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Topic: Balance of Magic and Story
Message: Posted by: MagikDavid (Apr 9, 2009 01:44PM)
Hopefully, this will spawn some meaningfull discussion. I've seen many magicians recently who tell such a long, fast-paced, convoluted story, during their performance, that it seems to compete with the strength of the magic effect itself. The spectator listening becomes so tired of trying to keep up with, and absorb the story, that by the time the magic happens, they're somewhat 'less than impressed' (...if not totally disinterested.)

Don't misunderstand... I know the importance of good story-telling during some magic effects. I also realize the importance of a well-scripted story, used as a tool to combat a performer's nervousness. It just seems that with some, their routine comes across more as a recital than a magic performance. I know someone who has a long story for every effect he does (including quick visual effects like Card-Warp.)

What are your ideas on a good balance between magic and story... that won't make the spectator's eyes glaze over after three minutes?

Dave
(P.S., If this has been discussed here before, I apologize. I couldn't find it.)
Message: Posted by: Jaz (Apr 9, 2009 03:31PM)
My opinion is that whether it's a story or simple patter that it should be guide the spectator through the effect without confusing anything.
Movements and patter should work together in a smooth manner.

Pauses while talking with the spectators is fine as long as it don't take so long that they forget what is happening.

However, I do believe that there are routines where an entertaining story that ends with a brief magic effect or climax would be OK. I'm thinking bizarre magic where a story sets a mood and ends with some majick.
Message: Posted by: Vick (Apr 9, 2009 11:47PM)
Your story shouldn't compete, it should complement. The words spoken, the path taken are part of the complete experience

The magic is part of the story, the verbal presentation is part of the magic. As much as the effect.

It is a total presentation and shouldn't be able to be noticed separately

Could you please give an example? Maybe a video of?
Message: Posted by: MagikDavid (Apr 10, 2009 02:51AM)
Jaz and Vick... thanks for your comments. You both are 'right on'. The truth is, I don't know exactly why the magician I mentioned annoys people so much. Maybe it's just as simple as his personality or delivery. I've actually heard spectators comment to each other, "I wish he would just shut the H*** up." Although his stories do in fact relate to the magic, they just come across pretentious and disingenous. Also, the stories don't seem to have a common thread or normal progression, which makes it difficult to discern a general theme for the performance. Vick, I think you hit it on the head with your comment, "It is a total presentation and shouldn't be able to be noticed separately."

Sorry, I don't have a video or a good specific example. But he DOES bill himself as a 'MAGICIAN.' Technically, his magic is solid... however his connection with the audience (on a human level) is almost non-existant. He does attempt eye contact during his patter, but he comes across over-bearing. This makes the audience visibly uncomfortable. I think he actually feeds off their discomfort (mistaking it as a sign that they're being mystified by his performance.)

I have another friend who performs his entire act in story form and poetry. The difference is, at least he bills himself as a 'magical story-teller'... not as a 'magician.' His performances captivate the audience from beginning to end... his timing and magic insertions are well balanced and make sense contextually. With his words, he leads the audience on a journey of fantasy and mystery which they obviously enjoy.

Dave
Message: Posted by: Vick (Apr 12, 2009 12:33AM)
Now I understand Dave
Message: Posted by: BillyTheSquid (Apr 12, 2009 02:12PM)
I'm reminded of the "Marucci Principle" for storytelling with magic - the story should be interesting and strong enough to be able to stand on its own [i]without[/i] the magic.

If you read some of Chelman's work, you'll see that during the storytelling, there are a number of things that are either handed around, shown, acted out etc so it's not simply just talk talk talk during the build up.

In today's MTV style culture where a 30 second advert may have anything from 20 to 50 clips flashed in front of your eyes (personally these make me feel sick and I switch over when these cra_pverts come on), people expect almost instant gratification in things and their attention span isn't what it used to be. However, usage of voice tonality, stance, movement, props, suspense etc can extend the attention span by breaking up a longer routine into smaller segments of interest which I find keeps the participants on board.

Cheers,
Matt
Message: Posted by: TonyB2009 (Apr 17, 2009 07:52PM)
I come from Ireland where there is a strong oral storytelling tradition. I love nothing more than sitting down to listen to a good storyteller, and I have been lucky enough to have known and listened to some real talented guys. Then, over a decade ago, I did six weeks in Lapland with a great British storyteller, John Rowe, and it changed the way I do my children's act. Now my stories are as important as my magic. Rather than play a magician I play a character to whom strange and weird things happen on a regular basis. I tell the kids about these strange and weird things, and the magic happens almost as an incidental.
For younger children, especially girls, I sometimes begin with a ten minute story and no magic. And there are no complaints, even though I still bill myself as a magician.
I guess it depends on how it is done. I have seen some bizarre magicians who make convoluted stories that are just excuses for mediocre magic. One columnist in The Linking Ring tells terrible stories and drives me round the bend. As was already pointed out, the story should be strong enough to stand on it's own, without the magic. If it isn't, don't tell it.
In many cultures storytelling is an art in itself. I am lucky enough to come from such a culture. I feel that I am doing my bit to keep that tradition alive. Sometimes, in libraries and schools, I do a pure storytelling set.
I don't know whether John Rowe has any recorded material out, but if you want to check a great children's storyteller, then look for material by Eddie Lenihan. For material aimed at a family and adult audience, try the late Eamon Kelly. Some of his stuff is on youtube.
Message: Posted by: SpellbinderEntertainment (Apr 21, 2009 02:33PM)
As we prepared “Eccentrics of the Barbary Coast” currently playing at the San Francisco Magic Parlor in San Francisco, we had a four-tiered test we used to decide if a piece would potentially work in a full-evening of storytelling/bizarre magic.

--Would the story stand on its own as entertainment with no magic?
--Would the magic stand on its own with no story?
--Were both compelling, emotionally meaningful, and succinct?
--Were both able to seamlessly blend and combine into a unified whole?

If all four criteria were met,
we then decided if the piece perfectly fit the theme of the show,
and next where in the program it could best be placed for maximum impact.

Then during the rehearsal and preview processes we honed the script
to become as brief as it could be ,but still have sense and impact,
and worked to make the magical moments as clear and highlighted as possible.

All this was not foolproof,
especially performing an entire show with a unifying theme,
but we’ve had a great response so far,
and think we’ve made a lot of headway in avoiding
the “long boring story” or
the “not enough impact of the magic”
traps talked about here.

Magically,
Walt
Message: Posted by: funsway (Apr 24, 2009 04:02AM)
When I was doing "Camp Wandering" at Medieval outings I would tell stories suitable to the audience and setting and days events. Sometimes I would incorporate magic for emphasis or attention. Sometimes I was asked to retell a story at another time and did not include the tricks. What I learned is that the way I moved my hands and body was most remembered. The sudden production of a silk to represent "love" is just a gesture. Use exagerated movements and sweeping hand movements that engage the audience. Magic is just another form of communication. Almost every Aesop Fable, for example, can utilize a bit of magic to emphasis the moral or theme, but your energy and animation will instil the message.
Message: Posted by: akolodner (Apr 24, 2009 08:39PM)
Magical moments in the story should be demonstrated with tricks that further or embellish the plot like the songs in musical theater.
Message: Posted by: The Curator (Apr 30, 2009 11:12AM)
Did you explore the spookies section lately ?
http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=310211&forum=14&25
Message: Posted by: Crowslide (Apr 30, 2009 11:06PM)
I've long held an idea that when we are introduced as magicians, that while the audience may be surprised at "what" we do, they are not surprised "that" we did it. We were presented as magician and they got magician. BUT.. when introduced as a storyteller, who then goes on to tell a really good story that holds the mind and heart of a listener..and at just the right time creates an unsuspected magical moment...then we are crossing over into the realm of wonder, myth, and enchanted surprise. As a listener I can't stand many magician storytellers, but I love storytellers who bring me magic.

Often the story seems like an excuse to do magic.
What if the story lived and breathed in it's own right, and was only enhanced by the magic?
Message: Posted by: MagikDavid (May 1, 2009 10:59PM)
Thanks everyone for the comments on this subject. When I started this thread, I was hoping for some meaningful discussion. I'm not dissappointed! You guys have a lot of great info here.

It's becoming clear to me that there is a definite distinction between a magician who tells stories... and a storyteller who uses a little magic. My original post was about the 'BALANCE' of magic and story. If we don't want to lean heavier in one direction or the other, how do we strike a balance between the two so that both interest groups would be interested in our performance?

Dave
Message: Posted by: puppeterry (May 2, 2009 01:22AM)
Dave,
To satisfy both markets, the magic had better be above the Linking-Paper-Clips-level, which I have been using for years in a story of a star-crossed romance (somewhere in the realm between "Pyramus and Thisbe," "Romeo & Juliet," and "The Fantasticks") that plays very well to storytelling audiences.

A simple bit of magic is a pleasant surprise for the teller crowd.

The Librician
Message: Posted by: Geoff Akins (Jan 1, 2016 10:00PM)
Sorry for resurrecting such an old thread but this is GOLD! Thanks, again, Walt! This is just the sort of framework and flow chart I need at the moment.

[quote]On Apr 21, 2009, SpellbinderEntertainment wrote:
As we prepared “Eccentrics of the Barbary Coast” currently playing at the San Francisco Magic Parlor in San Francisco, we had a four-tiered test we used to decide if a piece would potentially work in a full-evening of storytelling/bizarre magic.

--Would the story stand on its own as entertainment with no magic?
--Would the magic stand on its own with no story?
--Were both compelling, emotionally meaningful, and succinct?
--Were both able to seamlessly blend and combine into a unified whole?

If all four criteria were met,
we then decided if the piece perfectly fit the theme of the show,
and next where in the program it could best be placed for maximum impact.

Then during the rehearsal and preview processes we honed the script
to become as brief as it could be ,but still have sense and impact,
and worked to make the magical moments as clear and highlighted as possible.

All this was not foolproof,
especially performing an entire show with a unifying theme,
but we’ve had a great response so far,
and think we’ve made a lot of headway in avoiding
the “long boring story” or
the “not enough impact of the magic”
traps talked about here.

Magically,
Walt [/quote]
Message: Posted by: Sh9bum9 (Jan 2, 2016 05:12PM)
Thanks for the criteria Walt. I started as a storyteller, but wanted to use magic as a kicker. I plan to use your thoughts to unify my act.
Message: Posted by: Sh9bum9 (Jan 2, 2016 05:16PM)
PS Peter Marucci ROCKS! Miss his columns and hope they're reprinted in book form one day.
Message: Posted by: Louigi Verona (Jan 28, 2016 03:54PM)
I really like what Crowslide said.

I really like story telling. And I would rather not call my performance a magic show. I do a lot of mentalism, which in itself is already different from "magic" and many mentalists avoid using the term, so that people don't expect sleight of hand and making things appear and disappear.

I would prefer for my performance to be a theatrical act that is storytelling with magic rather than the other way around.

However, it is also fair to say that the show does not have to be uniform. One part of it can be mostly storytelling, the other can be a succession of magic tricks.

And I do agree that a lot depends on how captivating you are as a storyteller. Sometimes when Max Maven gives his presentation, I would wish he would continue with storytelling and not show a magic trick :)


But then again, things like mentalism are much easier to incorporate into a story, I find, then sleight of hand.
Message: Posted by: JassTan (Nov 4, 2016 08:01PM)
[quote]On Apr 9, 2009, Vick wrote:
Your story shouldn't compete, it should complement. The words spoken, the path taken are part of the complete experience

The magic is part of the story, the verbal presentation is part of the magic. As much as the effect.

It is a total presentation and shouldn't be able to be noticed separately

Could you please give an example? Maybe a video of? [/quote]

Well said Vick, story shouldn't compete, it should complement.
People come to see your magic, the story can help them focus more on the experience.
Message: Posted by: funsway (Jan 12, 2017 03:20AM)
I am reviewing/revising some of my thinking on this "balance."

For any audience today a majority may never have seen a good LIVE magic performer or heard a good LIVE storyteller.
Even though TV has mangled the word "live" to mean "happening now, sorta" as opposed to "recorded earlier, I use the term to me "nothing between you and the performer but air."

The impact of impressions on an audience when performing live is much more sweeping than when viewed through the equivalent of a toilet paper tube.
A combination of good story and good magic may be essential to having any affect on an audience - if you desire something more than just fleeting entertainment in competition with cellphones.

This may be your only opportunity to provide a magical experience for a spectator. Give it everything you have.
Message: Posted by: friend2cptsolo (Jan 30, 2017 09:53AM)
[quote]On Jan 12, 2017, funsway wrote:
I am reviewing/revising some of my thinking on this "balance."

For any audience today a majority may never have seen a good LIVE magic performer or heard a good LIVE storyteller.
Even though TV has mangled the word "live" to mean "happening now, sorta" as opposed to "recorded earlier, I use the term to me "nothing between you and the performer but air."

The impact of impressions on an audience when performing live is much more sweeping than when viewed through the equivalent of a toilet paper tube.
A combination of good story and good magic may be essential to having any affect on an audience - if you desire something more than just fleeting entertainment in competition with cellphones.

This may be your only opportunity to provide a magical experience for a spectator. Give it everything you have. [/quote]

Thanks Funsway! This is a good thread to keep alive and revisit every now and then.
The ever present glow of the TV tube and cellphone screen has society viewing events through augmented reality; the human brain can become addicted to HYPER-processing.
This is in direct competition to actual LIVE events that can not happen at the same speed and multiple camera views of edited video.
Message: Posted by: friend2cptsolo (Jan 30, 2017 10:29AM)
I think a great thing with storytelling magic is that it can have more props. Like pictures and old boxes and all sorts of items that might fit with or embellish the story, and that now adds the other senses that TV and electronics can not engage. If you have something old that someone gets to touch or use it can connect with them, it might smell old also. These are things that help us, it helps drive story and authenticity.
We have more than just the 5 senses.
Pressure
Itch
Temperature
Pain
Thirst
Hunger
Direction
Time
Muscle tension

Because we all have a remembrance of what pain,thirst or hunger might feel like a good story can make a spectator feel that again(on their terms). The absence of the constant screen flicker from TV and Cellphone actually allows the sense of sight to dull and can now make us aware of other senses. Which good books do, from the absence of sight and sound.
Message: Posted by: Penduluminary (Jun 6, 2019 02:25PM)
This thread is a joy to read and educational.

Does anyone have any signposts to storytelling magic performers or videos of performers doing great storytelling magic?

I recently came across a video of Christian Cagigal performing at the The Magic Castle. I was blown away by the presentation.