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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The October 2004 entrée: David Parr » » Sameness in Magic » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Frank Tougas
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Inner circle
Minneapolis, MN
1712 Posts

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Welcome David,

I'd like your thoughts on the general way magicians present their magic. You have an acting background which I feel makes a huge difference in how you present your magic and how it is viewed by others.

Most amateurs and part-timers, myself included, tend to do things the way we see other magicians doing them. We have no real formal stage expertoise and seldom consult a director but instead act as our own director.

Even in the professional world of Las Vegas there is a real smaeness about things like costumes, gestures, stage presence, etc. Most of the real originality comes from the props and illusions they use.

Johnny Carson, a magic enthusiast and showbiz professional, was constantly being badgered by his sidekick Ed to do some tricks. One day after several weeks practice Johnny actually did some formal magic on the Tonight show. It was excellent and performed flawlessly, but it still looked like every magic act I have ever seen.

What, other than actual formal training in acting, can you suggest or recommend to move the art forward?
Frank Tougas The Twin Cities Most "Kid Experienced" Children's Performer :"Creating Positive Memories...One Smile at a Time"
David Parr
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V.I.P.
881 Posts

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Hi Frank. I do not feel that I am qualified to suggest how to "move the art [of magic] forward," but I can suggest some ideas for how to move forward and grow as an individual artist:

Experience and experiment. The key to finding one's creative voice in any art is in experimentation. Magic is a performing art, and the only way to experiment is to experience performing it — many times, for many different audiences and in many different circumstances. Experimenting involves taking some chances, making some mistakes. Sometimes it means going against conventional wisdom or pushing oneself to try something unfamiliar or even a bit scary.

Seek inspiration and influences outside of magic. Part of the explanation for the "sameness" you notice is because the work of many magicians is only informed and inspired by other magicians. Some of my influences come from literature, theatre and film, comic books, television.

Learn from a variety of sources. One of the dangers of video's ever-increasing dominance in magic instruction is that it is difficult to avoid mimickry — on a conscious and an unconscious level — when learning from this medium. It encourages me to perform the routine or move exactly as I see it onscreen, rather than experimenting and finding my own way. In addition, if video becomes my primary or sole source of information about magic, I am cutting myself off from the vast record of learning and experience that resides in magic books and journals.

Find a director. This should be someone with stage experience, not necessarily in magic. Where many us fail is not in our sleight-of-hand technique but in how we comport ourselves onstage. Slouching, moving around with no motivation, mumbling, fumbling with props, uttering sentences that make no sense, and so on. Constructive advice and direction from someone with a good eye and a keen ear can help to clean up all these obstacles to communicating with audiences and allow one to grow as a performer.

Experiment with other art forms. I've noticed that some artists who get stuck in a rut experience a revitalization when they experiment with other art forms, other means of expression. Try drawing, playing music, or writing poetry. Experiment with painting or photography. Or try a different performing style within magic: As an exercise to counterbalance my fascination with language, I sometimes challenge myself to find ways to perform my magic silently.

I hope some of these thoughts are helpful to you. If anyone has further ideas for encouraging our own growth in magic, please share them with us!
Matt Graves
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Huntsville, Alabama (USA)
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I have a vague idea. I've blabbed this idea a thousand times on the Café' already, but perhaps there are some people who haven't heard it yet. I'm not a professional by any means, but if there is anybody I try to emulate in my magic, it is Garth Brooks. Now, don't snicker. If you have ever watched even five minutes of a Garth Brooks concert, you know that this man is/was the very personification of "showmanship". I've never been able to make my magic as exciting and groundbreaking as every one of Garth's songs seem, from the start of the show to the finish, but that's the standard I try to work up to. People talk about having influences outside magic . . . well, that's mine.
AntonDreaming
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Gloucester by the sea
622 Posts

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I completely agree that to help with making original magic one should utilize outside interests. These are the things that make up parts of who we are.

Serling307, as far as Garth Brooks goes... I know what you mean. I've seen him live and he is just what you said, a showman. Just as any good magician is. One thing that I've always done to help with the creative process in to look at movies and songs I love and reflect what I want to put out there. I don't necessarily look at the words to a song or the content of a segment... but more how it makes me feel. That’s where it usually starts for me... with that very basic feeling.

Also dreams... I dream more magic than I ever could think of while awake.

Also David... Love Brain Food, I really enjoy the format and layout of the book. The shorts in between effects give the magic itself sort of a "background" as to that important question "why?"
David Parr
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Thank you, Anton. I'm pleased that you appreciated the format of the book. One of my goals in composing Brain Food was to write a magic book that would encourage the reader to read it from beginning to end — like a real book. And I've heard from many magicians that they did just that.
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