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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Periods & styles of Magic » » Period appropriate magic, or just period appropriate materials? (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Michael Taggert
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Fredericksburg Virginia
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I have found a penchant at the renn faires I work for people to make things look old. Excuse me Olde. My props tend to be new looking but in the style of the period. I then rely on the character to sell the rest. I do know that in Williamsburg they are seriuo thread counters and get down to the pictures on the playing cards and the mint of the coins. That's extreme! But then again that's Williamsburg. Souvenirs made in Virginia.
Believe you then that I do strange things
Maynooth
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Australia
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Last year I did a church Christmas fair from biblical times. It was difficult enough trying to find effects that I felt would be used at the time, ropes, paper effects, genie in a bottle, trying to stay as true as possible.

This year they are doing pioneer Christmas and have asked me back so I think that speaks for itself.

I believe that the more "real" it is for the audience the better but most audiences are not "rivet counters' (the term used in fine scale modeling for "thread counters") and they are there to enjoy the show.

cheers
Maynooth
The race is long and in the end it is only with one's self.
rickmagic1
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LearnedPig.com.pa has several lists of Victorian-era magicians' programs. I went through those, found routines that were as close to what they did as possible. For instance, 'dying a handkerchief' was a common routine; therefore, I was justified in doing McComb's Half Dyed Hank. I also went so far as to have copper period cups made for my act...

Rick
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gaddy
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Quote:
On 2007-09-26 14:03, Payne wrote:
I prefer to do modern effects in a period style especially since my main period gig is at a Mediaeval fair. Thus making the documentable effects I could perform rather limited.


Also, I think the sort of stuff that would have wow'ed back in the middle ages would (with a few notable exceptions) fall short with us, civilized and throughly modern, folk...
*due to The Magic Cafe's editorial policies, words on this site attributed to me cannot necessarily be held to be my own.*
Pokie-Poke
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Quote:
On 2007-12-20 16:24, gaddy wrote:
Quote:
On 2007-09-26 14:03, Payne wrote:
I prefer to do modern effects in a period style especially since my main period gig is at a Mediaeval fair. Thus making the documentable effects I could perform rather limited.


Also, I think the sort of stuff that would have wow'ed back in the middle ages would (with a few notable exceptions) fall short with us, civilized and throughly modern, folk...


Hmmm. cups and balls, cut and restored rope, are both very easily documented, I have yet to have any problem entertaining a modern audience with them. don't even use a chop cup. (not often any way) Modern folk tend to have short attention spans which tends to make them easer to fool. but at times harder to entertain.
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Bill Palmer
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Let's get down to specifics.

I performed a chop cup routine for years at various Renaissance Festivals. Why a chop cup and not a one cup and ball routine with a straight cup? Simple. The audience (other than a few magicians) had no way of knowing what the method was.

Here's the thing. The EFFECT is what is important. If ANY trick is done correctly, the audience won't be aware of the method. So it doesn't really matter what the method is, IF THE AUDIENCE IS UNAWARE OF IT.

Basically, you need to ask yourself what the audience sees, not what you are actually doing. Does the audience need to know that your table is held together with epoxy and not hide glue? No.

Another consideration is this: ANY trick you do that comes out of the old books can be performed for a modern audience if you know how to "sell" it. Also, you can borrow items from audience members and use them in your show. Then the objects don't even have to fit the time period.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

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Jaz
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Quote:
On 2007-12-20 23:56, Bill Palmer wrote:

Basically, you need to ask yourself what the audience sees, not what you are actually doing. Does the audience need to know that your table is held together with epoxy and not hide glue? No.


I absolutely agree.
IT, loops, magnets, TTs, etc, are going to enhance the magical experience then go for it.
Steve_Mollett
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There are some reenactors that are referred to as "thread counters." These are the ones who will toss you out on your posterior if you have any fabrics that are of a type not used during the era.

In the SCA, we call those same people 'authenticity nazis.' Smile
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Bill Palmer
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There was a time when the SCA was not as concerned about authenticity as it is now. In 1978, when I took over as ED of the Texas Renaissance Festival, there were still a lot of people who wore highly inauthentic costume parts. I called the SCA together and explained to them that when you come out in a set of really good-looking full plate armor, and the spectators can see the Everlast label on your gloves and the LEE patch on your jeans, it makes you look silly.

I also explained that even though the Freemasons may have existed back then, open displays of Masonic jewelry would have been rather odd. The Masons weren't exactly welcomed with open arms by the Church. So, no high school class rings, no fraternal rings, no visible watches and no butterfly eyeglasses with rhinestones on the ends.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
gaddy
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Quote:
On 2007-10-15 10:54, Payne wrote:
Well where's the fun in that? Doctoring up modern props is a lot of fun. I've made a "period" Grant's Comedy Egg Bag where the design for the final chicken reveal is out of the book of Kell's. I've a Medieval, Renaissance Die Box which is now a reliquary and even a period What's Next? which was written up in Aprils Silly Billy column in MAGIC. I've re-built my Deans Box in a more Victorian Style for my Poe Show and I won't even go into all the specialized props I've built for my Harry Potter show. Building Custom props is a lot of fun and I really don't understand why more magicians don't do it.


Payne- might I beg a small favor? Could you post some of your more ambitious custom jobs for us to see? I'd love to see some more of your handiwork!

G
*due to The Magic Cafe's editorial policies, words on this site attributed to me cannot necessarily be held to be my own.*
gaddy
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Quote:
On 2007-12-20 23:14, Pokie-Poke wrote:
Quote:
On 2007-12-20 16:24, gaddy wrote:
Quote:
On 2007-09-26 14:03, Payne wrote:
I prefer to do modern effects in a period style especially since my main period gig is at a Mediaeval fair. Thus making the documentable effects I could perform rather limited.


Also, I think the sort of stuff that would have wow'ed back in the middle ages would (with a few notable exceptions) fall short with us, civilized and throughly modern, folk...


Hmmm. cups and balls, cut and restored rope, are both very easily documented, I have yet to have any problem entertaining a modern audience with them. don't even use a chop cup. (not often any way) Modern folk tend to have short attention spans which tends to make them easer to fool. but at times harder to entertain.


heh! well, I >did< say "with a few notable exceptions"! I've got these two items on my Ren Faire programme also!...

Gaddy
*due to The Magic Cafe's editorial policies, words on this site attributed to me cannot necessarily be held to be my own.*
Payne
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Quote:
On 2007-12-23 19:21, gaddy wrote:

Payne- might I beg a small favor? Could you post some of your more ambitious custom jobs for us to see? I'd love to see some more of your handiwork!

G


This isn't one of my more ambitious projects but it is the "period" die box I use in my mediaeval act. It's been done up to resemble a reiquary.

Image


I've posted this before but you might have missed it so here it is again.
An old Grant's Rice Checkers Orange prop I reworked to match a Tayade Rice Vase I aquirred.

Image
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
gsidhe
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Those are gorgeous Payne!
Virtually unrecognisable!
I'm jealous.
Gwyd
Payne
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Some more of my props for your perusal

My mini Spirit Cabinet (Deans Box)

Image


My Run Dragon Run

Image


My Four Way Production box (inspired by Mad Eye Moody's box of many locks)

Image


My Snake Basket

Image
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
Vick
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Very nice work Payne

A new character I'm working on Alexander Dias (Alexander in homage to Herrmann)
http://www.alexanderdiasmagic.com/

Very much influenced by the work and magic of Herrmann and Houdin
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kaytracy
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With a bit of careful research, I have found a number of principles used in ages past to be easy to work with and utilized to do my story magic. I do Viking age.
I have a stone that gets slipped into fire pits. After telling my tale, often after just a few minutes, though sometimes the next morning, someone discovers that there is a deeply carved rune in a stone in the pit.
I have a Horn dropped by a Valkyrie, that pours forth mead, but only for the chosen warriors who are soon to die in battle.
I have a feather from one of Odin's ravens, and it moves when you tell it things worthy of the all-father's knowing.
In the tale of Fenja and Menja of the Grottestone, I have coins appear followed by salt from my hands.
My tale of the Gunfanni uses a box modified to allow the once white banner to transform into the Raven Gunfanni war banner heralding great victory.
I am at times a thread counter, but I try to keep that only where it matters. As Bill says, if they do not know that the item is held together by epoxy, or that the horn has a lining for sanitary reasons, but it is never seen, who can complain. I have nice period shoes and nalebinded socks, but my orthotics are tucked under a nice layer of leather so I can actually move after wearing them for more than an hour!
Kay
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Levity
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My performance is decidedly early 20th Century. I use props that are either authentically old or repros in the style of the time. I dress in a 1920s-style tuxedo and use a P&L change bag, old-style die box and various other props that evoke that retro era (somewhere between Victorian and Art Nouveau/Deco). Recently I've bought some great props from Harries in Sweden--the large cylinder cabinet, for instance--which, while not being strictly of the period I appear in, is still evocative of that era with its striking lightning bolt, stunning silver-and-red cabinet and sparkly tube. Very theatrical and mysterious-looking.

Geoffrey
"I suggest you watch very carefully..."
critter
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I would find doing 'only' period tricks to be too confining.
Not many faire coordinators would really know the difference.
Although, I do know of at least one faire that will kick out musicians who are playing even the ubiquitous six string acoustic guitars...
"The fool is one who doesn't know what you have just found out."
~Will Rogers


"This I offer in explanation of how it was that I found myself in my undergarments as I sat in my cell attempting to plot my escape."
~Professor Phineas Valeyard, Miskatonic University Dept.of Psychodynamic Natural History.
theadequate
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I'd go with 'period *appearing* materials' - because we are in fact Magicians and we do, by the nature of our trade, cheat outrageously when the opportunity presents itself.

Rope is rope, chain is chain, a sword is a sword (and most real historical swords would look like blunt metal oblongs after a little use) a bag hat is, well, a bag hat (why are there no change bag hats? Someone get on that one...) and a suddenly appearing 10 foot pole that *looks* like wood from 8 feet away is...

If your props are 'period neutral', none can complain if you're using a clever modern touch as my colleague Master Payne demonstrates handily.

... me, I find that if they're busy snorfing mead through their noses, they don't notice the non-period stuff quite so much.

Tobias!
for whom 'period' occurs at the end of a sentence
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EricHenning
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This is a very interesting discussion. Here is my very long-winded two cents.

I know that the original question focused on props; let me say at the outset that I think the most important thing is not props, nor even costume, but SCRIPTING. In most non-reenacting venues, you can fudge the props and costumes a bit, but unless you are at a Ren Faire where they just don't care (and there are a couple where Renaissance appears to mean anything pre-Civil War), I would spend some serious time on getting the language right.

I hasten to add that doing the authentic script for the Cap & Pence from Hocus Pocus Junior will probably get you thrown out of most venues.

I began doing the Maryland Renaissance Festival in 1978, the year after it began, and dutifully went to the Library of Congress where I read an original edition of Scot's "Discoverie of Witchcraft." My act was Cut & Restored Rope, Coin productions, vanishes and transpositions, and the Cups & Balls. I was doing magic on the pathways for tips.

I learned a LOT, especially from watching the real professionals. I also figured out that the audience was much more interested in being ENTERTAINED than getting a history lesson. I came back to that Faire for several years while studying for my theatre degree. By that time, I was doing T&R paper to Mouth Coil, Egg Bag, and some wand work.

In 1995, I saw Max Howard give a lecture in Baltimore at Denny & Lee's. I finally found what I was looking for: an actor's approach to magic. I was not interested specifically in the Civil War material, but have had a lifelong fascination with late Victorian/Edwardian America.

My goal was, and always is, to do a show that would create for my audience, as much as possible, the EXPERIENCE and the FEELING that a contemporary audience would have had.

This does create some scripting problems. Fortunately, we have some scripts from the era in Hoffman's books and in Fischer's book on Hofzinser. Hoffman's scripts would, for the most part, be intolerably long-winded for today's audiences, but Hofzinser's could be adapted with little change and work very nicely today.

I was able to adapt some material for the Edgar Allan Poe Birthday in Baltimore one year, and just a couple of years ago, with encouragement from Jeff McBride, did my "Turn of the Century" act at the National Theatre in Washington, DC for their Halloween show. (They were very gracious to me and many in the audience were in full period costume.)

What I found in this process is that once you get a feeling for the rhythms, word choice, syntax and idioms of the period, you can learn to write scripts that will keep the flavor of the period while still being meaningful to today's audiences.

A word about pacing: the advent of motion pictures in the Edwardian period changed audiences forever. Instead of the leisurely parlor pace of Hoffman, we now had the frantic "trick-a-minute" vaudeville of Horace Goldin. Today we are no longer in the relaxed conversational tone of Don Alan, but instead the quick-cut MTV world of David Blaine and Criss Angel. People want us to get to magic fairly quickly, and so we have strike a balance, using as much verbiage as necessary and as little as possible. Eugene Burger has some very good techniques for this in his online article "Editing Our Scripts."

I would also highly recommend Pete McCabe's excellent "Scripting Magic" book (and not because I'm in it; I learned a great deal from it and it should be required reading for any serious magic performer).

Oddly enough, I am now doing more street festivals and have come full circle, although my street act is not a period act in any sense of the term.

Anyway, hopefully this will help someone. Thanks for stirring up some great memories!
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