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Stellan
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Talking about communication there is another thing I would like to address. There are different levels of communication going on in a magic performance. One level being the argument of the trick with words and gestures displaying the initial and final situation, using Ascanio's terms. Another level could be explicit propaganda in connection to the trick or performance, which Whit has elaborated on and pointed out the problems belonging to that. There is also the patter as such.

But there is also something else - the subtext. This may be something of the most important for the success of a magician. I don't think this is so often spoken about in a more elaborated way. Sure it is often said you should take a trick and put your personality into it. But how is this done? I think the best magicians are able to put a strong subtext to their performances. A negative example of a subtext is: "I am very clever." or "I can fool you."

The subtext is of course coming from a lot of different things you say or do. How you treat people. If you have some kind of irony or self-distance. Your reactions on stage.
I think this is maybe the most important level of communication to express magic as an art form because it becomes a medium to bring forward the intelligence of the performance. If you have an interesting subtext you are able to fascinate people in a profound way. But how do you work to make it interesting?

What is your subtext and are you working on developing that aspect of your performance?

It would be interesting to hear your thoughts about this.
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Pakar Ilusi
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Quote:
On 2011-08-22 07:12, Stellan wrote:

What is your subtext and are you working on developing that aspect of your performance?



Interesting topic you bring up... Smile

Yes, I've spent the last few years revamping my whole approach to my Show's subtext... The reason being that mine has life changing implications for those watching AND thinking about what they're witnessing.

It is fun and dramatic (if I may say so myself... Smile ) but it goes much deeper if any in the audience are willing to go there... Smile

I cannot however reveal what it is exactly here on an open forum. Sorry...
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Brad Burt
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My subtext has always been the same, "A diffident kind of 'Hey wanna see something really cool?'". As support to this I have always attempted to project the "I am just one of you all" to the audience. I combine the two to pull them in to 'my weird and fun little world'.

That's the best I can describe it. The closest other magician I could descriptively would be my late friend Mike Rogers. We had very similar performing styles. I call it the 'Like me, like my magic' form.

Stellen, it's an interesting topic, because I see the subtext changing sometimes subtely from routine to to routine. Is THAT a good idea? What cognitive dissonance might come up with audience to impede what the performer is attempting to do?

An example: Happy like me performer suddenly goes into a routine that's a little dark in context, content, etc. How do you make the transition IF you do at all and not lose some or all of the audience?

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Brad Burt
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If not "routine to routine," certainly the subtext could change from venue to venue, e.g. close-up vs. stage.

Is "I always attempt to project" the "subtext," or is "how you are perceived by the audience" the subtext? How do you know is this "hidden communication" is working as planned?

Do you see subtext included in the development of a novelty character or a different focus?
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Brad Burt
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"How do you know is this "hidden communication" is working as planned?"

I don't think 'sub text' in this discussion is all that 'hidden'. Sub here to me does not imply 'subsumed within', but something happening alongside the main 'show' that is in service to it, yet not the main 'course', so to speak.

Observation of the reaction of the audience with the assumption that to some degree an audiences reactions can be interpreted correctly or at least close thereto. If you do something you 'think' should get a laugh and after it's delivered everyone is laughing.....

If after the show lots of folks come up and tell you they enjoyed what you did and can they have your card and shake your hand and the host stuffs a $100 tip in your pocket on top of the $500 you just made for 30 minutes work standing in a living room....it could probably be safely assumed at least in my reality that they liked you, they really liked you.

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Brad Burt
Stellan
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That was an interesting angle, Brad. For me it I somewhat different depending on what venue I am in. Doing walk around I have pretty much the same subtext. If I do street I have much "come here and see something fun and amazing" but here I also have something with a trap that has a more challenging subtext, nothing like Gazzo, but "this could be dangerous" with tongue in cheek.
In parlour or on stage there is more control and I have a wider range of subtexts. I have no problem with transitions. One is to put my finger in the air and say: Now to something completely different.
If I do family and children shows the subtexts are still more varied and complex. I go from someone that has strange knowledge and wisdom to someone who do cheap tricks and have bad ethics, from someone with much grown up authority to someone that is a little bit crazy and childish, from sneaky to very fair.
I find that people respond well to transitions and in a stage or parlour show that is more than twenty minutes long it is almost a necessity. At least for me. That is a way for me to keep their interest.

Interestingly the subtext may be the only thing you remember from a performance. Think of a performance you have seen a couple of years ago, let us say a performance of Juan Tamariz, chances are you may not remember anything he said, maybe you can't even recall what tricks he did but you will remember the subtext. The subtext is fuel for the story you will tell others about the performance.
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Brad Burt
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Stellen: I have no problem with that. To a great degree I think that changing subtexts in the context of this discussion is much about the talent of the performer doing it. I've seen it done well and I've seen it done badly. And, here again we come to the old: Observe what the audience is saying and adjust to that.

Technique wise I have used the more direct approach of ASKING the audience IF they want to see ......etc. Get THEIR permission and bang you are off and anything you do from that point is .....

Best,
Brad Burt
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Quote:
On 2011-08-22 07:12, Stellan wrote:
A negative example of a subtext is: "I am very clever." or "I can fool you."


This is an oversimplification. Cleverness can be a function of character, and theatrically any character can be made compelling despite the appearance of negative qualities. As for "I can fool you.", every now and then it's incumbent upon the performer to set aside all theatricality and embrace the fact that people want to try to figure out how something is done. Who does it help if he wimps out on that challenge?
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Whit Haydn
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When the audience thinks "You can't fool me!" they are really thinking, "You can't do anything that I would consider impossible."

If they are right, you are NOT a magician. You may be an entertainer, you may be a juggler, an actor, or a comedian, but you are not a magician.

When they admit that you CAN fool them, they are not admitting that you can do real magic. Just that they can't begin to figure out what you could have done to fool them, and that they found that surprising and remarkable.
Stellan
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Yes and no, Andrew. If the main subtext is: "I am very clever." there is not much that can save the character. As a part of the subtext it can be interesting.
"I can fool you." is more complex as a subtext. This also belongs to the frame, which makes it difficult to not mix up. It was not a good example, sorry for that.
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The Burnaby Kid
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Quote:
Yes and no, Andrew. If the main subtext is: "I am very clever." there is not much that can save the character. As a part of the subtext it can be interesting.


Well, now you're not talking about subtext so much as what's happening at the overt level.
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tommy
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There are tacit reasons for doing this and that conveyed in the actual performance of magic tricks which seems to me to be a sort of subtext.

i,e

-Then the performer's shuffle gives a tacit reason for holding the deck while the card is inserted, instead of permitting the spectator to take the deck in his own hands.-
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Al Schneider
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I had a thought here.
I have often heard that magic is a vehicle to ... (another world, entertainment, humor, etc.).
Could normal conversation be a vehicle for subtext?

When this thread began I did not know what subtext was.
Had to look it up.
I think I understand it.
I think sub is an inappropriate prefix.
Is it THE communication?

I find this extremely fascinating.

If you get my subtext.

Al Schneider
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Jonathan Townsend
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From a social perspective, language itself is also a device to conceal meaning.
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The Burnaby Kid
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Quote:
On 2011-08-27 19:11, Al Schneider wrote:
Could normal conversation be a vehicle for subtext?


Normal conversation usually is. Scientifically, it's hard to quantify exactly how much communication between people is non-verbal, but 75% to 90% isn't a bad place to start.
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Jonathan Townsend
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Measuring such things is not trivial.

Does anyone know if something like: record/transcribe conversations between two people and then ask for interpretations from others based upon what they read - to be measured against the data from video capture and interview with the conversants have been performed?

My guess is that the amount of communication that goes by non-verbal channels varies from 50 to 95 percent depending on context where both parties are speaking the same/native language. On occasion when I was among folks who don't speak English I found that communication without knowing the words is more depeneant upon the attentiveness/openness of the participants than a common spoken language.
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Stellan
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Subtext is coming from several sources. One is the way you dress. You are probably not aware of all your subtext, which can say different things to different people. One item like a funny hat or a tie can deliver different subtext depending on context - on the street or in a corporate setting.
Cellini had a hat that was carefully chosen to add to his subtext.
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Jonathan Townsend
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Stellan, subtext is dynamic realtime. I suspect you are describing something more like "context" or "history" as regards ones character in costume. Then the costume does not match the character or their actions we get incongruence rather than nuance or subtext. One of the older books has a paragraph about how a bit player will fret over every bit of his costume to convey just the right impression even though he is onstage for only a few moments and has no lines. This is also part of the wardrobe and set design responsibilities in production design.

By way of character/history in the realm of films consider the line "that's a nice coat" from Sin City. Smile
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From Wikipedia, an excellent explanation of subtext, which I think is crucial to magic:

"Subtext or undertone is content of a book, play, musical work, film, video game, or television series which is not announced explicitly by the characters (or author) but is implicit or becomes something understood by the observer of the work as the production unfolds. Subtext can also refer to the thoughts and motives of the characters which are only covered in an aside. Subtext can also be used to imply controversial subjects without specifically alienating people from the fiction, often through use of metaphor.

Subtext is content underneath the spoken dialogue. Under dialogue, there can be conflict, anger, competition, pride, showing off, or other implicit ideas and emotions. Subtext is the unspoken thoughts and motives of characters—what they really think and believe. Subtext just beneath the surface of dialogue makes life interesting, but it can also cause people to be misunderstood.

Examples of subtext often include the sexuality of the characters, such as the nature of the relationship between the teachers in the film version of Lillian Hellman's play The Children's Hour (which was based on an actual case in Scotland), or the gender ambiguity of Mr. Humphries in Are You Being Served?.

In the play "Ghosts" by Henrik Ibsen subtext is important in gaining a greater understanding of the character as they cannot always speak freely due to the constrictions of social conventions at the time.

A scene in Woody Allen's movie Annie Hall, in which subtitles explain the characters' inner thoughts during an apparently innocent conversation, is an example of the subtext of a scene being made explicit.

Especially in light of their inherently ambiguous and self-referential character, many authors have explicitly used subtexts (or subtexts about subtexts) in humor.

In the episode "My Best Friend's Bottom" of British comedy TV series Coupling, Captain Subtext is a tool used in the narrative to explicitly make the viewers aware of the subtextual message in the dialogue. In it, the dialogue and the subtext have been deliberately made humorous.

It might also be claimed in these last two examples that once the subtext is made explicit, it is no longer a subtext: The authors are highlighting a supposed subtext in order to create a new subtext about the transformation of the previously implicit subtext. Because of their complexity and implicit character, subtexts are often debated, especially by theorists wishing to advance a particular position or theory by claiming something as a subtext.

Subtext is also a frequently used method of subtly inserting social or political commentary into fiction. (This technique is not new. Voltaire used it in Zadig and Candide.) Subtext is often also inserted in narratives where explicit themes are unable to be shown or expressed due to censorship or simply interest in appealing to a general audience. Frequently, these subtexts may be of, but not limited to, a sexual nature or possible references to sexual orientation. Their inclusion is such so that they are easily overlooked by younger viewers but may be caught by more mature viewers. Television sci-fi such as the original Star Trek and Doctor Who (both of which implicitly avoided onscreen sexual situations) have often been discussed with respect to certain scenes or lines of dialogue. Subtext also serves to add a complexity to a premise that may superficially appeal to younger viewers but may also attract older fans, as is often the case with cartoons, sci-fi and fantasy. It also may serve to aid in suspension of disbelief."
Stellan
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I could be wrong on this and costume may not be considered as part of the subtext. It could be that costume is too permanent since it is not "evolving", at least not the way dialogue does. On the other hand I think you could say that costume delivers signals and communication that can be more or less subtle. Another definition from wisegeek:

"Subtext refers to an underlying theme or an implied relationship between characters in a book, movie, play or film. The subtext of a work is not explicitely stated, but often interpreted by fans. Subtext can be a way for the creator of a work to relay ideals, principles, controversial relationships or political statements without alienating viewers or readers who may balk at the ideas or even reject the work.

As an example, consider the cartoon Rocky & Bullwinkle (1961-1973), starring arch villains Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. While appealing to children on one level, it was also a political satire about the cold war between Russia and the United States, couched in subtext.

American Beauty (1999) was a movie about a man going through mid-life crisis, but the subtext told a much deeper story about the gradual discovery of self-love, and the acceptance of life and death as equally beautiful, profound and mutually inextricable.

Works of science fiction often use subtext to reflect social ills and fears by substituting alien cultures or technology for human ones. For example, ET: The Extraterrestrial(1982) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). ET played on our fears of those different from ourselves, while 2001 played on our fears of intelligent technology.

More recently, subtext has played a significant role in online fandom regarding television series, movies and books that reach cult status. Subtext in this case usually relates to relationships between dramatic characters that fans either want to see together, or that they believe are subtextually portrayed as being in a relationship.

A quintessential example is the cult hit, Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001), in which Xena and her traveling companion, Gabrielle, forged a relationship that went far beyond heroine and sidekick. Online fandom was so intent upon the subtextual relationship between these two characters, that the writer/producers of the show admittedly began to write in subtext purposely. Other fandoms, like that of Star Trek Voyager (1995-2001), saw a flurry of romantic subtext between Captain Kathryn Janeway and the Borg/Human Seven of Nine. However, in this case the subtext did not appear to be purposely fed or even acknowledged by the show. Subtext can also be interpreted or imagined between opposite sex characters, such as in the case of The X Files (1993-2002) characters, Mulder and Scully.

A final definition of subtext relates to the art of writing dialog, whether for page, stage or screen. Experts point out that in real life people rarely say exactly what they mean, and dialog written too plainly (referred to as "on the nose" writing) sounds stilted and false to the ear.

For example, assume 'Tom' just went through a contentious breakup with his wife. She storms out as the phone rings. Tom jerks up the receiver to find it's his friend, Ray, who asks innocently, "What's up?" Without applying subtext, Tom might answer: "Well, I'm mad and upset. My wife and I just had a terrible fight and she left. Maybe for good." With subtext applied Tom might clench his jaw and manage, "Not much." The use of subtext draws the viewer or reader deeper into the character and story. One of the hallmarks of a good writer is a dialog rich in subtext.

Whether penning dialog or shaping a theme or relationships, be it purposeful, imagined, discovered en route or developed over time, subtext lends real emotional and intellectual depth to any dramatic or literary work."
"There is no reality, only perception."
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