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Being a fan of both Darwin Ortiz and Slydini I gave this article a perusal. Since I'm basically a nobody in the magic world I feel this makes me more than qualified to utter my opinions on said article.

I of course can't comment on Slydini's career as I have no idea what percentage of income was provided by performing for lay audiences so I'll have to skip commenting on that altogether. Frankly I have no numbers for Mr. Ortiz either so I'll double down on this point.

The aspect of "challenge" is worthy of discussion though. There are several nuances of definitions for this word. I provide these definitions as hopefully being agreeable to all parties: Noun - a call to take part in a contest or competition, especially a duel. Verb - 1. invite (someone) to engage in a contest. 2. dispute the truth or validity of.

I think you make a valid point here - "The definition of challenge is “something that by it’s nature or character serves as a call to battle, contest, special effort, etc.” People love games, game shows, puzzles, etc.. Saying that challenging an audience is wrong is like saying that people don’t enjoy a watching a competition, sports, mysteries, etc., so don’t watch or get involved with them. Challenging and being challenged, especially in entertainment, is fun!"

People do like challenges otherwise they wouldn't play or watch sports with such fervor. In fact I would take it further and make the observation that the less challenge there exists in a game than that game is considered not so worthy of being watched. The closer the teams or opponents are in skill level the more entertaining the it is. Same with being on the team. We all like to win but not against someone who isn't a worthy opponent. Not much enjoyment in being a master level chess player (which I am not) playing against someone who doesn't even know the en-passant rules or castling.

This line opens up more points of discussion - "Challenge as an aspect of a performance can be used as an integral part of entertaining your audience, building rapport and ultimately having fun."

The last three magicians I have seen live are Piff, Mac King and David Copperfield. I can't recall any direct invitations for the audience to compete against the performer. And just thinking out loud this might be a vital point on this. As long as the performer and the audience are on the same side then challenge can be okay. But then this gets in character as well. Is the performer presenting phenomena that just happens? So he and the audience are both amazed by these happenings? Or is the performer presenting skills he acquired through a lifetime of practice? It seems this approach isn't a challenge but more of look what can be done with superhuman skill.

A random thought - what if a juggler asked audience members to flash 7 balls. And when they failed said you can't do it because you didn't watch the balls. That would probably fall flat. I remember being pulled into a street performance in Santa Monica years ago by a a juggler. I ended up balancing several spinning basketballs. Which I have no real skill in doing. He just staged it and took pic. Which I happily bought from him. So the challenge was in making me look good but not showing me that he could do it and I couldn't. Yet we all knew he was very skilled and I wasn't.

Another example is a presentation by David Williamson of Fecter's "Be Honest. What is it." Williamson call's it a memory test. But here is the thing. His second line after introducing it as a memory test is to say "Don't worry you won't pass the test. I didn't. Everyone fails." Immediately taking the challenge of having to pass a test right out of the routine. I won't perform routines were I directly state we are going to test your eyesight or memory. But I thought this was a clever way to remove that sting. My approach for this routine is somewhat different.

So there is no doubt in my mind that challenge does exist in magic but that the challenge is to remove it as much as possible so it doesn't become a game of wits between performer and spectator. Unless of course that is understood before hand. I can see the poster now...come and see if you can outwit Fred the Magicia. If you know how he does his puzzles your ticket is refunded. I'm sure there would be individuals that would love that challenge.

When I was a kid most of my effects were "sucker" tricks. Now I try to avoid them as much as possible. Interesting line to tread when you fail at something and then suddenly surprise audience with a twist. I can't do effects like that anymore for people that have seen me in the past. They simply don't buy the idea that I "screwed up."

So what are we looking at here. We set up a premise. You select a card and lose it. I prove the cards are really being mixed by turning half the deck face down and half face up. Then I ask how they want the trick to end "face up or face down." And the deck rights itself except for the chose card. We of course want to the audience to watch the outward actions carefully so they know what is happening. But there is that thin line we don't want to cross. We can't let the idea get communicated that the spectator failed at observing which is why he doesn't know how it is done. Which of course has a kernel of truth in it.

Such a subtle and important topic to discuss. Worthy of much discussion. I'm glad Mr. Ortiz brought it up in his book Strong Magic and that others are continuing the examination and evaluation of this prnciple.

There are two effects I'd like to perform but don't - 3 card monte and Mexican Poker. I am afraid I won't be able to handle the challenge element so clearly inherent in either of these routines.
Even Ortix mentions in Volume 3 of Nothing but the Best when discussing Mexican Poker that while technically one of the easiest routines to do he finds it to be one of the more challenging because we don't want to make the "audience player" a loser. Really tough nut to crack I think. Contrast that with Ultimate Cardshark from that same DVD. Very technically demanding routine but almost no challenge aspect is present. And it kills!

Just my two cents:)
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To anyone who hasn't read "Strong Magic" yet -- please do and then read this blog post. You'll see it's not a good take at all.

jason ladanye
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Great, now I gotta throw away my copies of Strong Magic.
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Just stumbled on this thread thanks to recent posts. Thanks so much to Kevin and Bill for their generosity!!! Will enjoy catching up with the articles. Many, many thanks Smile
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On Sep 25, 2022, FaroFaroFaro wrote:
Just stumbled on this thread thanks to recent posts. Thanks so much to Kevin and Bill for their generosity!!! Will enjoy catching up with the articles. Many, many thanks Smile

Thank you so much for the very kind words, FaroFaroFaro. Much more great stuff to come Smile
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Wonderful articles. Thanks for sharing.
"If you ever write anything about me after I'm gone, I will come back and haunt you."
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