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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Books, Pamphlets & Lecture Notes » » Theatrical Magic by John Pyka (2 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

MagicSanta
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Title:Theatrical Magic by John Pyka
Medium: Book, soft cover
Arena: Performance
Available: Any shop, distributed by Murphys Magic Supplies

Theatrical magic…..the idea that a magician is an actor portraying a magician as written by Robert-Houdin over a century ago. This has been interpreted by many magicians in different ways. I believe what Robert-Houdin was saying was that while on stage the magician should present magic as if one was really doing magic and not just doing ‘tricks’. For those wondering this means after each routine you don’t wave your hand and say ‘that was just a trick’. Unfortunately the ones that really understand this, for the most part, are those doing bizarre magik but it is something that anyone considering performing for real people should seriously consider, they should also read the entire quote by Robert-Houdin as well, you can buy all of his writings from your favorite magic shop compiled in one nice edition by the way put together by Todd Karr.

There have been some very good books written on why the performance aspect of doing magic is important and how one can improve their performance and character, two of the best in my opinion are Stronger Magic by Darwin Ortiz and Maximum Entertainment by Ken Weber with a nod to Burgers material. In Theatrical Magic John Pyka, also known as Big Daddy Cool, has put together a book based on his experience in theater based on his previous show “Swinging At The Roxy”. John has an extensive background as a performer as a singer, magician, and music theater. He also has written his own show which toured in his region, around Nashville, and has won awards for performance from the IBM at their convention a couple years ago. This book stems from an injury John had that resulted in his ‘retirement’ from stage performing, hopefully not a permanent one, that allowed him the time to write. I will say that John does a good job in writing and communicating his thoughts.

Let me state clearly that I agree completely with John in that one needs to define their performing character before they will find real success. It may be just a version of their own personality but the ‘stage’ version of themselves still must be understood. If you are just going to ‘be myself so I don’t have to do this defining’ they you are missing the boat. Your normal self doesn’t do magic, your magic self does and should do so as a magician. John goes into detail on how to develop and define this character and goes deeper into it than most because of his actual theater background. This information is very valuable and can really help you become a better performer. John also believes, as I do, in scripting. In many shows the performers are so natural that you think they are just exhibiting their experience on stage while actually every word, every movement, is scripted. Only by scripting can you wander away safely because that script is your anchor. It doesn’t matter if it is a street performance or a full stage show, scripting is the key to success. John, I think, could have done more to explain how to develop a script and spent less time showing examples of his own script but he does give advice of great value. There are no successful magicians that I know of that ‘wing it’, they always script, they have defined characters and that includes Blaine and Angel, two of the popular guys of today.

I do have some problems with this book that while I think I need to address them I don’t think any of them are deal killers when it comes to this book. First it is implied that a number of routines are taught here, they are not. You get Johns scripting for routines and unless you know the material already you are kind of out of luck unless you want to impersonate, word for word, Big Daddy Cool. There is a lot of the Roxy script here and I think it is overkill and fluff to fill out the material to make it book length. I really believe that more info on developing a script and the steps to writing one would have been better. It got to the point where I just passed by the scripts because they do not fit anyone but Johns character, or those of other contributors, and it didn’t teach anything to be honest with you. At least one script is for a routine that doesn’t even exist, just the script does. There isn’t anything wrong with a magic book with little or no tricks but to imply there are bunches, and I don’t know if this was Johns doing, irked me. The few tricks taught are not, for the most part, really well presented. John speaks better from the standpoint of his theater knowledge than his magical. It is unfortunate that John felt the need to insert all those script rather than expanding on the gold in other areas he covers. Do note this isn't because the scripting is good but because the other information is so important.

Another issue I had was in the section Tricks for Monkeys and an effect John claims called Ruthless Ambitious. A date isn’t given for this creation but it was first put to print by another magician as well as put on tape over the last twenty years. I’m going to assume John wasn’t aware of this. In fact when put on tape it was done to fool magicians and actually on the tape the use of the method John addresses wasn’t brought up just to add to the confusion of magicians watching. This is really minor but since the method was brought up on various magic boards many years ago, including Magic Talk and another forum I can’t recall the name off and John was known to cruise these boards he may have seen it and added his own twist to it. It is a great way to torment magicians though. I know this because I was told the method in the eighties and used it myself at a magic club. For the sake of argument we’ll call it independent creation first published by another. Also no one bother asking me about the history of the trick as I spoke with the guy I learned it from and he didn’t want to be involved with any drama about it.

There you have it. The book is very well written and John knows his stuff when it comes to theater and magic performance. I think the information is absolutely valuable to anyone serious about being a performer. I wouldn’t put this ahead of Ortiz or Webers books but it is something you may want to look into to help you with your growth as a performer. Note that reading Johns scripts does give you good examples of how a script can look and should work in relation to what is going on during the performance. I was impressed with his skills as a writer. Over all I found the info of value even though in my case John is preaching to the choir. I have to admit I found the character of Big Daddy Cool to be kind of odd in it was, to me, contradiction in that he, the character, is a hood and swing dancer and singer in what looks like a zoot suit. John looks like overalls would be more his cup of tea, maybe a bowling shirt, and looks kind of strange in costume but then again I think that unless your name is Oscar Munoz you shouldn’t be wearing a zoot suit, that is so over done by magicians. Hey, it worked for him so who am I to talk? In closing this is a pretty good book on performance and would really help a lot of magicians improve their skills. Well done John and I hope you recover from whatever you have going on now because I look forward to seeing what you produce down the road.
Big Daddy Cool
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Thanks for the review.

I do want to clarify one thing for any readers out there. Chapter two focuses on Swingin' At The Roxy and those scripts because it was the Zenith of my most creative period, and I use BDC as the template to demonstrate character development. What is important to note is that I do teach the methods in the Close-up Stage chapters and the scripts in The Grand Stage chapter are for well known, classic illusions that many performers own already.
Swing hard, swing often, and we'll catch ya on the Flip-Side!
John Pyka
www.johnpyka.com
MagicSanta
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I understand that completely John. This type if information is so valuable to people but too many ignore the books that are not trick heavy and even if you did a trick book and snuck in the performance info the people who need it most would just not read it!

Folks, let me say again, if you want to succeed in the art you have to know how to develop your character and how to script things out.
leapinglizards
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I have always felt this sort of thing a priority, that's why we published this book.

It would be nice to see Theatrical Magic start a trend in magic. I think 90% of the magician's on this forum know 20 times the number of METHODS they need to know to excell.

I think far too few know enough about theatre, sotrytelling and performing- and that is the direction they need to focus.

Thanks Santa for the review, and thanks Big Daddy for choosing us for this project!
Leaping Lizards!!! Who knew it was possible.
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MagicSanta
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I agree with you LL. Some one who knows 200 tricks but doesn't know how to really perform will never do as well as a guy with six tricks and the ability to entertain.
Andy the cardician
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Thanks Santa . . .
Cards never lie
MagicSanta
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You be welcome.
wonderbott
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I read this a while ago and never got on the Café to post... I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot. The few of the routines that weren't detailed with regards to methods I either knew already or came up with my own methods on.

The book made me think quite a bit, and made me realize that I wasn;t putting enogh thought in the right place in my act.

Thanks for the book big Daddy.
Big Daddy Cool
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Thank you for reading it!

Tell all your friends!

Seriously, it has been surreal for me to first have a book published, then to see it in shops (the shop in Nashville sold out!), and now to get feedback from people who bought it and read it. What a trip! Mr. Walker, my High School creative writing teacher would be proud... Hmmm...Maybe I should send him a copy...

Seriously, thanks for all of the feedback!

John
Swing hard, swing often, and we'll catch ya on the Flip-Side!
John Pyka
www.johnpyka.com
Balaram
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I would have to say this is probably the most important book I purchased in 2008. I have attempted to identify my performing character in the past, but had only vague ideas of where to start. Folks, this is so easy, read the book, and fill in the blanks on the included worksheets. That's IT! The routines have NOTHING to do with the value of this work. Defining your performing character allows everything else you love about magic theatre to fall in place. I am feeling quite grateful to John for this. This was the information I had been wanting and needing for a LONG time but did not know it. My enthusiasm for this book is genuine, and I wish it for all of you.
Usual Disclaimer: No, I do not know John, and have no ties to the publisher.
Big Daddy Cool
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Quote:
On Jan 13, 2009, Balaram wrote:
I would have to say this is probably the most important book I purchased in 2008. I have attempted to identify my performing character in the past, but had only vague ideas of where to start. Folks, this is so easy, read the book, and fill in the blanks on the included worksheets. That's IT! The routines have NOTHING to do with the value of this work. Defining your performing character allows everything else you love about magic theatre to fall in place. I am feeling quite grateful to John for this. This was the information I had been wanting and needing for a LONG time but did not know it. My enthusiasm for this book is genuine, and I wish it for all of you.
Usual Disclaimer: No, I do not know John, and have no ties to the publisher.

Balaram, it is now several years later... How have been able to use the information gleened?
Swing hard, swing often, and we'll catch ya on the Flip-Side!
John Pyka
www.johnpyka.com
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