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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Penny for your thoughts » » Start your show with a strong or weak effect? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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false_shuffle
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I'd like to get some thoughts on the impact of your first effect you choose to perform in a mentalism show. Colin McCleod (for example) is a fan of starting a show with a very strong effect, as he discusses in his DVD's. However, Chuck Hicock (for example), suggests starting with something minor and building the impossibility increasingly through the show, saving the most impossible for last. What do you guys think? I, personally, would hope that every effect in my show is a "closer", and every illusion performed is just as impossible as the other. However, using this logic there is no "impossibility curve". Thoughts? Just something I've been thinking about lately.
Daniel Rasmussen
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Mindpro
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First thought - Why would you combine illusions with Mentalism?
Lost in Thought
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I think it matters more that the effect is establishing. That introduction (and as others will no doubt point out, your "first effect" is actually how you walk on stage), needs to achieve two things:

1) Let the audience know what to expect from the show.
2) Teach them how they should react to it.

Now, both of the above need to be implicit, since an explicit example of either of the above will make you look like an idiot. "Show not tell".

Currently with our stage show (magic/mental magic, not mentalism) we begin with a silent opener. This is technically a manipulation routine, although it's about as far from the usual as possible. It's funny, involves plenty of fire (ooh pretty!) and no talking. This has been useful at some of the tougher venues, since it establishes the character, creates an expectation for the rest of the show... and more importantly gets those last few guys to shut the hell up and pay attention (obviously not a problem in every venue, but sometimes it's invaluable).

With that in mind, I suppose I'd only want to start with something big and flashy if that was the tone of the show, and I knew I could beat it. The first "effect", which doesn't have to be a piece of magic at all, in my mind needs to establish character and thus interest.

I wouldn't be adverse to opening by making some kind of extraordinary claim, which the rest of the show "proves". That achieves the same end, without having a strong piece of magic.
Tony Razzano
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I have no weak effects in my show. I am not being a wise guy. I am serious.

When I took a seminar with Lee Earle back about 20 years ago, he was of the opinion that you should build, in his words, "The wedge of impossibility'" In other words, start with something believable, then build to stronger and stronger effects, increasingly, as the show goes on. His reasoning was that you get them to go with something they can believe, then keep driving in the wedge until the end when the belief of the audience has been raised by the gradual increase that the wedge supplies as you drive it in.

Lee was very successful, so, although I don't subscribe to that philosophy, it seems valid. I am very successful, too, so I guess it depends on personal preference.

By the way, unless I misunderstand you, I agree with Mindpro.
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<BR>Tony Razzano, Past President, PEA
Winner of the PEA"s Bascom Jones and Bob Haines Awards
Olympic Adam
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Quote:
On 2011-08-03 14:31, Mindpro wrote:
First thought - Why would you combine illusions with Mentalism?


mental illusions?
false_shuffle
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Forget I said the word illusion, lol! Let's not get into that conversation, that's another day. It depends on your definition of 'illusion'. But yes, I was referring to mental illusions.
Daniel Rasmussen
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false_shuffle
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Perhaps you're correct Tony. Simply personal preference...
Daniel Rasmussen
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twm
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If some effects are less strong than others, I believe it is best to start with a very strong effect, then have the less strong ones, and finish with your strongest.

Start with your number 2, to get them on-side. Finish with your number one to leave them with a strong memory, and wow them in the middle.
Jerskin
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What he said. You have to get their attention and hold it.
GrEg oTtO

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Christian & Katalina
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Daniel,

My first thought was exactly what Tony Razzano said. However, reading through the thread I think what you are asking is about the flow, rhythm, and pacing of your show. It was just unfortunate choices of words “Strong” or “Minor”.

There is no easy answer to your question. It can be answered in a number of ways. Experience and time in front of an audience, performing , and writing shows all come into play.

As a beginner, typically the answer is, start with your second strongest effect. Then build from your minor to your major effects, ending with your strongest. This is a safe and time tested strategy.

However, once you start to move away from the parade of tricks presentation, this changes. You must answer questions like:

What is the premise of your show?
What do you want to tell the audience?
What dramatic arc are you building?
What do you want them to think about you or your show when they leave. (other than the obvious answer, “He was amazing.”

Most mentalists simply perform their effects as exhibitions of power. Their usual premise is NLP, psychology, latent ESP powers, or showing me the power of the mind. These presentations, although fitting are uninspired and trite.

Most mentalist personalities are caricatures of some dark, brooding, soul with powers that could stop the Earth from moving. They, instead of using these ominous powers to help the planet, bend spoons and reveal things from envelopes to amuse us. Oh..and they almost always wear black. Just do a quick look of mentalist websites and see what you see and feel!!!!

The best way to look at how to construct a show is to look at how live theater is constructed. There are many formats for plays. (And yes they do translate to stand up performances)

Think of it this way… Imagine you knew you were going to write a play about some guy who can perform some sort of ESP. You have just asked. How would I write/construct acts? Until I know more about the play, Characters, plot, premise, reason…how can one answer the question?
Milbourne Christopher Award for Mentalism 2011
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Author of "Protoplasm" Close-up Mentalism
WDavis
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Christian & Katalina great post!
magicman29
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Quote:
On 2011-08-03 14:31, Mindpro wrote:
First thought - Why would you combine illusions with Mentalism?



I think it was a figure of speech......
DrTodd
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You have misread Hikock...he starts with a plausible effect and increased the implausibility...so the magic square is plausible as it involves mental math, while having everything that happened end up on a prediction rolled up as a banner is total implausibility...

I think it is important to point out this difference...
mastermindreader
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Todd is right. Plausible does not mean less powerful. In fact, I END my performances with a plausible effect - my card memory routine, and use my drawing duplication in the next to last spot.

But as several have noted, an act is not just a series of effects that are strung together. The opening, as I have frequently pointed out, is your first 30 seconds on the stage and the impression you make. In many cases it doesn't involve an effect at all.

Good thoughts,

Bob
DekEl
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While it's hard to compare effects as they're like oranges and apples, I generally have a feel for the two strongest ones. I put the second strongest at the beginning, when I'm moving through a few minutes talk about the benefits of mind reading and pull a few jokes. Then I move into the bulk of my routine, continuing along a common line, and then at the end I play out my strongest effect, with a tie in from the beginning, and build it up to a crescendo.

In a single sentence, I perform a strong effect at the beginning and a stronger one at the end.
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Mindpro
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To me, your opening effects and your closing effect or two really should not be interchangable. Things I would end with would be too strong or unbelievable, cold, right from the beginning. I believe you work up to what is believable and possible with the more amazing culminating at the end. So to me it's more of a matter of what strong early, believable effect is possible that establishes me, how or what I want the audience to find to be believable and how I want them to respond. This is quite different than my closer.
DWRackley
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I agree (within limits?) with the personal preference view.

Probably guilty of still thinking like a magician, but I want my first effect to grab their attention. Yes, you save the best for last, but the second best should probably be first, IMO.

The thinking (as a magician, still) is that the first effect is what will establish your credibility, reassuring them that you are worthy of their attention. The last effect is what they will talk about on their way home.

I don’t think that really changes all that much when the switch is made to mentalism. It’s actually a good principle for almost any kind of presentation. Think how many TV shows and movies start off by showing a fight, an argument, a dead body, whatever, before they even display the title or credits. (MI3 still gives me chills when I watch the opening sequence!)

To that end, I purposed to do the Corinda opener before they were even aware that the show had begun. (I stink with a S***i, but there are other methods.) I step up with an “Excuse me, but would you mind giving me a number…”. After the paper is read, THEN is when I do the “Welcome to the show” spiel.

This works for my character, a little reserved, warm, but always holding something back.

Another idea that I use (again falling back to television) is the recurring theme. I grew up watching “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island” (there, I’ve admitted it!) There’s a different set of characters and circumstances each week, but the thread of continuity remains. In performance, I’ll introduce an idea or procedure toward the beginning, and reach back to touch on it from time to time as the show progresses, always building.
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Christian & Katalina
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So… I guess we can all agree… start with your 2nd strongest…end with your strongest…and build in the middle. However, when we step out of the parade of tricks ‘show presentation’ there are other alternatives.

Ending with a denouement can have a huge psychological impact and create an “Awwww” moment for the audience. (Branson is known for this)

DWRackley, stated “The last effect is what they will talk about on their way home”. What if I want them to talk about me . . . or what my show is about.

I was thinking of the play, “Wicked”

They start with a question. The set up the premise by making you think . . . what is true? (the question is: Are people born wicked or is wicked thrust upon them) Then the rest of the play drives towards that answer.

The end is not a climax but a denouement . . . it totally placates to the audience . . I won’t give it away but I imagine that this ending was tested before audiences and American audiences dictated a particular closing that was not dramatically correct…but made them feel better.

So the question is . . . is your show just a parade of tricks…or does it have a dramatic structure?
Milbourne Christopher Award for Mentalism 2011
The Annemann Award for Menatalism 2016
Author of "Protoplasm" Close-up Mentalism
Stuart Cumberland
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My mentor once told me to start strong and end strong. In the middle, put strong stuff.

The 13 Steps to Mentalism has a very strong effect that grabs attention in the first chapter. It takes about 30-seconds to present.

Go from there.
Stuart Cumberland
vinsmagic
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Whatever is your taste start strong and end even stronger
vinny
Come check out my magic.

http://www.vinnymarini.com
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