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Brad Burt
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Hello all:

One of the questions I get asked all the time goes something like this, "How does one create a 'character' to perform magic?" And, an kind of 'dark side' to the basic question, "What does it mean to 'be yourself' as a perfomer?"

Well, I thought that I would try to start the discussion going here with a couple of observations and see what happens as I go along. I fully intend that this be a multiple posting subject.

First, let's tackle what it means to 'be oneself, to be natural' as a performer. One would assume that it means something to the effect that 'what you are in normal everyday interaction with other people is what you will be in performance. Frankly, I can't see anything wrong with definition. When most magicians tell someone to 'be natural', they generally MEAN that they want the person to attempt to RELAX and be who they are in their normal life.

If we look at this we can see that in fact this COULD be either good or bad. If in fact the person being told this is an utter jerk, then it's probably not a good thing that he or she is working at becoming a magician!

On the other hand if the person is anything like the late Mike Rogers, unarguably one of the nicest men to ever perform magic, then bravo and bring them on!

You see what folks really mean when they tell someone to 'be themselves' they are assuming the best possible outcome for both the performer and audience. What they are saying in reality is, "Look be yourself so long as it reflects positively upon magic. If you like to insult folks, then, well .... don't!"

And, thus, we move the discussion into the idea and concept of a performing character taht is substantially different from the persons normal character and personality. And, when we move into this territory, we move some place that most magicaians do NOT want to go: ACTING. And, not just mucking about with a costume and makeup, but real, honest to goodness analysis of WHO, WHAT, WHERE, etc. YOU ARE.

If you like to adopt an odd and eccentric look, then does the way you perform CONFORM to that look??? Or, does what you do in fact so deviate from your look that the cognitive dissonance thrown up by the variance detract from your performance.

Think about various magicians you have seen. Think of any that do in fact take on a bizzare, odd, or eccentric persona. Now, think of them in a performance you have seen and try and see how close the look comes to matching the manner in which they perform.

Now, further consider the same for yourself. What would you do if you wanted to do an act as a cowboy? HOW... cowboyish would you have to look? There is a continuum here. You could go the whole hog and where everthing from chaps to a ten gallon hat. Or, you could look more like Will Rogers who had a toned down look, but all the attitude of the foksey cowboy philosopher.

What it takes is thought, study, training and then more thought. If YOU want to become or have a performing character that differs radically from your normal person then you REALLY should take acting classes and read good books on acting. I highly suggest and have done so for years, "Respect for Acting" by Uta Hagen.

All very best,
Brad Burt
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