Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

A place where beginners can participate, ask questions, and post their views. However, beginners typically ask a lot of questions about sources, tricks, books, and so on. In fact, all magicians are interested (or should be) in the provenance of tricks, ideas, and related matters. This department will service these needs.
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Tom Stone
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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby Tom Stone » December 21st, 2014, 7:06 pm

JHostler wrote:
Tom Stone wrote:
Joe Mckay wrote:We offer wonder and magic. But to the audience - they still mostly see magic as a puzzle to be solved.

Who cares how the audience views it?
They are not participating in the creation of the pieces.


Well, that might be true if there was no audience - in which case you'd be performing entirely for yourself. Otherwise, it is precisely their perceptions and feelings that make the magic. A complete disregard for the audience's "view" is absurd.

No, it is not. It is the approach that gives the most artistic freedom. I have a few creations that I really like (Benson Burner, Of Dice and Men, Mr. Fogg...), and others seem to like them too - well, none of them would have been created if I had wasted time on trying to create something that would please an audience. I trust my art and my craft enough to know that if I focus 100% on that, there will always be an audience for the result.
The most recent example is also the most striking one. "Quantum Logic" in the May 2014 issue was created as a purely intellectual challenge and I had no intention of ever performing it. The intention was to do an as "perfect" pastiche on Jim Steinmeyer as I could manage. But once created, I fell in love with it and it is now the strongest item in my whole repertoire. From the first embryo of an idea to the finished piece and its inclusion in my act, not a single thought has been wasted on pondering over what the audience would think of it - it is a good piece, and I love it, and that is more than enough. Any audience who disagree are obviously wrong... and happily, I have not come across an audience like that yet. I've only met sensible audiences who has agreed with me.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby brianarudolph » December 21st, 2014, 8:17 pm

Tom Stone wrote:My goal is not to present a show that the audience would want to see - why on earth would I want to set my goals that low? My goal is to present a show that I would want to see... and hopefully I will reach that goal some time in the future.


I recall the great Warner Bros. animator Chuck Jones being interviewed about how he and his fellow animators like Friz Freleng were able to know in advance what the audience wanted to see and would laugh at seeing when they created all those classic Looney Tunes cartoons with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Marvin Martian, the Roadrunner, etc. His reply was something along the lines of "We didn't know! We weren't making cartoons to cause some audience to laugh - we only made cartoons that caused us to laugh." Don't like what they did? Watch something else.

Apple is notorious for not using focus groups. When they create a new product (whether it results in the creation of a totally new product category or disrupts one in which they're coming late to the party), they produce something that their designers and engineers find functionally elegant and delightful. Don't like it? Buy something else.

There are other such exceptional examples out there in many different fields including magic - you're in fine company, Tom. It's just that those exceptional examples are getting increasingly rarer.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby benjamintalbot » December 21st, 2014, 8:27 pm

I spent a long time learning Tommy's "Tamed" version of wild card--and I think the art is in the delivery. Engagement is prob. the only art left in a sometimes artless world. And Tommy is a real artist at that--I appreciate the comments about making the spectator feel great as the most artful way---what else is it but tricks if not engaging--whether the tricks of pointalist painters or the tricks of great film editing or the tricks of facebook for the matter. What people will always respond to is a sense of connection--and if I can give them a sense of connection to themselves, each other--and even the magician---well who cares about the magic. Magic is about inspiring imagination--or perhaps helping people remember they have one. Thanks for a great and thought provoking set of posts to all who wrote in. And god bless Tommy for turning me on to a sense of wonderment within my own performaces. Remember--" a magician is an actor playing a magician."

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby Joe Mckay » December 21st, 2014, 8:31 pm

You know what excites me?

Boring magic tricks that makes use of obscure mathematical principles.

I am not kidding. I bet I have spent longer studying the big Stewart James books than anyone else.

But - I doubt I will ever find an audience that shares my passion.

With that said - I should add that I am a huge Tom Stone fan.

http://forums.geniimagazine.com/viewtopic.php?t=44478#p298612

So - I hope he keeps doing whatever works for him.

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Tom Stone
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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby Tom Stone » December 21st, 2014, 9:19 pm

Joe Mckay wrote:So - I hope he keeps doing whatever works for him.

You should perform more, Joe.
That's the main way to understand this (or any) art.
Thinking that the script is the main thing shows a shallow understanding of what we do. What we do is mainly choreographical in nature, in combination with psychological gambits where we cover our tracks. The art is the way we create deception. That's where the beauty resides in our art. When one move accomplish several things. When many techniques are crossbred into one single impenetrable deception. The economy of actions. When a specific spoken sentence creates false impression. When one effect covers the action needed to accomplish the next effect...You don't feel the artistic value in these things, unless you actually try them.
Like Max Maven's "SEAK" for example. When simply reading it, it seems like a fairly clever thing but perhaps not like one of his most artistic creations. I can see how some might easily dismiss it... However it is first when you try it out that you get a sense of the depth of the piece. Notice how little work is required to accomplish many things. You show the pack of cards that all have lists of words on them, then you flip the pack over - bookwise - which causes the word card to be upside down when the spectator choses one. Without thinking, the spectator rotates the card to be able to read it, which causes it to be reversed when returned. The whole procedure can be done with a table spread, hands off... which is very beautiful and is something you never discover if you don't actually try the piece.
Magic is not theatre - it is its own art and should be evaluated on its own merits.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby erdnasephile » December 22nd, 2014, 4:33 am

"Seak": Thabbatical, pg 46

Speaking of Mr. Maven, I seem to recall him saying something to the effect of: an artist doesn't give the audience what they want. Rather, the artist gives them what they don't know that they want yet.

Here is a noted artist who seems to have thoughts akin to Tom's:

Something is a work of art when it has filled its role as therapy for the artist. I don't care about the audience. I'm not working for the audience. The audience is welcome to take what they can.” -- Louise Bourgeois

from http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/blo ... tisart.pdf

Finally, IMHO, I don't believe that for magic to have meaning overt messages must be conveyed during performance. I think Tommy Wonder imbued his magic with meaning because his magic revealed his taste and point of view and therefore, revealed himself. Watching his magic communicated to me about some of his qualities as a person (which were happily confirmed in my subsequent interactions with him.) His meticulousness, his whimsical sense of humor, his originality, his commitment, and his sincerity all shone through him, and continues to shine through the art he left behind.
Last edited by erdnasephile on December 22nd, 2014, 10:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby JHostler » December 22nd, 2014, 7:13 am

Tom Stone wrote: No, it is not. It is the approach that gives the most artistic freedom. I have a few creations that I really like (Benson Burner, Of Dice and Men, Mr. Fogg...), and others seem to like them too - well, none of them would have been created if I had wasted time on trying to create something that would please an audience.


I think the disconnect lies in confusing the avoidance of pandering with a complete disregard for the audience's view. In fact, you've quite eloquently communicated a desired to connect with the audience - simply from a different starting point than most. This steadfast devotion to artistic integrity (versus calculated commerciality) ultimately challenges both the performer and audience, leading to purer material and advancing the art. I think we all get that. But your objective vis-à-vis the audience... your end goal... is still to enthrall via astonishment, and still to connect in some sort of dramatic fashion.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby benjamintalbot » December 22nd, 2014, 5:04 pm

why do you guys keep saying magic tricks are not theater and then describe how much acting it takes to make it "art"? I thought misdirection, redirection of attention took more than looking at the hand you're not up to something with.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby Richard Kaufman » December 22nd, 2014, 6:39 pm

Close-up magic is not theater.

Stage magic is theater, and requires a theatrical skill set. But it's not a play, and a good stage magician does not have to be an actor.
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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby Tom Stone » December 22nd, 2014, 7:07 pm

benjamintalbot wrote:why do you guys keep saying magic tricks are not theater and then describe how much acting it takes to make it "art"? I thought misdirection, redirection of attention took more than looking at the hand you're not up to something with.

You can use a pen to write calculus, and you can use a pen to write shopping lists. Does that mean that calculus = shopping list?
There are plenty of "tools" from the theater that can be used in magic, in all genres of magic, but that doesn't make magic into theater. Those who say the opposite generally have little knowledge of either theater or magic. The more you study theater, the more it becomes blatantly obvious how different it is from magic. The circles are overlapping but not on the same plane.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby Q. Kumber » December 22nd, 2014, 7:11 pm

Richard Kaufman wrote:Close-up magic is not theater.

Stage magic is theater, and requires a theatrical skill set. But it's not a play, and a good stage magician does not have to be an actor.


I must disagree. All magic is theatre in that a good performance is a piece of magical theatre.

Close-up requires just as much skill (stagecraft), arguably even more, as any stage magician.

Sadly, most close-up magicians are completely ignorant that these skills even exist, let alone know how to use them.

In strolling magic, the stage is the performing space and all the participants are part of the play. The basic elements of stagecraft apply.

Tommy Wonder understood how to make commercial close-up, be it strolling or at a table, a piece of theatre.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby Max Maven » December 22nd, 2014, 8:51 pm

erdnasephile wrote:Speaking of Mr. Maven, I seem to recall him saying something to the effect of: an artist doesn't give the audience what they want. Rather, the artist gives them what they don't know that they want yet.


I have avoided joining this thread, as I did its predecessor, for fear my head will explode. But, I will surface long enough to provide appropriate credit for that quote. The comment comes from film-maker David Cronenberg (speaking of exploding heads). Here's how he phrased it in a 1992 interview:

An entertainer wants to give you exactly what you want. An entertainer gives you those good old songs that you want to hear. An artist wants to give you what you don´t know you want. Something you might know you want the next time, but you never knew you wanted before.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby JHostler » December 22nd, 2014, 9:15 pm

Time for pith.

An intelligent magician knows good magic when they see it.

An intelligent audience knows good magic when they feel it.

How you get there is your choice.

---

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby Bill Mullins » December 23rd, 2014, 12:12 am

Max Maven wrote: Here's how [David Cronenberg] phrased it in a 1992 interview:

An entertainer wants to give you exactly what you want. An entertainer gives you those good old songs that you want to hear. An artist wants to give you what you don´t know you want. Something you might know you want the next time, but you never knew you wanted before.


The interview.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby benjamintalbot » December 23rd, 2014, 12:50 am

ok--I like that the person who agreed that magic is theater (if it's any good) had some reasons as to why that is so--how about reasons magic's NOT theater. you just asserted its not. For me the effects, slight of hand, misdirection, and yes, acting (the part of a magician) are all tools of theater. Further more--here's the controversial part--the tricks--all the tricks, no matter how "clean, deep or inventive", are just props I use. Just props. Props aren't art-art is how you use them.

Also--I'm fascinated that the magic is the art of telling people lies; while they know they are being lied to. (After all, they bought a ticket to a magic show; they know it's tricks when they walk in.) AND they believe the lies we tell/show them. It's pathological for sure; and fun as hell to practice. Let me be honest--I LOVE fooling people, while they know they are being fooled. What a hoot of an ART form. And the better you get at lying; the more they applaud--and buy tickets.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby Joe Mckay » December 23rd, 2014, 1:02 am

Providing wonder and surprise in magic is also not much of a challenge.

I can take anybody in the world and turn them into a competent magician in a single day.

To your average layperson - they wouldn't see much difference between watching Tommy Wonder perform his Ambitious Card routine. And watching somebody perform an invisible Deck routine with the classic Eddie Fields/Don Alan presentation for the first time.

So - even if we grant that this is an art. It feels like a very minor art when somebody can give a passable rendition with just a day's training.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby Matthew Field » December 23rd, 2014, 4:19 am

Tom Stone wrote: "The art is the way we create deception. That's where the beauty resides in our art." And Max Maven said, "An artist doesn't give the audience what they want. Rather, the artist gives them what they don't know that they want yet."

These are very important thoughts. They separate Tom, Max and Tommy Wonder, for esample, from someone who panders to their audience, someone like, say, the man whose initials are Jeff Hobson.

I'm a bit "down" on mnagic at the moment because I see lots of pandering and very little beauty. Spending time with Jim Steinmeyer helped perk me up, but there is just so much rubbish out there.

So reading Joe McKay's statement, "To your average layperson - they wouldn't see much difference between watching Tommy Wonder perform his Ambitious Card routine. And watching somebody perform an invisible Deck routine with the classic Eddie Fields/Don Alan presentation for the first time," is depressing. he misses the point completely (aside from denigrating the great Don Alan by inference). Tommy Wonder wrote that one should perform for the smartest, most sensitive member of your audience, and the others will get a great experience as sort of a bonus.

Merry Christmas. Bah, humbug.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby Q. Kumber » December 23rd, 2014, 5:09 am

Max Maven wrote:
erdnasephile wrote:Speaking of Mr. Maven, I seem to recall him saying something to the effect of: an artist doesn't give the audience what they want. Rather, the artist gives them what they don't know that they want yet.


I have avoided joining this thread, as I did its predecessor, for fear my head will explode. But, I will surface long enough to provide appropriate credit for that quote. The comment comes from film-maker David Cronenberg (speaking of exploding heads). Here's how he phrased it in a 1992 interview:

An entertainer wants to give you exactly what you want. An entertainer gives you those good old songs that you want to hear. An artist wants to give you what you don´t know you want. Something you might know you want the next time, but you never knew you wanted before.


The internationally known Irish tenor John McCormack (1884 - 1945) was asked about how he chose the songs for his concerts. He replied that he endeavoured to have an equal mixture of songs the audience liked to hear, songs he liked to sing and songs that weren't sung but should be.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby Brad Henderson » December 23rd, 2014, 12:26 pm

the statement should read - Joe cannot tell the difference between the results of a one day lesson and a lifetime of study.

he get to the point. Joe is a narcissist (I believe that is the term) one who believes everyone sees the works through the same lens he does.

he focuses on method (as per his statement).

as long as a trick puzzles it is magic.

because that is his experience he assumes it is everyone's. Take for example his claim that anyone would want to be told the secrets - something anyone with performance experience knows is simply false.

to try to convey to joe what magic can be would be like describing the color blue to a blind man.

and please, I mean these comments not as personal attacks. Just an observation of what we are dealing with. I realize the term narcissist may be loaded, but I think that is an accurate term.

and to the person earlier who suggested these post cause an existential crisis- not at all. I feel sad for both Joe and magic. I hate seeing someone labor under misconceptions - about art, magic, anything - and am doubly frustrating when these misconceptions lead to decision that clearly limit the depth of experience on gets to enjoy in their life.

worse, I am sad for those audiences who see magic presented in its lowest forms.

it does no one good

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby Leonard Hevia » December 23rd, 2014, 1:04 pm

In his book Devious Standards, Jamy Swiss mentioned that after watching the film E.T., he wondered how he could compete as a magician against a technological marvel such as modern film making and presentation. He of course realized that magic can indeed compete because it's live entertainment. Joe sees technological impossibilities all around him and wonders how magic can compete with that. In close-up magic, we still have the human interaction, and in stage presentations, we still have live entertainment.

Yes, he is correct in that modern audiences don't really believe that we can perform real magic, and many of them will attempt to theorize about our methods. Vernon was aware of this and devised his 3 ball vanish sequence with the wand spin vanish at the end to derail the theorists. As Swiss once noted, this is a feature and not a bug in the human brain. The cups and balls, when presented with skill and charm, can still amaze and entertain because those little balls are appearing, disappearing, and penetrating those metal cups right in front of them. Those pesky little smart phones and doodads people carry around with them can never replace that.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby Jonathan Townsend » December 23rd, 2014, 1:22 pm

Leonard Hevia wrote:...this is a feature and not a bug in the human brain...


it's about how they feel while you exploit some of those hacks/features - ie what's in it for the audience?

brain or mind?
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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby benjamintalbot » December 23rd, 2014, 3:34 pm

Thanks to all for talking about Tommy Wonder. I hope I'm that controversial someday. My only thought is Tommy teaches me about the experience of the audience--the "features of their minds" we work with. Watching him made me watch his audiences, which made me watch mine with new eyes. Also--I'd prefer if some contributors didn't get into the whole "You're a narcissist....you suck... don't know what your talking about...etc." busy-ness. That's just boring; and I thought whether art or not; magicians aren't supposed to be boring. Pompously boring is even worse. To MOST of the other writers, thanks for great contributions. I checked out the free online subscription to this Magazine and will definitely be subscribing once I figure out which cool add ons I want. The writing level of Genii is awesome---especially enjoyed the cover article, and loved the reviews of on-line demos. Got a kick out of one reviewer's comparison of the let down of you-tube promos with the let down of old mail catelog's products. (I'm old enough to remember those.) That let down between what they described and what they sold is what led me to study more seriously the real stuff when I was still a kid. ANyways, thanks and keep waving your wands at each other.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby Bill Marquardt » December 23rd, 2014, 3:48 pm

At the Eldorado in Reno:

"... Madame Houdini will astound audience members with her dazzling deceptions and stunning aerial skills."

I guess that will satisfy the requirement for Theatre. Hopefully, Art as well.

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Re: Tommy Wonder on Tom Stone

Postby Brad Henderson » December 23rd, 2014, 4:35 pm

the audience knows et is a puppet, bit that doesn't stop them from crying at the end. we know the actors in les Mis do not really die, yet that in no way lessons our emotional reaction or connection to the characters. Harry potter is a lie, but that didnt stop millions from thrilling at his imagined exploits

what the audience believes is irrelevant. that which they are willing to make believe is all that matters


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