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RichLind
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In my recent post learning to perform mentalism http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewt......&start=0 suggestions were made to study acting.

I have studied Stanislavski & Stella Adler and spent two years in an award winning regional theater's actor studio (no not New York) and stared in Tennessee William's Snow Angel and Sartre's No Exit years ago which leads me to consider studying acting a disadvantage. At least method acting.

I saw a good reason not to study method acting watching the penguin Osterlind/ Cassidy DVD. Osterlind emphasized on how it is necessary to BELIEVE you can read minds as any method actor would. While demonstrating an effect using his stack he truly believed and did not peek and had to redo without BELIEVING.

This reminds me of a story about the great actor Paul Muni, who used the method before Stanislavski. Someone, I forget who, complained to Paul Muni's wife that Paul did not return his greeting. His wife said that was because he is preparing to play Beethoven, who was deaf, in his next movie.
rich
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YES and diction
Raum
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I think everybody says about more about performing art, then classical acting. Diction, scripting, voice training and other such skills.
Cervier
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Someone told me an anecdote: on the set of "Marathon Man", Dustin Hofman had to appear out of breath, so he went for a run around the block. On coming back, he met Laurence Olivier who asked him why he had done that. "Because I need to be out of breath". Laurence Olivier asked, "why don't you ACT?"

So much for method acting Smile

But this is going into details on how to act. The main thing is, yes, some skills at acting are desirable without the shadow of a doubt!
It used to be important for magicians, it still is for mentalists.

But there are, IMHO, two aspects.


FROM A TECHNICAL POV

A need for believability. Magicians don't want to make their audience believe they can truly perform impossible things, so acting is not so important for them in that respect. They're happy with showing they can perform incomprehensible tricks.

On the other hand, mentalists want their spectators to truly believe they (the mentalist) did indeed read their minds (the audience'), by means of telepathy or by reading their body language.

I would say this puts us, in a way, in the same situation as a crook who wants his victim to believe he's faced with the owner of the Eiffel Tower. Someone whose life or next meal depends on his spectator believing his claims doesn't ast the same as an artist who can occasionnaly miss.

From that point of view, I would say acting is part of the technical arsenal a mentalist must master.



FROM AN ARTISTIC POV


Some performers like to have a character that is very different from what they really are. While acting to convince is a necessity, acting to play a role is an artistic choice. But while I believe a natural can pull out the former without acting classes, I think such classes are mandatory for the latter. And a director.



STAGECRAFT

I don't know where to put that one. Anyway, I believe that skills in stagecraft are more than usefull, for stage performers of course, but even for close-up workers. And that's often learned in acting classes. And with a director.


My 2 cts Smile
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As a rank amateur, I think that some acting classes could be useful to any performing artist. If you need help projecting your voice, that will come out in an acting class. If you have the tendency to look at the audience when you should be looking at the person on the other side of the dialogue, that will carry over in your performance and you want to find that out in an acting class. I don't know how much classical acting coaching one needs and how much is too much, but I would think that at least some would help anyone who performs in public. I've heard that many musicians get acting coaching to enhance their "stage presence" and I know I've seen performers of many arts who seemed to lack that presence.
George Hunter
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In this good discussion, we may be overlooking the obvious. Advanced schooling in Public Speaking would work wonders for many mentalists.

George
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As would improv training.
thatmichaelguy
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I think a huge takeaway from a study of acting would be the fact that in that process you learn to be a story teller. Understanding the throughline of a story and being able to create one for your show is what, in my opinion, makes the difference between a performance and a series of effects.
Samuel Catoe
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Study acting, stand up comedy, public speaking, anything that gets you used to talking with others and in front of audiences. Improv could help greatly with thinking on your feet. Something to remember is that performers have a script. Even Improv has a rough script, very rough but still there. If you perform, you need a script too, that way you can do what your doing without having to think about what you're going to say next. Just my advice.
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Philemon Vanderbeck
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Learning how to act, writing and memorizing a script (even if you also include room for 'improv' bits during audience interaction), and most importantly, hiring a DIRECTOR to observe your performance and recommend changes are all things that a serious performer should do.
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Everything that makes your performance better and more authentic is desirable.
If you feel inner motivation, if you think that this will take out of your comfort zone and learn new tools, do it!
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CR_Shelton
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I think it's incredibly useful to study acting. It broadens our dynamic range, strengthens our connection to the audience, and broadens our creative toolset. I think traditional method acting is he best school of drama for magicians to explore, because it is all about justifying and internalizing physical actions.

Here is the paragraph I use to promote my Acting for Magicians coaching service:

Quote:
You want to make your audience feel wonder. Can you make yourself feel wonder? Actors make us believe in their reality not by proving it, but by reacting truthfully to it. Their specific choices create compelling character, clear narratives, and heartstopping moments on stage and on screen. Emotional responses can be isolated and trained through repetition, in the same way as sleight of hand. Inspired by his work with Andrew Goldberg in the Shakespeare Gym, Christopher has curated a "bag-of-tricks" for magicians drawn from classical theater, method acting, and avant-garde performance. Magicians will learn how improv training can be much more than a tool to deal with hecklers, physical and vocal techniques that will instantly enhance their presence and misdirection, and how to identify and accent the emotional beats in their routines.


The school I studied at was heavily focused on contemporary American works, and we were taught a comprehensive blend of Stanislavski's method and what is known as "experimental theater" (Movement and improvisation based school of theater, developed at NYU around the 1970s).

A lot of people misunderstand the method. The term has become diluted and conflated with a technique developed for film by Strasburg and his students, which essentially boils down to "If you get a team of people on hand to take care of the little stuff and worry about reality for me, I can lose control, forget everything about where I am, and give you one really good take." It requires craft and talent, and nobody can deny it creates incredible moments on film, but it is obviously not practical for a magician (though I might venture to say that some television magic stars have incorporated a bit of the ethos).

When you are focused on trying to lose control (or when you've lost control already), you do silly things like stay up for days or forget to grab a peek. On a film set you can afford to do those things; In a mentalism show you cannot. But a traditional method actor, like Uta Hagen, would be the least likely to miss a mark (or a peek). The entire point of the method is to create a performance that is reliable and repeatable, in addition to being believable and captivating. It is focused on physical action, not feelings. Feelings and belief will come if the method is applied properly and with discipline.

Quote:
Stanislavski directed our attention to what is most tangible, the most concrete in each human action; it's physical aspect. [...] Diverting the actor away from feelings, from psychology, he directed it toward the carrying out of purely physical actions." - Vasily Topalov


Quote:
Never lose yourself on the stage. Always act in your own person, as an artist. The moment you lose yourself on the stage marks the departure from truly living your part and the beginning of exaggerated false acting. - Constantin Stanislavski


The traditional method was developed for stage actors. Being on stage means dealing with quick changes, trap doors, spotlights, weapons, fake food, etc. Any play involves elaborate choreography on-stage and off, much of which the audience is not, and should not be aware of. The whole thing must be reliable, resettable, and repeatable 8 times a week, but we must act surprised by most of it. It must be easy to follow but deeply engaging. Sound like any other art forms you know?Framed that way, it's easy to see how an actor and magician face a lot of the same challenges. The method is a system of training and rehearsal to address them. Several different people learned the method from Stanislavsky and came back to start schools, each emphasizing a slightly different part of his teachings. So there are many different branches, but they rest on the same principles.

The first fundamental axiom that runs through all branches is this: Every action we take is also a reaction to something else. That is to say, we never act without something prompting us. There is no room for free will in the method. Whether or not you believe in determinism in the universe, method acting is about creating it temporarily on stage, for yourself, like a reverse La Place's Demon. It's accomplished by establishing anchors in the real world that prompt a desired memory, frame of mind, physical or emotional reflex, etc. Like toppling dominoes, our reaction to one anchor leads our attention directly to the next, in a very predictable way, because we chose the anchors for that purpose and we have practiced them through repetition. Put enough together to get you though the whole show, and suddenly there's no need to ever *believe* in anything that wasn't right in front of you to begin with, and no time to think about getting a peek or finding your light.

Quote:
The simple act of banging my hand on the table can bring about a feeling of rage. -Uta Hagen


The second axiom of the method is: Repetition creates an internal experience and outward illusion of spontaneity. You will only stop distracting yourself with unwanted thoughts after you have rehearsed a routine enough do it without thinking. I think most magicians understand this already, or have had the experience themselves of becoming so comfortable with a prop that it is practically operated without conscious thought. I think if magicians can be taught how to translate practicing coin or card sleights to practicing emotional ones, they will find they already have an understanding of the discipline involved, and it gives them an advantage as an actor.

All the actions we take on stage that aren't part of our direct line of thought must be carefully justified and connected to our inner life through parallel anchor lines, and then suppressed into the subconscious by repetition. In real life we can be thinking about our plans for dinner and easily get out the door with our coat, wallet, and keys, and drive all the way to the store without halting our internal monolouge. On stage we must develop that line of physical action, study it, and then practice it in the background of our stronger intentions, stopping to fine tune any time we get distracted.

This is critically important for magicians though: The method does not allow for *any* action on stage that is not justified. This presents a challenge for a case like Osterlind's. If he wants to apply the method to his routine, the goal is not to believe in what he doesn't do, but to believe in what he *does* and must do. Why would a person who had actual psychic powers secretly peek at the information? He must decide why, and then through rehearsal train his body to *believe* it's the natural thing to do. If he focuses his attention on that piece of paper for even a moment, it has become an anchor that must be incorporated into the flow of his attention, which means it *must* affect him and his character in some meaningful way and drive him to the next action, to prevent his inner life from coming to a standstill. If he chooses that it is something his character does by muscle memory while focused on something else, and applies the method well, he should find that he does not *remember* getting the peek, but he knows the word when the time comes. That's how we bridge the gap and find a way to honestly believe in our story, by actively engaging with reality instead of ignoring it.

After graduating conservatory I spent many more years studying Shakespeare and classical acting techniques. In this school of acting I think there are many useful techniques for magicians as well, including basic physical techniques of posture and gesture, diction and vocal dynamics, and understanding how the pulse of blank verse is internalized and used to heighten prose. In addition, the classical plays themselves have much more real magic in their stories than contemporary plays, which gives magician-actors opportunities to explore. Rehearsing as Prospero, for example, would allow us to explore the choices we would make if we had real magical power and didn't worry about secret moves.

Later, as magicians, we can use the method to apply that knowledge. We will be more sensitive to movements in our routine that are inconsistent with real magic and may be distracting or giving clues to our audience. We drill down on those moments and practice them a new way -over and over until muscle memory takes hold - just like learning a coin sleight. We replace them with the most effective gestures and vocal patterns, ones that work on many levels to support our character, provide dynamics, and engender emotional response.

Finally, training as actors gives us the freedom and tools to completely disappear into the larger project. I think all magicians struggle to let their ego to take a backseat, in service of the audience's experience. Directing our own thoughts and emotions is a worthwhile endeavor only because people are naturally empathetic, but empathy rarely becomes hallucination. If you leave your show truly believing you saw a coin float in the air, but the audience just remembers it sitting there while you wiggled your fingers, it is a failed experience.

Quote:
The audience is the most revered member of the theater. Without an audience, there is no theater. Everything done is ultimately for the enjoyment of the audience. They are our guests, fellow players, and the last spoke in the wheel which can then begin to roll. They make the performance meaningful. -Viola Spolin


Acting can’t be learned from a book or DVD, or at home in front of a mirror. You must have a teacher or director to guide you, and real life partners to react to. I don’t think all magicians *must* study acting to be effective, but I have seen it make a difference in some magicians’ work. If you learn it properly I think there is very little danger that learning it makes your magic less effective. If anyone would like more information or guidance finding a good teacher in their area, I would be happy to help.

Quote:
Why be narrow-minded, why cut ourselves off from any of these rich heritages when… we have the freedom to make the most of the best in all techniques? There are no prohibitions against it. All it takes is a little wisdom, imagination and courageous experimentation. - Michael Chekhov
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That is a great post, very illuminating, thanks.
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Francois Lagrange
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I second that. Thanks CR.
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I believe it's far more valuable to strive and succeed in sales than it is to practice acting. There's an inherent lack of immersion or sense of urgency in performance for the sake of art that simply cannot be missing when your survival on the back of each sale is at stake. The concept of believablility is non-entity when you're actually making deals and thriving because of the skill set you've built while negotiating live. Once you've operated on such a raw person to person manipulative level, the opportunity presents itself to apply that toolbox to any social interaction.

My personal journey has taken me from street hustler, to craftsman/tinkerer, to acting. And I honestly can't imagine having taken a different path or followed an alternative curriculum to have guided me through this world. Though I've just been meandering along the whole time... looking, for something. For what, I still don't know. But I do know if I keep looking, I'll forever find new ways to ask the questions that I need to ask in the moment. That's where I find magik, no matter where I am, or what I'm doing.
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I study acting by watching Zorro. Did you know he did magic?
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RichLind
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Quote:
On Nov 2, 2017, Cervier wrote:
Someone told me an anecdote: on the set of "Marathon Man", Dustin Hofman had to appear out of breath, so he went for a run around the block. On coming back, he met Laurence Olivier who asked him why he had done that. "Because I need to be out of breath". Laurence Olivier asked, "why don't you ACT?"

So much for method acting Smile

But this is going into details on how to act. The main thing is, yes, some skills at acting are desirable without the shadow of a doubt!
It used to be important for magicians, it still is for mentalists.

But there are, IMHO, two aspects.


FROM A TECHNICAL POV

A need for believability. Magicians don't want to make their audience believe they can truly perform impossible things, so acting is not so important for them in that respect. They're happy with showing they can perform incomprehensible tricks.

On the other hand, mentalists want their spectators to truly believe they (the mentalist) did indeed read their minds (the audience'), by means of telepathy or by reading their body language.

I would say this puts us, in a way, in the same situation as a crook who wants his victim to believe he's faced with the owner of the Eiffel Tower. Someone whose life or next meal depends on his spectator believing his claims doesn't ast the same as an artist who can occasionnaly miss.

From that point of view, I would say acting is part of the technical arsenal a mentalist must master.



FROM AN ARTISTIC POV


Some performers like to have a character that is very different from what they really are. While acting to convince is a necessity, acting to play a role is an artistic choice. But while I believe a natural can pull out the former without acting classes, I think such classes are mandatory for the latter. And a director.



STAGECRAFT

I don't know where to put that one. Anyway, I believe that skills in stagecraft are more than usefull, for stage performers of course, but even for close-up workers. And that's often learned in acting classes. And with a director.


My 2 cts Smile


Cervier

Great story about Hoffman and Larry and that is my point. The outside in rather than inside out is the way to go. In regard to stage craft, blocking is essential. In regard to voice the method guys are mumblers; watch any newer movie and compare it to the old movies
-rich
RichLind
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Quote:
On Nov 2, 2017, Djin wrote:
As a rank amateur, I think that some acting classes could be useful to any performing artist. If you need help projecting your voice, that will come out in an acting class. If you have the tendency to look at the audience when you should be looking at the person on the other side of the dialogue, that will carry over in your performance and you want to find that out in an acting class. I don't know how much classical acting coaching one needs and how much is too much, but I would think that at least some would help anyone who performs in public. I've heard that many musicians get acting coaching to enhance their "stage presence" and I know I've seen performers of many arts who seemed to lack that presence.


Djin,
I agree but stay away from method acting classes. Find a theater style outside in acting class with diction and voice projection.
-rich
RichLind
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Quote:
On Nov 2, 2017, George Hunter wrote:
In this good discussion, we may be overlooking the obvious. Advanced schooling in Public Speaking would work wonders for many mentalists.

George


George, and how to influenceperpople via Dale Carnegie
-rich
RichLind
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Quote:
On Nov 2, 2017, thatmichaelguy wrote:
I think a huge takeaway from a study of acting would be the fact that in that process you learn to be a story teller. Understanding the throughline of a story and being able to create one for your show is what, in my opinion, makes the difference between a performance and a series of effects.


thatmichaelguy,
From my 2 year experience at an actors studio, I'm not sure about learning to be a story teller. However we did a lot of improv whichis helpful.

-rich
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