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PenEnpitsu
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I had a quick question for those that are already performing. How did you come up with your performing persona? I'm trying to make up my own patter for some effects, and am having a hard time coming up with them.

What kind of approaches do you guys use? I'll use examples for patter while performing Prohibition. Are there other approaches than the ones listed below?

A scientific approach? (if this glass is heated, the molecular structure is disrupted long enough for this bottle cap to pass straight through the bottom)
A Magical approach? (using this incantation, the bottom of the glass will magically separate)
A psychic approach? (I will pass this bottlecap through the bottom using my telekinetic powers)

Basically I'm looking for a "reason" to explain why the effect happens. Please discuss.
Brad Burt
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You really only have two approaches. The first would be to attempt to invent a 'character' that you intend to stay within and the characteristics of which will dictate to some extent the 'how' of what you do. Dress like a Big Game Hunter/Explorer and your patter will need to follow a line that makes sense within the framework of that character. For this you should be taking acting classes, reading books on acting like Uta Hagen's "Respect for Acting", etc.

The second is to just relax and be who you are. "Just be yourself" can be a difficult thing for some to do and easy for others, but it can be done. Maybe the real you is just a guy who loves to tell stories of all different kinds and show folks cool and interesting stuff. As simple as that.

Whatever else you decide you will never go wrong by developing a sense of enthusiasm for what you are performing and then learning to project that out to your audience. Be happy to BE there with them.

Best,
Brad Burt
othelo68
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Don't feel alone Ive been thinking of the same thing lately.
Read "strong Magic" by darwin ortiz it'll change the way you approach magic.
I think Mr. Burts right on. you can either make up a persona ,really hard to do and make believable. or you can be yourself! why would you put that cap in a bottle? Its cool right? what made you want to take up magic?
answer those and you may be on your way to an answer.
Johnny Butterfield
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I basically play me with the volume turned up, the moodiness turned down, and the fun-lovin', witty hipster in me brought to the front.

It's pretty much me on the best day of my life. I'm not a good enough actor to do much more than that.
The current economic crisis is due to all the coins I've vanished.
The poster formerly known as Fman111.
Brad Burt
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Here's something I didn't want to touch on until there was some other respondents. It this: It can be VERY, VERY difficult form some to 'be themselves'! The reasons are many and varied, but it's a fact that many performers are much more comfortable "being" someone else when they perform!

And, so, the admonishment to 'be yourself' can be a real stumbling block to many performers. Here's something that may help: Attempt via visualization to imagine yourself performing for folks. Or, use what experience you have had. Are you or were you uncomfortable? Try to figure out why? What is your motivation to perform. What would push you past the anxiety if any to performing more and that more comfortably? Ask yourself, "What if it was not 'me' that was performing, but someone else?"

Even if you don't intend to play a character....TAKE an acting class or classes. Learn how to move from you AS character to a character that is not 'you'. How do you feel about that. What do you 'think' about it?

You CAN learn to put a character on and off like a quick change artist. It's just acting and it can be learned although a certain predilection for the craft is a plus.

Try this: For the next month every time you practice a routine do it at least ONCE as IF you were someone else. Try to move into a character that is far from who you view yourself to be as you can get. If possible video yourself.

Let's talk about video..... Video recording oneself would seem to be easy. For many folks IT IS NOT! Perfectly splendid performers put in front of a camera just simply fall apart. I have 'starred' in over 17 commercially available videos and I can tell you the secret to making your video experience WORK for you and not against you. IF....... you can put into practice what I will hereafter espouse.

Here it is: You must move yourself to treat the camera AS IF it was an audience of real people. You must manipulate your "mind state" such that the camera ceases to exist as technology and becomes just another either single audience member or the venue that offers a much larger audience! You HAVE, you MUST forget the camera and work for the intelligence behind the camera even if you are all alone with no one behind the camera itself.

Look it does you no good at all to video yourself and then judge what you see on the video if what you see varies from what you would do in a actual performance! ACT, ACT, ACT to the camera. PRETEND that it's a real person or persons. Talk to it and have it talk back to you. Hear it, see it, etc.

All very best,
Brad Burt
AGMagic
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Great advice from those posting above. My advice on "be yourself" is to ask those you trust (friends and family) how they perceive you. You will probably be suprised. You may find that you have different personality traits that come out in different situations...simply stated, you act differently under different circumstances. Also, your vision of you will likely be quite different from those you question.

I think of myself as a generally happy and funny guy. A friend told me that I scowl a lot. I did'nt believe her at first, but then realized she was right! I even have the frown lines to prove it. The better, happier me has always been present in my magic, but I now know that my more intense side shows through more than I believed. Gota work on that!
Tim Silver - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Magic-Woodshop/122578214436546

I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

Visualize Whirled Peas!
Alex Rapattoni
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This is a tip I got from Christian Painter of Christian and Katalina; the first thing you have to do is decide what your powers are. What is it you can do? Why can you do it? In their act Katalina comes from a long line of gypsy mind-readers. That her power and her reason, so every act she is involved in can have part ofthe script fall back on her gypsy heritage. Once you figure out what your power is, you can decide what tricks you CAN do. Even if you like something that isn't always reason enough to perform it. I one time saw a magician who was dressed as a pirate, his character was confused though. he wasn't just a pirate, he was an electrician and a scientist as well as who knows what. Figure out where YOUR powers come from, and the rest should fall into place.
Weird is part of the job.
Ronin
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Quick question certainly, obviously not one with a quick answer!

You asked about performing persona, but went on to provide examples of scripting, which are not quite the same thing.

When working on a play, the actor looks at the script. We magicians often act as both playwright and actor, which can make for a tricky act of psychological “plate spinning”.

As you seem to be attempting, I think I first started seriously approaching the question of my persona through the writing of my scripts. For starters, I followed the old writer’s credo: “Write what you know!” Being interested in things like jazz and science influenced my script writing, and the development of my character.

And then the most useful work on persona was done (continues to be done) in real world performance!

I had to see how audiences reacted to me. I had to get comfortable doing magic while trying to create a persona. I had to find out which jokes actually registered as funny, and which bits of inserted philosophy just made the audience go "huh?!" I had to edit and re-edit and re-edit some more. I had (maybe still have) some pieces which didn’t quite feel “right” for my character, which I tried to reshape. Some I discarded. I also asked myself, “What do I want people to be saying about me and my magic to their friends tomorrow morning?” That still has a huge effect on how I script and perform my pieces. In creating an act, it gives me guidance on how much humor and how many attempts at profundity I make.

I think Brad offered some really good insight. Acting classes are a very good thing. I also enjoyed Michael Chekhov’s “On the Technique of Acting” (Chekhov isn’t everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to acting, but I found some of his ideas to be of use) and Orson Scott Card’s “How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy” had some useful ideas on creating milieu, which suggested some interesting ideas on creating character for performance magic.
David Hirata
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"Life is a combination of magic and pasta."
--Federico Fellini
satellite23
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Just try different things and see what works best for you. it's kinda like trying on costumes for halloween or new clothes or whatever. just try em on and see what fits. that is what I did. I generally tend to lean toward the freaky/punk/mysterious magician who demands respect and uses gestures to accomplish the magic.
satellite23
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Just try different things and see what works best for you. it's kinda like trying on costumes for halloween or new clothes or whatever. just try em on and see what fits. that is what I did. I generally tend to lean toward the freaky/punk/mysterious magician who demands respect and uses gestures to accomplish the magic.
Dorian Rhodell
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There's a very good book about this very subject entitled Characters Make Your Story by Maren Elwood. It will change the way you understand these elements of theater.

Best,

Dorian Rhodell
PenEnpitsu
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Thanks for all of the replies; I think your help has gotten me further down the road of developing my character. I'm very comfortable being myself, but I think I just had a hard time incorporating magic into a part of my life. A part of me rejected going up to my friends and going "hey, wanna see something cool?". But I've since decided to take both approaches that Brad suggested, depending on the situation at hand.

Also, thanks Ronin, for your insight on scripting, and Rappatoni on your advice for deciding on my power. Both of these are great ideas that I've actually used this past weekend. I think I'm still going to be working on developing my alter ego and sourcing my costume for him, but at the meantime, also use the feedback I get from my audience to develop myself as a magician.

EDIT: And oh yea, where is the best place to take acting classes? Do I just look up community colleges? Or would I be better served checking out books from the library?
Dorian Rhodell
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Google Lee Strasberg.

Best,

Dorian Rhodell
Brad Burt
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Community College is a great place to start as it's inexpensive. Best,
Brad Burt
idomagic
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I've been doing magic for going on 28 years now. Not once in my career did I ever develop a persona, I was always just me. Well, I do perform under a stage name...

This year I was asked to look into developing a Western themed show for next season at the theme park I work at. Although I have years of acting under my belt on both TV and stage, I was panicked...

Until I figured it out. I won't "change" a thing in my performance. I'll change the props, maybe the vernacular and what I wear, but it will still be me, doing my best show.

I like what Fman11l said, "It's pretty much me on the best day of my life." I give 100% energy every second on the stage... And that's why after a weekend of shows, I need a couple of days off.
Chad Wonder (Chad Wonder Magic, Inc)
Past President SAM 37/IBM 131 (Mile High Magicians)
https://www.idomagic.com
http://www.ChadWonderMagic.com
PenEnpitsu
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This is more great advice. I just got out of college, looking for a job, so I might have to put off on the Strasburg Method as of now (geez, the stereotype of most magicians being cheap is so true, haha). Though it does look intriguing and I've saved the link for future reference. It better be good if they're asking 5 grand for 3 months Smile

I'll start off with community college and self education to build a foundation so I can refine what I do know when I do sign up for the program.

@Idomagic: Yes, I do think that being myself is a great way of performing magic, but I also want to learn how to be someone other than myself as well. That seems like a fun skill Smile
Ed_Millis
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Don't forget that your venue will affect who you portray to your audience. Like Chad and his western show, you do become a slightly different person, if only because people from another era or lifestyle are different.

If you perform for birthday parties, or on the street for college students, or on the stage for a mixed audience, who you are needs to match the anticipation of your audience. "Be yourself", though, is an excellent place to start. It allows you room to move freely without worrying excessively about having to stay in character.

Right now, I do kid-centric children's and family shows, so my goofball character fulfills both the parent's and the children's expectations of someone who will play with kids and provide and enjoyable time. I'm just a big kid and I've got some neat toys and stories. A "David Blaine TV Special" personality would not work well here.

I'm also looking to develop a show for younger teens. Here, "David Blaine" might do quite well. I might even be able to pull it off, even though it's not a prominent part of "who I am", if I can get the persona believable enough. I'm not here to play with you; I'm here to twist your brain into a pretzel!

But that's to be developed later, because the other comes more natural. As the goofball guy, I can breathe easily and flow smoothly, and develop the other areas of being a performer.

Ed
TheRaven
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Another approach is to think more about telling an engaging story rather than describing what you are doing.

Describing -- "I will now cause the molecules to separate and all the bottle cap to pass through the bottle..."

Story -- "When I was traveling in Mexico, I actually met the World's Most Interesting Man in a small cantina. Over a beer he told me that long ago glass making was considered a sacred art and that many still believe that bottles made in the Dos Equis factory posses magical properties. Then he showed me something I'll never forget..."

Find stories that fit your personality. It isn't necessary to provide a "logical" reason why something happens, but what you do needs to "make sense" in the context of the story you weave.
Cyberqat
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So, I don't have a single performing persona.

My street act was developed over time on the street. I got the name "The World's Second Greatest Magician" by blatantly stealing a throw-away line from another magician and making it my central theme.

My AFS talent show persona was really built through inter-action with the director who coached me on stage presence.

Professor Cogito again came about through working with the director of that show.

My "persona" for the show I'm about to do for very little kids is basically just me. I seem to do well with young children... my wife says its because I've retained a playful attitude into adulthood.
It is always darkest just before you are eaten by a grue.
StephenP
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The idea of tailor-made variations along with being yourself sounds like a good combo. I would think trying to stick too close to a script in certain circumstances would hamper your ability to react to an impromptu opportunity around you.
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