Mentalism at school assemblies

Discuss the art of Children's Entertainment with your fellow performers.

Postby 000 » 12/10/08 04:44 AM

Does anyone do(ne) a mentalism only type shows at school assemblies? (or in that age range for that matter...7 to 17),
Thanks.
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Postby Dick Christian » 12/10/08 10:12 AM

Just my opinion, but I wouldn't even consider mentalism for any group younger than high school age and I'd even have to think twice about that. IMO magic is fine for elementary school age (i.e., 6 and older), but definitely not mentalism. Six is about the youngest for which real magic (as opposed to simple, silly, visual "clown magic") is appropriate. To understand and appreciate "magic" the audience needs to have attained a level of psychological development such that they understand that there is a relationship between cause and effect, have a clear understanding of what is real and what is not and what is possible and what is not. Lacking that level of sophistication they have no concept of "magic," i.e., that they have witnessed something that violates the fundamental laws of nature -- i.e., something that is impossible. Psychologists will tell you that a child typically reaches that level of understanding at about age 6 or 7.

While it is true that younger children will watch and enjoy a magic show they will also watch and enjoy any adult who appears to be interested in them. That is far different from understanding the significance of what they've seen. "Understanding" does NOT refer to knowing how the trick was done, but simply understanding that they have seen a trick. The very concept of a "trick" is usually lost on a child of 5 or younger.

The concept/premise of mentalism is well beyond the ken of elementary, middle school and most junior high school students.
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Postby 000 » 12/10/08 11:06 AM

Thanks Dick.
Say for 11 year olds..........just as an example: you turn your mental epic to something they can relate eg Harry Potter had a secret pet, a dog, guess its breed , colour and age...no no?.just askin
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Postby Dick Christian » 12/10/08 09:42 PM

It's only my opinion, but I still think that mentalism per se (i.e., mindreading) is -- psychologically -- a bit beyond 11 year olds. Having said that, IMO mental epic is in that gray in-between area -- a bit more than "mental magic" but not quite "mentalISM" -- and can be either depending on how it's presented. Either way I would define it (at least as most often presented) as a prediction rather than a mindreading effect.

I think that good magic -- no little kiddie crap like the coloring book -- but some good, strong magic like cut and restored rope, professor's nightmare, 20th century silks, even a strong 'sucker' trick like a good die box routine (but not 'Fraidy Cat Rabbit") or silk to egg, and a live rabbit production -- but only if done the REAL way, in an empty top hat, with kids looking in the hat right up until the rabbit appears, not from some dumb looking box that nobody thought was really empty -- etc., all play well for the middle school - jr. high crowd in my experience.
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Postby Spellbinder » 12/11/08 04:34 AM

The best reason I can think of to perform an all mentalism show at schools is to teach kids how easily they can be fooled by psychics, mediums, "prophets" and self-proclaimed "miracle workers." However, mentalists in general take themselves much too seriously and forget that they are magicians who are only playing the role of mentalists, so I doubt that any would be willing to perform such shows.
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Postby Dick Christian » 12/11/08 09:32 AM

Spellbinder wrote:The best reason I can think of to perform an all mentalism show at schools is to teach kids how easily they can be fooled by psychics, mediums, "prophets" and self-proclaimed "miracle workers." However, mentalists in general take themselves much too seriously and forget that they are magicians who are only playing the role of mentalists, so I doubt that any would be willing to perform such shows.


As one who performs mentalism in addition to magic and takes both genres very seriously, I have no problem in presenting a program devoted to introducing people (including students) to the importance of critical thinking and teaching some of the requisitic cognitive skills -- in essence that's what Spellbinder is suggesting -- in fact, I've been doing exactly that (without exposing any secrets of magic) since 1992 with a two hour presentation titled "Principles of Deception . . . A Magician's Perspective" that is part of the training program for analysts at our major national intelligence agencies.

However, since even the most rudimentary discussion of such matters must necessarily involve an introduction to the cogitive and perceptual biases that are an inherent factor of human nature, IMO it is something that would only be suitable for students at the high school level (and even that might be a stretch). College/university level would be even better and it would certainly be way beyond the level appropriate for jr. high or elementary school students.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/11/08 09:36 AM

Kids know about secrets, telling secrets and keeping secrets - which brings me to wonder if one could present mentalism as a spooky thing which would hit them rather hard - perhaps too hard if they "got it" ??
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Postby Paul Q » 12/11/08 12:22 PM

Great Thread!

I recently did a mentalism show for Jr. High and High schoolage kids at a church camp. I knew going in that there would be a few adults, (teachers, counselors) at the performance and so as I looked over my set list of effects, I noted which ones could benefit from having a mature volunteer, (someone who could grasp the directions given). Actually, the kids loved the fact that the teachers were up on stage. I did several Banachek effects, (Psychokinetic Pen, Psycalc, Ring of Truth...a lie detector routine), the Phil Deck by Max Maven, Becker and Earle's Chinese menu effect...Szechuan Sampler. And more.
As with any show it was a learning experience. Some things went over better than others. Kids are very attuned to pop culture and the #1 show on T.V. right now is The Mentalist. This is a great time for teens to experience a live mentalism show!
I would love to read any other accounts of doing mind magic for young folk.

Grace and Peace.
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Postby Diego » 12/12/08 04:05 AM

Remember many children have seen psychics and others with amazing powers in movies and TV...not just fictional charecters, but they have also seen John Edward, Kreskin and others, and know what they do.
There are also parents with an interest/belief in the New Age, who think it great to have their children experience the phenomena for themselves. Just as some book clowns or magicians for their child's party, others think it really neat fun to have someone read their child's palm, cards or whatever.
As Mr. Kaye stresses in his book, presentations can/must be very age specific, knowing what is relevant/impressive to them.
I have seen this done, where it worked very well as positive, fun entertainment, by the right performer.
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Postby NADLIVE » 04/24/09 11:24 PM

Spellbinder wrote:The best reason I can think of to perform an all mentalism show at schools is to teach kids how easily they can be fooled by psychics, mediums, "prophets" and self-proclaimed "miracle workers."


I can give the same reason for performing gospel magic.
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Postby Mark Pettey » 04/25/09 11:53 AM

Ever have a child walk up to you and ask.....

"Guess what I am thinking about!"

I do a simple routine with the Creative Magic Svengali deck. I force the card, then tell the child to think hard about the card they picked. After a minute or so of facial contortions, and funny dialogue with them, I "guess" their card, and present them with a souvenir that matches the card they picked. I have succesfully done this with children as young as four. What is funny and surprising to me is that I have even fooled some of the parents with this !

Mentalism in its simplest form, and totally accessible to even a young child.
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Postby flynn » 04/25/09 06:42 PM

Dick Christian wrote:Just my opinion, but I wouldn't even consider mentalism for any group younger than high school age and I'd even have to think twice about that. IMO magic is fine for elementary school age (i.e., 6 and older), but definitely not mentalism. Six is about the youngest for which real magic (as opposed to simple, silly, visual "clown magic") is appropriate. To understand and appreciate "magic" the audience needs to have attained a level of psychological development such that they understand that there is a relationship between cause and effect, have a clear understanding of what is real and what is not and what is possible and what is not. Lacking that level of sophistication they have no concept of "magic," i.e., that they have witnessed something that violates the fundamental laws of nature -- i.e., something that is impossible. Psychologists will tell you that a child typically reaches that level of understanding at about age 6 or 7.

While it is true that younger children will watch and enjoy a magic show they will also watch and enjoy any adult who appears to be interested in them. That is far different from understanding the significance of what they've seen. "Understanding" does NOT refer to knowing how the trick was done, but simply understanding that they have seen a trick. The very concept of a "trick" is usually lost on a child of 5 or younger.

The concept/premise of mentalism is well beyond the ken of elementary, middle school and most junior high school students.



Dick I agree that toddlers and young elemtary age children will not get the concepts of mentalism, but I know for sure that middle schoolers and older elementary students understand some mentalism effects/routines. I've done information retrieval effects, and pychometry acts and they've worked. The reaction is that of "how did you do that" reactions.

Young elemtary kids also understand the "miracles" of mind reading. I've done them for my nieces and nephews and they're friends many times to a "how did you know ?" reactions. but they have been quick routine/effects tho.

Its the longer routines I think would be almost impossible to do for kids that do understand the concepts. They might understand them but I doubt the impact will be great because of the lack of total attention, and the patience, to sit thru some of the longer routines.

And btw I've done magic for my 2 yr old niece and she understood some of them. Some of the effects she understood were torn and restored card(doesn't understand any pick a card effects tho), simple vanish and reapearances with coins, sponge balls and TT hanky vanish and reappearance. I also watched with her on video and she understood the part where the card case turns into a small case in Henry Evans "tribute to Varone" so she understands some transformation/metamorphises as long as the change is easy and makes sense to them.
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Postby Spellbinder » 04/25/09 09:50 PM

I developed "Dapper Dan" (on my site) as a kid's mental trick. It works on two levels. Older kids can buy into the mentalism aspects where you just think of clothing to dress up Dan and it magically appears on him... while younger kids just like the appearing clothing. I think most successful kids mental magic tricks work on two levels like that.
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Postby Jack Turk » 05/20/09 07:29 PM

I do a "Mindreading Skunk" routine that involves
a lot of audience byplay, as well as an invisible
deck ... at just about every show I do, for all
ages and in just about any venue.

I suppose a purist wouldn't consider the
invisible deck a "mentalism" routine. But my
POV is that if the bit is enjoyable by everyone
in the room, then why not use it?

Entertainment value is my bottom line.

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Postby Spellbinder » 05/21/09 07:37 AM

I have been helping Wiz Kid Qua-Fiki develop a similar act, only using a mind-reading rooster (puppet). The problem is that one of his hands is always "tied up" inside the puppet, so we have had to find or create mentalism effects that can be performed one-handed. That challenge cuts out a lot of mental magic, but we have found a couple of solutions including a version of "Mental Epic" that can be performed with one hand. What makes it funnier than the usual Mental Epic routine is that the rooster can't spell worth a darn, and can't write numbers and so must respond with "chicken scratches." Kids enjoy the antics with the rooster and seem not to realize that any mind reading going on must be done by the person operating it. They ask "How did he (the rooster) know that?" Parents aren't sure what to make of it, but usually play along with the make-believe aspect of the mind reading rooster.
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Postby Milly » 09/23/09 11:44 AM

The Amazing Kreskin came to our high school in 1967. It was one of our best assemblies ever and, frankly, one of the only ones I can remember. But that was back in the days before fundamentalist Christians held such a sway on things supernatural. I doubt you could get any kind of mentalist/magician to be approved by school boards these days. I believe Kreskin is still performing!
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Postby Bob Farmer » 09/23/09 04:45 PM

Funda-Mentalism: reading the mind of God.
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Postby Spellbinder » 09/23/09 08:40 PM

Combining an effect by Percy Naldrett from the 1930's, printed in the Jinx as "The Phantom Artist" in 1937, and combining it with some home-made Halloween jumbo picture cards and my Force Field Tray has just added another Mental Effect for Kids to The Wizards' Journal #18 on my site.

I was really blown away when I discovered the clever simplicity of the Phantom Artist principle and have been coming up with routines (and new cut-out templates) for it ever since. This Halloween routine is just the latest. I earlier came up with routines that used the OM Billet Box in my Mini-Mysteries series, but knew that the slowness of the OM Box in collecting billets from a bunch of kids would kill the effect. Teaming it with the Force Field Tray makes it quick and easy for a child to choose a card (of your choice) and the rest is pure theater.
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