Heres a compilation of a few Essays I've written on Penguin over the years.
Dear the Magic Community,
Is it just me, or is it apparent to everyone that there is a new generation of magicians - Generation DVD. These "magicians of today" rely solely on the instruction of DVDs, and neglect to practice, rehearse, routine, construct misdirection, and the list goes on. I'm not saying that DVDs are bad. I myself have several. The thing is, to be an accomplished, entertaining, and fluid magician, learning sleights and moves is all fine and dandy, but just a small portion of the recipe. Just like a recipe, the product won't taste good unless you use all of the ingredients to the right amount and bake it perfectly. The baking is like practicing. Your showmanship is like the presentation on the plate. So, before focusing on learning everything, put together a STRONG routine. Probably, right now, if you've been in magic for a while, you have all the sleights and tricks you need. Start routining. From people who don't know about this, pick 6 or 7 of the tricks you know best, or that you think you can flourish on, and make a full story including patter, movement, misdirection, jokes, timing etc. Until you have blocked, written down, and mastered each one of your tricks, only THEN should you start performing them. Try writing down all of your patter, and reciting it to your self. Practice time and time again, over and over the same way. Then rehearse. You all know there is a difference between practicing and rehearsing. Your rehearsal should be no different than your show. Practice is practice: do the moves, patter, all the interconnecting parts, until you KNOW them. No Pauses, no Improvisation. Performing is a very special art - Magic especially. Unlike in sports, you have complete control over EVERY SINGLE PART of your show - Make it a good one. And remember these 4 things: If you're doing something that is supposed to look normal, think about what it would look like if it was normal. How would it look if you really turned over the top card instead of doing a DL? Second, if you were doing something visual that is supposed to look magical, how would it look if you were actually magic? Take into consideration the Erdnase\Houdini color change. If you were really magic, you'd just touch your hand on top of the card, and it would change. So, make as little movement as possible, and make it natural. Third - Be Natural. You're not fooling anyone by being mechanical, and stuttering etc., when you do a 'magic' move. Even though they didn't necessarily se you do it, if they suspect it, you’re not fooling anyone. And lastly, use your head. THINK about everything you are doing. If it doesn't make sense why your hand is going into your pocket, change it. . To conclude, don't rely totally on DVDs, videos and books. Focus on your WHOLE routine. Use your head, and be natural.
Over – Proving
Another good question. Over-proving in magic is a tricky subject (no pun intended). I guess the question is, when does naturalness become proving, and when does proving become over proving. A natural action becomes a proving action when it becomes an openly conscious effort to prove Proving becomes 'over proving', when you eliminate too many of the false possibilities.
As soon as I read this I knew I would use this quote form Al Baker: "Don't run when your not being chased" which exemplifies the notion that 'don't prove when there's nothing to prove'. Others, like Tommy Wonder say "You are alvase being chased, but all you have to do is jog" All of these have their ups and downs, but I say "You shouldn't have to run if you're fit enough to compete in a marathon" meaning You shouldn't have to prove yourself if you have routined your act in such a way that you could prove ALL THE TIME and organize it so that the spectator is never is trying to 'solve the puzzle'. If the audience has no suspicion, there is no reason to prove, therefore eliminating over proving.
Now, you asked what is natural in the first place. Something that is natural in the first place is something that is either needed mechanically in a trick, desired by the audience in a trick, or something that you would do when you weren't doing a trick. These three mean that 1.Mechanically, you must prove to the audience that you putting your hand in the shaped of a fist to poke the silk in is the way that is desired by the audience, or you get an unnatural position. 2, that you know the audience will desire something. Ei. After performing the disappearing birdcage, pull up your sleeves, it seems like a natural thing to do, AND it fulfills the audience's desire. 3. Do something that you would do when not doing a trick. Scratch your head to 'inadvertently' show your hand empty.
This is very related to a successful performance. In a successful performance you have to have the audience either wondering how you’re doing it, or thinking you’re really good. Those two options are up to you. But either way, by over proving you are telling your audience that there is something to prove against which directly contradicts the proving in the first place - leading them to watch you closer, for you to try and prove more, and so on.
And that’s the best I have from MYSELF on that subject.
Dariel Fitzkee wrote a book in 1944 called Showmanship for Magicians. This book focused on the key aspects of a successful performance and lists a checklist of important qualities, which I personally find invaluable.
Music, Rhythm, Movement, Sex Appeal, Youth, Personality, Color, Comedy, Harmony, Romance, Sentiment, Nostalgia, Pointing, Timing, Surprise, Situation, Character, Conflict, Proper Costuming, Careful Grooming, Physical Action, Group Coordination, Precise Attack, Short turns or scenes, Efficient Pacing, Punch, Careful Routining, Tireless Rehearsal, Special Material, Grace, Effortless Skill, Surefire Material, Spectacle, Thrill, Emotion, Common Problems, Unity, and Up-to-datedness.
Oooo. Big scary List. This list is more for reference than anything. How do you apply them to your effect? Good Question. In my own opinion, the best way is to ask yourself questions on the subject of each of the categories in the above list. Fro example on character, you may ask your self the age of your character, your nationality, education, beliefs, faults, virtues, relatives, etc. Do this with each one, and make sure it fits your style, and it will make sense and be successful. Notice an important one: Effortless Skill; this means you must have effortless skill, but skill no less. Now your question was how do I make my routine successful, and still maintain Unity, Correct? First, let's define unity. Hmm. How about: Unity is the maintaining of a single idea from beginning to end. One way to maintain unity is to maintain character. Take Cardini's act. Many different tricks + always a Drunk Englishmen = Unified act. Another way is to do a series of trick with different objects etc. but all ending with the same result. Or you could attain and maintain unity by using the same prop for everything, and doing different effects, or you could make something appear, do a trick with it, turn it into something else, do a trick with that and so on throughout your routine.
For further information, I'd suggest checking out the book I mentioned above. It's a part of a trilogy of books. All of which are excellent references.
OK, let me try and explain my views on this. First of all, selling magic is completely differen than selling music. Usually, people don't buy the music to learn it carefully, practice it for a long time, and play it for other people to get reactions. And, if they do, If the composer of the music is putting crap out on the market that he hasn't researched or refined, he is not giving the musician the best possible music: knowingly - that my friend is unethical. Take the subject back to magic:
"3) Recognize and respect for rights of the creators, inventors, authors, and owners of magic concepts, presentations, effects and literature, and their rights to have exclusive use of, or to grant permission for the use by others of such creations.
4) Discourage false or misleading statements in the advertising of effects, and literature, merchandise or actions pertaining to the magical arts."
Sections 3 & 4 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians Code of ethics. I see this code of ethics as standard and accepted by the magic community, since the IBM is the largest magic organization on earth. In the first rule (#3) it states that an ethical magician should "respect for rights of the creators, inventors, authors, and owners of magic concepts, presentations, effects and literature". I think by putting out a product that you have not tested and made as good as possible into a world of mostly thought out, refined magical products is not only degrading to yourself, but to the co creators of magic that have spent time on their product. Consider this. You are in a class, and everyone in the class is well behaved except for one goof-off. A 'class assessor' (looking to assess the class to win the "good behavior prize") walks in, and immediately, the goof starts babbling nonsensically and insulting the assessor - ruining the chance of your class winning. The person that puts the non refined product out is the goof.
Next, "Discourage false or misleading statements in the advertising of effects" states that you should not be misleading in the advertising of your effect(s). This means that you cannot put it up for sale. When buying a magic product, the magician should not be bombarded with crap products. Putting it out for sale is misleading because it is most stores slogan to give quality products. Anything less, is unethical.
So, with this evidence in hand, by ONLY creating effects to sell them, and not test, use, refine, get advice one or other wise to improve the trick is unethical. It is also impossible to create a marketable, ethical effect without long thought and work going into it.
Last edited by toconjure on Thu Jun 23, 2005 10:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.