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Topic: So I wrote a story on what's wrong with illusions...
Message: Posted by: EsnRedshirt (Aug 29, 2012 10:01PM)
Harsh Critic
by ~Esnredshirt

"You know what the problem is with those big illusions?"

"No," smiled the Magician, "What do you say it is?"

She pursed her lips. "Well, they're boring. Everything's been done."

"Really? I just showed you several new ones. My Ultimate Sawing, the Box of Doom, and-"

"Oh, yes, I enjoyed them. The effects were very interesting. I have no idea how you do them. But they're still predictable."

"How so?" asked the magician, slightly bemused. Rachael MacKell, entertainment writer for The Daily, had always been his harshest critic. Despite her invaribly lukewarm reviews, though, he always managed to sell out his shows.

Rachael stood up from her seat in the front row and walked up onto the stage. "Take the sawing, for instance." She peered closely at the table. The magician smiled- even the closest examination wouldn't reveal the secret. "You introduce a table, or a box with doors and a cut down the middle, or a saw, and it's obvious right from the start that someone's going to get cut in half... Okay, I'll give you points for making the sawing vertical. That was novel, but it was still broadcast."

"And there's your whirling blade thing box-"
"The Box of Doom," he offered.
"Yes. The moment the lights came up, I knew someone was getting put inside. Probably tied up, too, to attempt to escape. And I was right. There was zero tension for me as the steel plate pushed her towards the whirling blades."
"But she didn't."
"Yes, yes. I know. There was blood everywhere as you stuffed her through that cuisinart. The horrified gasps were from the shock value. Very misogynistic. But Cris Angel did the same thing, to himself, with a wood chipper. And I've seen dozens of magic shows- your box is just a twist on the cremation illusion. I spotted her pulling the curtains before the finale."

"I guess I can't please everyone, can I?" The Magician shrugged.

"Oh, and before I forget- that sword box. Box. Swords. Pretty assistant gets inside. I don't even need to go further- I know exactly what's going to happen."

"Ms MacKell, there is a long history of stage magic. I perform the classics, but I always try to give my audience what they really want. You know that when an illusionist is sliding his swords through the small box containing his assistant, so small there is no room to maneuver out of the way, half the audience is wondering, "Is she really still in there?"

Rachael rolled her eyes, "So you opened it and showed them that yes, she is. Thoroughly impaled, too." She looked around the stage again, at all the props the stage hands were cleaning up and putting away for next evening's show. "It's like the knife thrower at the circus. Everyone watches and thrills, but secretly they're hoping he makes a mistake. Your sword box is still a sword box." She turned and looked into his eyes. "Just once I'd-"
The Magician raised his eyebrow.
"-like to see-"
The Magician snapped his fingers.
"-something com...plete..ly..." her words trailed off as she fell in a trance. "... diff...rent..."
She blinked. The Magician placed his index and middle finger gently on her forehead. Pushed slowly.
Rachael tilted backwards, falling, and exploded into hundreds of butterflies, which fluttered around the theatre in every direction.


The girls giggled. "Hey, Boss, did you see this review?" Marisal read dramatically- "Like a caterpillar emerging from its cocoon, each illusion spreads its wings like a magnificent new species of butterfly. You might think you know what's inside the cocoon, but you will still be amazed every time..."
Laurel grabbed the paper away. "She calls you 'The monarch of magicians.' What's with all the butterfly stuff?"

The Magician just smiled. "Shouldn't you ladies be getting ready? We're on in fifteen minutes."

Pretty much yeah, with some artistic license. Fact is, illusions are predictable. So, whatcha doin' about it? :)
Message: Posted by: Kent Wong (Aug 30, 2012 09:50AM)
You're right. ILLUSIONS are predictable; but ILLUSIONISTS are not. The magic should be about the performers on the stage and not about the pretty boxes. The boxes are nothing more than props in a much larger play. Scripting, staging, choreography and music can bring life and meaning to the overall production. This is what makes magic memorable. Someone once said, "They will never remember what you did; But they'll always remember how you made them feel."

Message: Posted by: JamesinLA (Aug 30, 2012 03:22PM)
What's missing for me in almost all illusions I see presented are character, story, and emotional investment by the audience. Great effect, who cares. Enough with the pointless dancing already.
Message: Posted by: Blair Marshall (Aug 30, 2012 03:33PM)
"illusions are predictable"

To who?

Maybe to you and I but to the average layman they are not and even more so today when so little magic is seen on T.V.

Let's not kid ourselves folks are not sitting for hours on Youtube checking out magicians and illusions (like some of us). And yes, you open a box one would assume you are going to put something in it, should we be surprised that someone would think this?

Just my thoughts.

Message: Posted by: EsnRedshirt (Aug 30, 2012 05:04PM)
Well, Blair, you may have noticed that the fictional magician still played to sold-out venues, despite his critic giving him harsh reviews, so there might be something to what Kent and James are saying :)

I actually wrote this a while back just for fun- it was more about the character of the reporter than the illusionist. (Though I am wondering how many people here read the descriptions of the illusions and thought, "I bet I know how I could do that...")
Message: Posted by: MatthewMcCoy (Aug 31, 2012 01:32AM)
I personally loved this. I thought the story had relatable characters and a clear message. One, that I tend to agree with.

Magicians, actors, many entertainers fall into this mind set that audiences, or laymen, don't actually know how something is being done.
The reality is kids are getting smarter faster. Because of movies and the internet people get bored easier and are a lot more intellectual
than audiences before. Try finding a fascinating interview on line with Julie Taymor as she discusses her direction on Lion King/

Favorite quote from that documentary:

"People keep wondering if the puppets will work. Where will the audience look? Can they look at a puppet and an actor's face at the same time?
And I say yes. Why do we need the spoon feed our audiences? They are smarter than we think. We do not give audiences enough credit. They are
capable of defining good, creative, artistic, theatre...."
Message: Posted by: btedeski (Aug 31, 2012 12:47PM)
After my last show a little boy and his mother cam up to thank me for the show.
His mother ask him what his favorite part of the show was.

I said it was the rabbit right?

He said no, his favorite was when I floated the girl on top of the chair.

*** No matter how predictable we think the illusion is, the the audience members may not have seen as many illusion shows as the critic. So to them it is not predictable, but fresh and amazing.

That is one of the things I love about kids shows, they have not seen it all --- YET
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Aug 31, 2012 12:49PM)
I don't know that they're necessarily predictable: I think that depends totally on the nature of the individual audience. However, I'm totally in the camp that says that probably 90% of the illusion presentations out there are little more than "Lookit what my box can do." So, in that sense, yeah, I can see them as predictable: you're going to show me what the box can do.

Maybe it's a mindset that performers of magic pick up somewhere along the line - "I'm a magician and I'm going to do an illusion because that's what magicians do." Heck, I went thru that myself many years ago. It never dawned on me (back then) that an "illusion" is not a box you buy or make and then demonstrate; the term "illusion" is defined by one of the online dictionaries as "something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality." The performer is the one who's creating the illusion of doing something impossible. The box is just a prop he needs to do it.

Which, IMHO, means that the weight of creating an illusion falls on the performer, not on the box.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Aug 31, 2012 01:09PM)
How many effects can be done with a living person? Levitation/Suspension, penetration, appearance and disappearance, transformation, transportation, torn and restored, and then what? Every illusion is going to be a variant of one of these. How many of the same principles are used in illusion after illusion? How many movable staircases, thin bases and switches involving a hood and a mask can people see before they all begin to look alike?

The problem is that television and the internet overexpose magic. Magic, like sideshow, is something that you don't want to see too often. It needs to be rare.

Magic is much too common and popular today for its own good.
Message: Posted by: mvmagic (Aug 31, 2012 01:35PM)
Ok, now I am just waiting for someone to make that story (loved it) into a vignette piece and change someone into butterflies!
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Aug 31, 2012 02:24PM)
On 2012-08-31 14:09, Pop Haydn wrote:
How many effects can be done with a living person? Levitation/Suspension, penetration, appearance and disappearance, transformation, transportation, torn and restored, and then what? Every illusion is going to be a variant of one of these. How many of the same principles are used in illusion after illusion? How many movable staircases, thin bases and switches involving a hood and a mask can people see before they all begin to look alike?
I agree with that, but I also notice that the same "illusions" seem to be performed over and over by different people, like a given illusion works for one guy and therefore a lot of other guys want to buy it. And, unfortunately, most of the boxes look alike.
Message: Posted by: cc-magic (Sep 2, 2012 01:43AM)
Most of us are not impressed with the old "boxes and tubes with dragons painted on the sides". But that is what most illusions have become. A bright colored box that would exist nowhere in the real world. These props become just a puzzle and are not magical. Just something for people to figure out.

If the magic has a connection to real life with story, theme, complication, emotion, etc. it can become something we as an audience care about. The magic then becomes part of something bigger and we care a little bit less about how it's done because we are engrossed in why it's done.

But some people really like puzzles, too. I just feel they are probably a smaller piece of the general audience pie.