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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The little darlings » » The Best Children's Magicians aren't Magicians at all! (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Tony James
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After a long time in this business I've come to the conclusion that the best children's magicians aren't magicians at all.

You don't need to know a thing about magic to become an excellent magician. In fact, magicians probably make the worst children's magicians of all.

What you do need to succeed is a knowledge of entertaining and stagecraft. By which I mean someone who has been trained as an actor or similar theatrical discipline.


Take Geoffrey Durham. Geoff was an actor and stage manager in the UK who created the role of The Great Soprendo, a stereotypical Spanish waiter style speaking semi-broken English and performing magic. Nothing showstopping. Nothing any general magician wouldn't know about.

But could he present himself and put it over, entertainingly.

He learnt what he used inside out and was a top of the bill for years till he decided to take off the wig and become Geoffrey Durham, magician and entertainer. Lovely fellow and a lovely and clever act. These days he still does magic you would know and understand - but with a little extra kick that leaves magicians guessing.

I would bet my money every time on an actor learning the role and succeeding as a children's entertainer against the many magicians trying, struggling and frequently failing to become entertaining children's entertainers.

In my view, knowing much about magic is an impediment to creating and producing a successful and entertaining children's show.

A good actor will knock spots off a good magician when it comes to entertainment.

It's down to stagecraft and showmanship - not copycat routines and big flashy props.
Tony James

Still A Child At Heart
WagsterMagic
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I am an actor and a magician. I do all types of venues. What would be to flashy for a children show?
I do things like beads of iran, mouth coil, coloring book, coin bucket, hip hop rabbits and a little routine with a wand a flower and a fan to open my show. Is this too flashy because the kids seem to love my show?

Best
Brandon
The Wagsters: World Class Magic & Illusion
www.wagstermagic.com
chris mcbrien
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Tony,
This is by far the best post EVER made in this forum. I was trained first as an actor, and all I have to say is that having watched most "professional magicians" is that most of them are the worst entertainers I've ever seen in my life. The magic is their crutch and if they forgot their props at home they'd be a lifeless, completely talentless heap.
First thing I say to students asking me how to be a "magician", I say go to college and learn how to act. No presence, no power.
Houdin said that great phrase about a magicians being an actor playing the part of a magician....
The word "actor" is the most important part of that phrase, but it's that word that makes the difference.
derrick
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I'm going to take a wild guess here. You're a magician and don't know the first thing about acting or stagecraft:)
calamari
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What you do is important, but how you do it makes it entertainment.
"I came, I saw, SHE conquered." (The original Latin seems to have been garbled.)
Tony James
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The thread name of course was Houdin so strictly speaking Houdin was the surname.

The traditional French system takes some getting used to as both parents male line names continue.

Therefor his father would have been called Something-Houdin. Something was his father's mother's name and Houdin was his father's (and his father's before him) name. The male line persists, but on both sides.

On marrying, his father retained his name in full.

His mother would have been a Someone-Robert and on marrying she lost her mother's name (Someone) but retained her father's name (Robert) and acquired her husband's family name of Houdin.

Hence she was known as Robert-Houdin even though her husband was Something-Houdin.

Jean Eugene took his mother's form of name - Robert-Houdin. On marrying he retained Robert-Houdin whilst his wife and children became Somethingelse-Houdin.

So Houdin was in fact the continuing surname. These days in France on a day-to-day basis many people do not use the mothers name but stick, as we do, with just the surname.

They pull out the family history for legal, formal and social occasions.
Tony James

Still A Child At Heart
TheAmbitiousCard
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Magicians having training in acting have a huge advantage.
I agree.
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Andre Hagen
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Great Post Tony, and right on the money! Many times I have watched an actor on TV (excuse me...the Telly) or onstage and thought that teaching him a few tricks he could out-magician the best of us!

I live for your posts Tony (once I learned to live with that hat in your avatar).
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one - Albert Einstein
Marvello
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Quote:
On 2007-04-27 18:28, Tony James wrote:
The thread name of course was Houdin so strictly speaking Houdin was the surname.

The traditional French system takes some getting used to as both parents male line names continue.

Therefor his father would have been called Something-Houdin. Something was his father's mother's name and Houdin was his father's (and his father's before him) name. The male line persists, but on both sides.

On marrying, his father retained his name in full.

His mother would have been a Someone-Robert and on marrying she lost her mother's name (Someone) but retained her father's name (Robert) and acquired her husband's family name of Houdin.

Hence she was known as Robert-Houdin even though her husband was Something-Houdin.

Jean Eugene took his mother's form of name - Robert-Houdin. On marrying he retained Robert-Houdin whilst his wife and children became Somethingelse-Houdin.

So Houdin was in fact the continuing surname. These days in France on a day-to-day basis many people do not use the mothers name but stick, as we do, with just the surname.

They pull out the family history for legal, formal and social occasions.
Actually, this is incorrect. His birth name was Jean Eugène Robert. He married Mademoiselle Houdin, and under special permission from the French government, was allowed to use the hyphenated last name. It is incorrect to refer to Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin as "Houdin."
Never criticize someone else until you have walked a mile in their shoes. Then, when you do criticize them, you will be a mile away from them and you will have their shoes.
Tony James
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Thank you Grandpa. The hat is very effective in attracting attention. remember, that is what I have to do every performance. I have to pull an audience, stop them and pull them. I don't have an audience brought together for me, like a birthday party, school or theatre. I have to get out and get my own.

The hat - and the coat which you can't see - are impressive. They were based on two pictures from around the 1860s of an English circus parade costumes. The coat from one and the hat from another. No idea about colour of course but they are showstoppers, practical (overnight wash and dry) and essential to do that part of my job.

Outside, all weathers and four performances daily. And for it to work there is a deal more to that costume than meets the eye.
Tony James

Still A Child At Heart
TrickyRicky
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Quote:
On 2007-04-27 16:27, Tony James wrote:
After a long time in this business I've come to the conclusion that the best children's magicians aren't magicians at all.


You don't need to know a thing about magic to become an excellent magician. In fact, magicians probably make the worst children's magicians of all.

Well said Tony.
Those 2 paragraphs said it all.
The magic is secondary, entertainment first.
Richard Lyn.
calamari
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It does my heart good to hear others say it "entertainment"
"I came, I saw, SHE conquered." (The original Latin seems to have been garbled.)
ROBERT BLAKE
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Quote:
On 2007-04-27 16:34, chris mcbrien wrote:
The magic is their crutch and if they forgot their props at home they'd be a lifeless, completely talentless heap.


I learned it the hard way on the streets. if YOU don't entertain them the wont be looking. the nice thing is that if YOU are interesting enough you havea bonus comedy & magic.
magic4u02
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When discussing this topic, it is safe to say that there is a big difference between the performing mere tricks and performing a truly enterainment experience. The first part in learning how to make your children's magic entertaining, is to do just that. It is to first recognize the differences between performing a trick and performing an entertaining routine.

To me, anyone can do a trick. I can have anyone be taught how to perform a trick. A trick is just the mechanics and movements involved in making a seemingly impossible situation possible. Anyone can do a trick as long as they learn the movements of how the trick is done and study the secrets and methods behind it.

However, that is where I see the "Trick" part ending. A person performing a trick is not interested so much in patter, acting, presentation etc. This is where I see a true children's performer can really start to change that trick into something far more special.

I think an audience who sees a trick only goes away thinking the trick was good or bad and nothing more. There is no focus on the performer or on laughing or creating any type of emotional response to what is happening.

For the children's performer, the entertainer really must understand and start to learn that performing just tricks will not win you over the children nor will it engage them in such a way as to get them having fun with what they are seeing.

This is where you must add in the "Entertainment" portion to the trick. Once the trick is learned, the performer must learn to build upon the trick and create an entertaining experience around it. Give that trick substance and make the journey you take the kids on even more fun then the trick's climatic moment.

How do we add entertainment value to our kid's show tricks? Well that is a good question and one I would like to explore here with you and hope that you will also share your thoughts on this as well. There are so many vast and different ways in which to do this, so I will describe some of which have worked for me over the years.

First, I would like to make a simple analogy as to why adding the entertainment value to a trick is so important in a children's performance. Let us say that the trick is a plain pizza. There is nothing wrong with the pizza as is and the kids may eat it and think nothing of it. However, the entertainment value you add is like the many layers of toppings you can place on this pizza to make it even more special and rewarding an experience. Each "layer" gives the children something more to enjoy.

So what are some of these so called layers that you can add to your children's trick to get it to be more entertaining?

- Comedy props: These are items that look funny to a child or have a funny thing happen to them. They can range from comedy wands to jumbo sized toothbrushes to even comedy rubber chickens. I think for children, just the site of a funny object can often times make them laugh and giggle and have fun with it in the course of the routine you build.

- They see but you do not see: This is a layer whereby you build into your trick a period in which something happens that the children notice first long before the magician does. Why does this work? Because children feel empowered. In their lives, they are seldom ever right when they are with adults. The adults are always correct and always correcting them. In this situation, the child feels empowered because he or she sees something first before the adult does and gets to tell the adult that something happened.

- Imagination: This is a huge one. This is a layer in which you allow yourself to use imagination to make a trick more entertaining. Children live in a magical world. To them, turning on a light bulb is magical. They also have vivid imaginations and you can see this when they are at play. So we can use this idea by allowing the children to pretend and imagine things as the trick progresses. Suddenly a rope is not a rope any longer, but is a worm named Bob. The kids can stretch their imaginations and they can have fun with imaging what will happen to bob the worm.

- Story Telling: This leads us into a layer called storytelling. A magician can change a trick into entertainment through the use of effective storytelling. Use a storyline to tie in the tricks or parts of the trick together so that it has more fun for the children. Children love stories and read or hear them all the time. A story can be a great way to tie in different aspects of the trick and make it fun and easy to understand for the kids watching.

- Dress Up and Costumes: As I stated previously, kids love to imagine things and pretend. They also like to dress up and become someone else they might admire. We can use this layer to change a trick into an entertaining routine by allowing ourselves to get the children dressed into costumes or even wear a costume ourselves. If baking a cake for the b-day child. Perhaps the b-day child gets to feel even more special because they get to become the master chef with a chefs hat and chef's jacket. It is fun for them and gets them involved in a different way.

- Adding a human quality to an object: This is something fun that can be done to change a trick into an entertaining routine by simply creating a human character around an ordinary object. Kids may not understand or may not really grasp what a sponge ball is. However, they can have a lot of fun if that sponge ball all of a sudden becomes Marty the Martian. Marty always likes to travel from place to place but never likes the dark. Now all of a sudden the kids can relate to the little character and what this funny character will be doing in the routine.

- Magician in Trouble: This is a classic principle that works great for adding entertainment to a trick. Children love to see the magician apparently get into trouble or mess up a trick. I think they enjoy it because it shows them that even adults can and do make mistakes. They can have fun with it when the magician messes up.

- Empowering the child: This is a layer that I use quite often. This is where you really empower a child because they actually make the magic apparently happen on their own. You try it and it does not work, but the child tries it and wonderful magic starts to happen. The child feels extra special because they made something work on their own. Making the child feel like a star can be a very entertaining experience for them and the audience watching.

- Music: Music can be used as a fun layer to envoke a mood or an emotion. Funny music can get the kids laughing while upbeat music can get them interacting with the trick in an entertaining way.

There are many many more, but I will leave it at this for now. I hope this gets people thinking and starting to look at their own tricks in a new light. I hope it gets you to rethink routines and find ways to make old tricks into entertaining magical experiences.

My 2 cents.

Kyle
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TrickyRicky
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Quote:
On 2007-04-28 18:57, magic4u02 wrote:


Let us say that the trick is a plain pizza. There is nothing wrong with the pizza as is and the kids may eat it and think nothing of it. However, the entertainment value you add is like the many layers of toppings you can place on this pizza to make it even more special and rewarding an experience. Each "layer" gives the children something more to enjoy.
My 2 cents.
Kyle

Kyle.
The paragraph above should be looked at by everyone. It is well said by Kyle.
A entertainer with lots of knowledge and experience.
The toppings are, as the British would put it(The Business).
Tricky Ricky
magic4u02
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Thank you Ricky. I appreciate the kind words my friend. I just havce such a passion for creativity in magic and for those magicians to realize there is so much more to performance then presenting a trick as a trick. There is so much you can add to your magic to make the routine something that entertains my audiences.

For myself personally, I am not there so much to fool anyone or to wow them over time and time again. Sure I want my magic to be good and to be well received. I want wonderment to happen. However, most of all I want my audiences to be entertained by what it is I am showing them. I want to put smiles on faces and create laughter and good times. I can do that if I realize that a trick is a trick but entertainment is something completely different. It takes your magic to a new level.

Kyle
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Danny Hustle
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Tony....I love you man.

In a purely platonic most masculine way, and not like that hung over morning I woke up next to Aladdin's lamp and the widow Twankey. Smile

Did I say that out loud? Smile

Best,

Dan-
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Andre Hagen
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Here it is Saturday night and I don't have a gig until NEXT Saturday night! Could anyone recommend a good one-week acting course to fill the time?
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one - Albert Einstein
magic4u02
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Danny: love the new avatar my friend. Looking good. =)

Kyle
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It all comes down to one word. Showmanship.
True illusionists strive to decieve the eye AND the mind.....
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