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TheAmbitiousCard
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I don't find illusions to be entertaining at all.
I feel absolutely no feeling of magic when an illusion is done.
Also, I don't find "magic type boxes" to be magical at all.

When I saw copperifeld do his "slo-mo duck" effect and the duck
disappeared inside a take-apart box, it evoked nothing in me.

When the duck re-appeared inside a bunny bucket, I thought it was great.
I'm not sure but.... I think I thought it was great becuase
the bunny bucket looked like something you'd find in grandpa's garage.


The lifting of huge curtains to cover apparatus, etc. just seems so bad to me.
There must be a better way.


What's wrong with me?

Frank
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Daniel Lander
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I think I know where you're coming from.

Certainly with me, as soon as the apparatus - the whole focus of the action and where the "theatre" resides - is covered with the huge drapes, (as it must be to hide the method), I switch off instantaneously; "you're completely hiding everything and the props must be phoney, so I'm not in the least bit interested. Hurry up and go away!"
Masonogy1
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I do think that it is entertaining for laymen, but they are not too visual in most cases. But I do believe laymen do enjoy them. I personally love it when they aredone right and everything is timed pefectly, but If it's done poorly it can be a real drag to watch!
Jack Murray
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Mark Wilson performed illusions almpst exclusively for MANY years and his success paved the way for Henning, Copperfield, Burton and ALL the rest. Mark has probally performed far more new and different effects than anyone else, so I would say Illusions ARE entertaining even if some don't find them their favorite.
I personally enjoy the mechanics and genius behind some of the magic effects history has given us. It's why I got into the business.

Jack
gulamerian
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Illusions are entertaining in the right hands. Too many do not take the time or energy to make them work. Covering an illusion is no different than covering coins in a matrix routine. A necessary evil.
Chris Stolz
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Uh oh, a hot topic!

It's also really going to depend on what is done with the thing. If they are lifting the cloth just to make something appear then I'd have to agree with you.

Far too many performers put the focus on the illusion itself as opposed to THEMSELVES. I have always believed, and always will that it is my job as the performer, and more importantly the ACTOR, to tell the story first. When I have performed large illusions it's always been secondary to the scene itself. Everytime an illusion was used it was because it was needed to advance the story. For example, as opposed to just having me "appear" for no reason we used Mark Wilsons door illusion. The assistants entered frantically looking for me as the show was about to begin. Sort of a backstage look. "Why don't you check his dressing room. He's probably still combing his hair!" From there the illusion made perfect sense and wasn't just a prop. "Nope, I guess he's not in here....maybe we should knock?" (And I'd appear) I must admit that I too am not perfect. I have watched the tape of my show and found that I have introduced props that don't look like anything other than a prop. I am not saying the prop HAS to LOOK like anything. Audiences have great imaginations and are always willing to go anyplace you take them. It's up to us to take them there. Great, you have silver box with lights on it....where did you get it? Was it stolen from the space station? It doesn't matter what it is supposed to be as long as it has a story behind it.

Even as a performer and designer I too must admit that I have been bored out of my scull on many occations. Yes, thank you for cutting her in half....why did you do that exactly? It's not until the illusion becomes a piece of THEATER that I am truly impressed. Often times the set and costumes can have a lot to do with it. Sometimes just a simple intro does the trick. A mad scientist goes nuts and cuts the girl in half. The magician comes in, they fight, and the magician wins. He then goes to the girl, thinking she's dead, and in one last desperate attempt, he succeeds in restoring her. To me, that makes far more sense than, "Look what I can do!"

The audience should never be given the opportunity to wonder, "What was the point of all that again?" They should know because we, as performers, should be showing them!

Thanks for the post Frank, I think you gave us all something to think about.

By the way a great example of two performers who know how to really story tell on stage would have to be Lance Burton and Jeff McBride. Jeff in particular really seems to know his stuff when it comes to creating magic around his stories. (not the order in which I phrased that.)

Anywho, those are just my two cents,


Chris.
George Ledo
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I think what bothers me is the number of acts I've seen where an illusion is presented as a box that does something -- like the guy demonstrating kitchen gadgets at the local department store: "Hey, lookit this box. It cuts in half, cuts in sixes, vanishes, reappears, spikes, and substitutes. And if you watch right now, I'll throw in a set of color-changing Ginsu knives."

I remember when I was starting out in magic (late 1960's -- the previous millenium!) there were far fewer illusionists, but they presented these things more in terms of "Look what I'm going to do to my lovely assistant." IOW, it was about the person, not the box.

An "Illusion" isn't a box, i.e. the equipment itself. An "Illusion" is just that: it's a visual effect created through magical means. Most of the time, it involves something magical happening to a real live person as opposed to a bird or a small prop. I have to wonder if many of the magicians referenced above have forgotten this, or if it's just that we have been calling the boxes "Illusions" for so long that we think in terms of the box itself as the whole point of the exercise.

Uh, oh... it seems Chris and I were typing away at the exact same time, so I didn't see his post before doing mine. Good post, Chris. There should be a reason for the magical event, i.e., theatre.

Nowadays, though, there are so many "illusions" that would be so hard to tie into a story because the apparatus itself is so... I don't know... specialized. Maybe the challenge is to come up with a story first and then design the equipment?
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Jack Murray
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I think some here don't know that I believe it was Thurston or Keller who presented one effect after another WITHOUT talking. Now we magicians think if a nifty story isn't attached to the effect, it's no good.


Jack
Bill Nuvo
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Sure they can be entertaining. They can also be boring. A lot of it depends on your mindset at the time. Yes great threatre should be added to illusions to make it better. But if you (the spectator) have a mindset against illusions just as trick boxes, no amount of superb theatrics will help. It's amazing when you go into a show (live or on screen) and have no prejudgements. An example for me is when I saw the movie "American Beauty". Me and my wife knew nothing about it except that Kevin Spacey was in it. Since we had no expectations we were floored when we saw the movie. Even bad movies can be fun and enjoyable if you go in with the right attitude. Not everything has to be stellar dramatics.

When you see a show you have to ask yourself. Did you find any part of it interesting? If you did, then it was a good experience. Focus on that. You can critique the show good and bad, but make sure you end off with the good at the end, even if you just repeat a good point.

I myself don't really like card tricks that much. I find much of the plots are all the same. But that's just me. I still buy/learn a few all the time because laymen enjoy it, and I enjoy making people happy. And illusions can make people happy too.

For some reason, it is in our nature of our society to focus on the negative. It doesn't help with the media. But even at any job, most people socialize by complaining about something about the job: "This job sucks...". It's no wonder our society has had so many people going "postal"!

One point was made that illusions (for the most part) were unatural...not common as opposed to a bucket. This is true. But we are magicians and sometimes we can use stuff different from the norm in society. It is a fantasy world. The same applies to movies. Horror, fantasy and Sci-fi movies are ofen loosley based on reality. But people still flock to them. Why? Because they provide a safe escape from stuff they see everyday. A good example of a live show that is extremely successful and is deep in a fantastical world: Cirque du Soleil.

Well, I think I am running out of steam on writing this post. Hope you enjoy this!
Jack Murray
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"For some reason, it is in our nature of our society to focus on the negative."

VERY well said mrbilldentertainer!!!!!

Jack
Dave Dorsett
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With all due respect, I think most do know that Thurston or Kellar (or Goldin, Herrmann, Houdin, Blackstone... insert name here) entertained our forebears with many of the same boxes illusionists are using today. The problem is, the people being entertained(?) have changed significantly. No longer is a vaudeville turn the only respite from entertaining ourselves at home. There is nothing inherently "wrong" with many standard illusions. They can be presented in an entertaining manner... but too few find that manner.
Frank & I were PM'ing about a newer illusion my company used to make. I'm not going to be too specific here, but the piece is by a popular designer. He admited to me it was lackluster (along with a couple of others he designed) but it was popular. It sold because, like so many others, the box did the work. An assistant disappeared, rearranged, whatever it was and then the performer took a bow. Then on to the next box.
I spent about 15 years building magic for a living. At the end, as I told Frank, I felt like I was providing handicapped accessibility for the talent impaired. There for a time in the late '90's black leather, long hair and a wind machine made you a performer. That doesn't happen in art, music, theatre, even juggling. That's the main reason I got out of the full-time building gig. I've loved the goddess Maja in many forms since I was a callow youth but eventually having enough people request a Wakeling sawing by this date for a show the next week using Mark Kalin's routine made me realize she wasn't being well served.
Chris and George are clsoing on the wants of modern audiences, in my opinion. Theatrical underpinnings with a strong, well-developed character using props (that might be magic "tricks")that are reasonably familiar (or at least make sense) have got to be far more entertaining to a LAY audience than a procession of different boxes each with its own function.
It sure is fun to collect all those odd looking gizmos, though!:)
Dave Dorsett
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Jack Murray
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When Sigfried & Roy performed Origami, they gave a BRIEF verbal intro, and then music only, for the rest of the routine. The audience was smart enough to understand "what was happening"!!

Jack
Farrell
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All that needs to be entertaining is the performer if the performer is entertaining it doesn't matter what they perform. be it illusions with god awful cloths and the like. but I personally am entertained by illusionists more than a close-up performer.
vj022
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I always find Illusions entertaining. Doesn't matter if it's a standard classic, or a new way to perform an old routine (which are some of the things I design, and share with other magicians).
rocky clements
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Thanks for the comment about leather pants, 80's hair, and a wind machine. Throw in a high collar satin shirt, also. I have heard many comments by magicians about tuxedoed magicians hurting the "modern" image of magic, but it is the "cool" guys that probably cause much of our image problem. I find illusions to be very entertaining when properly presented, and it is the odd looking boxes that first interested me in our art, and still do. But presentation is the determining factor in how entertaining they are, whether it is a brightly painted box with lots of latches and hinges, or an ordinary object.
Dennis Michael
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Frank,

There is nothing wrong with your thinking. Many of the above posts are focused on presentation, which is correct.

Another way to look at this is from a movie producer's camera, and the award is a Magical Golden Oscar. In the movie industry, dramas generally win, as well as best actor and actress. Comedy doesn’t…Why because Comedy cannot be equally accepted whereas dramas can.

What appeals to the viewer is being drawn in, sucked into the illusion of the story line and forgetting it is a movie. Movies are the greatest illusions of all times. Darrell Fritzkee, in SHOWMANSHIP for MAGICIANS, tried to get this across to the reader.

We are dealing with 32 basic personalities; each has an opposing counter part which is opposite to the core personality. Getting a message across (Communicating through the magically arts) is extremely difficult because of the message 'MAGIC' carries to each individual personality. What MAGIC means to me is different to others. We see that here many times on the Café in the conflicts of thought, style, customers, presentations, varies effects which do the same thing, etc. Because of all this it is a constant that magic is not uniformly accepted equally.

When the MAGIC is taken out of the equation, such as in story telling mini-acts that David Copperfield has performed we get sucked into the emotional impact of that story and the MAGIC is a means to get that story across. The story line, the drama, takes over and we feel for the actors, we relate to their situations, we are linked, we are ‘touched’ by what we see, we are getting the same message as the person next to us. Hopefully, you are getting this message. Eliminate the object or prop as MAGICAL, and you are on you way to appeal to the masses.

A card trick is a small illusion, however, the cards or coins are not thought of as magic prop. Eliminate the belief the object has some magical properties and you are on your way to winning the hearts of the viewer. As an example is when Copperfield brought a picture to life and danced with the actress.

On the other hand, of these personalities a major portion of them are intrigued by the mystery, the how-did-he-do-that, the puzzle, the strangeness, etc. to keep illusions alive.

Doug Henning was a genius at this type of magic presentation. MAGIC for th sake of MAGIC is appealing to many. For example, “What does a child think a Magician looks like?” At one time the answer was easy, now with the Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings series, a different picture is emerging. The Wizard (Merlin) is one thought. Still the Classic Magician in Tux & Tails with fancy boxes is another.

Frank, your personality won’t accept boxes as magical. Your belief system fights this, hence your inter-voice is telling you this is not what you believe is MAGIC. This is a common thought.

Hope this sheds some light on the communication process of illusionists.
Dennis Michael
Marshall Thornside
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Its all in the presentation.

if a person covers a song
and its horrible it evoke
any feeling like the original
artist who wrote the song
(or covered it).


nothing is wrong with you.

I'm sure you didn't like
brussel sprouts when you
were young, and now you
love them...like that,
it will change.
you will remember my name

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Dave Dorsett
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I may learn to love the boxes again, BUT...
NO BRUSSEL SPROUTS!!

Give me 100 amateurs presenting a synchronized Zombie routine in Cub Scout banquet H**l first!!!
Dave Dorsett
Douglas~Wayne Illusioneering
Jazz
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Ever since I was a little kid and watch an illusion for the first time (maybe Zig-Zag by Doug Henning), I was hooked. Since then I have always been a sucker for levitations, penetrations, transformations, sawings, vanishes, productions, etc.

I remember the sense of awe I had when just a regular "laypeople". Years later and now deep in the business, and even though that I know the principles and secrets of many of the illusions, I am happy to say that I can still be amazed by a great perfomance.

For me they are always entertaining. Of course it depends. As they say, Beauty is on the eye of the beholder.
michaelwriting
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While some illusions are pretty predictable, I still find Lance Burton and some of Brett Daniels illusions interesting.
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