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Topic: What is the POINT of it all?
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Jun 18, 2005 06:34PM)
I recently performed two new mentalism routines for audiences with a magic show structure. Both went down very well.

The first is a confabulation style routine revolving around me asking an audience member "have we ever met" and the asking her several questions. I then produce a love letter from her to me that 'proves' that she has been stalking me. I then apologies for embarrassing her in front of all these people but I 'needed' witnesses. There is a very clear PLOT to this routine and a point to everything.

The second routine was an autome booktest using three books. I brought up someone from the crowd, had them read the first line of the book and then, after more straining then a old person without enough fibre in their diet I told them what the word was. But there was no POINT. I was just showing off. It was like a five minute mental flourish that displayed nothing but a simple skill with no practical purpose. I felt like a show off!

So here is my question...how do you make mentalism (or magic mentalism) relevant to your audience?
Message: Posted by: Corona Smith (Jun 18, 2005 07:55PM)
Is it possible that in a magic setting these feats become just another trick to figure out?

What if you change the emphasis on to the audiences latent powers, and you humbly guide them on a voyage of self discovery?

In my opinion mentalism works best placed in a different context to magic shows. Perhaps more science, psychology or spiritual themed events.

It is relevant because most people have had odd experiences which they can't easily reconcile. And we like to think that we are not competely self contained and that we can commune in a deeper sense with other beings etc.

Of course I'm generalising and that makes two of us, we'll be all at it soon.

Regards, Corona.
Message: Posted by: Kaylan (Jun 18, 2005 09:01PM)
During your autome effect, try to make it so that the participant is the one displaying their powers. This way, you might not feel like a show off.
Message: Posted by: Paul (Jun 18, 2005 10:27PM)
Re:
"The first is a confabulation style rouine revolving around me asking an audience member "have we ever met" and the asking her several questions. I then produce a love letter from her to me that 'proves' that she has been stalking me. I then apologies for embarrassing her in front of all these people but I 'needed' witnesses. There is a very clear PLOT to this routine and a point to everything."

I'm not sure I like this presentation, get the wrong person up (who really may feel humiliated) or someone who has a jealous partner there and it may not go very well at all or cause rows afterwards! There are better prresentations.

Corona has valid observations in that it can be assumed to be just another clever trick. What is the point of the book test? You ought to think about that before you do it! :)

Mental routines can be great pieces to cause bafflement in a magic show, but their impact is diluted within the magic framework. One ruse that has worked for some in the past is to split the show into two halves, one magical and the other introduced as a change of pace and something different, as you move from the magic of the hands to the magic of the mind.

Paul.
Message: Posted by: Scott Cram (Jun 18, 2005 11:52PM)
Whenever you perform magic, you're also expressing something about who you are and how you view the world. All magic performances are this way, it's just that the better performers are the ones who more closely examine what messages they are conveying.

If your routines went well, then you were sending out some subtext that your audience received well, and that fit how they saw you, plot or not.

To make your magic relevant to an audience, you need to come up with what you wish to express, examine how well you're currently expressing that image and message, improve the expression, and the audiences who will respond to that will start to seek you out.

Except for the years of self-examination and hard work that this all entails, it's all so simple! :bg:
Message: Posted by: Scott Xavier (Jun 19, 2005 03:48AM)
Dear Nicholas,

That is a fundamental question. First we must ask why are you performing? Whats yopur audience? What claims do you make? What is your persona? Self evaluation my friend.
Message: Posted by: Stephen Long (Jun 19, 2005 04:10AM)
[quote]
On 2005-06-18 19:34, Nicholas J. Johnson wrote:
The first is a confabulation style rouine revolving around me asking an audience member "have we ever met" and the asking her several questions. I then produce a love letter from her to me that 'proves' that she has been stalking me. I then apologies for embarrassing her in front of all these people but I 'needed' witnesses. There is a very clear PLOT to this routine and a point to everything.
[/quote]

Here, you are trying to make 'plot' and 'point' appear synonomous. This is not always the case (and it's certainly never [i]inherently[/i] the case as you suggest). You've given the effect a theme, but not a reason for being. Why 'prove' that someone has been stalking you? What's the point?

Also, consider that there is room for effects in which the performer demonstrates a skill that the audience don't have. (It's what you pay money for when you go and see a musician perform, for example). However, generally these only have relevance (or perhaps more accurately, resonance) in magic if the audience find themselves wondering, 'What if I had that skill?' In that respect your book test was more resonant than your confabulation routine.
Message: Posted by: Scott Xavier (Jun 19, 2005 04:36AM)
One of the best feelings you'll ever get is:
"They're all there to see me!"

Especially in a college environment where one disclaims his butt off, the younglings are extremely receptive to the mysteries of the mind etc...
Message: Posted by: RickDangerous (Jun 19, 2005 06:16AM)
You should never ever "just" perform your miracles. The effects you do should present your character.
Stories, quotes things the audience can attach to themselve is important to make your effects more relevant. At the end you're just and entertainer, doin what you like and love and sharing some very exclusive moments. Always keep in mind that what you do is something very very special. And give this experience your audiences
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Jun 19, 2005 08:39AM)
Thanks all for the suggestions...it is much appreciated.
[quote]
On 2005-06-19 00:52, Scott Cram wrote:
Whenever you perform magic, you're also expressing something about who you are and how you view the world. All magic performances are this way, it's just that the better performers are the ones who more closely examine what messages they are conveying.

[/quote]

I find this style of performance quite self indulgent and makes the assumption that what I have to say or what I feel is actually interesting or important. Instead, I like to focus on what my audience would enjoy and like to see and use the skills that I have to do that.

The world is full of 'artists' who spend years honing their skills of communication and expression without thinking about what they are saying and whether it is worth being said.

I like to think of myself as an entertainer. My audience's enjoyment is paramount. I can learn more from them then they from me.


[quote]
On 2005-06-18 23:27, Paul wrote:

I'm not sure I like this presentation, get the wrong person up (who really may feel humiliated) or someone who has a jealous partner there and it may not go very well at all or cause rows afterwards! There are better prresentations.

[/quote]

Reading back over my description I realise that the routine sounds quite RUDE!

Obviously, the style, mood and emotion of a performance can not be communicated here in test, so you'll have to take my word for it that the presentation is that of comedy at MY expense. I.e. the comedy arises from the idea that this beautiful young woman would ever be interested (let alone stalk!) the likes of me! I gave it as an example of a presentation of mine that has a clear purpose.

I agree that mentalism is diluted within a magic presentation. I don't present my skills as spiritual or outside of the realm of possibility within a rational world but rather but a rather a 'real' skill that is just outside of the audience's reach. A little like being an expert reader of body language or human lie detector.

I experimented with this routine as an example or demonstration of how information is communicated with more then just words and how two people can be 'on the same page' without having to speak.


Yet in actually performing this routine for a live audience I came to realise that much mentalism can come across as a technical display rather then something with a purpose or a point. For example, a tarot reader will read cards to give advice. Yet a mentalist will bend spoons, determine words or duplicate drawings...but for what? To show that it can be done? Is that enough?

Is it an instance of fantasy wish fullfilment like a gambling routine?
Or is an example of striving for a goal, regardless of the point. A little like going for a world record in sticking matches up your nose? :)

Thanks you all for your thoughts. I look forward to reading your ideas!
Message: Posted by: Drewmcadam (Jun 19, 2005 08:47AM)
Corona says: “Is it possible that in a magic setting these feats become just another trick to figure out?”

Absolutely right.

If you want to see how to do it right, just watch Uri Geller. He is not simply standing there, doing something, and saying: “Ain’t I smart?” Rather, the shift of attention is on the audience – it is they who are making these phenomena occur. He is as surprised, overjoyed and delighted as everybody else when something happens.

Just doing it as another “trick” simply turns it into a puzzle for the audience to work out. And if they can’t work it out, they get frustrated. However, if they go away with the feeling that they were somehow involved in the success of the experiment, then they leave carrying with them a sense of wonder which they will always remember.

Drew
Message: Posted by: Tom Cutts (Jun 19, 2005 11:14AM)
I am going to go out on a limb here and contradict what I sense the words above convey. Doing magic and mentalism together has NO effect on the response to the mentalism. The performer has all the responsability for that.

TRUE, most magicians fail to present a mentalism piece in their show with the required forethought to really give it the impact it can achieve. Also TRUE, many magicians present their magic as little more than cute, unimportant puzzles. THAT is the cause of the lack of impact and THAT is the fault of the performer. It just so happens that such unimportant presentation is more redily accepted in magic than it is in mentalism.

Nicholas,

You wrote, "The world is full of 'artists' who spend years honing their skills of communication and expression without thinking about what they are saying and whether it is worth being said." Do you seriously believe someone would spend years honing their skills on something they did not think was important or worthy of being said? If so I would have to disagree with you.

Even the performer who gives the most ill advised performance, if he has honed it for years, considers it important enough to expend his time bettering it. He may be deluded to the truth, but his belief is nonetheless in the value of what he has to say.

If I hold your philosophy (I like to think of myself as an entertainer. My audience's enjoyment is paramount. I can learn more from them then they from me.) up to your actions, I am left asking, "What did your audience do to make you think they wanted you to do these things you have done?"

Therein lies your answer, I believe.

Cheers,

Tom
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Jun 19, 2005 06:21PM)
Tom - I think that often people's love of performing their craft (whether it be magic, art, dance or nude jelly wrestling) can be a barricade in true expression. There is a certain degree of inherent expression in sharing something you love but I see a lot of so called art that is little more then an excuse for the performer to show off their skills. I believe the reason why there are so many struggling artists is because they tend to look inwards to their own sense of self rather then outwards into the world around them.

I agree that magic is too often reduced to puzzles under the excuse that "people don't really believe in magic..." I like to create a fun and enjoyable ride so that people don't CARE about HOW its done. Often I find that the first step in doing this is to say "WHY is it being

What do you see as the underlying purpose of performing mentalism as opposed to magic?

Just an extra thought..whilst it could be true that mentalism in a magic show WEAKENS the 'effect' I find that the presentation I have applied to confabulation makes it better entertainment even though it becomes less 'believable'.

Is believability the goal of mentalism?
Message: Posted by: Drewmcadam (Jun 19, 2005 06:31PM)
For me, the “underlying purpose of performing mentalism as opposed to magic” is that the participant has an emotional attachment to what you are revealing, whether that be the name of their childhood sweetheart, their first pet, or the number of the house where they lived as a child. (Taking them back their, making them relive the feelings and emotions they had at the time.) I think that the real power of mentalism is to actually touch the participant in that place where their sense of wonder resides, on a personal level. It’s the difference between standing on some distant stage bending a spoon (which or may or may not have a hinge/secret trapdoor/ rubber waist, and having the participant’s own spoon actually bend in their hand, and then leaving it with them as a souvenir of something THEY did.

I have often had a gaggle of girls come up to me, begging me to tell them the names of THEIR first boyfriend, as I had earlier done for one of their friends. I cannot imagine the same thing, with them demanding that I put THEIR card into a balloon!

It’s the ACTING behind the effect that makes it work, along with the emotional attachment that the participant feels, and I don’t think that many “magic tricks” can do that. (But then again, being a mentalist, I stand before you, ready to be corrected!)

Best wishes,

Drew
Message: Posted by: Richard Osterlind (Jun 20, 2005 09:41AM)
[quote]
On 2005-06-18 19:34, Nicholas J. Johnson wrote:
I recently performed two new mentalism routines for audiences with a magic show structure. Both went down very well.

The first is a confabulation style routine revolving around me asking an audience member "have we ever met" and the asking her several questions. I then produce a love letter from her to me that 'proves' that she has been stalking me. I then apologies for embarrassing her in front of all these people but I 'needed' witnesses. There is a very clear PLOT to this routine and a point to everything.

The second routine was an autome booktest using three books. I brought up someone from the crowd, had them read the first line of the book and then, after more straining then a old person without enough fibre in their diet I told them what the word was. But there was no POINT. I was just showing off. It was like a five minute mental flourish that displayed nothing but a simple skill with no practical purpose. I felt like a show off!

So here is my question...how do you make mentalism (or magic mentalism) relevant to your audience?
[/quote]

Nicholas,

I hesitate to comment about your question because there will be those who will accuse me of simply hawking my books, but the very questions you ask are some of the ones I deal with in my Making Magic Real ebooks. Let me try to sumarize without going into the kind of detail that took books to write.

If you exhibit a type of "power" that is appealing to your audience, a power they would love to have because it could enrich and improve their lives, they will be VERY interested and THAT is the point. You are demonstrating your abilities to show them the huge potential of the human mind. (and possibly THEIR OWN abilities)

As for showing off, that is another point I have addressed. Most magicians and mentalists miss the basic formula of good theater. That is - Get the hero up a tree, throw rocks at him, get him out of the tree. You have to create a sense that what you are doing may not work - that you may fail because it is so impossible. You must make the audience believe that you are working hard at doing something very important and worthwhile, but which is at the edge of your "powers." You have to get them on your side and "rooting" for you so, when you finally do what you are attemping, they will be overjoyed at your success! You can't do that if you simply come accross as a "show off."

Again, this is only the tip of the iceberg. I will be addressing these points even further in my new works.

Richard
Message: Posted by: God-glorified (Jun 20, 2005 09:54AM)
Good insight richard....Ill look into getting those books now
Message: Posted by: Tom Cutts (Jun 20, 2005 04:44PM)
Hmmm... I'm not convinvced an artist's worth is in how the world sees him so much as how he sees himself. Emphasising the economic or social success of art is a dead end street. Many of the artists now held to be truly great were unappreciated in their own times. They did however, hold to their own model of what their art should be.

If your barometer of success is the widest common denominator of your audience, you are not likely to create enduring, meaningful art. You might however be wildly sucessful financially, even if that leaves you with the empty question: "What is the meaning of all this?"

[quote]What do you see as the underlying purpose of performing mentalism as opposed to magic?
[/quote]
Because it is much more emotionally rewarding to me.
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Jun 20, 2005 05:57PM)
[quote]
On 2005-06-20 10:41, Richard Osterlind wrote:

Nicholas,

I hesitate to comment about your question because there will be those who will accuse me of simply hawking my books, but the very questions you ask are some of the ones I deal with in my Making Magic Real ebooks. Let me try to sumarize without going into the kind of detail that took books to write.

If you exhibit a type of "power" that is appealing to your audience, a power they would love to have because it could enrich and improve their lives, they will be VERY interested and THAT is the point. You are demonstrating your abilities to show them the huge potential of the human mind. (and possibly THEIR OWN abilities)

As for showing off, that is another point I have addressed. Most magicians and mentalists miss the basic formula of good theater. That is - Get the hero up a tree, throw rocks at him, get him out of the tree. You have to create a sense that what you are doing may not work - that you may fail because it is so impossible. You must make the audience believe that you are working hard at doing something very important and worthwhile, but which is at the edge of your "powers." You have to get them on your side and "rooting" for you so, when you finally do what you are attemping, they will be overjoyed at your success! You can't do that if you simply come accross as a "show off."

Again, this is only the tip of the iceberg. I will be addressing these points even further in my new works.

Richard
[/quote]

YOU'RE JUST HAWKING YOUR BOOKS!!!! ;)

Seriously, thanks for that great advice. I'll check out your books asap!
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 21, 2005 12:21AM)
Nicholas:

I came to this thread rather late. But maybe I can add some input that makes some sense to you.

When you are doing any mental routine, you need to understand what the point of it is before you work out the plot. Let me explain this using the book test as an example.

Why do a book test in the first place? Is it because you own one? Is it because that's the way you can apparently read their minds? Well these may be the real reasons, but you can't let the audience know that or you ruin the suspension of disbelief.

When I do a book test, the opening bit goes something like this:

"If I were to stand up here and just start reading thoughts at random, I would get a combination of rather strong thoughts and some background noise, something like what you might hear over an old radio. But if I can have someone who is a really good transmitter visualize a thought that was actually composed by a professional thinker, that would make it a lot easier for me. To do this, I have brought along these books." And you show the books. Then you go into the book test and have them visualize the thoughts. Never refer to them as words. Call them thoughts. And then get the pictures.

I don't usually use Autome. I have a different system. But it works and it is very convincing.

By doing what I have outlined here, you make the spectator the one responsible for the transmission. And they will really try harder.
Message: Posted by: Traveler (Jun 22, 2005 12:28AM)
Richard,
I'm sure many of us look forward to those new books... "principles of magic", isn't it ? Sounds great...
I loved your first trilogy, but I always believed it should have been books instead of e-books... But that's a personal preference...
Good writing,
Message: Posted by: Richard Osterlind (Jun 22, 2005 08:45AM)
Traveler,

Thanks for the compliments! I never know where a book is going until I finish writing it. I am working constantly on the new one right now, but have no idea how long it will be or when it will be finished. As for the format, I promise that one day EVERYTHING will be in one book, but I want that one to be complete and my mind is still far from complete!

Richard
Message: Posted by: Julian Kestrel (Jun 22, 2005 08:57AM)
The first is a confabulation style routine revolving around me asking an audience member "have we ever met" and the asking her several questions. I then produce a love letter from her to me that 'proves' that she has been stalking me. I then apologies for embarrassing her in front of all these people but I 'needed' witnesses. There is a very clear PLOT to this routine and a point to everything.

So here is my question...how do you make mentalism (or magic mentalism) relevant to your audience?
[/quote]

Nicholas,

What have you done here is to create a "Sucker Trick" for Mentalism. Sucker tricks are the bane of the trade. They diminish the performer, and the audience . They also act as a caveat, that to become a volunteer can be akin to being a victim. I do not understand why any performer would ever wish to use a volunteer in so ill a fashion.

To make your Mentalism or any of your work relevant, you first need to establish a rapport and possess a strength of character on stage and off that does not create the impression of thriving upon the diminishment of others. That sparticular style of performance while popular with magicians, seldom has appeal for legit audiences.

Julian Kestrel
Message: Posted by: jo (Jun 22, 2005 10:17AM)
I admit to having similar thoughts to yours Nicholas, when I started out in Mentalism. It led to much frustration and for about 3 years I tried to "find my feet" and what it was that I felt comfortable with performing, and how to get through to my audience. I've always opted for an "interactive experience", trying to include as many people as possible. With Mentalism that job isn't easy.

Along that journey I discovered what I felt comfortable with performing, and I looked at the sublte differences between Mental Magic & Mentalism... as defined by the current thinkers in this art. But even some of these thinkers contradict their positions or opinions by their performances or products - eg... they call themselves Mentalists and then perform Mental Magic.
The reason I mention this is only to show that this entire art has many facets, depending entirely on the performer's intent. And foremost, at least for me, that intent MUST include entertainment. What else is this all for then?.. if not to entertain.
Whether you stand up on stage in front of 100's or show a single someone an effect in a dark alley, your intent is still to entertain. (Whether you succeed at it or not is another matter).

But to answer your initial question "how to make Magic/Mentalsim relevant to your audience", you need to ask "what is it you're trying to achieve through this form of entertainment?"
Are you wanting to display your abilities? Show the potential of the human experience? Make people laugh, cry, feel emotion? Give your audience hope? Or just a good time? What do you want the EFFECT to be? (food for thought: as performing artists I feel we should get back in touch with what the term EFFECT means).
These are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

My current show, which is still evolving, is very much directed towards an experience the audience can share - either between themselves or with me, or both. I take the role more of a catalyst or facilitator to this "magical experience". The focus shifts from me as an entertainer in the beginning immediately to the participants joining me on stage while they get to "test" their abilities (as an example think: "They Hell Fire" by John Riggs). The rest of the show is set-up so that it builds and shifts focus back to me, culminating with more "unbelievable" type effects... but by then the audience has a vested interest in what I am doing and they want me to succeed. Because I have made them a star from the start they are more willing to believe what they experience. (btw, I claim nothing and make no disclaimers). That is my answer to making what I do relevant to the audience... involve them and make them succeed... be a star!

Ps... Both Richard Osterlind and Richard Busch's books have been very inspirational to this line of thinking, as well as Derren Brown's performances.

Hope this helps.

regards

Jo