Houdini´s Tribute

Discuss your favorite platform magic and illusions.

Postby emarroquin » 05/07/08 12:05 AM

Hi there fellow magicians !

I would like to honor Houdini by perfoming a full evening show at a local theater in my city. I will do this a couple of years from today, what do you think about that my friends ? Also, i have some questions which i think you may be able to help :

1.- What was the programme that houdini used at his shows ? In other words, what illusions exactly did he perfomed ( in order )

2.- What was the lenght of Houdinis shows ?

Best Wishes to all of you,

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Postby Gord » 05/07/08 10:34 AM

What do I think about that? I think it's great, especially that you have decided to do it "A couple of years from today" as opposed to "next week" or "next month."
Honestly, if more magicians spent more time preparing their act, this art would be in a much better place.

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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 05/07/08 12:27 PM

Things have changed significantly since Houdini performed. He was very much a performer of his time using items which resonated deeply with his audiences.

If you get a cop onstage to "cuff you" and you aren't prepared to get out of those plastic ties... you're in trouble. And if you expect a psychiatric hospital to put you in a straight jacket rather then shoot you full of Thorazine and wrap you in a mattress... things might also get interesting.

And NOBODY has seen a milk can in ages.

I like the basic idea however - so it would more likely need to be a major history lesson for the audience than a simple tribute. This gives you much more room to alter what's needed- and maybe even get a crate-river escape organized to announce the show.

Best wishes to you and your project.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time
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Postby Eric Fry » 05/07/08 01:57 PM

Hi. I agree with Jonathan's history lesson approach. Take a look at how Paul Daniels presented a program about Malini. It was a combination of sharing his own insider's appreciation as a magician for Malini, along with some historical and biographical background, and a bit of an impersonation (a vague European accent) while performing some of Malini's tricks. It's on a DVD.

I assume you're going to read numerous books about Houdini.

Holden's Programmes of Famous Magicians lists Houdini's final, full-evening act, which was untypical of Houdini's career.

Bear in mind that Houdini was mainly a headliner turn in vaudeville. My guess is that most of the time he was on stage for 20 minutes, other than for some special challenges. I believe he did a full-evening show at only two periods of his life, and those shows included non-escape illusions, of which he wasn't a good presenter.

I don't think you'll end up replicating a particular act. I think you may end up taking the historical approach: maybe starting with a presentation about his handcuff act, which brought him to fame, followed by his development of challenges like the packing crate, his use of the straitjacket, his development of his own escape devices such as the milk can and water cell, and so on.

Maybe get into his medium exposes, which apparently made for great theater at the time. Also, some of Houdini's most impressive stuff, such as nude jail/cuff escapes, occurred offstage, which is an important point in its own right. Houdini's genius was to appear to be able to do amazing things with real objects in the real world. I don't know how you'll convey that.

We all think of him as a great showman, but Edmund Wilson, who saw him perform, said he was very matter-of-fact and untheatrical onstage. Houdini himself performed his handcuff act as a bit of a history lesson, talking about each make of cuff he was putting on.

I think if you take the historical approach, you can talk about him and his act explicitly, as well as display it through effects. It depends on how deep you want to get into the psychology of the man and the implicit themes of his act. Some people think that sort of thing is guff. Even the biographer William Lindsay Gresham seemed to think that was silly, fancy talk. I think it's why we are still interested in him.

Let me put it this way: Escape acts bore me; Houdini fascinates me.
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Postby emarroquin » 05/08/08 01:18 AM

We will se how it goes. For now its just an idea which i would like for it to become a reality. I am planning to buy the Milk Can escape and the Water Torture cell from Cannon Escapes, any other suggestions ?

Best Wishes,

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