Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conceit

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erdnasephile
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Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conceit

Postby erdnasephile » October 15th, 2013, 11:12 am

Scientists have calculated that the chances of something so patently absurd actually existing are millions to one.
But magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.


― Terry Pratchett, Mort


I suppose it's that 10% that separates the men from the boys...

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Q. Kumber » October 15th, 2013, 11:29 am

The novel 'Mort' is set in a fictional fantasy world and does not relate (as far as I can see) to magic as entertainment.

To address the question in the topic title I refer you to the Tommy Wonder's discussion of his Wild Card routine.

I've addressed this question in my own lectures and the main reason it is difficult to sell with credibility is that magicians tend to overact in these situations.

In any movie when the hero or heroine is being given bad or shocking news, they freeze, the camera zooms in on their face as they process the information and decide what they will do next. You can see the emotion on their face.

In a magical performance experience teaches us to deal with the unexpected. We know how to get out of trouble 99.9% of the time.

However suppose you have brought the selected card to the top of the pack and peeked to make sure it is the right one, placed it on the table, ask the spectator to name their card and turn it over, they name the correct card and turn over the tabled card and it is something totally different. Even though you know that you tabled the right card, it has somehow changed. For a moment you would be stunned. Imagine how that feels and then use that moment when you set up things to go wrong.

When you are performing you are projecting to your audience. You are externalising.
When something goes wrong, you are, for a second or two, oblivious of the audience as your mind is thinking. This is internalising.

For more info, check out Tommy Wonder's Books and DVD set.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby erdnasephile » October 15th, 2013, 12:07 pm

Thank you for the thoughtful response, Q. I agree with your central premises, and appreciate the insight from a pro. I'll go reread Tommy's take as you suggested.

I'll certainly defer to your expertise/experience on this. I had a few additional questions that have occurred to me on this topic.

1. Although Mort is fictional, doesn't it relate somewhat because it probably expresses the author's own cynicism to the notion that magicians can fail? I suspect this cynicism is not limited to this particular author, since most audience members have been exposed enough times to "sucker" tricks and fake dangerous illusions to be rather skeptical. As you said, we know how to get out 99.9% of the time. Does not the audience also know that?

2. I've had a curious experience after making an actual mistake during the first phase of a routine and bringing it to a successful conclusion. People have come up to me afterwards and commented: "I initially thought you made a mistake, but I guess it was all part of the trick" or "When you didn't catch that card, I figured out it was just a way to get us not to look at your hands, right?"

I've never been sure how to take that: They perceived that something was really wrong (because it was), but at the same time they bought it as part of the illusion in the end. So, did my "acting as if it was part of the trick" really fool them on some level--that it was part of the show? Does a real mistake or a performing character who could make a mistake, strengthen the conviction of a false mistake later on if the magician's reactions are congruent? Were the audience's reactions conditioned by the cynicism mentioned above?

3. With regards to overacting: I think one has to know their limitations. I've thought about this a lot over the years, and have concluded there are just some tricks that I just can't sell because their requirements greatly exceed my acting abilities. Perhaps part of the answer is modifying the fake mistakes in the routine so they are not so glaring along with improving acting skills.

4. How many "mistake" tricks can you do in a performance and still be credible? Is there anyone out there who successfully presents more than one in a set? Wouldn't even the densest of audiences catch on after the first one?

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Tom Moore » October 15th, 2013, 1:07 pm

Put simply there's 3 reasons:-

1) to convey emotion and tension requires acting; very few magicians have trained as actors, the time some people spend learning how to fake emotions we spend learning how to count 5 cards as 4.

2) To be blunt, what attracts most people to magic and the persona they present is of someone with powers or skills that are above those of their spectators. Of being powerful and in control through superior skills or knowledge; being able to emote a lack of control, a moment of panic or tension is so alien to the core persona most magicians portray that it's simply out of their reach

3) Whether we like it or not most lay people still associate magic with childrens magic/clowns and so arrive with a host of preconceptions about the happy fluffy world of magic we supposedly operate in. Even kids magicians whose shows are a non-stop cavalcade of magician in trouble plots always revert back to the magician actually being in control and clearly just pretending to loose it for a joke.

With such strong, constantly re-enforced stereotypes in place you'd think that more people would have turned it to their advantage but i find it rather striking just how difficult it is to list more than half a dozen performers who are prepared to seem out of control, to have the skills to convince their audience that they really might be in danger or trouble. Good mentalists throw in an error from time to time to emphasise the hits; there's scope for more traditional magicians to be the "victim" of their magic if they put some thought in to it.
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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Tom Moore » October 15th, 2013, 1:20 pm

re - eardnase's point #4

Part of the problem is that few magicians think in terms of "an act" and instead think of a series of tricks; hence why the "mistakes" they build in look false because they are resolved far too quickly. Mentalists aren't afraid to make a mistake and leave it hanging for 20-30mins.

One of the few examples of a "magician" in peril who treats his act as a whole performance is the full routine of Norbert Ferre (not the 3 min one on youtube) where throughout the routine he leaves several mistakes and things hanging which are all resolved right at the end and really require the audience to think back carefully through the whole routine.
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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Jonathan Townsend » October 15th, 2013, 2:11 pm

Jerry Deutsch offers some ideas for short performances on here every month.

It takes some respect for the audience to work on ones performing character as distinct from ones own interests in this craft. What would you like them to be watching next, expecting...?
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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Tom Pilling » October 15th, 2013, 8:07 pm

Tommy Wonder, in his Tamed Card routine, makes a very important point, re: the magician in trouble scenario. It is that by blaming the spectator, when the chosen card doesn't match the others, he generates a mild feeling of resentment, rather than sympathy. That may seem odd, at first, but what it achieves is to actually nullify the feeling of 'I've been played for a sucker', at the end of the trick. This 'sucker' feeling can be rather objectionable if the spectator has at some point felt genuine sympathy for the magician; they can feel it was a wasted emotion. By cheekily accusing them of making a mistake, they are merely curious as to what you are going to do about it. It is also funnier, in my view.

As JT says, developing one's performing character, and consequently examining and focussing on the small details, is a matter of respecting the audience. It is how believable you are, not what tricks you do, that will ultimately sell your magic to an audience. If, for instance, you are a deadpan personality, but when feigning surprise you ham it up and roll your eyes, this will jar horribly; you will just look like a hack, mugging for all their life is worth. If, on the other hand, you are an exuberant performer and your enactment of surprise is thrown away, casual, then equally, people will not buy into it.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Bill Mullins » October 15th, 2013, 11:12 pm

Tom Moore wrote: Even kids magicians whose shows are a non-stop cavalcade of magician in trouble plots always revert back to the magician actually being in control and clearly just pretending to loose it for a joke.


When you get yourself out of trouble, do you play it as a joke, or do you play it as if your magical powers had corrected the situation? Which way should your character do it?

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Q. Kumber » October 16th, 2013, 5:06 am

If you refer to the opening paragraphs of the chapter on Presentation in 'Expert Card Technique", Hugard and Braue mention three types of magicians.

The Omnipotent One who is completely in charge and controls the forces that make his miracles work. Think Dunninger, Fogel or Max Maven. Very few fit into this category as it is a style difficult to present with conviction.

The Zany Funny guy who creates roars of laughter and mystery. Think David Williamson or Ken Brooke. You need to have a natural tendency for lunacy.

The rest of us where we perform magic but are occasionally at the mercy of the powers we aim to control. Think Fred Kaps performing the Homing Card, perhaps the best illustration of 'Magician in Trouble'. ECT also references Charles Bertram, David Devant and Nate Leipzig as performers in this category.

Kaps: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2CNO_AL_vs
and again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYh_vPGApbo

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Tom Moore » October 16th, 2013, 5:13 am

When you get yourself out of trouble, do you play it as a joke, or do you play it as if your magical powers had corrected the situation? Which way should your character do it?


there's no "should" about it - it all depends what persona you're playing
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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Jonathan Townsend » October 16th, 2013, 7:55 am

IMHO the key words there are "your character".

How could a stranger know, or even make a useful guess about, what works for you when you work for your audiences using a script, production design ... all unseen?

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Richard Kaufman » October 16th, 2013, 8:56 am

Excellent discussion.

However from my point of view there is only one REAL reason: magicians cannot act. CAN. NOT. ACT.
There is no comprehension of how to create any real sense of failure, embarrassment, or humiliation because something has gone wrong.
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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby mrgoat » October 16th, 2013, 10:38 am

Richard Kaufman wrote:Excellent discussion.

However from my point of view there is only one REAL reason: magicians cannot act. CAN. NOT. ACT.
There is no comprehension of how to create any real sense of failure, embarrassment, or humiliation because something has gone wrong.


Fortunately, as I acted since the age of 4 or 5 and it was what I studied at university, I *can* act. And very often get wonderful reactions when I pretend to have screwed up. Several times people (really nicely) say "oh, do you want to try again". etc. Wonderful.

But yes, generally, magicians can't act.

I imagine if everyone did some kind of acting 101 course rather than practise the latest flourish their magic would improve no end.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Tom Pilling » October 16th, 2013, 12:49 pm

mrgoat wrote:I imagine if everyone did some kind of acting 101 course rather than practise the latest flourish their magic would improve no end.


Yes!

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Brad Henderson » October 16th, 2013, 3:19 pm

It might be worth tracking down Tamariz's thoughts on the liabilities of being in too much trouble. His observations accurately reflect the chemical dynamics which occur within the brain.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Brad Henderson » October 16th, 2013, 3:25 pm

ps. on a "realization" note: I find that (in addition to acting, which is CRITICAL) that one's writing/structure is important.

Will anyone ever believe - in today's litigious society - that you really burned the bill or broke the watch accidentally. Too easy for people to "know" it's all part of the show, or move into an emotional state that is the OPPOSITE of wonder (ie. thoughts of legal action).

Second, most mistakes do NOT occur out of the blue. There is usually a moment where things do (or could) start to go wrong. Without that moment in one's script, the "in trouble" motivating action is usually too stark and pulls the audience out of the fantasy.

The candle falling over on its own is ridiculous. The candle falling over on its own after the performer or assistant had a hard time setting in place during the exposition, less so.

It's not "foreshadowing" per se, but it's how I think of it. If something needs to go wrong - then the audience should have experience the seeds of that "mistake" before it leads to the mistake.

At least, that's what works for me.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby erdnasephile » October 16th, 2013, 5:16 pm

To Brad's excellent point: what if you could consistently influence a spectator to do something that seemed impromptu or unexpected? Any "mistake" at that point would likely appear more genuine since it seems it's less in your control. (If memory serves, Pit Hartling has written on getting spectators to do things while they think it's their idea.)

Trick construction and style would also seem to be important as well. As a layperson, I think I'd have an easier time believing that Lennart Green lost track of a card than Steve Forte.

Also, I concur with Brad: no man alive thinks the bill is really destroyed.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Larry Horowitz » October 16th, 2013, 6:09 pm

I would suggest that for the "mistake" to be believable, so must the "fix".

As others have said the actions need be scripted and fit your persona to bring believability.

An instant snap of the fingers to change the card, while magical, may make the fix "to good to be true."

If you break the watch, there should appear to be some thought And effort into restoring it.
Maybe you need to open a book of incantations to find the right magic.

I have a routine where I find four spectators cards. The fourth is always incorrect. I then use the Erdnase/Houdini color change to make the correct card appear. However the correct card does not appear on the first swipe. Rather I must wave my hand over the deck three times before the correct card appears.

Performer mistake has always played well for an audience; just watch any Trapeze act. But like all performance art is is not a mistake. It is a specific plan.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Brad Henderson » October 16th, 2013, 6:38 pm

Creating a spectator caused "mistake" is a good choice. As is an environmental mistake. In both, the problem is something outside the control of the perform (unlike accidentally setting fire to the bill in his hands), and one gets to see how a "magician" handles a problem - which is an interesting dramatic notion.

In my hyp act I manage to get audience members to do seemingly "off the cuff" things. One can create these moments with suggestion of non hypnotic varieties - in fact, that's probably more reliable

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Bill Mullins » October 16th, 2013, 9:31 pm

How 'bout this.

Lots of people know that lemon juice can be used for invisible ink. Write on something with the juice, let it dry, and heat the paper with a candle and the writing becomes visible.

Have the spec seal his bill in an envelope, and two blank pieces of paper in two other envelopes. The spec writes "money" on the envelope with the bill and "nothing" on the other two, in lemon juice.

The magician heats the 1st envelope to expose the writing -- it says "nothing".
The magician heats the 2nd envelope -- it says "nothing".
He heats the 3rd, and it catches fire.

Restore the missing bill -- is that better motivation for burning a bill?

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Brad Henderson » October 17th, 2013, 1:06 am

No. :)

But only because of the issue of burning money.

If the envelope caught on fire, the magician has plenty of time to put it out, saving the bill. This is what a sensible human would do - not wait and stare at it as it burns.

One could use a flash envelope, but I think this is too "intentional" looking, and while may produce a magical effect - how did that bill get in the lemon - the "in trouble" ruse would seem to suffer.

The idea behind your suggestion is good, but I just don't think it would work because of how things burn.

I think I remember Bob Jardine doing this well with his bill routine. Anyone remember what he did? I saw him at the castle and made a note that I liked the ruse, but don't recall what it was.

Perhaps a better idea would be to have the spec drop numbered envelopes into the fire, but mark them in a way so they seem to set fire to the wrong envelope. (Tell them to burn number 1, number 4 and number 3. When they look for envelope number 3 it is not there, but number 1 still is . . . or something.) Then watching the fire doesn't hurt matters so much.

What if there were a basket of envelopes and the performer started throwing some in to a fire. During the process one falls to the ground. Or perhaps several do, though the performer doesnt manage to pick them all up. Anyway, The performer gets down to the last two. Throws one in. Opens the other.

Now, it makes sense why it failed.

He notices (or the audience notices) the envelope he forgot. He desperately rips open the envelope which fell and it too is empty.

Just spit balling.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Q. Kumber » October 17th, 2013, 7:57 am

Get Paul Daniels to tell you the story about the guy who believed his £20 note had really gone missing. Paul was the opening act for singer Val Doonican at the time, so I'd imagine it would have been the early 1970's when £20 was worth a lot more than it is now. One of the funniest stories I have ever heard.

I used do a routine called Tommy's Tie put out by Supreme Magic (it was based on a John Booth trick from Marvels Of Mystery).

A picture of a schoolboy is shown without his tie. A child selects one of four coloured bowties from a flat change bag, it vanishes and the tie is now on the picture of Tommy.

As I performed it the child would pick, say, a red tie but when the picture was shown, Tommy was wearing a black one. I'd act is if the trick was successfully concluded. The children would tell me it is the wrong colour. I'd be slightly confused but act as if they were trying to be awkward and look to any parents at the back and ask if they had seen the colour. They would say red. I'd say (slightly annoyed and embarrassed), "Right, it's all gone wrong. I can't be doing tricks that go wrong. As I'd put the props away, a live white rabbit would suddenly appear and it was wearing a red bowtie, thus saving the trick, and my reputation.

The idea for this presentation came from Tony Green.

The reason I mention it is that whenever I took a magician to see me do a children's show, I'd always include this routine and every single one of them really believed I had screwed up.

Richard is correct in that magicians cannot act. But you don't have to be an actor. Simply imagine a time when you had a similar situation happen in real life and bring that feeling to the fore when needed.. It is the pause, the silence that conveys the emotion, providing you feel it.

Contact mind reading works because every thought has a physical response. Allow the emotion/ feeling to develop inside you and it will show through your face and body language. Just watch any movie when the hero/heroine gets bad news. They freeze and the camera zooms in on their face. You can see their thought process without them saying a word.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Jonathan Townsend » October 17th, 2013, 9:18 am

re the acting technique:
Simply imagine a time when you had a similar situation happen in real life and bring that feeling to the fore when needed.. It is the pause, the silence that conveys the emotion, providing you feel it.


Call it method, system, accessing resources ... but make sure you pick moments from context that you have resolved and not just "moved on from" or abandoned to be haunted by like ghosts.

I asked an actor about how they get to moments in shows. The description I got was about lines, cues, items on the set to signal such inner states (okay some folks call them anchors) but the key was to use processed feelings rather than moments from inner conflicts which you have yet to resolve for yourself.

Okay back to imagining how clever you'd feel when you know the secret to a trick and have the magic prop in hand and can demonstrate to all and sundry that you are in fact very special.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby R.E.Byrnes » October 17th, 2013, 4:33 pm

Almost without exception the 'magician in trouble' is delivered in such an inept, jokey way that it's just not credible that the trouble is real. And it's apparently not at all easy to draw on those moments when things really do go wrong and a cold panic sweeps over the performer. Lack of acting ability, and often aggressively inferior acting ability, does seem to be the best explanation. When it really happens (when the trouble is real) the audience feels pity and discomfort that, if it could be manufactured and then relieved would play extremely strong. But the standard muttering bumble that turns up so often -- "Oh...so you're card isn't the six of spades" -- tends to instantly convey that the pretense of trouble will soon be lifted and, in any event, it's not real.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby erdnasephile » October 17th, 2013, 5:06 pm

The consensus seems to be that better acting skills are necessary to pull this off effectively.

The best way to develop these acting skills would seem to be formal training and practice under someone who knows what they are doing.

However, that may not be a viable/practical option for many hobbyists.

Can those of you who can act please recommend some books, DVD's, on-line resources that you would recommend to the untrained magician to begin to learn how to act? (if such resources exist).

Thanks!

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Jonathan Pendragon » February 4th, 2014, 4:17 am

Honestly, I am never able to make it through all of the post, which to some might disqualify my thoughts. So if I am repeating something already said, I apologize.

What are you looking for an algorithm? It doesn't exist. The variables are mind numbing.

!. A routine in which a break of the fourth wall requires the utter destruction of it.

2, A performer with the skills to really pull it off and by that I mean they can really make the audience believe an actual mistake has transpired. Fred Kaps could play befuddled, but he, like Cardini, played a man beset powers (supernatural) beyond his control, not someone who has really screwed up.

3. More difficult, a performer who can justify doing so.

What's your gain? If you really want the audience to believe this (outside of threat escape effects where the ruse has become used to the point of cliche') what do you want to achieve? Success over adversity? And if the audience suspects that adversity was manufactured?

The wrong question is being asked.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Jonathan Townsend » February 4th, 2014, 8:03 am

Jonathan, the notion of a conceit, in the literary sense, might be too complex to fit in the "look clever me" scripting one finds in the trick instructions. Especially if the performer is going ala carte and even if it's the wrong carte.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby erdnasephile » February 4th, 2014, 8:48 am

Jonathan P:

This topic arose because the stratagem permeates magic in many forms (from kid sucker tricks to The Dunbury Delusion, to false transfers, to some forms Bill in Lemon, etc., etc.). You'd be hard pressed to find a performer who doesn't have at least some element of false mistakes in their performance, even if it's used subtly to enhance conviction.

Specific goal: to improve the deceptiveness of routines (e.g., Tamariz' double crossing the gaze) and to increase the entertainment quotient of "skip tricks" (as Bob White calls them) and such when I choose to perform them. The title of this thread was really meant as just a step in thinking about the central question.

The central question was therefore: How can I learn to present this more convincingly and entertainingly? Are there any readily available resources that might help me attain this aim that I can research and learn from?

Not looking for an algorithm, just sound advice from experienced performers--which you and others have thoughtfully provided in this thread.

Thanks! (especially for the outside resources to study)

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Jonathan Townsend » February 4th, 2014, 11:23 am

If you're serious about learning ... and this item is new to you

first get a process you'd ideally use to make magic happen. it's what your character does in the fictional story you'd want your audience to be attending. get that process working consistently in your tricks. It's intrinsic to your character.

Okay now contrive (* yeah another of those horrible words that elicits more unintentional humor than we'd like *) to have something off, amiss, missing, out of order in that process during the trick in question. Forgot to tap the cylinder with the wand? did not have the magic coin in your hand? you put the rabbits foot away? The cap was off the marker?

At this moment the audience is ahead of your character - they know what's wrong in the story before the character seems to be aware of it.

Now for some personal questions (for your performing character):
When do you notice the problem
What do you look for
What do you look at
What do you say to the audience

Now for some personal questions to you - the performer:
What do you want to have happen for the audience - a minute from that moment
How can you notice whether the audience is with your character during the fumble?
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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby mrgoat » February 4th, 2014, 12:13 pm

Take a drama/improv class.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby R.E.Byrnes » February 4th, 2014, 6:18 pm

Whatever Tommy Wonder's insights, this device is ineptly executed nearly every time it's attempted by a magician, even in the most exalted venues, and that generally has nothing to do with placing "blame" on the spectators (though that is patently dumb, as opposed to being somehow "offensive"). The brief, fake consternation that is used to communicate that the performer is "in trouble" is like so many standard affectations that turn up over and over due to some combination of being pervasive and being capable of engendering audience pity and a bunch of courtesy chuckles, which to a worried, mediocre performer feels like genuine applause. There's clearly the deficit of acting ability that Richard notes above. But there's also a deficit of judgment that avoids any candid confrontation of that lack of acting ability. "What. . . wait a minute. . . your card WASN'T the six of hearts...." [beat; change stock frown to stock smile; reveal everything's fixed]

(What little I've seen of Tamariz doing this is quick, undersold, and well executed. Not surprisingly, I thought there was a real problem -- though it was in a lecture setting, where that is more plausible. Even so, Tamariz plainly has a greater command of this than the prevailing mode, which is little more than a stale variation on the theme of bemused worry everyone learned when they had to convey that their Hippity Hop Rabbits being merely black and white on the reverse sides caused them to experience despair as un-nuanced as it was massively, though fleetingly, consequential.)

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Richard Kaufman » February 4th, 2014, 6:48 pm

The yawning chasm between the performances of most magicians and that of a trained actor is consistently depressing to me.
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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Gerald Deutsch » February 4th, 2014, 7:38 pm

Almost all performance of Perverse Magic effects require good acting.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby R.E.Byrnes » February 4th, 2014, 8:25 pm

"The yawning chasm between the performances of most magicians and that of a trained actor is consistently depressing to me."

This really seems to get to the essence not just of "magician in trouble" but the more pervasive problem of substandard magic. I was 15 years old when I quit performing magic and pointed myself toward a more conventional life. I both couldn't fully articulate it and I didn't want to confront the personal limitations implied by quitting magic. But in retrospect it is utterly clear that contemporaries of mine at the time like Vito Lupo had acting skills far more accomplished than mine, which were on the lower end for people generally, and probably at about the third percentile of performers, without much hope of improvement. It was just as obvious as my also having no hope as a professional baseball player or fractal mathemetician. People like Doug Henning and Max Maven were only 10 or 15 years older than me then, and they, too, had theatrical abilities I obviously couldn't reasonably aspire to, further confirming the wisdom of my quitting. And I saw absolutely no path that would have me 40 or so years down the line -- roughly now -- wearing Elvis-like jump suits and exuding Slydini's performing charisma. Sometimes just an honest look around at the competition provides a lot of clarity. I don't particularly need to be lauded for it; but we should probably do more in the way of praising those who have a prudent quitter's instinct and put aside aspirations to be on stage -- whether literally on stage, or in a courtroom or operating room or any of the high-profile roles that seem to attract the deluded -- in favor of more modest goals that are a better fit with their aptitudes. Magic, though, does seem to have a pollyannic streak, which if anything is amplified in a time when anyone expressing the slightest critical judgment is dismissed as a "hater." A pro-quitting message is perfectly teed-up for magic's gentle, nurturing voices to rebut with the occasional exceptions that prove the rule. Lacking the outside critical edifice of other performing arts, magicians largely review other magicians, often accentuating the positive in middling acts rather than delivering the death-blow that someone like Pauline Kael would to a similarly uninspired movie. Tommie Wonder is no more a solution to squalid, present-day 'magician in trouble' performances than is the fact of 'Singing in the Rain' a constructive response to a flaccid, derivative present-day musical. When bad magic performances aren't called out for what they are, they just rob from the sparing praise that ought to go to only the truly exceptional performers -- if magic itself aspires to be more than just a marginal demonstration craft.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby erdnasephile » February 4th, 2014, 8:29 pm

Richard Kaufman wrote:The yawning chasm between the performances of most magicians and that of a trained actor is consistently depressing to me.


Agreed.

However, I wonder if that's the same reason why America doesn't produce many of the world's best soccer players. Perhaps the majority of the best US athletes play football, basketball, and baseball instead.
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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conce

Postby Jonathan Townsend » February 4th, 2014, 10:20 pm

AFAIK magic is not driven by the same ideals as acting. There's some serious con and pranking needed to make magic work.
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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conceit

Postby performer » September 21st, 2016, 11:57 am

Oh, and as for "trained" actors doing magic I have never seen a good one yet. I am all for acting in magic and it is indeed essential but not TRAINED acting. They all look like they are reciting Hamlet instead of doing a bloody card trick.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conceit

Postby Jonathan Townsend » September 21st, 2016, 1:13 pm

performer wrote:...reciting Hamlet instead of doing a bloody card trick.


what's it supposed to look like? - is this about not making the moments (no director feedback)?
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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conceit

Postby performer » September 21st, 2016, 2:25 pm

Jonathan Townsend wrote:
performer wrote:...reciting Hamlet instead of doing a bloody card trick.


what's it supposed to look like? - is this about not making the moments (no director feedback)?


I shall take this question under advisement and analyse it very carefully. Once I figure out what it means of course.

I shall merely say that the best way to "make the moments" are to underplay them. Trained actors overplay them.

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Re: Why it's so hard to sell the "Magician in Trouble" conceit

Postby Jonathan Townsend » September 21st, 2016, 2:31 pm

performer wrote:... the best way to "make the moments" are to underplay them. Trained actors overplay them.


For those of us learning how to do that reliably - go for about half the audience catching on that there's been a glitch - have a friend watch a few shows so check audience responses during those moments to fine tune the performance?
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