Strange Spectators

Discuss general aspects of Genii.

Postby Eric Rose » 10/16/05 05:25 AM

What's the strangest spectator experience you've had? Here's one I had yesterday:

Was doing Cassidy's Chronologue - had just asked spectator ~ 25 year old woman, to choose any date in the year. Asked her what it was, she started telling me to read her mind. I said, "No, just tell me, I'd get it wrong." She persisted and wouldn't tell me what the date was. I finally guessed "Was it in January?" She smiles smugly and says, "No, February." She finally tells me the date and says "You couldn't read my mind because I was using a shield."

I just sat there for a second. Never being one to look away from a train wreck, I started the conversation. "So, you're interested in psychic phenomena?" She said "No, I just know a lot about that stuff."

From there it just got weirder. Her mother was at the table and said "We're like Kreskin - everybody looks but not everybody sees." She then went on to tell me how you could tell what a person's disease was by their smell. Favorite quote from the daughter - "I can tell if someone has the flu or if they're just gassy by their smell."

Do you realize how hard it is to keep a straight face with something like that?
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Postby Guest » 10/16/05 06:09 AM

At that point I'd be saying "Three numbers are now becoming clear in my mind after speaking to you. They are 9 ..1 .. 1".
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Postby David Alexander » 10/16/05 09:33 AM

The American Psychology Association has estimated that something like 10% - 12% of the population is mentally ill to one degree or another. Looks like you bumped into a mother-daughter set who reinforce each other's fantasy.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/16/05 09:52 AM

Wow that must have been a tough moment, to hear strange ideas coming from one's audience. Congrats on getting through the show after that one.

The second thing I noticed in the description of the performance was that the audience was not engaged to participate WITH the performer in the experience. Even if they have far-out beliefs, they still had some motivation to resist the request of the performer. Such an issue is its own challenge. These folks merely had rationalizations ready to express their resistance.

The things they said they believe are in and of themselves indicators of a larger and personally intriguing question we sometimes face:

What to do when our audience already believes ideas which are more extreme than the ideas which motivate our back-story and drive the script.

Taken in reverse, when the performer is using ideas which are not accepted by the audience, we get the normal audience dynamic.

Imagine visiting some distant past and showing them how you can make music come from a shiny rock and produce fire from a small stick you carry. That would pretty much give us the ordinary audience dynamic, right?

Going to the other side, imagine performing for an audience from some distant future where they already have fogs of nanobots. What would they think of what we do?

Then we have what Doug Henning described when he performed some tricks for the Eskimos. They seemed to experience the items as a direct physical metaphor for ideas and themes they experience every day, and saw no mystery in the performance.

In the two imagination exercises and the one documented case above we have some set of audience beliefs and perceptions that don't align with some things we usually expect and that seem to permit our magic to work as expected FOR our audiences. Does this mean we could benefit from further exploration of what our audiences believe?
Mundus vult decipi
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Postby Bryan Dreyfus » 10/16/05 10:07 AM

Years ago, must be al least 20, I was perfoming behind the bar and for variety I'd add a mind reading effect just for laughs and I noticed a small group, 3 to 4, fallowing me up and down the bar watching intently from not so afar.
I was taking a break and they approached me and asked if i could join their "group" on an evening of my choice and that they had a psychic group that met every other week or so and they wanted me to drop in sometime.
I told them i could do a talk for them and said to contact me for my rates. They said, "No, no! We want you to be our teacher because we can see that you have the true power." I explained that I was just a magician using well known (to magicians) methods to get the desired results. They got really weird when they informed me that I didnt even realize I had "IT" and I was more than lkely keeping the truth from myself. I explained I had to go beack to work and that they should buy something or they should out of good taste leave. They did but the weird feeling stayed with me for quite some time that their were people who wanted to believe so bad they would not believe me when i all but sowed them what I do. Sad really.

That's my weirdest encounter other than the night I read palms for a hoot and was spot on and I was just saying what came to mind...freaked me out more than the readee.

Bryan
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Postby Robert Allen » 10/16/05 12:54 PM

something like 10% - 12% of the population is mentally ill to one degree or another
Hmm, this number seems REAL low to me based on my personal observations of society at large. But maybe it's just because I live in California...
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/16/05 01:31 PM

Originally posted by Robert Allen:
something like 10% - 12% of the population is mentally ill to one degree or another
Hmm, this number seems REAL low to me based on my personal observations of society at large. But maybe it's just because I live in California...
We are getting REAL close to a social boundary and Genii forum rule issue here. Much of what we know depends upon what we believe. Part of having a society involves some shared beliefs. We have a hugely diverse society. We have people who honestly believe they see angels and people who honestly believe they were abducted by aliens.

How we get along with others who see the world differently is a challenge with a long recorded history of ethics going back to ancient Greece. The adage "When in Rome do as the Romans" comes to mind here. The question comes as to how to know what "Rome" we are in when we are performing for a group.
Mundus vult decipi
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Postby Guest » 10/16/05 03:32 PM

I'm hoping to read more stories :)

and it's a good question that has been raised as a side-effect -- how to present to people who have already been attended by a large number of synchronicities and become used to them, or who have had prophetic dreams

presumably, if such people did exist and were to give their attention to a performance, it would be to enjoy the pretty play and the cool story, same as other people, "more localized" let's say ;)
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Postby Eric Rose » 10/16/05 05:46 PM

Originally posted by Jonathan Townsend:
The second thing I noticed in the description of the performance was that the audience was not engaged to participate WITH the performer in the experience. Even if they have far-out beliefs, they still had some motivation to resist the request of the performer. Such an issue is its own challenge. These folks merely had rationalizations ready to express their resistance.
Jonathan,

Actually, this one caught me off guard. I can usually spot the problems and either steer clear of them or take care of them head on. Maybe it was because it was at the end of a 3 hour strolling set. (It was a customer appreciation event for a corporate client.)

Or maybe I didn't foresee the problem because she was using those danged shields.....

Fortunately the client was pleased, even with the twilight zone ending. I recounted the event to him since they were his customers. He told me not to worry about it - they were very strange people and if he could do it over again they wouldn't be customers.
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Postby Guest » 10/16/05 09:19 PM

The oddest response I ever got was from my sister in law who believed demons were the ones that made the magic work. She believed they made Copperfield fly etc.. But was odd was she believed my kids show was also done by demons, like hippity hope rabbits....
Steve V
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Postby Curtis Kam » 10/17/05 12:43 AM

Odd responses? How long you got? I did an illusion show in Waikiki for 13 years, and eventually gathered a bunch of talented close up magician to work the tables before the show. I used to do it myself when I could, but things got busy as the stage show got more involved.

After the show, I'd go over notes with the "lounge wizards". We'd comiserate over weird responses, and look for themes, and solutions. I learned it's vitally important to understand what they're thinking out there in the dark.

Some things that happened much more often than they should have:

People came up to one of the close up guys (who looks nothing like me) and congratulated him on the fine job he did, first at the table,and then up on stage.

One couple sat there before the show, and politely refused to see any magic. "No, why would we want to see a magic trick?" they'd say. We started reviewing the guys approaches, unitl the staff told us they left when the show started. Apparently, they were there on the wrong day. They were waiting for the Polynesian show.

At one point, the show included a comedy sword through neck, and a hula presentation for the Zig Zag. One lady took her two children outside in the middle of the show. She commented to one of the guys, "He's not going to do any more tricks where he tries to kill people, is he?" Apparently the kids were concerned for the "victims" on stage.

One guy approached a lady sitting by herself, she asked him "what do you do?" He produced a coin, and did a quick vanish and reproduction. "I do this," he said. She looked at him sincerely and asked, "What's the point?"

And one from outside the show. I was watching another magician's illusion show with my dancer/boxjumper/female assistant. When they performed the Origami with the costume change finish, I asked her, "so what do you think?" She was disappointed that the trick was so obvious. She explained, "No one really believes she's in the little box, it's too small. And when she showed up in a different outfit, it was obvious that they snuck her out to change."

These are the Reader's Digest versions of stories I cover in my 2004-2005 lecture. I tell them to make the same point that has been raised here. There's no way to know what your audience is going to think. You have to ask. Clarity of effect is more ellusive than you might imagine.

I have also had the "Very Superstitious" response, too. The first time I sat down to perform for my in-laws, before the first trick was done, my sister-in-law took her kids in the other room to pray until I was done.

I try to make my audiences happy, but I'm convinced (indeed, I've been told directly) that the only way to make some percentage of the audience happy is not to perform. At that point, my obligation is to the folks who hired me, or asked me to perform.

I try to convey the idea that it's all in fun, but I think the battle's mostly lost if you have to stop and issue a disclaimer. Here's one method that sometimes works: I once did a version of Kollassal Killer to great response. Someone asked, "Are you Satan?" I replied, "Why, no, of course not--ACKKKK" And produced a stream of cards from my mouth. If it gets screams and laughs, it worked. If it only gets screams, you're cooked.

One more, to end:

I got a call one night from my other assistant. I had to speak to a relative of hers on the phone. She put him on the line. Turns out that he needed reassurance that David Blaine did not have supernatural powers. He was convinced, not by the levitation, which he thought was a common magic trick, but by the card tricks. He thought Blaine was a force of evil and someone should do something about him.

Well, I suppose I did the right thing by talking him out of it.
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Postby Jeff Haas » 10/17/05 01:57 AM

I think Blaine is immune to prayer.
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Postby Guest » 10/17/05 02:40 AM

Originally posted by Curtis Kam:
One guy approached a lady sitting by herself, she asked him "what do you do?" He produced a coin, and did a quick vanish and reproduction. "I do this," he said. She looked at him sincerely and asked, "What's the point?"
An extremely sensible question.

Decades ago, we were visting some friends, and I met someone who asked what my star sign was and didn't I think that Uri Geller was amazing. I replied that I didn't believe in astrology and that I thought that Geller was a very clever conjuror. She insisted that he had magical powers. To demonstrate that a trick could appear to be magic, I picked up a deck of cards that was laying there and performed a simple trick.

"That's magic!" she said.

I said "It was just a conjuring trick".

"No, it was magic" she said.

I showed her how it was done. (It was a very simple trick.)

And she still insisted that it was magic.

At that point, I gave up. It's nice to find gullible spectators, but when they're as gullible as that, conjuring becomes pointless. As does conversation.

I should add that nowadays I would be less likely to express an opinion on another performer. And I wouldn't expose an effect. This all happened many many years ago.

Dave
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Postby Guest » 10/17/05 04:01 AM

Originally posted by Dave Le Fevre:


I showed her how it was done. (It was a very simple trick.)
Regardless, shame on you.
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Postby Guest » 10/17/05 08:25 AM

Originally posted by Graham Nichols:
Regardless, shame on you.
You would appear to be making an assumption about me. And that assumption isn't valid.

But maybe I'm mistaken in assuming that you're making that assumption.

Dave
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Postby Guest » 10/17/05 08:51 AM

A friend of mine was doing restaurant magic in Australia (I think for a Mexican restaurant) and approached a table. He asked if they wanted to see magic and the reply was "You don't do the kind of magic we are into".

I think the cook magically spit in these customers' food.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/17/05 09:22 AM

Originally posted by Mark Ennis:
A friend of mine was doing restaurant magic in Ausrtalia (I think for a Mexican restaurant) and approached a table. He asked if they wanted to see magic and the reply was "You don't do the kind of magic we are into".

I think the cook magically spit in these customers' food.
Is this the standard way for restaurant workers to rebuff an unwanted performance?
Mundus vult decipi
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Postby Randy » 10/17/05 09:52 AM

Originally posted by Graham Nichols: At that point I would say "Three numbers are now becoming very clear after speaking with you....9-1-1"

Or maybe 6-6-6.............
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Postby Guest » 10/17/05 09:53 AM

Originally posted by Jonathan Townsend:
Is this the standard way for restaurant workers to rebuff an unwanted performance?
In Australia, it is on Page 3 of the employee manual of any good restaurant.
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