telling him that the box he was looking at was just a prop -- that one guy could "perform it" like someone demonstrating a kitchen gadget to people who have no interest in kitchen gadgets, and a different guy would not call any attention to the box at all but yet make the audience think they just saw a miracle. Which got me thinking.

Over the past few years I've become peripherally involved with a huge organization of high school drama teachers, thinking that maybe I could help out with some of their questions about design and tech. In all my years of designing sets I've only worked with two high schools, so this is a whole different world for me. But I so often see the same thing: some teachers think a script is a recipe for a show (complete with detailed stage directions, floor plans, prop and costume lists -- everything you need, all in one place: just follow the instructions and you have a show) while others think a script is a place to start, a story that needs some serious creative and development work to turn it into a compelling performance. And it's also the same thing in that some of these teachers are (intentionally or otherwise) propagating the very common perception that acting is just about reciting lines and memorizing stage movement, and that the technical part is just about parents building stuff on weekends. That's what the teachers are teaching, so that's what the students and parents think it is.

Over the past thirty-odd years I've had a number of these mis-led people ask me what I do for a living, only to have them (with no apparent malice) then tell me that they used to do that when their kid was in school. They have no conception of professional theater and no apparent interest in finding out. I gave up trying to explain reality a long time ago, and my blood pressure has remained at a safe level.

So that conversation with my friend -- a guy who was genuinely interested in the work that goes into a magic prop -- was like a breath of fresh air.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
www.georgefledo.net

Latest column: "Sorry about the photos in my posts here"
funsway
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old things in new ways - new things in old ways
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Kudos for your work with kids to introduce some life into learning.

Ina similar vein, my wife was recently playing music at a restaurant several nights a week:
Celtic harp, guitar and voice. The reaction of folks by age group was interesting.

When she played harp folks were mesmerized with many commenting they had never seen a harp before.
Young kids would hover near and want to touch the strings. A few adults where encouraged to play it.
Everyone admires the workmanship of the beautiful wood and the "soul touching " sound.
In short, it is a work of art that allows music to flow from her to the enchanted listener.

When she played guitar, few recognized the value, purity and tone of her 1970 D-12-28 Martin,
with comments like, "I tried guitar when I was kid," or "Do you play electric too?"
A few think want to talk about "their" favorite guitar and even try and use hers without even asking permission.
Many were upset that she did not do "requests" or play covers.

When she sang with both the reactions to both were different as the instruments became secondary or a partner.
Many younger folks commented, "I have never heard someone sing without a microphone before," or
"my steak got cold listening to you instead of eating."

Many under 20 years old were too busy on a cell phone to notice anything.

..

So yes, Te appreciation of many things artistic has been effected by how young people "learn" and media on which the do it.
Music isn't even taught in many schools any more. (shop either)

From my perspective, imagination and creativity have also not been nurtured.

Sorry to hear that theater has been turned into a multiple-choice test as well.
Unfortunately, many magicians think about our art the same way.

Keep up the effort. If even one kids is affected it might change the world.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



ShareBooks at www.eversway.com * questions at funsway@eversway.com
George Ledo
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SF Bay Area
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Thanks very much for your story. Yep, it sounds way too familiar.

Actually, my (limited) involvement is with the drama teachers, not with the kids. So however "useful" my comments are, they get filtered by the teachers, who also have to deal with their admins, budgets, facilities, resources, and kids. I have a lot of respect for them, but it's not a job I would want.

What I have found from listening and reading their posts is that the vast majority had very little training in the tech aspects of theater. There is no "standard" for educating drama teachers, so what they know is a factor of where they went to school and what their professors taught them. And, with some notable exceptions, many seem to have little interest in tech anyway: their primary interest seems to be in directing plays and teaching acting.

So like I said above, those props I'm building will either become a gadget to be demonstrated or a peripheral to a miracle -- like you said when your wife was singing with harp or guitar. It all depends on the person using it. But, like we so often lament here, nowadays there seem to be far more demonstrators than magicians.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
www.georgefledo.net

Latest column: "Sorry about the photos in my posts here"
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