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Skip Way
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I am not an illusionist and have no desire to offend anyone. After watching the World Magic Awards, I do have a question regarding the lack of a storyline in most of the illusions on this and other shows I've watched. Teller once wrote, "Always treat the audience as you would wish to be treated yourself. It's not easy to remember this in magic because our job is to fool them. But, you need to fool them in the way you would like to be fooled." It seems to my illusion-lay eyes that many illusionists and cabaret acts have gotten away from this concept. They present their effects as slam-bam cold, soulless puzzles with a side order of purposeless choreography. What has happened to the art of telling a story through magic?

Jim Steinmeyer writes, "The true magician takes charge of every aspect of the story, pointing your head in certain directions at certain moments, emphasizing certain occurrences and minimizing others, hinting at every surprise and imparting specific meanings. If the performance is successful, it is because the storytelling has been successful." Does the slam-bam method of presenting a glitz and awe illusion fill this bill?

I believe that David Copperfield and Doug Henning were so popular because they incorporated intriguing storylines into their magic. They used narration, theme, dance, imagery and stagecraft to weave a tale that drew the audience into the act. They invited the audience to become mentally and emotionally involved in the play. With Copperfield's musical pieces I spent much less time thinking about the "secret" than I did the emotions touched by the overall theatrical effect.

Kevin James tells a silent story when he cuts his assistant in half or transforms a mannequin into a miniature Chaplin. Penn & Teller wrap tales of deceit and indignation around their routines. Ed Alonzo drew the audience in with his comedic desire to "kinda-sorta" emulate the great Houdini. They give us a logical "license" to believe.

During the World's Greatest Magic show here in Raleigh, David Thomas and Roy Shank did a superb job with their illusions, but the audience response was average. This is what started me on this path of inquiry. Have fools like the Masked Magician and Criss Angel caused our lay audiences to spend more time thinking "There's a trick to this" than they are "Wow!"? Or am I, as an illusion layman, seeing something that doesn't really exist?

So...is it just my perception or is there a reason that our new role models have fallen away from this storytelling magic theatre persona?
How you leave others feeling after an Experience with you becomes your Trademark.

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AmazingEARL
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You're not alone. I miss those type of presentations too, Skip.

To present an illusion in that fashion requires two things; creativity and a little acting ability. I guess that either the slam-bam performers don't possess those gifts...or simply don't want to bother with the extra effort.

To me, that's the basic difference between a "Performer" and an "Entertainer."

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cameroncando
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I agree completely but I think it is worth noting that it is not just the magic world, Music, theater, movies, art. Most everything in this world has gone towards less substance and more shock factor and hype and speed.

Obviously there are exceptions in all fields but in general we are seeing less and less things that have a chance of becoming classic books or movies. And I think it is summed up in two ways

1) it has become so easy to self produce in this information age that we are pushing out crap faster without near as much thought to making it worth talking about a few years down the road.

2) Audiences are less interested in thought provoking experiences and think they just want more lights, more pyro, and louder music.

But that is just my thought, and If I am right I sure hope we grow out of it.

Cam
Swann101
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I enjoy story lines too in magic, but there is a place and a market for the slam bam type of illusions! It works well for some guys like Hans Klok. Some younger crowds like fast pase spectacular to the point type of acts and gets board with longer story line effects. A lot of people also try and incorporate story lines that are so corny and boring, that it would suit those guys better just to do slam bam type magic. I'll say again, I love the theatre aproach to magic, but it is not always everyone's cup of tea (spectator wise)!
cameroncando
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Yeah I think that the main point is audiences are different these days and as long as audiences are watching “reality” TV they are going to be more prone to want to see a pointless show like Chris Angel than Storylines.
Skip Way
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Wow! Great insights and solid points. I just had this awful flashback to my father complaining about rock & roll and extolling the virtues of the Big Bands. It's official - I'm over the hill. Arrrrrgggggghhhhhh! Smile
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DavidThomas
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Skip I agree with you completely that the Machine Gun Magic is not the most popular part of my show. But I have found it is the best way to establish the credibility right off the bat that is needed for an audience to relax and know that they are about to see a pro show.

I am a strong believer in taking an audience through a series of emotions, which is very difficult to do in a format like the World's Greatest Magic where each of us have 8 - 10 minute sets. In my normal stage show the pieces you saw were just the high energy part of my show. Normally in my stage show, the magic is designed to create the peaks and valleys needed for any live performance to be sucessful.

Although due to the time limitations each performer in the World's Greatest is unable to create this on his own, I do think the over all show as designed brings those elements as a show.

When you see this show, or a show on television, please remember you are only seeing a small part of what an artist does and usally at the behest of the show producers. This is the way television and big time stage shows seems to work.

Many times after my perfomances the things the audiences say are their favorites are the pieces that do touch their emotions. Just as in a "legit" play in a theater, the show stopper may be the one lone performer on stage, in a simple spotlight singing that heart felt solo. But with all plays, magic shows, productions shows the large scale production is what gives overall value to the audience members.

Imagine paying $125.00 a ticket for Wicked and not seeing the over the top production value. It is my opinion that all the elememts of theater woven together is what makes a show memorable.
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briansmagic
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Well said David!
Michael Taggert
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David Scratches the surface in the difficulties of a cavalcade show. This is also The problem with Many convention shows as well. The Can you limit yourself to 8-10 minutes shows. The answer from me is NO for the same reasons you have stated above. I disagree that the average theater audience is Less than what they once were. If anything they are hungry for the fully developed plot. hence the successes fo some of the newer shows that are dipping into the story telling side of the business a lot more. As someone who is a producer of a sucessfull convention Gala show we have a definate formula that works. we have Limited the number of performers and Increased their time to allow for each inndividual's plots to develop and be presented. we feature a "headliner" act the fills easily Half the show and Our MC has to carry the theme of the show. Our Headliners are carefully selected along with our other performers to create a congruant theme.
The bottom Line is that if the producers are demanding the 8-10 minutes with out letting the show develop then they have done a disservice to their audiences and their performers. that's why I dislike awards type shows as well. as for the performers are we we just presenting our Best pieces because we can? I would rather see every one perform progressivly stronger single routines building to a climax "featured" Performer. otherwise we are doing nothing more than a Gong show for magicians.
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Erich Troudt
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All my illusions are done "slam-bam" as you say. To me there is nothing worse than taking a 3 minute illusion and stretching it out to 10 minutes with story and dancing.

There are some beautiful illsuions out there that are story driven... Brett Daniels "Marilyn", Copperfields death saw, etc. But not every illusion needs a story.

Why would illusions like bits and pieces, kube zag, sub trunk, etc really need a story? Part of the beauty is the simplicity. Small box, girl, impossible to be inside, but there she is.

A lot also depends on who you are marketing to. If you are booking places that are looking for a dramatic show...fine. But a room full of college kids most of the time could care less about story. Asian countries are very visual...no story needed.

I find that story and reasoning plays much better with my talking and personality pieces. that's my time to connect and have a moment with the audience...the illusions are the high energy portion...the eye candy.

I believe the audience has changed. The 2 biggest TV ratings magicians are blaine and angel....very Slam-bam. Tv shows are constantly running scrolls across the bottom with info on other shows, advertisements...even peoples comments from chat rooms (G4 and there 2.0 shows)

Part of the problem with magic is that it moves forward on a snails pace. People still doing tricks that are hundreds of years old and been seen a million times. Most magicians go thru there entire life not creating anything different, just regurgitating ancient ways. Just because that's the way Copperfield and Henning did it 30 years ago doesn't make it good for now. Todays entertainment is faster paced and more demanding.

It goes in waves. Look at you mid 90's magic...very slam bam. Then magic had this big push for story...storytelling, bizzare, mc bride schools, all the columnist in LR and MUM all pushing story. Now, its angel and blaine pushing it back.

I find it interesting when magic was huge in the 90's its was more slam bam...then a huge drought...no magic on tv, popularity down....which happened to be during the storytelling push....now its gaining popularity again...... something to think about.
Swann101
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I thinks it good to combine slam bam and story telling illusions in a show. For example the Pendragons do slam bam type of illusions like "Metamorphasis" which plays realy well and then there is their "Artist dream" with a story line that also plays well, it is good to create different moods in a show. Even Copperfield over the years has added some slam bam effects like the "Lazer sawing" which hasen't got a story line to it.
Steven True
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I think to blend a full evening show of magic you have to have both with lots of other stuff thrown in. I can't see a 2 hr. show filled with fast paced 3 min. illusions. It is also bad to see some of th eones that want to do the drag out the sub trunk t 10 mins. with a bunch of useless dancing a exagerated movements by the performers. I once saw a performer do 4 large illusions in an opening sequence that moved almost faster than you could keep up with but it was fantastic, it lasted about 8 mins. Later in his show he slowed way down and did a beautiful levitation that lasted almost 10 mins. and it brought the aduience to their feet. It was beautiful and very dramatic but not overly dramatic. It flowed so smoothly. Other parts of his show was good and some not so great but the most was great. Anyway I think that both but not just one style should be in a show. I could not set through a full 2 hour show of the Pendragons if they moved as fast as they do when they do the Metomorphis. One thing I do want to add is that I wish some of the newer illusionist would find some.....not so loud music, in their acts.
Skip I am sure you are not over the hill. Wait until you have to tell your kids about our music.

Steven
Kyle^Ravin
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I agree with Steven, There's a mix of both in a evening show. BUT, based on what many of my laymen friends think, most don't appreciate the 3 mins of story and dance and 30 seconds of magic. I have my own opinions and I feel it really depends on the illusion being presented. Then again, it could be an Asian thing
Starrpower
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If laypeople don't appreciate 3 minutes of story and 30 seconds of magic, then the story is not being properly integrated into the magic. The "story" does not necessarily have to be a narrated story in the traditional sense. It's bringing meaning, or purpose, to the magic. A "story" can be presented without any words at all.

I watched Hans Klok on last night's Ellen special, and I thought it was garbage. Just frantic tricks. They were well done, I suppose, but seemed like a 7th grader talking really fast to get though his oral book report so he could sit down.

Yes it's a popular method of presentation today. But is that because it's really good, or because it's all that's available? Does that mean it couldn't be BETTER if presented differently?
Loyal R
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Quote:
On 2008-11-29 07:46, Swann101 wrote:
I thinks it good to combine slam bam and story telling illusions in a show. For example the Pendragons do slam bam type of illusions like "Metamorphasis" which plays realy well and then there is their "Artist dream" with a story line that also plays well, it is good to create different moods in a show. Even Copperfield over the years has added some slam bam effects like the "Lazer sawing" which hasen't got a story line to it.



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Skip Way
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Quote:
Although due to the time limitations each performer in the World's Greatest is unable to create this on his own, I do think the over all show as designed brings those elements as a show. When you see this show, or a show on television, please remember you are only seeing a small part of what an artist does and usually at the behest of the show producers. This is the way television and big time stage shows seems to work.


David, Very valid points that I hadn't really considered - which is why I tried to take this question to the pros and experts in a respectful manner. Of course, you don't have time to develop your stage character with limited snippets of time.

I suppose I was just feeling a tad nostalgic. Thanks everyone for the thoughtful and reasoned responses to this question.
How you leave others feeling after an Experience with you becomes your Trademark.

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Christopher Starr
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Swan101 made an interesting point regarding David Copperfield's recent presentations. While he does still feature some story based routines, he has also filled the show with to the point illusions such as the Squeeze Box, Motorcycle Appearance, Thru Steel, etc. Every show needs some variety.

Also, I felt that this show went on too long. At most, it should have run 90 minutes, but 60 would have been better. That length of program required way too much viewer loyalty when competing against other shows in those prime time slots.

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voodoo
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This is a nice topic Skip,

For me David Copperfield's illusions is one of a kind, he's still my Best Magician In The World.

This new era of magic is like fast food, everything went so fast without any experience and drama in the magic. DC can crate a card trick in to a dramatic situation(the grandpa ace), to nowadays performer almost most of them did it "show off".

Is it because today's magician are not "knowing well" about the art it self?
or
We just kinda missed Copperfield's way of perform.
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AmazingEARL
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You could look at this from a budget standpoint, as well. Presenting an illusion with a story introduction takes longer than the slam-bam presentation. You'd require fewer routines to fill out your show length...getting more "stage time" from your illusion investment. Meanwhile, Hans Klok could burn through an entire truckload of props in an eight-minute act.

A good storyline can also help you connect with your audience, especially if it's told as a *personal* story. DC could just climb onto a platform and vanish or make a car appear center stage, and people would still be impressed. But how many times have we heard of people being emotionally touched by his presentations of the Lottery, Portal, Snow or Flying routines?

The plot needn't be elaborate to be effective. It just needs to be done well.

Comparing apples to apples, look at DC's Statue of Liberty Vanish and Franz Harary's recent Disappearing Sphinx. Copperfield's intro and the brief monologue while the statue was gone really gave a purpose for doing the trick...almost using it as an object lesson.

Sappy, perhaps. But, that stuff sticks in people's minds. People may not remember what DC said about vanishing the statue, but they still remember him doing it after all these years. Will the TV audience will remember Franz's Sphinx Vanish next week?

Dan/EARL
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Terry Owens
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I still get goosebumps watching David Copperfield's snow storm illusion, but it's the story that gets me; even though I know it's not true, it still gets me because it conjures up emotions in me....that's great magic, and great theater.
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