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Profile of Rhewin
I only started seriously performing last year. Prior to that, I had spent several years reading, watching performances, and figuring out who I was and what I wanted to convey. My gosh that was a roller coaster. My goals must have changed a million times.

A lot of new mentalists/converted magicians seem to be unsure about their direction. They approach mentalism as a series of effects, and I did too. I wanted to post some of the phases I went through and where I've ultimately ended up. I'm sure it will change again, but I thought people might benefit from the journey. I would also love more experienced people to share their experiences and the phases they went through. But please note, I really don't want this to devolve into another thread whether mentalism should be presented as "real" or not.

So, for better or worse, here are the phases I went through (so far) in my journey to becoming a performing mentalist.

  • The Wide-eyed Novice: I had tried out conjuring for a couple of years and it never clicked. I could do it, and according to my spouse I did get fairly proficient. It just never felt right to me as I hated how it felt one-sided. It was like me vs. the audience. I discovered mentalism and it instantly felt right. I already loved talking about things like psychology and predictability. More importantly, I have a background as a stage performer. With mentalism, the performance mattered more than the effect, so it felt like a natural fit. I hoped to amaze people with seemingly impossible feats of mind reading.

  • The Skeptic: I've seen a lot of would-be and aspiring mentalists at this stage. I realized some of these techniques were used by people I considered to be charlatans. If I could learn the same things, I could prove them frauds! I could be the hero among groups who knew not to believe such silly things. The idea was that I'd perform an amazing feat and then say there was nothing supernatural. This route flirted with exposure, and I can't say I support anyone who exposes at this point. The real pros like Banachek don't even go that far.

  • The Realist: I realized that the only reason Randi and Banachek can speak with any authority is because they had already become convincing in their own rights. I also realized that no amount of debunking on my part was going to change anyone's mind. Best to leave that stuff to Banachek and the JREF. I'd rather spend my time entertaining anyway. I'd still use a disclaimer, but that wouldn't be my focus.

  • The Mental Magician: I was still happy to tell everyone that all of my effects were tricks. I was still looking for that big climax at the end of the effect where the spectator shoults "NO WAY" and then runs a few laps around the room. Most of my effects were still some kind of prediction or divination. My main goal was to fool people and then tell them I had fooled them. This was perhaps the phase that took the longest to get out of.

  • The Mentalist (I hope): Wise words from Maven, Osterlind, Cassidy, and others made me realize the value of performing legitimately, not as a "fooler." I don't claim to have supernatural powers, but I'm fine leaving the audience in genuine wonder. I only got to this point when I began focusing more on theory and less on effects. My performances stand on their own, and I hope the bring some value to my audiences.

There was something Bob Cassidy said years that finally gave me an "aha!" moment. I don't have the precise quote, but he roughly said "sure I know what they're thinking. Maybe it's because they wrote it down, but I know exactly what they're thinking." Something about the simplicity of how he stated it made sense. I'll also give credit to professionals on the Café and other forums who helped me understand some of the ways mentalism is about as real as it gets.

Obviously I'm not a seasoned veteran, but I'm working my way there. I'm at the point that repeated performance is the only way I'll keep moving. I'd love for the more experienced to share some of their experiences as well. And if you are new to the art, I'd encourage to really think about why you want to do this.
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Profile of TimonK
Hi Rhewin,

thanks a ton for sharing this. Really enjoyed reading about your artistic development - I'm sure your post will prove thought-provoking to many, even when their own artistic development might have differed (or will do so).

All the best on your continued journey,

T. Smile
"But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don't you think that we might see each other once or twice?"
- Richard Bach, 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull'
George Hunter
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Thanks for your excellent reflection. It illustrates this paradox: We are all different; we are all similar.

stevie c
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Profile of stevie c
Interesting and thoughtful post. I'm now figuring where I'm at, and where I want to go, so this was a great read.

Thank you

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Profile of peculiarone
Rhewin, thank you for your frankness, I can relate.

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