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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » A magician is an actor playing the role of a clown and a mountebank (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

tommy
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"As the mountebank delivered his harangue, the clown would repeatedly poke his head out from behind the curtain, making fun of everything his master said, parodying his patter and twisting the meaning of his words. The mountebank played the perfect straight man, meanwhile. Here he was, trying so hard to hawk his wares, and his own assistant was doing everything possible to undermine sales. "The merriment was of course intentional. While the clown seemingly encouraged the public not to buy the proffered merchandise, the mountebank knew full well that the bystanders would easily be converted into customers as soon as they forgot that they were, in fact, supposed to be buying. Once the audience had been effectively hypnotized, once its judgment and willpower had been weakened, the real sales pitch could begin..."

J.H. Towsen, Clowns.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
tommy
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My theory is that magic consists of two opposite forces which are crossed to create a synthesis. A synthesis is two opposites at the same time. i.e. Cross fire and water you get smoke/mist. According to my theory what is true of the patter is untrue of the magic and vice versa. According to my theory it cannot be true that a magician is an actor playing role of a magician when presenting his patter and his experiment because he has to be playing two opposite roles. When a magician is presenting his patter, he is an actor playing the role of a clown because he joking, in effect mocking magic. When a magician is presenting his experiment, on the other hand, he is playing the role of a magician; a wise man presenting serious facts to prove he is not clowning. Two roles; Fool v Wiseman he plays are opposites. A similar thing is going on in the above Clown and the mountebank act it seems to me, except the clowm is played one and the montebank is played by another person.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
tommy
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The two masks are associated with ancient greek drama with the smiling and frowning faces. They are the Comedy and Tragedy masks that were worn in ancient Greece during the golden age, around 500 – 300 BC, and are paired together to show the two extremes of the human psyche.

The Comedy mask is known as Thalia, who in Greek mythology is the Muse of Comedy and Idyllic Poetry, portrayed as a happy, cheerful young woman crowned with ivy.

The Tragedy mask is known as Melpomene, who is the Muse of Tragedy. Melpomene is depicted with the tragedy mask in one hand, and a knife or a club in the other.


https://thegreekdesigners.com/2016/03/07......lpomene/

The matador comes with cape and a sword.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Jonathan Townsend
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Would you give an example of how you apply this or where you've seen it successfully applied in our craft?

Good to know your desired process of engaging with an audience. Something has to frame "our magic" as distinctly entertainment rather than fraud.

The Robert-Houdin line makes sense in that chapter of his book. The difference drawn between overt cleverness skillful manipulation of a juggler or speed of trickery and deception managed under skills unsuspected. The same pages suggest "prestidigitator" as misdirection of a sort, and "prestigist"; one who presents wonders as a more apt term.

The ancients were presenting comedies and tragedies as distinct dramatic forms. This was generations before before adopting longer form instructional dialogues as literature (pre Socratic).
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Jonathan Townsend
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Folks, tommy is onto something about what makes our craft work. There's a short con game pattern in magic deception. It's easier when a con frames the performance than during each routine. If they are not confident about the wrong things the tricks don't delight.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
tommy
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I do not believe that a magician performs magic but rather creates magic. As a creation magic must be created by way of crossing of negative and positive forces, because all creations are created that way. A magic act essentially consists of patter and an experiment and these are and these are those negative and positive forces. The patter is that negative force because the patter is incredible. The experiment is thar positive force because the experiment is positive. As adjectives the difference between incredible and credible is that incredible is too implausible to be credible; beyond belief; unbelievable, while creditable is believable or plausible. The above explains the difference between patter and the experiment. The two opposite are interrelated as the experiment proves true the incredible assertion in the patter. The magic is a synthesis of these opposites as it both incredible and credible at the same time. This means the magician must play two opposite roles: The Jester when presenting his pater and the Tragedian when presenting his experiment. The audience do likewise in response; suspending their rational faculties for the fictional patter and applying their rational faculties to the facts of the experiment. That, I think, is what goes on in magic acts generally. No conflict, no drama as they say. The patter gets the audience into spirit of thing. It tells them it is for amusement purposes only. Patter is that which “leads them up the garden path to be defeated by their own logic” as I think Ricky Jay said. I think it is interesting to think of it as some sort or hypnotism that makes them forget what they are there for. I think patter is enchanting as it calls on the imagination.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Pop Haydn
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People don't shoot the ventriloquist. They shoot the dummy.

tommy
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Thank kindly Pop. That is a good and interesting way of thinking about it.


It seems to be a magician is a man playing the role of a man with a split personality; playing as it were the kind Dr Jekyll for the entertainment side and the evil Mr Hyde for the magic side. The kind Dr Jekyll gets them to believe it is a fiction with the patter, while the evil Mr Hyde proves to them it is a cold hard fact with the experiment.

What matters here is the opposite effects on the audience: the audience suspends their rational faculties for the fictional side and then they resume to use their rational faculties for the factual side.

If you watch a magician, I think, you will see subtle changes in his personality as he moves from the patter to the experiment. The audience has to pay attention to each and every step of the experiment, which calls on the magician to get somewhat serious.

That is not true of the entertainment side, where the magician wants his audience to dream. Why? Why because magic is the world of dreams, enchanted dreams like a fairy-tale, conjured up by a wonderful science, that's why. In other words, he wants his audience to use their imagination for that entertainment side of it.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Pop Haydn
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I think magic is basically a burlesque or sendup of charlatans and charlatanry, whether sorcerers, necromancers, seers, alchemists or pseudo-scientists.

Whether done seriously or lightly, the entertainment comes from the cleverness or transparency of the deception, and the quality of its presentation.
tommy
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Yes, I agree.

I think it is rather the demeanour of the magician and his audience that changes as the magician moves from his patter to his experiment. This happens naturally because the nature of his patter and his experiment are opposites; the former being fictional the latter being factual in effect.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
ringmaster
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A magician is an actor playing the part of a great magician.
One of the last living 10-in-one performers. I wanted to be in show business the worst way, and that was it.
Pop Haydn
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Quote:
On May 6, 2021, ringmaster wrote:
A magician is an actor playing the part of a great magician.


Or a terrible magician...

Or a being from another time or another planet.

Or a Phrenologist

or an Alchemist

or a Necromancer

or a Scientist

or a NLP practitioner

or a Psychic, etc., etc.

Magic is only one theme of our artform. Anything impossible can be a subject for our art.
ringmaster
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You have to at least aim for greatness. If you are a hobbyist, that's what the magic club is for. If you aspire to be a professional, no problem, the invisible hand of the market place will slap you down. There is a place for the terrible magician, it's just not on the public stage.
One of the last living 10-in-one performers. I wanted to be in show business the worst way, and that was it.
Pop Haydn
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Quote:
On May 7, 2021, ringmaster wrote:
You have to at least aim for greatness. If you are a hobbyist, that's what the magic club is for. If you aspire to be a professional, no problem, the invisible hand of the market place will slap you down. There is a place for the terrible magician, it's just not on the public stage.


An actor can play the part of a terrible magician, as did Tommy Cooper and Johnny Thompson. I don't think you would want to have kept either off the public stage.

That is what acting is about.
ringmaster
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Special case. Tommy Cooper, Ballentine and Tomseni were not terrible magicians. The just played one on television. They were doing comedy a very difficult art form, death is easy, comedy is hard. And Thompson had very high chops as a slight of hand man. You have to go to an IBM meeting or a convention to see terrible. Close up card magic is a delightful hobby, so is stage acting, they don't always show up in the same person. Have fun, be bad if you have to, just don't do it in public.
One of the last living 10-in-one performers. I wanted to be in show business the worst way, and that was it.
Dannydoyle
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The point is they were great ACTORS. Acting the part of a terrible magician is not easily done convincingly.

BEING a terrible magician, or singer, or juggler or dancer and so on is not very entertaining. The clown at the Ice Capades who acts as if he can't scate however they will often steal the show.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Pop Haydn
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The point is that they were choosing to portray "terrible" magicians, not "great" magicians. You don't have to play a great magician, or even a magician at all--a scientist with alien technology, for example.
tommy
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The point is the magic experiment is not an act, in the stage sense.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
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