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seadog93
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Well, I didn't TOTALLY fail last night at storytelling, but I was far less than satisfied with my attempt. I did a few routines (one was more magic one was a story and one was mentalism/time travel/story), no one particularly disliked any of them, and think people were fairly interested in parts, but nothing had anywhere near the impact that I'm sure they could have.

I've thought about it and talked about with my wife and her mother, but I was hoping to share some of my perceived problems and see what you think.

1) This was towards the end of halloween party with mostly teens and tweens and we had all been dancing and listening to music and running around, I think transitioning into lower key, involved stories was a difficult transition.
Would you do story telling magic for a group like this? Maybe more energy than usual, or start off with some flashier stuff? Or maybe use a lot of audience interaction to keep the focus?

2) This may have been a big thing, but I said that I had some magic to show the adults and older kids. My wife thinks that this set up certain expectations and doing stories (even though there was magic in them) that took away from being able to focus on and appreciate stories
Do you refer to yourself as a magician and do stories? Or a storyteller and do magic? Or both? If you were just doing one or two storytelling magic routines what would you call them?

3)My wife independently brought up a big point that one of my magician friends uses to explain why he doesn't like mixing stories and magic. She said that the stories make you go inside and use your imagination and it's easy to either not appreciate (or even notice) the magic, because your inside appreciating the story.
Assuming your story has several magical effects throughout (as opposed to one effect at the begining or end) how do make sure people appreciate the story ad the magic both? Do you pause to set up the effects, calling attention to what you are doing? Or maybe have a volunteer help out and play one of the characters in the story, so people are watching the whole time? Do you have any other tips in this regard?

I really appreciate any thoughts on this subject, I have successfully done storytelling magic and know how powerful it can be,but apparently I cannot always do it on command (yet).

Thank You
Courtney Kolb

Posted: Oct 31, 2010 9:53pm
4) One more thing that I've had a problem with sometimes (and this time) when I do bizarre magick (specifically spooky stuff) is how dramatic to make it. If I'm only doing a story, then I may be very dramatic and if I'm only doing magic I also may be very dramatic. Conversely if I'm doing mentalism I'm not dramatic at all, I play it totally for real. (My terminology may be sloppy here, of course I build dramatic tension in mentalism, but I don't want it to seem that I'm doing anything other than it seems).

With bizarre I have tried to play it real, as with mentalism, but it usually falls flat. Does anyone have any tips on finding the balancing point?

Thank you
Courtney Kolb
"Love is the magician who pulls man out of his own hat" - Ben Hecht

"Love says 'I am everything.' Wisdom says 'I am nothing'. Between the two, my life flows." -Nisargadatta Maharaj

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Pakar Ilusi
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“It's not the critic that counts. It's not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. Whose face is marred with dust, and sweat, and blood. Who strives valiantly; Who errors and comes short again and again; Because there is no effort without error and shortcoming. But who does actually dare to do the deeds. Who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; Who spends himself in a worthy cause; Who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. So that his place will never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
- Theodore Roosevelt -

Just keep at it. You'll do better next time.

Watch some older Copperfield Videos, he does well with Stories imho...
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Leslie Melville
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It is difficult to advise accurately in an on-line forum - there are so many questions related to performance, material, audience make up etc. However, it is largely to do with the expectation of the audience; what do they think they are going to experience?

If I am billed as a magician, then the storytelling element of my performance is restricted to a minimum - just enough to give some meaning or context to the magical effect.

If I am billed a storyteller, the reverse is the case. The insertion of the occasional and appropriate magic effect can illustrate and enhance the story. But in this situation, I keep the magic to a minimum, otherwise the audience's perceptions will change and they will begin to think of me less as a storyteller and more as a magician. When that happens, they will be expecting the pace to pick up and be less interested in the stories.

You always need to understand and remain aware of the perceptions of your audience and play to that.

Hope that helps.

Leslie.
Stories....?....That's telling!
seadog93
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Thank you both so much. I really appreciate it.
"Love is the magician who pulls man out of his own hat" - Ben Hecht

"Love says 'I am everything.' Wisdom says 'I am nothing'. Between the two, my life flows." -Nisargadatta Maharaj

Seadog=C-Dawg=C.ou.rtn.ey Kol.b
funsway
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Telling a story is much more than just a flow of words, whether magci is involved or not. Both "how you use the words" and "who you are perceived to be in the telling" are both more important than the words themselves. If you wish to be an effective (affective) storyteller you must spend as much time studying elocution as sleights.m Pakar's "school of hard knocks" is one way, but be sure you are measuring the right thing. A great storyteller can mezmerize an audience reading out of the phone book, while any high school student can destroy the Gettysburg Address.

My best advice as a speech major and storyteller/writer is to read books out loud to other people as frequently as possible -- kids and seniors in a hospital, for example. Watch their eyes and body language and chnage your tempo, volume and enunciation accordingly. Only then should you be concerned over "what story to tell."
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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Merlin C
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My any thoughts:

Shifting an unprepared group from a bodily energetic mode to one of imaginative attention is really hard! It's part of why there are traditional ritual openings and closings (and once-upon-a-times, curtain-rises, etc.). Would it have been possible to perform earlier in the evening? Your overall act (in both senses) consists of creating/framing the scene/event, and this is also made harder by calling yourself or just connoting yourself as a 'magician' (which flashier stuff might do), which brings up a field of associations which -- unless you're performing stunt-magic -- you then have to devote effort to correct.

You may be causing yourself trouble by conceiving (physical) magic and (verbal) stories as separate things. The whole effect, like any artistically perceived/framed act, is a story, a symbolic narrative, whatever combination of speech acts and body/prop acts you're telling it by, whether it's a good, consciously worked story or an accidental 'I'm showing off with sleight of hand' or 'these props do this and that'. The story isn't the script, it's the overall choreographed experience of the audience.

Facial expression and gesture are big parts of storytelling, and people do watch good storytellers: they converge visual and auditory attention on them. Were you using the right eye contact? Were you putting attention on props from the start, or introducing them midway? Did you link them effectively to the story or were they peripheral to it? Did the words and physical effects tell the story in series or in parallel? Did they symbolically resonate with each other?
seadog93
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Merlin C
Wow, so many great points. Thank you.

As far as the ritual openings, I thought of that to. In fact I was embarrassed in hindsight to realize I forgot (at least) one of favorite parts of Walt Anthony's new book that talks about just that.

The last two paragraphs though, especially, are great. Yes your absolutely right, I was telling a story and doing magic tricks I was not performing a story using both words and actions towards my goal (I mean, of course I tried to, but not in the way you describe). The effective link I think is crucial, I think the words and physical effects were parallel, but not effectively linked.

And your right, of course people watch gestures and expresions of storytellers. Off the top of my head three of my favorite storytellers are Joel Ben Izzy, Diane Ferlate and Kirk Waller. All of them have wonderful gestures, expressions and voices all of which are intimately linked and integral to their performance.

I REALLY appreciate your input.
Thank You
Courtney Kolb

Posted: Nov 4, 2010 3:19pm
Leslie Melville,

So do you pretty much stay with one or the other, or do you ever do loner, more involved stories that do have quite a bit of magic? Do you think it's possible to effectively bill yourself as a "storytelling magician" or a "magical storyteller" and be able to have more of both?
"Love is the magician who pulls man out of his own hat" - Ben Hecht

"Love says 'I am everything.' Wisdom says 'I am nothing'. Between the two, my life flows." -Nisargadatta Maharaj

Seadog=C-Dawg=C.ou.rtn.ey Kol.b
Leslie Melville
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Hello Courtney,

For the reasons outlined earlier, I generally perform in one form or the other. On the occasions when I integrate magic and stories equally, it usually is in a dramatized form where I take on a different persona and act out a story.

Some years ago, I was engaged to perform as Merlin in a 'Secret Forest' location.
My opening consisted of a rhyming introduction which both illustrated who I was and allowed me to demonstrate my abilities by performing appropriate and related magical effects. Having established my Merlin 'credentials', I then went on to talk about the woodland, including stories of the trees and wildlife in the forest. Again I illustrated my tales with magical effects (The Leaf - shortly to be included in my forthcoming book 'Magictales Two' is one of the effects I used to demonstrate how our Pagan forefathers communicated with the trees).

I concluded this presentation with a twenty minute story of my relationship to the young Arthur; bringing a boy out of the audience to play the Arthur role and complete a series of tests (to show his worthiness to become the future king). These tests were contrived magical items, in each of which he was seen to succeed. Those who own a copy of 'Magictales' (my first book) will recognize 'Arthur's Quest for the Dragon's Gold' from the Kismet section of the book.

In this way, the magic and the stories go hand in hand.

As I mentioned earlier, If I am presented to my audience as a storyteller, I tend to tell a miscellaneous selection of short tales - there may be a linking theme (Christmas tales for instance in which all of the stories will be Christmas related) but I will perform very little magic - 'The Miracle of the Poinsettia' in which I magically produce a Poinsettia bloom, is a story that I regularly present in my Christmas shows.

If I include an excess of magic effects in these shows, I find audiences (children in particular) find the stories too slow and become impatient to see the next magic trick.

If I am performing a magic show, then the mind set of the audience is conditioned to watching me perform a series of magic tricks. I can occasionally include one story/trick providing it involves an audience member, but generally they will become restless and want me to 'get on with it!'

There are storytellers who specialize in 'Epic' type tales. These stories will be of considerable length and will often involve one main hero character who sets out on a quest and experiences a variety of adventure en route. In this instance, magical effects may well be included providing they are relevant to the story and serve to illustrate a particular problem that must be overcome.

I myself have occasionally presented this type of tale, but it isn't the style of storytelling that I enjoy (maybe I haven't yet found the right vehicle!).

Most of what I have described above is what I have found works for me - others may have different experiences in these areas.

Finally may I also clear up what I mean by storytelling. I tell stories in what is called 'The Oral Tradition.' I don't read out aloud from books. I like to keep my eyes on the audience. Additionally, when you read from books, you are obliged to stick to the written word. By telling 'orally' you are able to assess the mood of your listeners and make subtle adjustments as you move along.

I hope this rather lengthy piece is helpful.

Leslie
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seadog93
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Leslie,
absolutely helpful. Thank you.
I also just re-read the "let's talk about storytelling" section of Magictales. It's always a little embarrassing to have a problem and realize that a you have a lot of advice on it right there on you book shelf. I'll be reading that section a few times (as well as your above response).

I've never liked reading from books for an audience, it never quite made sense to me. I was lucky to spend a few weeks every summer for about 5 or 6 years listening to Joel Ben Izzy tell stories everyday at our summer camp (he also introduced me to magic), after that sitting and reading a book out loud just doesn't compare.
"Love is the magician who pulls man out of his own hat" - Ben Hecht

"Love says 'I am everything.' Wisdom says 'I am nothing'. Between the two, my life flows." -Nisargadatta Maharaj

Seadog=C-Dawg=C.ou.rtn.ey Kol.b
Leslie Melville
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Glad that you managed to find something of value. I didn't address your question about billing (magical storyteller or storytelling magician?). I wouldn't use either as both descriptions are meaningless to a lay person.

When I began twenty-odd years ago, marketing myself as a storyteller, I soon discovered that adults were confused by the description. "What do you do?" they would ask. "I am a storyteller." I replied........ long pause, furrowed brow and then..... "Yes, but what do you DO?" would come the response!

You see, very few people have had any experience of seeing a performance storyteller. If I had said, "I'm a comedian" or "I play the guitar" they would have nodded their heads and understood. They have seen people doing that, so they form a picture in their minds. But a storyteller...? Storytelling is something that school teachers do in class or how parents entertain their children at bedtime. And both instances usually involve reading from a book. How can anyone BE a storyteller? How does it work? They really can't get a picture in their heads.

The term 'magical' in the context of 'Magical Storyteller' could be construed as an adjective, describing your wonderful storytelling technique. 'Storytelling Magician' would more accurately describe what it is that you do but the term, by itself is rather bland and lacks punch. It doesn't evoke in the reader the desire to know more.

My storytelling publicity is presented in the form of a 6" x 8" four page leaflet; the front page of which reads, Leslie Melville presents - "Short Tales & Tall Stories" - a Storytelling experience! Inside is described what I do, where and for whom I perform and for how long I have been doing it. Included is a short paragraph explaining that in addition, I am a performing magician and as such, I am able to enhance and illustrate many of my stories with amazing magical effects.

The back page mentions a couple of storytelling and educational organizations with which I am associated and closes with some unsolicited glowing quotes from satisfied clients!

My business cards and letterheads say, Leslie Melville....Tells Tales - Performs Miracles! followed by my telephone number and website details. That's all.

I showed my card to a local church minister recently; he read it, noted the 'Tells Tales - Performs Miracles!' quote and smilingly said, "Jesus might have had the same words on His business card!"

Leslie
Stories....?....That's telling!
SpellbinderEntertainment
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Leslie is totally correct, and has solved the problem for himself.

And Leslie, mine was once "miracles for any occasion"
which Jesus or Buddha could have used on their cards too <grin>.

After a long, long time and much experimentation I developed mine:

Walt Anthony, Conjurer & Teller-of-Tales
Spellbinder Entertainment
"spinning tales and weaving enchantment"

(BTW it will take anyone time and experimentation I doubt Leslie accomplished his overnight)

(BTW #2 People work very hard to develop a branding and image, please find your own and don't borrow from others)

Magically,
Walt
“Tales of Enchantment: The Art of Magic”
by Walt Anthony
www.LeapingLizardsMagic.com

"spinning tales and weaving enchantment"
Leslie Melville
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Quote:
On 2010-11-05 22:08, SpellbinderEntertainment wrote:
Leslie is totally correct, and has solved the problem for himself.

And Leslie, mine was once "miracles for any occasion"
which Jesus or Buddha could have used on their cards too <grin>.

After a long, long time and much experimentation I developed mine:

Walt Anthony, Conjurer & Teller-of-Tales
Spellbinder Entertainment
"spinning tales and weaving enchantment"

(BTW it will take anyone time and experimentation I doubt Leslie accomplished his overnight)

(BTW #2 People work very hard to develop a branding and image, please find your own and don't borrow from others)

Magically,
Walt


Thanks Walt,

Actually the 'Tells Tales - Performs Miracles' billing did arrive overnight - after forty years in the business!

Leslie.
Stories....?....That's telling!
TonyB2009
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Some great responses here. I am lucky in coming from a country with a strong story-telling tradition, so I don't have to explain myself. Everyone knows what they are getting.
The advice about ritual openings is spot-on. It doesn't have to be a traditional ritual (though nothing wrong with that) but you have to make the moment special. When I am storytelling the magic used to be secondary; now it is gone. But when I am doing magic the stories are creeping in more and more.
The joy of storytelling is you are using nothing but words (and delivery) to create the magic in the minds and imagination of your listeners. The best place to learn those skills is your local Toastmasters Club.
Jeff Christensen
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I found it very helpful to take a story telling course at my local community college. Instead of doing magic with stories I found it more beneficial to just work on learning to tell a story rather than one with magic. It was my hope that I would receive more and better constructive feedback if I didn't "hide" behind some magic to help carry the story.
Vick
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This is such a great discussion and resource. Thanks to all who contributed. This is still a valuable and inspiring thread in 2016.
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"Any sufficiently primitive technology can mystify a postmodern audience." - JMG's Corollary to Clarke's 3rd Law
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