If what you showed your spectators didn't "ASTONISH" them, it wasn't MAGIC. You may have told a charming story with a magical theme which brought tears to their eyes or made them laugh. If so, you are a story teller or a comedian and this may greatly entertain people. But it's not MAGIC. It seems to me that by definition, magic must "astonish", create "wonder" etc. Terms like "killer" etc. simply refer to the degree of astonishment a certain piece of magic creates.
Just my opinion.
Oh my . . . I couldn't disagree more! In fact, I just finished writing an article regarding this very issue for a Finnish Magic magazine. I'm not saying that my philosophy is gospel, but I've found that it adds immensely to the overall performance of MAGIC! It follows.
My Philosophy of Magic
Part I: Making Magic Real
by Ray Eden
I once read a story about a mime whose goal was to bring an audience to tears by making the slightest movement of his thumb. Talk about a challenge! But he did it. He moved his thumb and the people wept. But was it really the movement of his thumb that brought this display of emotion? I think not. Rather it was the world that he had created in which his thumb became a living character. So, tears did not well up in the eyes of the audience because of the movement of the thumb, but because of who the thumb had become. This gentleman had created magic!
Reading this story created the same desire in me. How could I perform a trick in such a way that the audience was brought to tears? How could I get someone to care enough for my prop to show real emotion? How could I get someone to say that was beautiful instead of how did you do that? How could I create MAGIC!
(Note: I personally find the phrase how did you do that to be one of the least complimentary comments I can receive as a magician.)
In the world of magic today the moniker magician is given to too many performers who should be more aptly referred to as tricksters. A large majority of magic performances are not magic at all, but demonstrations of props containing no entertainment value, which can only be termed trickery at best. There is a big difference between doing a trick and doing magic. Doing a trick does not give the audience a feeling of wonder, but a feeling of being fooled. Performing magic will leave your audience with the feeling that they have witnessed something very special. And let me assure you that performing magic will be remembered by your audiences much more than doing tricks. And, perhaps even more important, your audience will remember you and be much more likely to hire you again or recommend you to others while the name of the trickster is long forgotten.
So how do we create magic?
First we must examine the intent of the performer. Is it truly the performers desire to entertain his audience, or is he more concerned with tricking them? I believe that the latter brings more entertainment value to the trickster than to his audience.
Second, it is extremely important to remember that we have engaged ourselves in a profession that is, by its very nature, antagonistic. It has been my experience that most people do not like to be fooled. To fool a person is to question their intelligence and power of reason. Two things which a properly performed magic trick will do. Because of this built-in antagonism, the performer must minimize this challenge that is thrust upon the audience and turn the effect into entertainment. People may not like to be fooled, but they do like to be entertained.
So how do we create magic and minimize the antagonism? The answer is simply presentation. However creating powerful presentations is not a simple process. It is actually one of the hardest, if not the hardest, aspect of the magical arts. Which explains why so many choose to eliminate presentation from their so called acts. And this lack of focus on presention is what creates the proliferation of what Eugene Burger has dubbed The Generic Magician. The Generic Magician is the performer who buys the prop, and merely does the effect as per the instructions. Or worse yet, the performer who creates his act by watching other performers, and doing the effect that he liked exactly as the person who he saw performing it did it.
So presentation is the key. But not only presentation but original presentation. Another word for presentation is conditioning, because your presentation conditions the spectators. In other words, conditioning creates the environment in which the audience can accept your magic as entertainment and not a challenge to their sensibilities. It allows them to forget about the worries and cares of real life, and draws them into your world. How is this difficult task achieved? By drawing upon yourself. From your own life experiences. What do you like that would be of interest to an audience? And then, how do you get those ideas across to the audience? Personally I achieve this by the use of mythology and storytelling. I tend to see my magic from the viewpoint of the bard, bringing distinction to the meaning of life via tales and magic. I want my magic to be about the story, not about the props that I use. My props are there only to move the story along, and the magic happens as the story is told. In doing this the antagonism is minimized because the audience is drawn into the story. As the magic happens it no longer becomes a threat but instead an intrinsic part of the story. It becomes necessary to the climax of the tale, and now acceptable to the audience. Because of the story, they can relax and suspend their disbelief.
Of course storytelling may not be the way for you. And this is the challenge, to find what is the way for you. This is nothing that I or anyone else can determine for you. You must take assessment of yourself and come to a decision as to how you will present your magic to your audiences.
But maybe storytelling is for you. If it is, why not try this exercise. I wont say that it will be simple, but it may be transforming. First, determine something that is of importance to you. Maybe it is sports, movies, television, history, religion, love or a cold winter night with the full moon hanging low on the horizon. Second, look through that drawer full of magic props that you never use. Can anything in the drawer be used to illustrate your interest in a magical way? Finally, develop a script to tell your story. Give your script a beginning, a middle and a climax. The beginning should hook your audience, and the middle should smoothly and interestingly lead the audience to the climax. The climax should be the storys dramatic end with the point of magic occuring at the climax that your effect creates. You may find that in the process of this exercise that you will create real magic: a transformation of yourself and your act.
Now you may be asking if I was ever able to bring a tear to the eye of my audiences as the mime had done. Im quite pleased to say that I have. For years I did the effect known as The Gypsy Thread in which a length of thread is cut into pieces and then restored. My solution to the challenge was to tell the story, from Finnish mythology, of Lemminkinens death and resurrection while presenting it. Never do I mention the thread. In fact, I dont even say that the thread is meant to represent Lemminkinen! The audience instinctively knows. But not only have I written a powerful script to accompany the effect, but I use music to set the mood. And NEVER have I heard, how did you do that after performing it. Rather I hear comments like, that was beautiful, I could feel Lemminkinens bones breaking everytime the thread was broken and my personal favorite, that was magic!
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