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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » I'll probably get my butt kicked for saying this. (6 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

dustrod
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I'm only 14 months into learning and studying magic so maybe this is a very naive opinion but I keep seeing the same thing in every book I open... "Give your magic meaning."
This is emphasized so many different ways with so many different examples of how just "a pick a card trick" will fall flat without some relatable storyline. Some substance. At this point in my life, I think I might disagree some. As someone who was recently a layman but watched and enjoyed many magic shows both in person and on my television over the years I can honestly say, I think a fresh perspective might not hurt.

The theory I keep reading makes it sound like magic is this delicious cheeseburger fresh off the grill but before we can serve it to the public we need to cover it with a cup of salt & pepper and every condiment we have and a story about 4 kings and a queen before we can expect a magic-seeking paying audience to force it down their throat. I just like the cheeseburger and I think that the magic just needs to speak for itself.
I think the reason that David Blaine and Shim Lin are some of the biggest recent household names is because the general public comes for the effects, just the effects, not the patter. Meanwhile others are completely turned off by much of the magic of the last few decades because they envision some geeky guy telling some cheesy story, a story they would never want to hear in real life unless they were 5 years old.. They just want to see some magic.

I've heard it said so many times that unless your audience can relate with your props(cards to gambling, Coins to slot machines, sponge objects instead of spongeballs) that your presentation will lack substance. I've also heard it said that many are against using items that aren't relatable or found in the "real world" like spongeballs because they exist only in the world of a magician (these same people often have no problem using a $300 cups & balls set or a several thousand dollar stage prop used only for cutting a lady in half). Personally, I think people want to enter the world of magic and be entertained. Not only that, I think they want to leave their normal world, escape & be entertained in the magic world with.... not some made-up storyline about how you're banned in Vegas but... Magic.

Like I mentioned, I've only been studying the craft for a tad over a year but I've been booking entertainment for a chain of casinos for a decade (still early in my career, I know) but I've hired many magicians. Some you've neverd heard of, some who have written the book on magic. I try to study what works and what doesn't before booking and re-booking. I also handle all the casino's social media and respond to every bit of feedback that comes through regarding putting on "another magic show". I've heard a lot of interesting feedback from laymen who both hate or love magic.

Don't get me wrong, some people really have it down and have brought me to tears with a great relatable storyline that actually enhances the magic rather than dilutes it but most of the time they don't, it's so cheesy that I think they should skip the patter and let the magic speak for itself. Anyway take it easy on me with your responses, I'm still learning and this is just an observation. Maybe next month I'll completely disagree with this line of thinking.
landmark
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You are lucky that in your job you have an opportunity to observe a good variety of performers and audience reactions--more opportunity than most. You've got a theory now about what works. Now see if it carries over into your own practice. That back and forth between theory and practice is what's going to bring you to your own style.

Personally, my take on what you've said is, it depends. Pop Haydn, a very fine magician, has often expressed similar sentiments here to what you've written. He doesn't think that "meaning' is something that you slather on like ketchup onto an effect. The meaning in magic is the magic itself is his feeling about it.

OTOH, some enjoy the Eugene Burger/ Jeff McBride/ Robert Neale "mystery school" approach.

For me, personally, I like to watch magic that is utterly fooling, performed by an engaging and compelling personality who comes off as someone who I'd like to know more about. Telling stories about your spooky grandfather is less than compelling to me. Give me something funny or horrible, but original and creative that evokes a real emotion in me.
funsway
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The only story that matters is the one they tell tomorrow and twenty yeas for now about the experience of magic that you and they created together.
All the rest (except the moment of astonishment) is to grab and sustain interest, set up false expectations and get them to trust you (maybe like you).

One problem today is any understanding of what an audience expects, what their experience with magic is, and what other factors are fighting for their attention.
This may be worse in Las Vegas or other major entertainment centers. So, performers go overboard to make themselves the center of focused attention.

Astounding magic is fairly easy when the audience TOGETHER knows you are a magician (understand what that means), know that you a re intending to demonstrate something astonishing or inexplicable,
and that you are doing it NOW. This is tough with so many distractions, confusion and the "illusion of knowledge" prevalent.

I am from Reno originally. Please recognize you are not in an normal entertainment setting. Be patient and forgiving.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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Ray Pierce
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First, this is a forum for opinions and I don't believe anyone should ever get their butt kicked for sharing an opinion. For me, the term "Give your magic meaning" might not resonate correctly for many people. I want it to have meaning to me. If it resonates with me on a deeper level, that should translate to my audience without me necessarily having the need to even explain it. I do NOT think it means to make everything into a literal "story" as some do. That can sometimes weigh down an effect to the point of making the viewer weary. Yes, as performers we are all storytellers to some degree but again, it doesn't have to be literal. When I'm directing magicians, I always say that each object we introduce is a character in our story. The more unusual and out of place that character is, the more we are required to justify its existence in some way. The story we tell begins from out first step on stage. our first line, look and expression. Yes, it must all have meaning to us and in turn, must intrigue the audience to the point of them wanting to listen and watch more closely to understand our inner meanings as we take them on the journey that is our "Act" or show. There are segments where I am actually playing a character in our show and at other times just presenting magic as a pure mystery. In both cases... what I'm doing always has meaning to me. It is the through-line that keeps me on track and keeps the overall show together. Each piece is a part of that story. The audience might not know it intellectually but if I've done my job correctly, they will feel it.

You mentioned Shin and David. They exemplify my point above. Everything they do means something to them. You might not know what it is... but you can feel it.

That is everything to me.
Ray Pierce
<BR>www.HollywoodAerialArts.com
Kanawati
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Just want to say that every observation and insight from dustrod, landmark, funsway and Ray Pierce has given me plenty of food for thought. Thank you guys. John
tommy
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With regard to meaning I agree with Dustrod.

With regard to the general public coming for the effects and just the effects, I disagree with Dustrod.

Both of these issues are dealt with in Our Magic.

https://archive.org/details/ourmagicartinmag00mask

I would suggest one reads the whole book carefully but the chapter on the difference between Drama and Magic deals with meaning and why people cannot relate to magic and the chapter on Speed in Presentation deals with why the general public do not come for the effects and just the effects.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
dustrod
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Thanks everyone for the very insightful responses. Tommy, I will read Our Magic.
Dannydoyle
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You are entitled to your position. You have reasoned it out and that is great.

I think the phrase may mean different things to different people.

I'm glad to see you putting so much time and effort into your positions. It will serve you well. Never stop even if some kick your but, which they shouldn't.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
dustrod
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Thanks Dannydoyle!
George Ledo
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One of the things we have to be careful of in Our Magic is that it was written many years ago and audiences have changed. The basic principles discussed are still valid, but we need to spend some time thinking about how they apply today.

As mentioned above, slathering meaning onto a magic trick that stands on its own is pointless. I've seen many performers who tried to make up a story that didn't make sense, and it just comes across to me as the performer just wanting to hear himself/herself talk. And then there are those who shovel "comedy" into it, like they really want to be comedians doing magic, or like they're bored with the whole thing and just want to entertain themselves. You can always tell whether it works or not by paying close and honest attention to the audience response.

There are plenty of good performers out there that we can learn from. But we have to relax and let it happen.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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funsway
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Good insights, George. Of course "attention to audience response" can be different from a long term impact or memory.

Sometimes I have been unimpressed by a magic performance, but some part of it lingers or reappears in memory.
Then I go back and try and figure out what part worked vs most that did not.
In similar vein, the effect that people talk about to friends may be ones they figured out and not the better magic ones they could not.

Magician, "Wow, that is the biggest applause I've ever received!"

Friend, "Yup, they were so glad you were finally done!"
"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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For the most part, I think people who perform magic are the worst at judging a general audience's response. They see magic differently.

I've been hanging around the Café for about fifteen years, and I'm totally convinced of it.
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"
tommy
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I think the audience respond in three different ways to three different interrelated aspects of the effect.

1, The audience respond subjectively to the patter, whether it is mimed or spoken, by willingly suspending their rational faculties, going along with it for their amusment, because the patter aspect is obviously fiction being offered.

2, The audience respond objectively to each step of the magic experiment by engaging their rational faculties, logically questioning each and every step, because the experiment aspect is obviously sensible facts being offered.

3, The audience respond at the climax with amazement and amusement because they know the fictional nonsense asserted in the patter cannot possibly be true but that is just what the facts of the experiment have proven it to be.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
tommy
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My specific purpose in using incredible patter, is to get the company to receive it with polite but absolute incredulity, so that when I proceed to prove the assertion true, they are amazed and amused. If one simply performs magic without any bosh, then they may be amazed but not amused.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Dannydoyle
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Quote:
On Sep 19, 2020, George Ledo wrote:
For the most part, I think people who perform magic are the worst at judging a general audience's response. They see magic differently.

I've been hanging around the Café for about fifteen years, and I'm totally convinced of it.


I actually think magic "fans" who perform magic are the worst at judging audience response. Those who are professionals working day in and day out are generally quite good at this in my experience.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Ray Pierce
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Quote:
On Sep 20, 2020, Dannydoyle wrote:
I actually think magic "fans" who perform magic are the worst at judging audience response. Those who are professionals working day in and day out are generally quite good at this in my experience.


You have to, your survival depends on it. As a general rule: perform more, pontificate less.
Ray Pierce
<BR>www.HollywoodAerialArts.com
Dannydoyle
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Quote:
On Sep 20, 2020, Ray Pierce wrote:
Quote:
On Sep 20, 2020, Dannydoyle wrote:
I actually think magic "fans" who perform magic are the worst at judging audience response. Those who are professionals working day in and day out are generally quite good at this in my experience.


You have to, your survival depends on it. As a general rule: perform more, pontificate less.


EXACTLY.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
George Ledo
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Thank you, gentlemen, I stand clarified.
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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