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Topic: Mime for all Magicians
Message: Posted by: Spellbinder (Oct 19, 2005 11:40PM)
Every magician (and especially those doing Wizard style magic) should learn the art of mime because we use the same principles in every sleight, every glance of misdirection, every bow we take. You don't have to be a professional mime to realize that there are times during any stage or street performance when the best thing to do is just "shut up" and play the role with a movement or gesture that speaks louder than words.
Message: Posted by: BroDavid (Oct 20, 2005 04:32PM)
Good advice Spellbinder!

Some, no make that most, magicians and other performers are afraid of silence. (the same goes for sales people)

But what they don't realize is that you can communicate equally effectively with your body, if you are self aware enough to do it.

And that too, self awareness, is a challenge for a lot of folks. They just perform and walk away. But after every performance, you have to examine every movement and every word and the response received to be sure that do what works best, and don't do what is distracting. I keep a notebook that records my "feelings" about what worked and what didn't and why..

Imagine Jack Benny just blabbering on and on.....No, it is hard to imagine because it just didn't happen. Jack was a master of the silent moment with a turn of his head, and his hand on his chin pondering while the audience caught up and became hysterical with enjoyment showed through their laughter. And the longer he was silent, the longer the laughter went on. Johnny Carson also used the silent moments to great and wonderful effect. No, they weren't magicians, but they and many other classic entertainers, Red Skelton, etc. certainly were flat out fine performers, and that is what I think Magicians need to target; becoming better performers, not just better magicians.

Message: Posted by: Frank Simpson (Oct 20, 2005 07:03PM)
Lest there should be confusion, mime does not [i]necessarily[/i] mean silent, particularly in magic. I use mime skills all the time during billiard balls and miser's dream while speaking. And if you are not well-skilled in mime, you just plain flat out should NOT do zombie, as that is the central skill that makes it believable in the first place.

Many years ago I studied mime with a friend who had just returned from a year of studying with Marcel Marceau. I remember miming opening a door used every limb of the body, not just reaching out with a hand, but the movement of the opposite hand and arm, the rotation of the hips, the angling of the neck... granted this is taking it further than most magicians need to, but I agree it would be wise to study the art [i]outside[/i] of the context of magic so that it can be applied appropriately to magic.
Message: Posted by: four elements (Oct 20, 2005 08:15PM)
Is there any mime book geared for a magician?
Message: Posted by: Frank Simpson (Oct 21, 2005 02:02PM)
I've never come across a mime book specifically for magicians. I might suggest just seeing what books are available at your local library. The task then becomes to ask yourself how it applies specifically to your magic.

Years ago I toured with a Children's Theatre company, and I frequently taught introduction to mime workshops. In its most stripped down form, the workshop addressed the topic thusly:

Mime is (essentially) acting without words or props. So we must find substitutions for these. In place of words we use body-language to indicate emotion, state of mind, etc. It's important to remember than when expressing "sad", for instance, that it is not just the face that shows the emotion, it's the entire body. For a magician this is an incredibly important skill when working to music. The performer's reaction to the effects is "sold" through body language, and is often the cue through which an audience knows how to experience an effect.

In place of objects we use illusion. (appropriate enough, right?) Many magicians call it simulation. For instance, holding the hand in such a manner as if it still contained the already vanished item. We must know the size, shape and weight of the object to convincingly simulate its presence.

Then a bit more advanced concept is that of isolation, which is the ability to move one part of the body independently of the rest of the body. This is the skill that is largely responsible for the mime's ability to be pulled along by a non-existent rope, for instance. Or to be imprisoned in the often seen "glass box". And it is this skill that is [i]absolutely essential[/i] for an effect such as zombie in order to create distinction between performer and prop.

Again I think your biggest challenges, in order, are as follows:
1. To learn accurate skills of pantomime.
2. To learn how and when to apply them specifically to magic.

Best of luck!
Message: Posted by: jimgerrish (Oct 22, 2005 08:45AM)
I would think "Third Hand" effects would also benefit from this kind of study. Spellbinder's "Poltergeist" (Wizards' Journal #6) requires as much mime as magic in order for the audience to "see" the ghost along with the Wizard.
Message: Posted by: Bill Nuvo (Oct 22, 2005 10:58AM)
Like Forever Plaid said, "mime does not necessarily mean silent" . Mime is the use of body movement to convey a message, emotion, story. I took some courses in miming and the first misconception we learned was that the mime is dressed in black with white face and says not a word. Adding words to mine can enhance the performance, although it becomes less universal (language-wise).

Some of the great performers in magic use choreographers. They utilize their talents, not just for the "dancing assistants", but for the magicians own personal movements: How to walk, stand, move.

In Andrew Maynes Illusiontech 01, he tells of David Copperfield spending a considerable amount of time learning from his choreographer how to close a door on an illusion.

Movement is very important as is body language.
Message: Posted by: carbone1853 (Oct 22, 2005 09:20PM)
A good book for magicians to learn mine is "Mime Spoken Here" Tony Montanaro.

It covers the basic mime illusions but more importantly for magicians is the chapter on Premise Work and Character Work.

Quotes form Mime Spoken Here:

Premise is the invisible “cause” governing the visible “effects”.

When a performer loses touch with the premise, the performance succumbs t ocross purposes and confusion.
Message: Posted by: four elements (Oct 23, 2005 08:58PM)
Forever Plaid
Well put.
Message: Posted by: raycrowe (Oct 25, 2005 06:38PM)

"Mime spoken here" is also available as a 2 video set from


The set compliment the book. I really enjoyed the videos and have lots of illusionary mime tricks on them as well as some fine exercises and creative processes.

I do believe however, that classical mime is like trying to learn classical ballet … you really need to be shown and corrected by a trained teacher.

Still the book and videos are a fine starting point into a mime technique.

Raymond Crowe

Posted: Oct 25, 2005 7:42pm
Whoops, I just read the other posts. I see the Videos are mentioned there. Oh well.
Message: Posted by: Professor Piper (Oct 25, 2005 10:31PM)
Great post and topic!!

I've used universal mime (my own terminology) for a very long time in many of my different performance areas (Juggling, Vent., Fire performance)..

I think I'm incorporating it naturally in my Magic (I'm realtively new to performing magic...Like a year now)...

This post has really made me think about it and I'll definately be more conscience of it from now on...

Thanks a ton!!

Prof. Piper

P.S...When I was in Vegas (93-95) I worked with an outstanding Mime named Mr. Freeze...He was one of the original members of the Rock Steady Crew of New York (They invented 'Break Dancing' in the 80's)...Mark was incredible...EVERY movement was precise...He had a routine to the song, "Long Train Runnin" that would blow you away!
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Nov 6, 2005 03:58PM)
Great idea for any performer. Absolutely. A Mime's movements are so precise and controlled, due to their intense awareness of each part of the body as a communicative instrument. And an awareness of how each part is used and affected in natural movement or emotion that allows them to convey whatever they wish in such a clear manner. That allows for the universality of mime. Any performer can benefit from learning to be more aware of and in control of their body and movements.
Message: Posted by: Fredrick (Apr 29, 2006 07:02PM)
On 2005-10-20 21:15, four elements wrote:
Is there any mime book geared for a magician?

One that was written by a magician for magicians is: Magic in Motion -
The Mechanics of Body Illusion by Ardan James. It is a nice introduction.

All the best ~ Fredrick
Message: Posted by: harris (Jun 6, 2006 10:24AM)
Back in the 80's I loved to combine Mime and Vent.

The programs were part of the Northern Nevada Arts in School Programs.

The art of illusion, compared and contrasted skills of a mime, magician and manipulating of puppets.

Pictures of me bending over backwards, make my back sore just looking at them.

Ah those were the days my friend....

You are appreciated for adding to this memorable topic by,

Harris Deutsch
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Jun 14, 2006 02:00PM)
Folks working on my coins across will find a mime background helpful if not necessary. There are times when one has to keep one or both hands isolated and also that mid-air vanish HAS to be sold by body attitude.

Message: Posted by: peculiarone (Aug 13, 2007 10:24AM)
Tony Montanaro is the bee's knees.
Message: Posted by: donrodrigo (Jan 25, 2008 05:52AM)
Who was one of the great mime magicians of his time?
C_____i got the answer?
Message: Posted by: jlevey (Mar 18, 2008 06:40PM)

...He worked magic with his persona and his films! ;)
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Mar 23, 2008 08:48PM)
On 2008-01-25 06:52, donrodrigo wrote:
Who was one of the great mime magicians of his time?
C_____i got the answer?


Many years ago at the Texas Renaissance Festival, there was a little blondheaded kid who would come up onstage after the noon proclamation was read, and he would try to inflict mime upon the audience that was busy leaving. One afternoon, he came up to me and asked me why people left while he was doing his mime.

So I told him that part of the reason was that the people were supposed to be leaving to see other scheduled acts. I also mentioned that there was another reason -- he didn't really understand what he was doing.

He asked what I meant. So I told him to do his mime piece for me. I could see that he was trying to do the "walking through a door" bit. I could also see that he was blindly copying what he had seen adult mimes do. He was about 5 years old, no more than 3 1/2 feet tall, and the doorknob he was reaching for was at his waist level.

So I stopped him. I said, "Close your eyes. Imagine the front door to your house. Stand in front of it. Now reach for the doorknob." He raised his hand to the height of an actual doorknob, and then he understood a lot more about what he was supposed to have been doing.
Message: Posted by: Scott Compton (Mar 29, 2008 07:39PM)
Many people confuse mime with pantomime. Mime is an offshoot of pantomime. The best example is walking. A pantomime replicates the actions of walking. Mime is more abstract and creates an illusion of walking. None of us would truly walk that way, but it conveys the illusion of walking. A mime could act like a bird and view the world as a bird would. A pantomime deals with reality - mime goes beyond reality. Both are essential to performing proper misdirection.


Day 29/31
Message: Posted by: Lucy (Mar 10, 2010 12:05PM)
One of the most effective and amusing uses of mime that I ever saw was my husband Bobs' performance as Snoopy when we did Charlie Brown's Christmas this past year. If you can imagine Bob the garrulous one in a part where he had no speaking lines. His every bodily nuance and facial expression told the story from Snoopy's point of view, and he upstaged the people with the speaking parts. That is stage presence and to my knowledge he has never studied mime, he is just exquisitely observant. We all use mime techniques whether we realize it or not. I would love to study mime too. It would be useful with my trained animals, and also in dealing with patients. I remember a psychologist who spoke volumes just cocking her head, raising her eyebrows and smiling a sad little smile. I will definitely look for Tony Montanaros' book.

Message: Posted by: DATMagic (May 1, 2010 10:59PM)
In the "Books of Wonder", by Tommy Wonder he discusses types of mime from where to look, how to balance yourself on the balls of your feet and even when to inhale and exhale during the climax of a trick. Really interesting reading.
Message: Posted by: Pat Perry (Oct 10, 2010 09:38AM)
I totally agree. A magician should learn so much more than just magic. Actually every theatrical discipline is part of magic. So vocal training, miming, dancing, improvisation, story telling ect. should be part of a serious magical education. Magicians I admire most, are all performers that combine magic with a different art forms. This way a performance gets a solid foundation. And mime is a perfect way to start with.
Message: Posted by: Dynamike (Nov 13, 2011 06:40PM)
On one of Jeff McBride's videos he mentions a magician should take mime, acting and dance lessons.
Message: Posted by: mtpascoe (Jan 3, 2012 04:00AM)
One of these days I would love to write a book on how to use mime in sleight of hand. I must finish my other projects before I can even think about starting this, but I think it would be very helpful to those that want to use simulation for example in using the fake take moves like the French Drop. Also, using isolations when picking up props helps to create drama and attention to it. Finally, picking up a fake prop by making it look like it has weight is also a great use of mime.
Message: Posted by: Horatio (Jun 6, 2013 09:11PM)
Really useful advice. Does anyone know if there's a supplier for Tony Montanaro's DVDs in the UK?
Message: Posted by: gregg webb (Sep 17, 2021 05:00PM)
Correct. Jeff McBride, already a magician, went to the American Mime College and was one of the first magicians I saw combining mime and magic, perhaps after Cardini, who was rather playing a character. This is a very good thread because it is the area of simulation that many magicians aren't working hard enough on acting like they have an object in the hand they pretended to put something "in". If you don't believe it, the audience won't either. Slydini understood all this too.
Anyway, Jeff McBride is a very good mime and I always am encouraging him to do a piece that is JUST mime and no magic...yet it would be magical.