Very interesting to see how this thread has evolved into the nature of magic as a performance art.
I was surprised and pleased to see Lisa Cousins use the term "shared experience" to describe the yearning audiences have to participate in the deception.
In several of the books I have designed I have included small nuggets of information, signatures in print if you will. One was a birth announcement, but several of them have dealt with performance theory. On the last page of John Booth's Extending Magic Beyond Credibility
in 4-point type I talk about how strong the shared experience can be when applied in magic. For those of you who do not have access to the book I reproduce the complete statement here:
"Magic is a shared experience. A sense of immediacy is essential, and requires from the performer not only character and context, but direct and subtle adjustments for each audience. Strive for a unique 'happening' that will never be experienced again. For some audiences, this very well may be true."
While I offer just a kernel of an idea there, and one that is perhaps a bit too vague, I am working on a book, an extended study that explores the theatrical concept of shared experience applied to the performance of magic, and have been surprised at how many people seem to be coming up with this term lately to describe strong magic. I expect that, like myself, several performers are becoming dissatisfied with performing "tricks" and are looking for some way to perform in a way that is more meaningful for their audiences.
Both the comments of Lisa Cousins and those of Michael Edwards are very perceptive of how audiences distinguish (and experience) the two types of performance in vastly different ways. It has occurred to me that one reason for the differing responses is that in a performance of magic, an explanation for every action is either given outright or implied, whereas a broader theatrical piece relies on the audience to engage their imaginations to participate in the fantasy rather than sit back as a passive spectator.
It appears that more performers are beginning to look beyond the physical trappings of magic both for a philosophical approach to the performance of magic that avoids the inherent pitfalls in performing "magic tricks" and takes advantage of how people experience fantasy and a more scholarly approach that defines the varied ways people experience magic and how to adjust performance material in minute ways to enhance response. Too much time and energy has been used up creating material without truly understanding the psychological aspects of why a piece is or is not experienced as magic. As the technology of magic has increased, too little focus has been given to the human element and how not only the little details of presentation but also the manner in which the spectator is engaged impacts the overall experience of magic.
Which of course brings us to the question: "what is magic, anyway?" That, I confess I haven't an answer to, but I am on the journey.
I looking forward to corresponding with any and all performers interested in exploring this branch of study within the field of conjuring.
Andrew J. Pinardsharedexperience@absomagic.com
[ November 21, 2001: Message edited by: Andrew J. Pinard ]