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David Thiel
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Western Canada...where all that oil is
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I had my first live show in months last night. My, my -- how things have changed!

This client has booked me for this same event for a number of years. It's an incentive show for salespeople who win contests to go on a trip. Generally this is a very active...really BUSY group. Every other year I have entered the room to a wall of sound: people talking, glasses clinking. Laughter. Ordinarily, I just walk into the room and slide into an event already underway. Not last night.

My client had booked me for "socially distanced personal entertainment." I know that sounds strange. I spent a little time trying to come to grips with exactly what that meant myself. Ultimately my client and I decided it's close-up (performed for small groups of people) with Covid sensibilities and guidelines built into the structure of the show and the effects.

So last night I walked in and saw them all sitting apart from each other. Even so the room was less than half full. They were all wearing masks...and the instant I entered the majority of them turned and looked at me. It was just a little creepy. The room was mostly silent. I looked at my client who shrugged. She had no idea what to do either.

Let me emphasize: the room was almost completely silent. Me. Masks. (Getting creepier.)

So my planned Covid friendly close-up set became a mini-show. They ALL watched in the same way they would have watched a stage event.

It went reasonably well. Laugher and "ooohs" in the right places....but MAN did I work for it! I wound up doing an impromptu Q and A...mini readings...long circles of reveals. I did effects I haven't performed in a while. But it worked.

I was exceptionally grateful because as I said I had only close-up props with me and no sound system. It's a smallish group so I was able to project -- although I was surprised at how out of shape my voice had become during that long layoff.

At the end of the "show" I saw the client standing outside the room. I walked over and we just looked at each other for a minute. Then she looked back at the room and said something about the "new normal" that I can't repeat here. But in our conversation she also said that the turnout for this event was less than half of what had been planned for. The event -- like so many others -- was a breath away from being cancelled. Many of the people invited on the trip chose not to risk travel. She had to make special room layout arrangements...have the liquor served at the tables...provide masks...cancel the buffet...much more. She was a little shell shocked by all these changes.

Me too.

Good as it felt to be performing again -- even 'impromptu' -- there is no question things are very different. A few of the highlights:

1) People are committed to their masks. I get that and I respect it. Of course, I wouldn't dream of asking one of my volunteers to remove their mask. But the presence of masks created some significant challenges. First? I can't see their whole face -- just their eyes. This made reading their expressions much more difficult. Given that so much of what I do involves reading expressions and body language...and many of these expressions and micro expressions are shown on the whole face...I found my abilities severely handicapped. This made cold-reading -- starting with a few of the most basic Forer statements and building from there -- much more important. But to be honest with you, I never realized how dependant I am on being able to see a face.

1a) Since convention demands I keep my mask on...they can't see my whole face either which significantly hamstrings my ability to communicate.

1b) It is a LOT harder to understand someone speaking through a mask and MUCH harder to project to a room through one.

2) People are much more tentative. Fortunately "Covid friendly" meant I had designed effects that don't involve me passing any materials to the volunteer. Think about it: basic effects like MOABT require you to pass a book to the volunteer, right? Many of these people were on red alert for any form of contact. I say again: These were SALESPEOPLE. They are ordinarily the most outgoing of audiences -- ready for anything. Not these people. No pendulum (a mainstay of my closeup shows)...no Cent** Tear...no -- well you get the idea.

3) I had to really REALLY work to get them into a show frame of mind. To enter into the whole notion of a mentalism show...to laugh out loud. Eventually they did loosen up but not all the way. If you've done stage shows, you know what I'm talking about. That...something...between me and the audience was there...but it felt very far away.

4) Masks do something to the way people interact...even with each other. It's weird. To me, mentalism is all about interaction...so.........

We all have our own opinions on the pandemic. I certainly do. But this post isn't about that. I'm not trying to start a fight...just explain that, as an entertainer, I was walking into a whole new kind of environment. Admittedly I have only done the one event...and I did it with props designed for something entirely different...but things have changed. Really. There was a breath of fear in that room and a tentative nature that I have not seen before other than the shows I've done for women's shelters etc.

What people believe does determine their own reality. A certain segment of my audience last night believed there was a threat to their health -- an idea reinforced by the whole strangeness of the event. Masks. Seating...no working the room...no trips to the bar. No buffet. All of it is just going to draw attention to the threat and away from having a good time.

To be absolutely clear: I am NOT dumping on the situation and I am NOT saying the precautions are excessive. I am NOT denigrating the concern people have for their health or the steps they take to protect it. I am simply saying that, judging by what I saw last night, from an entertainer's perspective, the fabric of events has changed. Audiences have changed.

The scope of changes WE are going to have to make in order to keep pace with the "new normal" is huge. Really...huge. I think it can be done. For example: I think I am going to consider wearing a face shield instead of mask -- depending on what that does to a mic.....I guess......maybe I can figure out a way to get sterile face shields for my volunteers? Hmmm. Again.

Hmm...

Welcome to "Interesting Times."

David
Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Except bears. Bears will kill you.


www.MindGemsBrainTrust.com
www.magicpendulums.com
www.MidnightMagicAndMentalism.com
ElliottB
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That is a very interesting and informative post.
I am not sure why, but some places only allow masks; no face shields.
I don't know why, or how pervasive this is.
funsway
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old things in new ways - new things in old ways
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I am not performing and have no immediate plans too, but have been re-writing many effect descriptions to allow for social distancing and fear of touching objects.
For conjuring many effects will be eliminated all together as the modifications result in tossing the baby with the bath water - coin work especially.

For Mentalism (real and pretended) I have come to realize how much I have depended on "interactive body language" in the past.
The jab in the side form a spouse, the spontaneous touching of another's arm or knee, whispers, etc.
Mostly I dread the loss of gestalt energy in which excitement and astonishment is infectious and a "powerful witness" or measure of audience temperament, interest and anticipation.
In Helstomism I rely on this as much as the single person contact.

I guess my point is that David's observations accentuate my concerns over how much the "fear of contagion" can stifle attitude and awareness as much as the physical actions.
If the use of this Gestalt energy (or my awareness of it) is a from of ESP, then Codidiocy may have gelded me and my abilities as a mystic arts performer.

I used to observe/sense this group dynamic bonding flow in terms of color, a misty wave of pastel hue that changed in ripples and waves during a performance.
I would speed up or slow down, make gestures to a certain part of the room, modify voice volume, pitch or tenor in response -- all to avoid any drifting in of grey.

Now I may sense nothing but grey or color shifting too slowly to be os use. And yes, such fear on my part could influence my enthusiasm and projection and presence.

Kudo's to those who will go out and perform and bring back news of life beneath the ashes. Alas, I must re-write some effect again ...
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst

eBooks at https://www.lybrary.com/ken-muller-m-579928.html questions at ken@eversway.com
johnhsawyer
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Hi David,

Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm used to presenting and training a live audience. Next month will be my first online training and I'm already dreading not being able to walk around the tables, talk to the participants and see their reactions to what I'm saying. I don't think I would enjoy the alternative with everyone wearing masks and sitting there with guarded expressions and body language.

My family and I were up in Hilton Head a few weeks ago, where I was able to connect virtually with the wonderful Mick Ayres. While there, my wife and I snuck away for a date night to see the Comedy Magic Cabaret (https://www.comedymagiccabaret.com). I'm including the statement below from the site for reference.

Quote:
Seating will be less than 50% capacity with separation between parties. The town of Hilton Head requires masks to be worn indoors unless consuming food and beverages. Audience members will not be required to participate without their consent. Also please be informed that performers will not be wearing masks on stage due to the nature of our entertainment. We are excited to resume shows and look forward to seeing you soon!


As noted, the performers did not wear a mask and neither did the participants who came up on stage. The show was fun and the audience all seemed to have a great time...the great bartenders aided greatly in that. Smile

I think the venue and the set expectations will all have a great effect on how the audience reacts. In Hilton Head, most of the audience are there for vacation and likely less 'afraid' as they're already accepting the risk by being on vacation. Those salespeople may have felt more at-risk because they felt they had to be there for work and may have had to endure air travel, which is no fun these days.

Again, thank you for sharing your experience. I truly hope you see more positive change as you are able to perform more over the coming months.

-jhs
The Unmasked Magician
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If only I didn't have a wife and a kid I would have MUCH more than
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Thanks so much for sharing your story, David. I completely agree with your analysis of what happens to the atmosphere and interaction and why in that situation. Please keep on posting your experiences. I really appreciate reading them. And I know many do.
Please check regularly if you are becoming the type of magician Jerry Seinfeld jokes about. (This applies to mentalists as well.)
Slim King
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I recently did a Blues Brothers gig in the Villages. 40 to 50 golf carts lined the street. There were several lawn parties within the immediate area of the Driveway we sang in. Only one mask that I saw in 70 to 100 people. They sat in their carts sipping their favorite retirement beverage or walked back and forth from the lawn parties or talking to others along the street. The cops came but they were met by residents at the end of the street and never came near our performance area. Dozens got their pictures taken with us and the Blues Mobile. This seams to be the new normal in some areas of Florida and I'm good with it because it's even better than the old normal. The tips for a one hour performance were a little better than my all day fee at Universal. I will be doing a Halloween show this year, Houdini's Ghost, and I'm going to try to use a similar process as this!!!!! Smile
THE MAN THE SKEPTICS REFUSE TO TEST FOR ONE MILLION DOLLARS.. The Worlds Foremost Authority on Houdini's Life after Death.....
Danny Archer
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Philly
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What is happening around the world affects our kind of entertainment more than any other. You can watch a concert and not go on stage with the band, same with a play, dance, comedy, or practically any other form of entertainment. Only magicians and mentalists go in the audience or bring spectators on stage, borrow props from them or give them things to hold.

The very nature of performance has changed... so we must change the way we present our art...
Jed Maxwell
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Slim King, your admission of running non-socially distanced photoshoots, whilst not wearing a mask, with dozens of non-masked customers beggars belief. You gloat that you made a little more than a days wage at Universal from an hours work. This pursuit of your self-interest during a global pandemic is the prime example of "covidiocy". Your profession draws people together so you can draw a wage. To heck with the consequences, because you finagled some tax-free chump change. You endanger the image of all performers. Does your employer know?

It seems David Thiel agrees with you, which is a shame as I have agreed with him on many points. Not this.

I'm not arguing with any of you. I have lambasted others that have turned this forum into an echo-chamber for the socially maladjusted and internet addicted. I just making a statement because this is my last post. I have been here a year, and quickly realized that there are other ways I can learn mentalism without having to swath through the writings of the lonely and the kooks. Goodbye, and good day to you.
David Thiel
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I am not sure how exactly a post about how mentalists are going to have to deal with a "new normal" turned into one of those nasty fights. But this IS the Café...and there IS a reason why many people have chosen to quit posting here.

I have my own opinions about Covid...but I went WAY out of my way to make clear that my post wasn't about those opinions. Why? Because a discussion of Covid (the disease) has no place in a mentalism site. I absolutely did not want this to happen.

It is a fact that Covid has had a massive impact on mentalism and its performance. That was the point of my whole post. Now I have a complete stranger -- someone I've never even had the slightest communication with -- feeling he has the right to chide me and and then presuming to tell people what I think about Covid. Ummm...what?

I'm not mad (well maybe a little) but mostly you guys just make me tired.

David
Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Except bears. Bears will kill you.


www.MindGemsBrainTrust.com
www.magicpendulums.com
www.MidnightMagicAndMentalism.com
Mr. Woolery
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Jed, I read David’s post more as regret that the situation is what it is, not as a desire to ignore safety. Slim, however, seems to be throwing responsibility to the wind.

This is a really bad time. Performers are in an especially unpleasant place. A friend of mine is a stage actor. He was recently hospitalized for kidney trouble and had to use Go Fund Me to pay the bills. He has been out of work for 7 months. Self employed folks who don’t have a trust fund are in a scary situation right now. And I can’t blame anyone for looking for a way to perform, to do their jobs, and make ends meet.

That said, to ignore safety guidelines and say “it is my right to lick the plague rats and cough on you” is terribly irresponsible and uncaring. In a field of performance like mentalism, it seems like caring about other people would be a natural thing. But apparently not for everyone.

It is important to find safe ways to perform and entertain right now. People need our spirits lifted. But we need that to happen in a way that we can be fairly sure we won’t get that phone call saying we have been exposed to a virus that is killing a thousand people every day in our country. How to balance the safety with the entertainment is outside my area of expertise. But it has to be possible to perform in a safer way than Slim describes.

Patrick
Nash
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Thanks for the write up. The change is real and man its gonna be a strange time leading well into next year.
Wonderful if it'll be a good idea to carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer for whenever we hand out props to people, let them know whoever touched your stuff prior had clean hands.
Don't give up, don't EVER give up.

Corporate event magician
Dannydoyle
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It is interesting that though this is a global problem, the way we perceive it personally is different. It is almost affected by two main factors. Your own personal worldview, and how this is impacting you personally in your daily life.

If you live in the heart of New York (Where I did when this started.) the view you have of this is pretty dire. If you live in an area less affected by this, then often it has you wondering why all the fuss? I mean a HUGE portion of deaths have happened in 3 very populace states. One has to wonder if New York would have shut down if those 3 states were Montana, Colorado and Wyoming? I offer no conspiracy theories, and am accusing neither side of being wrong or stupid. I live right now smack dab in the middle of an area that has just not been hit hard at all by this. I have seen both sides of the equation.

The shame of this ENTIRE thing is it became a political issue, and how stupid is that? I blame each side for this. Each desperately wanting to assign blame or take credit instead of worrying about what is best for the world. They all sicken me deeply.

In some places the ridged restrictions will be in place for a long time, possibly forever. In others they are not that restrictive and are going to pass quite quickly. The "new normal" here is not so bad. Not NEARLY as bad as other places.

I personally have no opinion about this whole disease. I am not an expert and have no qualifications and won't take the time to research. I do have opinions about those in power who lie to me. Gotta say, not a fan of it. I take no side on what "should" happen, just follow the guidelines of what "does" happen. Somehow this is easier for me to get through life not knowing everything.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Ken Northridge
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I wonder how history will judge this time.

As brought out by the comments on this thread, there is a stunning difference of opinion about the Covid issue. I have done about 20 shows since the beginning of July and I too have seen these differences. Some places take the temperature of every audience member demand they wear a mask during my entire show. While other places there is not a mask or precaution to be seen.

We live in a difficult and divisive time, but there were much more difficult times than this.

For example, there was a time that roughly half of the population thought slavery was a ‘right’ and worth fighting for and dying for. Now, all these years later, the overwhelming majority of Americans agree that slavery is abhorrent.

Time changes things.

The only thing that will render the final verdict on this issue...is time.
"Love is the real magic." -Doug Henning
www.KenNorthridge.com
magicalaurie
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Quote:
On Sep 11, 2020, David Thiel wrote:

I have my own opinions about Covid...but I went WAY out of my way to make clear that my post wasn't about those opinions. Why? Because a discussion of Covid (the disease) has no place in a mentalism site. I absolutely did not want this to happen.



Why did you choose the thread title "Covidiocy"?
thomasR
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I'm hearing about a "second wave" hitting Europe. Not sure if the USA will get it or how we will react but certainly something to be aware of.
Slim King
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I just did another one. No one died. No one was sick. BTW.. I wasn't sick at the last one either. To say I was contagious would have been and currently is a lie. I'm innocent until proven guilty. HCQWORKS. Hypochondria is a mental disorder. Smile
THE MAN THE SKEPTICS REFUSE TO TEST FOR ONE MILLION DOLLARS.. The Worlds Foremost Authority on Houdini's Life after Death.....
thomasR
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Quote:
On Sep 23, 2020, Slim King wrote:
I just did another one. No one died. No one was sick. BTW.. I wasn't sick at the last one either. To say I was contagious would have been and currently is a lie. I'm innocent until proven guilty. HCQWORKS. Hypochondria is a mental disorder. Smile


In my small town this is the attitude that a local church took. 4 of their members died and many more hospitalized.
David Todd
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Quote:
On Sep 24, 2020, thomasR wrote:

In my small town this is the attitude that a local church took. 4 of their members died and many more hospitalized.


Interesting. What town and what church was that ?
Dannydoyle
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Quote:
On Sep 24, 2020, thomasR wrote:
Quote:
On Sep 23, 2020, Slim King wrote:
I just did another one. No one died. No one was sick. BTW.. I wasn't sick at the last one either. To say I was contagious would have been and currently is a lie. I'm innocent until proven guilty. HCQWORKS. Hypochondria is a mental disorder. Smile


In my small town this is the attitude that a local church took. 4 of their members died and many more hospitalized.


And how old were they and what secondary conditions did they have?

But common sense aside let me ask a serious question. There are those who feel that a .026 death rate overall is a risk they are willing to take to have a job and not starve to death.

So what is the end game? Zero new cases? Zero deaths? What if no vaccine comes? Stay scared and do as you are told?

At what point does the rights of the many outweigh the fears of the few? Since it is such a low death rate and all why do the 99% plus not affected suffer for those who do?

I am not an infectious diseases expert by any means. I am not saying anything about what needs to be done or undone. I am asking relevant questions is all. Questions that a lot of people are asking.

If masks work why not issue them to prisoners instead of letting them go? If masks work why does everyone have to wear them? Why put older teachers at risk if kids can give them the virus?

There are a lot of questions out there on each side of the deal. One side at least is telling outright lies and hopefully they are held to account. If tens of thousands died needlessly this is worse than incompetent it is a war crime.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
magicalaurie
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No man is an island. This is a contagious disease. All those "willing to take a risk" aren't doing so only at their own risk. And the vulnerable are thereby involuntarily being exposed. Those "willing to take a risk" are taking choice away from the already vulnerable. Double whammy and insult to injury.

It's not so much about fear as it is about love and serious consideration and regard for the vulnerable.

The vulnerable are not disposable, collateral damage. They are precious entities, beloved family members.

Also, no one really knows for sure, either, just who might have an unexpected severe outcome. We are all vulnerable to the effects of this virus. I mentioned on another thread, Marshall Rosenberg's reference to a human evolutionary snag. And I think it's been blatantly illuminated by the way we've seen this situation unfold so far.
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