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David Thiel
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Inner circle
Western Canada...where all that oil is
3792 Posts

Profile of David Thiel
I saw an effect recently that made me smile. So I ordered it (Sheer Luck, if you must know Smile ) and even as I pressed the purchase button I knew that it wasn't going to make it into my core show. It's certainly not because it's a weak effect because it's not. It's a lot of fun -- sort of like Bill A.'s CSA -- which also makes me smile.

I've spent several years trying out different effects, playing around (er...I mean "carefully shaping and scripting" ahem) various effects and ideas, trying to adapt them so they're a good fit for my show. Some have been tried and tossed out. Others carefully refined and THEN tossed out. Some I absolutely loved but couldn't talk myself into...and some that just "fit" -- and I've watched as that show formed itself and finally emerged about a year ago. It felt sort of like what a sculptor must feel as he chips away at stone until a statue pops out.

There's not a single effect in my show that I don't really love to perform. I think the show order is exactly as it needs to be and I've taken the same basic program and done it for groups as small as 20 and as large as 500. It works. I think I'll always be honing the scripting, and trying out new ways to present the effects...but overall, my sense is that the basic show is done. I have material I'm happy with for 20, 30, 45 and 60 minute shows -- and another set for full evening performances.

What I mean is that, in order for something new to make it into my core stage show, it would have to be better or stronger than something I'm already doing. And, despite continuing to purchase new stuff, I have yet to find something that fits these guidelines.

I read postings from people like Bob Cassidy that say he's basically been doing the same act for decades...that he's always refining it -- but that the bones of his show don't change...just subtle changes and refinements to the skin that he hangs on them.

Some guys are very successful with this.

People like Marc Salem are successful despite constantly redesigning new material and entirely new shows.

This makes me go "Hmmmmm."

Reinvent...or redefine?


To be honest, the same thing happened when I was performing magic -- the show evolved and then it took a shape and only changed in the area of refinements to what I was already doing and, while I had a very good show -- doing it again and again bored me to death. I knew every nuance of that show -- I knew what was going to happen -- every single thing that COULD happen -- because I'd done it over and over and over. I knew when they were going to laugh...when they were going to "oooo" and when they were going to applaud. I clearly recall being in the middle of a show when I realized that I was totally flying on auto-pilot. That is NOT a good feeling.

So I sit back and wonder if the "bored to death syndrome" will happen with mentalism.


There IS something that is a KEY difference between magic and mentalism...something that keeps every show fresh. Of course you know what that is: the audience...and the volunteers that come on-stage. I know that I can do my "first kiss" routine over and over again -- and the outcomes are always different because the audiences are always different...and the memories they share are always different. It's not that way in magic...because, to me, a good magic show controls every possible variable because you absolutely can never fail...or miss. Not so with mentalism.

Keeping the show fresh means listening to the people assisting with the effects...really meeting them and talking to them...really sharing this whole thing with the audience and going on that journey.

Where in magic, the volunteer had no way to change the course of what was happening (other than 'fill in the blank' responses in the appropriate places) -- a mentalism volunteer can take the show on some delicious detours. Of course it all returns main show plan...but some of those detours and quite wonderful and utterly fascinating.

Magic, to me, was about things: objects that move in impossible patterns, effects that appear to challenge the laws of nature. Y'know. THINGS.

Mentalism is about people. And people come in startling varieties with fascinating differences. And it's okay to appear to "miss" once in a while...because the ultimate "hit" is still in my back pocket. And people are much more interesting. Presentation is key. So is personality. So is a willingness to occasionally throw caution to the wind and take a chance...

So as I sit here, surrounded by props I'm not sure will never see the stagelights I'm wondering 'When is enough?' And on the heels of that, I wonder 'Does it really matter?'

Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Except bears. Bears will kill you.
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Seattle, WA
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Profile of mastermindreader
For me every show is the same in one sense, and every show is different in another.

I know my act to the point where I can do the mechanics and script in my sleep. If that's all I did, I admit it would quickly get boring for me. But, the opposite is really the case, because I'm completely free to interact and improvise with every audience, making each show unique.
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Profile of sandsjr
David, nice post.

I think you can answer the first question by truly knowing and articulating the reason you were prompted to write it.

You'll know the answer to the second question after you've answered the first.
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