The Silent Script

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby Guest » 11/25/01 08:51 AM

I recently have been interested in actually trying to write down a silent script for some of my routines. This method has been cited in various books as an effective way to work on other aspects of performing such as body movement, pacing, and timing. For those who may not know, the silent script inlcudes your thoughts during performance. Especially between the "moves" and the "patter." (For more on the silent script, refer to Henning Nelms' Magic and Showmanship.
Has anyone ever taken the time to try this?
If so, was it effective and worth the extra work?
And does anyone have any extra tips on using this reahearsal strategy?

Thanks,

Jamie
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Postby Guest » 11/25/01 12:15 PM

In my limited experience doing close-up and parlor, I've found no use for the silent script. Maybe it's more helpful for stage magicians. However, two related rehearsal techniques have proven valuable for me:

1. Learning a routine and its moves so well that I can (almost) forget that I'm doing anything tricky. There's no need for a silent script, because -- thanks to rote internalization of the tricky stuff -- I'm following (almost) the same plot that the audience is watching.

2. Forcing myself, every nth time I run a complete routine in front of the mirror, to enact the routine WITHOUT any false moves. This accomplishes two things. First, in showing how I would naturally hold-the-cards, handle-the-coins, display-the-rope, etc., it instantly flags any inadequacies in my attempts to fake those behaviors; that forces me to go back and refine or rethink my moves. Second, in forcing me to frequently pause and actually transfer the coin from left hand to right or the card from mid-deck to top, it reminds me of just how miraculous the wonders I purport to demonstrate actually would be. That again accomplishes at least one of the aims of the silent script.

Caveat: I'm not a pro. I do know one pro who writes out and memorizes all his patter, but not any "silent dialog" for his actions.
--Ralph
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Postby Matthew Field » 11/26/01 07:51 AM

As you may know, Eugene Burger highly recommends writing a script for every trick you do. You may not always follow it, but you know where you're going and what "good stuff" you want to include.

I'm a lazy bast**d, an amateur, but even I have written out scripts for some of my repertoire, and it is a very worthy endeavor.

Matt Field

[ November 26, 2001: Message edited by: Matthew Field ]
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Postby Guest » 11/26/01 09:16 AM

Writing stuff down is especially useful when varying one's standard patter to special situations. E.g., when performing recently as part of his show based on a time-travel theme, I changed some of my customary patter to suit a pseudo-demonstration of scientific principles. It wouldn't have hurt for me to have written the new patter down, although in practice I winged (wung?) it. Still, I don't think I would have bothered writing down the silent part.
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Postby Larry Horowitz » 11/26/01 02:56 PM

Am I to understand that a silent script is just a scripting of the moves? Or a way to perform without words?
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Postby Matthew Field » 11/26/01 03:15 PM

A silent script is what you are supposed to be thinking while the effect is proceeding. It is a description of the magic happening, not the method. "I gesture and concentrate the power of the universe and the water in the cup disappears." Not, "Pour water in the cup with the slush powder and turn it over."

If you're thinking "power of the universe" you're more likely to give a dramatic performance than if you're thinking "slush powder." Or so the theory goes.

Think "The Method" in acting. Actors Studio. Stanislavsky. That sort of thing.

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Postby Larry Horowitz » 11/26/01 03:34 PM

Be the cup, be the cup.

Basically, get into the trick. If this needs to be scripted, the performer needs a different trick or a new hobby. I only perform tricks I enjoy, this enthusiasm shows and is contagious. Also the"magic" comes thru, because I see it every time.

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Postby sleightly » 11/26/01 04:09 PM

The Silent Script (more properly termed Internal Monologue), is an emotional map of the internal motivations of the character. The Why, as opposed to the What. The never-ending stream of questions we ask and answer to conduct "the business of life" (usually without much conscious effort).

The importance of writing out an Internal Monologue is understood among actors. The process establishes emotional throughline for the character and provides continuity, as well as, legitimacy of emotion with the action and plot supplied by the playwright.

It is, in fact, the actor's job.

As a magician, scripting an Internal Monologue is of great benefit in helping yourself achieve the internal conviction necessary for selling an effect.

This assumes, of course, that you have a defined character.

N'est pas?
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Postby Pete McCabe » 11/26/01 04:26 PM

I always thought the silent script was a specific tool whereby you wrote down exactly what your character was thinking during a specific moment or moments when you are not saying anything.

So, not to pick on Matthew Field, but "I gesture and concentrate the power of the universe" would _not_ be a silent script. You would never think these exact words. "Water, I command you to disappear" might be.

A more descriptive example might be: Let's say you produce the selected card, only it's not the right card. Your silent script might be "what happened. Did I lose the break? Did I not do my Zarrow shuffle right? Who cares! What am I gonna do now?"

The more conviction you put into your (non-verbal) reading of this silent script, the more clearly the string of emotions will appear on your face. So the Silent Script can be a very useful tool.
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Postby Guest » 11/26/01 04:28 PM

Well expressed, Andrew. So then, you actually write these things out for your magic routines? And the magic is tangibly better as a result?
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Postby Guest » 11/26/01 06:00 PM

I just read a couple of essays in the Books of Wonder (by Tommy Wonder) that are related to the "Silent Script" This quote sums up his belief in the method and is from the Book 1 essay, "Acting is Not Making Faces":

"I will go as far to say that when you don't use a silent cript, you can't perform really fine magic. Magic is impossible without acting, and acting for a large part is thinking. A silent script will make your work infinitely better, It will add countless details to your work, impossible to add by conscious effort. These details, each of them so small as to be virtually unnoticeable by itself, cannot be pinpointed; but their contribution to your magic does accumulate, and they are sensed and felt by your audiences."

Now I know Mr.Wonder can be a little harsh at times, but I think he makes some very good points. I suggest everyone read the entire essay. My thinking is that whereas "fine magic" can still be performed without a silent script, it could be much better if those little details are rehearsed. I am sure that this is what separates some of the masters in magic (Vernon or Tamariz to name a couple)from the rest.

Jamie
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Postby Guest » 11/26/01 07:52 PM

For my money, Nelm's "Magic and Showmanship" is the best education I've received in the performance of 'real magic' (see the Harry Potter thread). Most people say Nelms goes too far in tring to convince his audience, but he really is just applying the same theatrical techniques used in other entertainment forms. The Silent Script is a method of controlling your subconscious actions and expressions - something that could never be done on the conscious level.
The silent script provides your mind the thoughts you would have if what you were doing were real magic, and your body automatically follows with the proper responses. It should be like your vocal script - not memorized, but there to follow as you perform your routine or act. This is how you convince YOURSELF you are doing real magic - and consequently, your audience. After all, performing magic is just a specialized form of acting!
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Postby sleightly » 11/26/01 07:58 PM

Pete McCabe does an excellent job pinpointing exactly the purpose of an Internal Monologue, but I fear he doesn't quite go far enough.

His "Silent Script" questions upon the apparent loss of a card are, however, an excellent example of response to the unexpected.

Internal Monologues (often a series of questions and answers) are much more detailed. This includes dealing with such immediate character concerns as: Why am I here? What is that doing there? I wonder if that girl thinks I'm cute? (Triviality is a part of the human condition) Much harder to define, but almost as important, are questions bearing relativity to the broader sense of character emotions: How do I relate to the people who are watching? How do I feel when I am performing this? What is my relationship to the props I am handling?

To be precise, the Internal Monologue is the internal conflict we go through to justify that which we do. This justification is called Motivation.

This running monologue can be influenced both directly and indirectly by the feedback you receive from your audiences. The ability to remain fluid and react with audiences is similar to the ability actors develop to respond to each other in a scene with a sense of reality that will be believed by the audience. In theatrical terms, this state is referred to as "being in the moment."

The development and practice of an Internal Monologue allows you as a performer to develop the skills that allow you to diminish attention on procedure and focus on the experience. By writing Internal Monologues for your pieces, you become more aware of the layers of detail that are possible in your performance (beyond the rudiments of the technique and written script). The more work you do ahead of time, the more you can relax and respond intuitively to the situation at hand, ensuring with each successive performance a more "organic" first-hand magical experience.

Yes, I have been known to write out Internal Monologues as part of my creative process. I found this particularly helpful when I was developing my performance character and still occasionally use the technique when I am trying to adapt material for my character.

In general, I believe that magicians too often pay lip service to Robert-Houdin's oft-quoted (and often mis-quoted) phrase: "a magician is an actor playing the part of a magician" without ever bothering to study any of the techniques of the actor.

In a play, actors react with each other as characters in situations scripted by a playwright for the passive appreciation by an audience. In a close-up magical performance, the performer is one actor, and the audience, the other (occasionally, each member of the audience is an individual actor in the magical play you are creating). The situations are engineered by the performer, but depend on the reactions of both performer and audience to be a success. Any technique that aids in the development of the relationship between performer and audience benefits the total experience.

This technique can be very valuable to the budding performer. With repeated practice, integration of an Internal Monologue will have subtle yet tangible impact on the relationship between performer and audience.

The ability to interact effectively with another actor (or in the performance of close-up magic--the audience) is one that can be developed in many ways, the Internal Monologue being only one. Another exercise that some people find beneficial is to attend an Improvisation Workshop, which can enhance not only motivational abilities, but also develops the skill of “being fast on your feet,” the ability to respond intuitively to any situation in a logical and entertaining manner.

The path of the performer is one of a never-ending stream of refinement. The more you practice, the deeper and richer experiences you will have with your audiences.

ajp

[ November 26, 2001: Message edited by: Andrew J. Pinard ]
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Postby Bill Duncan » 11/26/01 08:25 PM

Mr. Pinard offers some great insights...
I'd like to add one addition. Great actors do something special when they work. They listen to what the other players in the scene are saying rather than simply waiting their turn to speak.

Listen to what your audience is saying when you perform. Nothing makes people happier than being heard.

[ November 28, 2001: Message edited by: Bill Duncan ]
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Postby Guest » 11/26/01 09:07 PM

This is really good stuff. Thanks, Andrew. One thought: It's obvious that a silent script is especially valuable for shaping the narrative in a silent routine. But also, a silent script could help encourage a magician to ADD silences to a patter-intensive routine. Especially in close-up, I think we can sometimes feel the need to obsessively chatter, stepping on our miracles in the process. A silent script might enable a chatty magician to continue the chatter in his head while creating the aural space, at crucial moments, for the magic to speak for itself.

You're bringing me to the point where I may just try going through this extra step prior to my next planned performance for humans.
--Ralph

[ November 26, 2001: Message edited by: Ralph Bonheim ]
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Postby Guest » 11/27/01 07:25 PM

For a good example of the silent script, watch John Carney in the Up Close and Far Away video.
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Postby sleightly » 11/27/01 10:33 PM

Thanks to Ralph and Bill for their kind words.

I like Ralph's idea of using a silent script to program in quiet moments into his routines. A moment of silence is a wonderful way of heightening expectations, building tension and adding clarity to a performance.

Bill also hit the nail on the head when he said to listen... That is one reason the Internal Monologue is so important, by doing the work associated with this technique it allows you to respond to the feedback (or interaction) from the audience.

The more we apply the techniques of the actor, the more pathos we inject into our performances, the more we genuinely interact with our audiences on an emotional level, the more rewarding our own experience, and the more profound our art shall be.

Thanks for all who have contributed to this thread, especially Pete, Ralph, and Bill for processing "heavy" theoretical concepts into real-world examples that others can understand, and to everyone else for caring enough to think about these things.

Back to working on your double lift! ;O}

ajp
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Postby Guest » 11/28/01 02:29 PM

...and to Jamie for launching the discussion
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Postby Guest » 11/29/01 01:32 PM

Originally posted by Pete McCabe:
"I gesture and concentrate the power of the universe" would _not_ be a silent script. You would never think these exact words. "Water, I command you to disappear" might be.

A more descriptive example might be: Let's say you produce the selected card, only it's not the right card. Your silent script might be "what happened. Did I lose the break? Did I not do my Zarrow shuffle right? Who cares! What am I gonna do now?"


I thought Pete was wrong, but then I grasped a different angle. FOR ME, Matthew Field is more on target. I am a magician helping others to discover the realization of the impossible, summoning powers to make water vanish.

My silent script might run more like, "Oh magical powers within come vanquish this evil water from our presence. All marvel at the powers of the universe which make this water...vanish."

OK I'm not that far into wizardry. I have exaggerated for clarity of distinction. I would be telegraphing that I am affected by the outcome of the magic before the audience. I sense the impending wonder just moments before the audience. I have suceeded! Not "OK this is the fourth time today with the slush powder...see the water is gone."

I think we have all seen magicians who know the outcome and don't even care about it. They are only interested in impressing you to get your acceptance, not sharing joyful wonderment.

In Pete's example, if you are playing a trickster or card cheat, his dialog of breaks and shuffles would be accurate. A wonder worker, however, would be thinking, "Are my powers failing me? I must and shall triumph." (No pun intended...well maybe a little.)

Myself, Pete, Matt, Andrew, and others are in agreement that implimentation of the technique has the affect Pete spoke of.

The more conviction you put into your (non-verbal) reading of this silent script, the more clearly the string of emotions will appear on your face. So the Silent Script can be a very useful tool.[/QUOTE]

I wouldn't want my emotion to be "Oops, I lost my f-in break!" That happens just fine on its own. :( :p

Great Topic!!!!

Great Input!!!!

Tom Cutts
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About Magic...Performing Magic
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Postby Guest » 11/29/01 03:40 PM

Chris,
It's amazing that you bring up the Carney video. I just recently bought it a few weeks ago after reading through Carneycopia. I wanted to see his philosophy in action. After watching the Up Close and Far Away video I started thinking about naturalness and acting in magic. The thought about silent scripts came to mind. I then went Nelms, Wonder, and Tamariz for more information on the subject. So I guess we have come full circle.
I believe it was Wonder who said that magic is a "highly refined art of lying." Think about how easy it is to tell if someone is lying through their body language. Now think about how easy it would be for someone to tell if your "magic" is lying to them. They may not know directly, but maybe on a more subtle level. Its got me thinking....I know alot of my routines wouldn't survive a polygraph.

Jamie
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Postby Rafael Benatar » 11/30/01 02:40 AM

For me, the silent script is something very subtle, almost a way of explaining something intangible. It's something you think about with the purpose of having it reflect on your expression. It's all about not overacting (which, in turn, has a lot to do with good acting). Sure, you can do without it if you get the point and are a good actor. A very good essay that touches on the subject is a lesser known work by Nelms, a small booklet called "Applause and how to get it," also interesting for other reasons. He discusses, for example, what face to put on when you're on stage and you're greeting the audience at the end, while they applaud. Nelms suggests, as an example, you might smile and think, "That was it, I hope you liked it". Even if you do follow this, you can still overact if you don't understand what it is about. For me it's a way to define an attitude. If you can "as-if" really well you might not need a silent script, but you still need a reasoning behind. An example often seen. A card is torn in 4 and the magician accidentally drops one piece and he wants this to be noticed and goes "oops!" That's already overacting. You can be sure the fallen piece will be seen by everyone in the largest theater. So you decide to use a silent script, but you can still be overacting even if you don't go oops! What to do then? I'd say the same as if you're talking to a friend in the street and you accidentally drop your pen. Maybe part your lips as if you were going to mumble something to yourself. The formality of a theater might call for the briefest and slightest apologetical gaze at the audience as you pick it up. And this might still be overacting. My point is that the silent script, if we want to call it that, is much smaller than words. It's more like acting as if something.

[ November 30, 2001: Message edited by: Rafael Benatar ]

[ November 30, 2001: Message edited by: Rafael Benatar ]
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Postby Guest » 12/12/01 07:09 AM

Great topic!

Here is a tip that I use with the silent script. I record the silent script and play it as I practice. I have found this helps in timming and deploping my routiens.
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