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MarkTripp
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“How to be a Handcuff King and Mystery Man”; Those words leaped from the ad to my young heart. How I longed to be a “Mystery Man”. A modern super hero who all men admired, and the women swooned for. I spent my dollar, but sadly, the book did not make me either a Handcuff King or a Mystery Man.

I only bring this up because I believe ALL of us felt that way at one time or another; More importantly, so has your audience! In my humble opinion, nothing grabs an audience like an escape, IF, it’s done very well. Allow me to define well:

1. Everything must be “examined”. In other words, the devise must be (in the audience’s mind at least) without gimmick or trickery!

2. You must be put into the devise quickly.

3. You must escape quickly.

4. There must be an element of danger and mystery (re-read the opening paragraph).

5. Finally, for real success, the audience has to care about you. It’s not good if they WANT to see you die. You’ll disappoint them!

My feeling is the audience wants to see “skill” not “tricks”; This is the reason the “mentalist”, the “Escape Artist” seem to go over better than someone just doing “tricks”
Dr_Stephen_Midnight
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Good observations. To add my own feedback and qualifications:

> 1. Everything must be “examined”. In other words, the device must be (in the audience’s mind at least) without gimmick or trickery!

I'm glad you put quotations around the word "examined," since not all escape props can be completely examined, though yes, they must seem to be totally legit.

>2. You must be put into the device quickly.

In most cases, definitely. The only exception that comes to mind is the 75' challenge tie, where getting in can be as much a show as getting out.

>3. You must escape quickly.

Again, in most cases, yes. There is 'fast,' though, and there is 'fast.' The act should never drag, but some escapes work better if the performer does not get out TOO quickly. Some work best with a 'spooky' delay or a desperate, 'wrestling match' struggle.

>4. There must be an element of danger and mystery...

Hmmm...danger is good; mystery is good; danger AND mystery are good. There are, however, several good escapes that have neither in the OVERT sense. The challenge tie is a great example of an escape where there is no overt danger, and no overt mystery, yet it still works. There are SUBTLE elements of danger (most people don't like the idea of being tied helpless) and SUBTLE mystery ("I saw him wiggle out, but I still can't figure out how he did it!").

>5. Finally, for real success, the audience has to care about you. It’s not good if they WANT to see you die. You’ll disappoint them!

Yes, definitely. If the audience likes you, they will see themselves in your plight. That sense of empathy is one reason I perform escapes.

>My feeling is the audience wants to see “skill” not “tricks”; This is the reason the “mentalist”, the “Escape Artist” seem to go over better than someone just doing “tricks”

Yes. To quote the fictitious Mr. Dooley of 'The London Examiner' (Houdini [1953]),

"I say all you yank magicians are fakes, and that that's a trick trunk! I want to see you get out of something real!"

Steve
Dr. Lao: "Do you know what wisdom is?"
Mike: "No."
Dr. Lao: "Wise answer."
CARNEGIE
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Mark,

Great post! I did re-read the opening paragraph and I understand the context you are coming from, the superhero kind of escape artist. Too many danger escapes in a row can lessen the overall impact, I think. But I do agree that danger and mystery are important components to an escape act, as well as skill, comedy, and drama.

As to whether or not an audience wants to see skill over tricks, that's an interesting notion. I do agree that mentalists and escape artistry are perceived by the audience as being more legitmate or real than other mystery performers/magicians. I also think it's all in who is performing. I've seen a load of boring escape acts and there is nothing worse than boring mentalism. Though I think the real point you were making was that the audience would rather see skill in regards to ESCAPES rather than tricks, and on that I do agree.
Stuart Burrell
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The Escapist comic shows how a mysterious escape artist could look (for those who have not seen it, look at Wesley from the 'Princess Bride').

Its a good idea if you could get the hype behind the 'who is ....' side, maybe create some genuine confusion in the art as to who this person is (or at least get your fellow performers to play dumb when asked)

It would be hard to maintain but worth it if it all works out as planned.
MarkTripp
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Gentlemen...

...see how much better it is in here when we agree/disagree but DISCUSS concepts rather than personal assaults?
Dr_Stephen_Midnight
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Which is as it should be.

Stuart, yes, "The Escapist" is a good reference for the imagination to tap into. Another, if you are into the Steve Baker or Norm Bigelow style danger elements, is Jack Kirby's "Mister Miracle" (find the early Kirby issues from the early 1970s).

I have the complete run of Mister Miracle (all three series, and special issues). I would like to display the collection at an escape artist covention (Indy, maybe) someday.

Steve
Dr. Lao: "Do you know what wisdom is?"
Mike: "No."
Dr. Lao: "Wise answer."
MarkTripp
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Ah... Mister Miracle.

I have them too, somewhere.

If people knew the real story about Steve Baker's childhood, they would know that "Mr. Escape" was a superhero too....
Dr_Stephen_Midnight
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There was also a super-heroine escape artist I "Justice Machine": Ms. Liberty.

Steve
Dr. Lao: "Do you know what wisdom is?"
Mike: "No."
Dr. Lao: "Wise answer."
Cliffg37
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Mister Miracle? Someone remembers him besides me? Gee, I wonder if we could get some "vibronic manacles" to use for an escape act?
Magic is like Science,
Both are fun if you do it right!
Dr_Stephen_Midnight
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Not to mention a vibronic lockpick, an omnicube and a mother box.

About a year ago I showed Ian McColl a few Kirby MM panels as research for making a set of 'futuristic' manacles for a sci-fi movie production company.

Steve
Dr. Lao: "Do you know what wisdom is?"
Mike: "No."
Dr. Lao: "Wise answer."
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