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Topic: The Art of Audience Manipulation!
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Dec 10, 2006 05:30PM)
Here is a topic many of you have experienced time and time again but may not have ever been aware of. It is something that we each experience but don’t realize it when it is really happening to us. Is there such a way in which a magician can essentially, by definition, manipulate the audience’s emotional and moral reactions to what they are viewing? Is there a way in which a magician can change the way the audience responds to what they are seeing on stage? This is the art of audience manipulation and the subject I would like to try and discuss a bit more.

This all came about when I finished watching a movie and stopped to think that my emotions were changed drastically from the start of the movie to what I was feeling at that moment. It was a weird experience for me. Most of the time, and I am sure many can relate to this, we just watch a movie and do not think about how we react to it at all. For some reason that day I did stop and started thinking about this a lot.

I realized that here was something so strong and powerful that it could be used as an ultimate tool in any magician or manipulators tool box. I realized that before the movie started I was feeling pretty stressed out and upset about issues from work. As the movie progressed I realized that my own emotions and attitudes were changing as I was watching what was happening on the screen. I laughed, I felt sadness, I was angry and all these things were happening directly to me without me ever really being aware that it was occurring in the first place. WOW! If a movie can manipulate how I felt, could this really be carried over to magical performance or manipulative acts? It got me really thinking.

I then realized that this theory is nothing new but perhaps it is new when applied to the art of magic. I realized that this idea of audience manipulation occurs in literature and poetry all the time. You read a book and as you read it mental images appear in your mind. The words on the page create thought and images but they also create emotional responses to. We can have a book or word manipulate the way we are thinking at any given time. Poetry is based on this idea alone.

Well if theater, movies and literature can directly apply this audience manipulation concept, why could it not be applied to the magical arts. I thought about this a lot and realized maybe that some are using this but a majority simply don’t because they are not tuned into it or even aware of the fact that this can happen and be used to create full magical moments for their audiences.

So why do we as manipulators of magic not use this wonderful device that is used so commonly in the areas I described above? Well maybe it is in part due to the nature of magic in general and how many of us come to find it. I think many magicians get so locked up into the object and trick part of what magic is. We get hung up on the mechanics and the techniques if you will and that is what fascinates us the most.

If this is the case, then it can be safe to say that it transcends itself into our performances. We get hung up on the objects and moves that we end up performing mainly for ourselves. We do the moves to impress our inner ego that we can do these hard moves. We then go for the “wow” factor that our inner ego screams for.

Perhaps also, it can be said that we do not utilize audience manipulation because we are also hung up on the fact that the audience is the audience and we are the magician. There is that idea and notion that you are on stage and they are in the seats and this invisible wall that exists should not be broken. We do not realize that we can reach out into the audience and directly manipulate them as well. It never crosses our minds because we are too busy concentrating on the manipulation of the objects of magic… whether they be cards, balls and so forth.

I started thinking about this new device of audience manipulation and wondered what it could do for any performer if used properly and if added as another tool in our magic arsenal. What could we do if we stopped to realize that we can break down that wall between performer and audience and instead of just manipulating the objects in our hands, we also, through our actions, can cause the audience to be manipulated as well. Could the audience really become another object a magician could manipulate just as easily as a deck of playing cards? It is a fascinating thought if one stops to think about it.

I think using this idea of audience manipulation can be such a powerful tool. Why wouldn’t any magician want the ability to control the way an audience feels or thinks at any given moment in their act or show? Instead of the audience just watching the magic and applauding its skillful value, they could be directly involved in the magic actually taking place. They could be brought into the magic. They could be caused to directly experience an emotion or feeling based directly on what the magician is doing. In this way the magician really is manipulating how the audience should feel at any given moment in the act/show. Pretty powerful stuff if one starts to think about it and adapt it.

But how do you apply this? Well once again I like to say that the answer lies in stepping away from magic. Look at what already does this well. Look at movies, theater, and books and poetry. Start to realize what is happening to you as you watch or read these things. What are you thinking and why are you thinking it? Are you starting to feel a different way at a certain point? Chances are the answer is yes and when you think about it you can often find out why.

In a lot of cases it can be a combination of music, words being spoken or even the lighting or the movement. Cinema and theater does this all so well. When you see the phantom of the opera you are made to feel fear due in part to the music being played and the lighting changing. The posture of the character changes with it and the words spoken may be more harsh and drawn out. All of these elements start to cause the audience to be manipulated into feeling a certain way.

So if this is the case, let us as magicians use these devices used in other art forms. Let us grab a hold of them and apply them to our magic. Let the audience be manipulated to be drawn into the magic you are presenting.

If the audience can feel sadness when you want them to or feel joy or amazement when you create it for them, isn’t that bringing your magic to an entirely new level? To me it brings it to a new art form entirely. It grows the art of magic. It changes it for the better.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. What ways do you feel you can utilize this concept in your own manipulative acts and magic shows? How can this be applied to create magic at a new level that engages your audience. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas on this.

Message: Posted by: Vogler (Dec 10, 2006 06:22PM)
Different forms of art (music, visual arts, cinema, literature) have common elements. This thing doesn't mean that they create the same type of emotion to the audience. Iam a painter. I love painting and visuals arts generally. When I'm front of a Mattisse painting, the joyment I receive is completely differene from what I feel when I watch a Francois Truffaut film. I chose those 2 artists to talk because both of them they are talking about joyment of life and pleasure in their works generally. But because of the different nature of their medium they are talking in a completley different way.
Magician's aim is first of all to accomplish the impossible. They are not characters to identify with them or hate them like watching a movie. Even if they are (I remember
old coperfields specials with small romantic stories) the story it was sideshow and VERY simplistic. I never liked those melodrama stories from DCspcials but I agree about their simplicity.
Because these stories they support magic.This is the aim in magic.Not the drama. So I don't think we can achieve this personal involvement like watching a good movie.
I want to say here that I liked a lot the magic and technique of DC always but not the silly stories. I feel he think that Im a bit stupid telling me and showing to me all these cliche stories

But I agree that we can go magic to another level without changing the aim of the art.I want to put a link her to show what I mean.Barry and Stuart are two british
excellent magicians and they are blow new meaning to magic.Please look:


They have story, with great dark humor and not cheesy. The support their great magic with it and I want to hear your opinion about that. I love them and I believe that they are really original.
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Dec 10, 2006 06:56PM)
Now that is what I am talking about. The video in the post is a clear example of taking magic to a newer level. They clearly were manipulating the audience through out the entire act and changing the way the audience reacts to it. Very powerful stuff and you could tell the audience was drawn in more closely because of it.

There are different ways to manipulate an audience and some of them I mentioned above. Not all of them have to play on an emotional level like a DC routine of old. Although DC has successfully used audience manipulation many many times and to a good effect.

However, it does have to relate back to who you are on stage and your character or personna you are taking on. It certainly needs to fit and be a part of who you are on stage to work well. What works well for one may be out of place for another.

This is not to say one way is better then another. It simply is intended to get us all thinking about our magic and the ways we can manipulate the audience to draw them into the magic more. In doing so, it is the hope that you can bring the magic to a higher level.

Thank you Juliano for sharing your thoughts with us. This is beginning to be a great discussion and sharing of thoughts and ideas and I thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. That is what helps us help each other.

Message: Posted by: Vogler (Dec 10, 2006 07:11PM)
You are welcome, and thank you also for your thoughts. I really like this forum!
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Dec 10, 2006 07:19PM)
Welcome to the magic Café Juliano. I think you will find a wealth of information here and a lot of grest discussions. =) It is my intention that this post may spark such discussion and get people thinking about their magic in a different way.

Message: Posted by: ufo (Dec 12, 2006 10:09AM)
Hey guys,
Good thoughts. Yes, once we hit the stage and have command of thier attention it is up to us to plant seeds in the audience's imaginations that let the magic grow to levels way beyond what it actually is in hard core fact.
This is the essence of theatre. We owe every audience a ride through the many colors of thier own thoughts and emotions. Eugene Burger has talked about this issue of "texture" so well in the past.
It is truly amazing how little shifts in tone, and speed or motion, voice, as well as lights and music can sway the audience into "Neverland". Imagination is a powerful thing and we have the ability to unleash the beast in many directions.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Dec 12, 2006 11:05AM)
Great post, Kyle... as usual.

What you're describing is not unique to magic. Other forms of entertainment use it too, but they call it showmanship. For instance, I was flipping channels the other day and caught a bit of an old special on Victor Borge. The guy's timing was perfect: a little pause here, a look at the audience there, a sudden movement. He manipulated his audience to get exactly the effect he wanted every moment he was up there on stage. Liberace was another one: the glitz, the comedy, the real music, and so forth, all designed to create a specific reaction. How different from watching one of the "straight" masters of classical piano music such as Horowitz, who were beyond perfect but focused only on the music. Yet each of these was an individual who made a name for himself as an individual.

Many years ago, when I was doing my cards-and-doves act, I started playing with manipulating the audience to see what would happen. I developed this bit where I placed a dove in a paper bag and inflated it, then I walked out to the footlights with the bag in my hands and looked at several portions of the audience -- right in the eyeball -- until they all quieted down. The musician was cued to stop playing at a certain point. For a couple of seconds, it was deathly quiet in the place. Then I very slowly nodded at the audience, while cracking just the tiniest bit of a smile... and burst the bag.

The reaction was exactly the same every time: a loud gasp from the antire audience. And they could all hear it because the theater was quiet, which was exactly what I wanted. :)

Then I slowly crumpled the bag and tossed it up in the air. The musicians were cued to start playing again the moment the bag started to come down. Then I went on with the effect, getting another gasp, a laugh, and finally a heckuva lot of applause. All from timing and focusing on manipulating the audience.

How different from just placing the bird in the bag, inflating it, bursting it, and tossing it away.

The funny thing was that I didn't get the idea for this bit from magic books or from watching other magicians: I got it from watching other types of performers, mostly on the Ed Sullivan Show and Hollywood Palace, which were still on the air back then. And darn if it didn't work!
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Dec 12, 2006 06:27PM)
Ed: Some nice thoughts here and I really love the idea that you expressed the concept of "planting the seed". This is so very true. The audience usually comes with no real certain idea of what to ezxpect. In a way you can look at this as fresh ground for which the magician can and should plant that seed so as to allow it to grow through the show or act. If done properly, then it can blossom into a total experience.

George: Thanks for the kind words my friend. I do appreciate it. You are right in that it is not unique to other art forms. However I think although it exists in magi and magical performance, I think we can safely say that it may not be used as much or as often as it could or should be. I think we as magicians tend to get so hung up on the "wow" factor or the effect itself that we forget that we can and should manipulate the audience as well.

You also give some really nice examples. Victor Borge was a master at manipulating the audience to take them on a journey and to make them feel what he wanted them to feel at any given moment. he knew the proper timing and what it took to deliver a line or physical comedy to really control the audiences response.

You bring up a god point in that I also did not derive of this concept from magic itself. I found it through really watching a movie and noticing directly how it was effecting me and making me feel and act a certian way. It really made me start thinking about this concept and the approach it could be used for magical performance.

Great ideas and discussion folks and I thank you all for sharing them with us. I hope others may chime in here with their own thoughts, ideas and examples on this concept.

Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Dec 13, 2006 11:56AM)
On 2006-12-12 19:27, magic4u02 wrote:
However I think although it exists in magi and magical performance, I think we can safely say that it may not be used as much or as often as it could or should be. I think we as magicians tend to get so hung up on the "wow" factor or the effect itself that we forget that we can and should manipulate the audience as well.
Bingo. But this isn't unique to magic either.

For instance, I work with a guy who plays jazz at a local bar that features live music just about every night. I've been there: most of the customers are jazz fans or jazz players who go over to hang out, have a drink, and listen to something they understand and enjoy. Some of these guys do outside gigs now and then too, but mostly they hang out at the bar to focus on the music itself, on the songs, the nuances, the playing styles, and so forth.

No different, IMHO, from a lot of magic clubs.

Then there are those others who are professional jazz musicians, and who are either on tour or ensconced at some venue for a while. They play the same material, but their focus is on making a living at playing music. These are the ones who are more likely to use showmanship techniques to make sure their audiences keep coming back.
Message: Posted by: JosephKerr (Dec 13, 2006 01:51PM)
I agree wholeheartedly. I am currently studying the best Storytellers that I know both personally and as performers. Watching them tell the same stories over and over and trying to deconstruct it.

You can get An Evening With Kevin Smith (Y'know from "Clerks" fame) and watch a masterful storyteller. One thing that I've learned from him is that an audience loves to be taken back to something familiar and I'm experimenting with that in my shows.

I recently performed in a showcase where a magician performed a beautiful straight Jacket routine. During Intermission I asked his permission to parody his act and he graciously approved. During a segment of my show where I am doing magic with toilet paper, I deviated from the set routine and had a woman wrapping me in the toilet paper. Of course the audience doesn't realize whats coming next until I hit the VSM and the Straight Jacket music from the other performer comes on. I begin to struggle in a matter that was similar to his and it was hilarious.

What I didn't expect was how strongly it would hit them. Many people approached me and let me know hat it was their favorite part of the evenning, More so than the original escape. Then I realized it was because of the "hook". I Let time go by and brought them back to something familiar. The straight Jacket routine had already evoked strong emotion in them including humour, suspense, drama, etc. By "Hooking" them back to that experience I brought all of those emotions flooding back with less effort.

Now to deconstruct my entire show and fix everything... This may take a while.

Keep this thread alive - Observe your performances and actually try to figure out why certain things are more successful than others
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Dec 13, 2006 07:14PM)
Great stuff guys. I think us magicians and manipulators just get so hung up on the fact that we know all these moves. Because we know the moves we feel we need to show the audience every single one of them regardless of whether it helps move the audience in some way. We have to wake up and realize that we are NOT there to perform for ourselves. We are there to entertain and audience and to do that you need to be in touch with their emotions and be willing to take them on a journey that YOU can create.

Joseph: AWWW I THANK you so much. You just touched base on one of my golden rules of creativity that I talk about so much these days in my writings and my lectures. This is the simple fact that your audience LOVES to be taken back to something that is familiar to them. I call this a "personality piece" in my shows and it is there for the very reason to connect with my audience on a different level and to move them and manipulate them the way I want to.

To break down the wall that exists between you and the audience, you can sometimes do this through an interactive piece where by you show the audience that you are JUST like them. You share the same fears, love, happiness and emotions as anyone in the audience. By doing this you start to connect with the audience. You can move them because they start to see you not as this figure that is greater then them, but as this person who is just like they are. They connect with you.