Character in Close Up

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby Guest » 01/22/07 06:58 AM

I am a firm beleiver in the fact that having a character helps add to the presentation. I have seen many stage acts in which the character in obvious but I have only seen a handful of Close-Up artists with a set character. How should I proceed in using my character in my Close-Up act?
On stage you can almost tell a story but it seems a little more difficult with close up.

Postby Guest » 01/22/07 07:32 AM

create your character in exactly the same way as you would on stage.
the story, is only the place where that character lives, and a snapshot of events surrounding the character.
naturaly you should scale down the size of your movements, and tone down the volume of yur voice, but these are the only real changes.
You have to remember that every single magician, be it close up, or on stage/street, create a character for their performance. Most have a character that differs little from their own. Yet there will always be a difference, making the performance persona, a different character to that of the performer.
a paralell can be drawn by looking at an actor on film, as opposed to an actor on stage.On film, They use the same craft, but smallerbecause of close ups.

Postby Guest » 01/22/07 10:25 AM

Darwin Ortiz talks a lot about character in his great book Strong Magic. You should definately check it out.

Postby Guest » 01/23/07 06:20 AM

I work in a cabaret restaurant where every single person on the floor has a unique character. The best tip that they gave me on my first day and that keeps coming up again and again is this:

YOUR CHARACTER SHOULD BE AN EXTENSION/EXAGERATION OF YOURSELF. This makes it much easier to get into character, stay in character and react to things the way that your character should. My character changes all the time and not a night passes that I don't try something new; anything that works gets saved in my memory banks for later retrieval.

Ask yourself what kind of character you'd like to be. How would your character start a performance (and I'm not referring to you magic act)? Is your character a good guy or a bad guy? What does he talk like? What are his mannerisms like?
Hope this helps

Postby Guest » 01/23/07 07:13 AM

My chacater is fairly formal. I am kind of the anti-blaine style. Because everyone was going around in hoodies and talking slang I wanted to be the total opposite. Wearing nice starched shirts, being very polite, etc.. How can I bring that into my routines?

Postby Guest » 01/23/07 10:07 AM

My character is pretty formal too. Lots of the characters at the venue which employs me are pretty edgy and in-your-face so I try to be dark and mysterious and overwhelmingly polite, suave and, of course, magical.
Here are a couple of things that I do:

- I try to talk really proper. Maybe just a little bit more proper than the customers but not so much more that I come across as having my nose up in the air. Its a fine line to walk sometimes and I tend to lean away from being too proper.

- I flatter people alot. "Would this charming young gentleman please select a card? Once he has done so, I will try to find it in a comedic and, hopefully, entertaining fashion.", "Would this ravishing young lady..."

- I try to shut down hecklers passive aggressively with the emphasis on passive. Rather than say something sharp and witty, I point out to them the selfish and destructive nature of what they're doing. And ask them to PLEASE desist - this has been working really well for me lately and hecklers have actually come back later and apologized a couple times. The only time that I'll make a fool out of a heckler is when I get a sense the their friends want me to because they're pissing them off as well.

I like Hollingworth's character, ever watch "The London Collection"?

Postby Guest » 01/23/07 11:39 AM

So Slavatron, your character is a Canadian then?


Postby Guest » 01/23/07 11:42 AM

Wearing nice starched shirts, being very polite, etc..
... add a 'coon skin hat and you too could be Canadian!

Postby Guest » 01/23/07 11:44 AM

Yes, like that famous Canadian, Davey Crockett...

Postby Guest » 01/23/07 07:25 PM

...Davey Crockett was from Tennessee!

Postby Guest » 02/06/07 10:39 AM

Hi All-

The topic of character has always confused me. I am hoping you guys can help to clarify something. What exactly do you mean when you say character? Is character something you put on? Or is character born from within? Are you talking about your behavior? Your costume? All of this?

We talk about character as if is were a tangible thing, yet when we try to describe it, it eludes us.

Thanks in advance for entering into this discussion.

Postby Guest » 02/06/07 11:05 AM

"...Davey Crockett was from Tennessee!"

Thank you...

Postby Geno Munari » 02/06/07 04:09 PM

I am extremely interested in this topic. I had two mentors. Jimmy Grippo and Johnny Paul. Totally different styles but each had a special character.
Jimmy would talk about New York, movie star, mob guys, gambling and society. Then fool you with what seemed impossible.
Johnny would be the funniest person that you ever saw. Line after line and was almost a slapstick genious.
Yet each had a unique character. I learned from watching them and realized (sic) that if the spectator doesn't like you in the first two minutes. You toast and no matter what character you portray it will mean nothing.
I used to perform thousands of stage and as many close-up shows. Each time I performed, I learned something about how to portray my character.
Geno Munari
Posts: 627
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Las Vegas/Del Mar, CA

Postby Pete Biro » 02/06/07 07:24 PM

Geno... you had two of the all time great guys to learn from. I enjoyed every minute of working they did for me too.
Stay tooned.
User avatar
Pete Biro
Posts: 7125
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollyweird

Postby Geno Munari » 02/06/07 08:36 PM

You knew them as well. Great memories.
Geno Munari
Posts: 627
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Las Vegas/Del Mar, CA

Postby Guest » 02/06/07 11:37 PM

We talk about character as if is were a tangible thing, yet when we try to describe it, it eludes us.
Not at all. Your Character is the person you play when you pretend to be a magician, and its MORE tangible than your personality, because its made up of choices that you make consciously. You can make a list of every facet of your character, but most of us couldnt explain how our personalities were developed.

You cant really do magic, so when you pretend to, you are, as Robert-Houdin famously said: an actor playing the part of a magician.

Your character is more or less developed by the amount of time and effort you put into developing him. It begins simply by asking questions like why do I choose to show them this aspect of magic (how you choose your tricks), or what does it mean that I can do this (what are they supposed to think about it).

For Martin A. Nash (the M.A.N) it is the Charming Cheat. For Juan Tamariz well, hell I dont know what to call his character, but he is clearly one of the most developed characters in magic. And then theres Max Maven (aka The Thief of Thoughts)

Thats why most who offer advise on developing a character say to play an exaggerated version of yourself. Dont try and be suave if youre not. Its easier to act like a variation of you than to be a whole different person.

You might, for example, make a decision that you got your ability to read minds after you were abducted by aliens, but that you wont tell people that because you dont want to be labeled crazy. You scripts and your choice of material will be directed by that knowledge. Even if the audience never knows why you make the choices you do, your act will be better for it because you will know why and it will give shape and nuance to everything you do and say.

Of course, that's just my opinion, and I've been wrong before...

Postby Guest » 02/07/07 07:48 AM

Check out Whit Haydn's persona.. I think there are vidoes on the School for Scoundrels web site.
Extremely funny bits.

Postby Guest » 02/07/07 01:41 PM

Hi Bill-

I agree with what I think you are saying.

I believe that discovering WHO you are and HOW you are going to portray yourself on stage is a very difficult process.

I guess a portion of the work is external and much of the work is internal.

What does an actor do? That Houdin quote gets tossed around more than Courtney Love's underwear, if she is wearing any that day! :)

Sanford Meisner a wonderful acting teacher and grade A upstart has a few great quotes about acting:

"Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances."

"The foundation of acting is the reality of doing."

"You know it's all right to be wrong, but it's not all right not to try."

"There's no such thing as nothing."

"Silence has a myriad of meanings. In the theater, silence is an absence of words, but never an absence of meaning."

Postby Guest » 02/18/07 08:37 PM

This thread died a quick and painless death. Here is a great post on the Cafe about character. I could not agree more with this answer. Check it out. ... &forum=230

Postby Danny Archer » 02/19/07 12:21 PM

The topic of character has always confused me. I am hoping you guys can help to clarify something. What exactly do you mean when you say character?
PT my dictionary says ;

"the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing."
Producer of MINDvention
mentalism convention
Danny Archer
Posts: 595
Joined: 02/29/08 01:00 PM
Location: Denver

Postby Guest » 02/19/07 02:21 PM

Well, the character is a role you play. Perhaps it would be better to say the role you play is a character.
Your role is a magician. The character is the details of that role, so to speak.


Postby Dustin Stinett » 02/19/07 04:30 PM

If you want to learn about character go take an acting class (and hope you get a good instructor).

Being in character means you must be acting, even when you are being an extension of yourself.

Doing magic or mentalism well means you must be acting.

The important thing about characterwhoever it isis knowing everything you can about that character (even if its an extension of you). Read Bill Duncans post again, and then read Denny Haneys from TMC. Knowing is everything.

If you truly know your character, you will know how he/she would perform the Linking Rings, the Cups and Balls, the Egg Bag (or if he/she would at all). Material selection becomes easier. Creating presentations becomes easier.

Based on his post on the MC, Denny Haney took years to learn his character; primarily through the brute force of performance experience.

I know a guy who figured out his in less than a year and everything just came together. Hes one of the lucky ones, but it does happen. Of course, hes still exploring because there are many places a character can go; even when its an extension of you. Thats what artists and students of their craft do; explore.

Sometimes they just change characters. Someone brought up Whit Haydns character. Based on the number of years Whit has been performing, Doc Haydn is a newbie. Before this new character, Whits stage character was a bit different from his close-up character. Thats because he could use his eyes in close-up situations more than he could on stage. It was some fantastic acting. At least, I hope it was acting.

And to say that its easier to create an extension of you than a different character is not necessarily true. Some people find it hardor even impossibleto be honest with themselves, which would make creating a character based on an extension of themselves damn near impossible.

However, playacting is very easy for some people. Its easyand sometimes downright pleasantto go off into another character and know what he/she likes and dislikes; wants; dreams; believes; and even know what experiences this person has had.

Tony Clifton appeared on all the greatest stages in the world. Really, he did. After all, he was a great artiste!

Of course, this is not to say that a made up character cannot have the same likes and dislikes, wants, dreams, beliefs, and experiences as you. Many actors bring their own traits and experiences to a role.

This is also not to say that the extension of yourself has to be limited to your traits and experiences.

There is a famous magician who has a line about not being able to get married. In context of the effect hes performing, its a funny line, and the audience has a good laugh.

That performer is indeed married. However, his character is not; and the audience believes him.

All of the great magicians and mentalistspast and presenthave a well-developed character, and whether its made up or themselves is immaterial. What made/makes them great performers (besides talent) was/is that when up on that stage, or at the table, they were/are 100% true to that character.


PS: Regarding that part of Denny Haneys post that speaks of scripting: With all due respect, I couldnt disagree more with him more when he says, I feel that a script is too confining. It doesn't really allow to you stray or develop.

Having a set script gives you the security to go out and be creative, because you know you can always come back to the script. I believe it is Robin Williams who calls the script the trunk of the tree that allows him to climb out on the branches. When (and if) the branches start to break, he can scamper back to the script secure in the knowledge he wont fall. Then he finds another branch and explores where it takes him. (Though Ive heard that sometimes its someone elses tree, but the point remains.)
User avatar
Dustin Stinett
Posts: 6444
Joined: 07/22/01 12:00 PM
Location: Southern California

Postby Guest » 02/22/07 11:36 AM

Dustin wrote: "If you want to learn about character go take an acting class (and hope you get a good instructor)."

Dustin what was your experience with this? Was it a painful one? :)

Postby Brian Marks » 02/22/07 03:10 PM

I have taken 2 years of Meisner Acting classes. I have taken improvisation classes, acting of camera classes etc etc. I am a big fan of the Meisner acting technique as it gets rid of a though process and makes everything in the moment. Improv tries to do that but has been less successful at it for me.

Read some books on the subject.
1. Guru by Jeff Griggs. Its a bio on Del Close. You will learn alot about creating charcters in that.

2. Builidng a character by Stanisafsky. ... 08-7293744

3 a book of exercises ... F8&s=books
Brian Marks
Posts: 914
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Nyack, NY

Postby NCMarsh » 02/22/07 04:54 PM

An Aside:

Speaking of Meisner, Bob Fitch was a personal student of Meisner...if you take Meisner classes locally, the chances are low that you'll be working with someone who personally worked with the master...that, along with numerous other qualifications, deep and exceptional talent, makes him the natural choice for any magician...he is an expert magician, an extremely accomplished actor, and a gifted director...

This is the guy who is the bridge between magic and theater...the guy who is overwhelmingly qualified in both...the theater expert who understands the needs of the magician...

I had the tremendous fortune to participate in his week long workshop in canada this past summer...he will make you better, and you will learn to make yourself better...there's a reason that guys like Paul Gertner, Bob Sheets, Bill Malone, Docc Hilford, David Copperfield etc. etc. etc. come to him and keep coming back to him (Bob Sheets has made it to every single year of Fitch camp)...

Working with Bob is one of the best investments you can make in yourself as a performer...if you are seriously interested in becoming a better performer -- this is a really solid way

I'll add that my girlfriend, who has a BFA in musical theater from point park conservatory and is a professional actress/singer/dancer, was very jealous that she didn't get to go...

N. Orlando Magician
User avatar
Posts: 1196
Joined: 02/16/08 01:00 PM
Location: Orlando, FL

Postby Guest » 02/23/07 11:43 AM

Bob Fitch is a great guy!

I spent a few hours with him late one night listening to Meisner stories.

I was very fortunate to have grown up in Chicago where there is a great theater scene. I hooked up very early on with instructors who like Bob were directly influenced by and studied with Meisner. The great thing about Meisner is that there really ISN'T a technique it is more like ZEN and the art of acting. Having spent the last 20 years studying and teaching Meisner I can't imagine what my magic would have been like if I hadn't taken that first acting class. But again I was very fortunate to have stumbled onto teachers who were sincere and very supportive.

That is why I questioned Dustin. I hate to hear stories of people who were tortured by a bad experience.

Postby Dustin Stinett » 02/23/07 02:11 PM

Ive never had a tortuous experience, but there is one guy that came close. Hearing his own voice was his favorite hobby. That said, I learned a lot from him.

My allusion to having a good instructor is having one that puts emphasis on the character. One guywe facetiously called him the star-makerhad no emphasis on character at all. His idea of craft was his own bizarre version of Method. (I dont think he ever got through An Actor Prepares let alone read Stanislavskis other key works.) I understand he works in TV now. Im not surprised.

User avatar
Dustin Stinett
Posts: 6444
Joined: 07/22/01 12:00 PM
Location: Southern California

Postby Guest » 02/25/07 09:00 AM

Interesting thoughts on the subject of becoming a character when performing close up magic.

Let me add two thoughts if I may. The most important and different thing one can add to their magic is you or themselves. In short be you because you are unique and different.

Second, there is nothing wrong with the character that is you is a gentleman, like Nate Leipzig, Dai Vernon or Jack Pyle.

Just a few thoughts to consider.

Postby Gerald Deutsch » 02/25/07 09:17 AM

I have written about Perverse Magic on this forum and basically Perverse Magic is having the performer be caught up in what is happening as things happen without his knowledge, against what he wants to happen, or by itself.

The performer need not change his personality for this. He can be the same person he is in his non performing self and his surprise, confusion and frustration can be what affects all of us.

Of course good acting is necessary but his personality need not change.
Gerald Deutsch
Posts: 358
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Glen Head New York

Postby Danny Archer » 02/25/07 11:08 AM

I have a performing character named Gino that I use in both stand-up and close-up situations ...

Gino talks, walks and acts different than I do, but he is rooted in me ...

Many times strangers dont realize that I am doing a character, which I take as a compliment ... I have performed as Gino at magic conventions and later spoken with people who did not know I was Gino ...

Staying character and learning to react and ad-lib as the character took some time to develope ...

if you are in CA, I will be performing as Gino in the close-up room of the Castle in mid-May ... stop on by and say Yo! ..
Producer of MINDvention
mentalism convention
Danny Archer
Posts: 595
Joined: 02/29/08 01:00 PM
Location: Denver

Postby Guest » 02/25/07 01:11 PM

I think that a character (a natural extension of yourself) can just emerge out of years of experience, regardless of if youre trying consciously or not to "form" one. You naturally know what kind of effects you should be performing and which one you should stay away from. It may not be a fully established and thought-out character but it think it is a good way to arrive at an efficient performing persona.

I believe there is a big difference between a character in stand-up and in close-up. When doing stand-up (which I've never done), shouldnt you be "bigger than life", hence a character (crazy guy, lunatic professor,ect..)is highly recommendable? When doing close-up, there is no place for attitude and you should try to perform while at the same "level" as the audience (of course, you still have to be a performer and control the situation at all times), so a "character" may feel a little fake to the audience and they may lose interest...(?) I feel that if I were to "act as somebody else", I might lose the connection I have with my audience.

May be wrong,

Return to Close-Up Magic