Official I.C.O.M Past Lesson Archive
I.C.O.M Online Spotlight 1/98-3/98
Ronald J. Dayton
Several suggested roads of travel toward an elusive goal.
One of the methods I use when developing an effect is to familiarize myself as completely with the object or objects I intend to use in the effect as possible. A cardworker for instance will want to know the following about the brand of card he intends to use. Is the back design conducive to secret marking? Will the pattern allow for secret openings, slits to be concealed by the design itself? Is the card case designed in a useful way? Does the card split easily? Is its degree of flexibility of value? What is the relationship of the card in regard to the size of other cards? Can the border, front or back be used to conceal a secret ingress or flap? Is it a plastic coated or linen card? Does it hold up after repeated creasing or folding? Can the ink be easily erased, removed or otherwise altered? Will the card scale well? Is this a brand the audience is familiar with or will be comfortable with? Is its shape (round, crooked deck, tarot, miniature, bridge, poker or jumbo) useful for a specific effect? Is it a specialized card? Can the fact that it is a Giant Face Deck of value to me?
Perhaps I have taken too much time to make my point, but the implications are clear, and the answers often make your task of inventing an easier one. The questions alone may inspire a thought, or the investigation of the card itself may open new doors.
What is true for cards may, in many ways, be applied to other items. If, for instance, we are considering ropes.. what questions might you ask? How strong is it? Does it cut easily? Do the ends fray? Is it available in colors? Does it cause rope burns? Is it soft and flexible? How much length does it take to form a single overhand knot? Is it easily untied? Does it have an inner core, and if so, can it be removed easily? Can objects pass through the weave? What is the design of the weave itself? What is the rope made of (cotton, nylon, hemp, other)? Can the ends be mended and joined such as with nylon rope? With the core removed, can objects be inserted into the hollow rope? Does the rope soil easily? Can the rope be seen at a distance? Is the rope heavy, light, bulky or compressible? All of these things and more are factors a person should be aware of when considering possibilities with rope. The same may be said for a whole host of objects and materials.
One of my very best coin effects was based on the fact that I observed that the diameter of a U.S. Nickel, when machined properly, was the same as a size eight ladies finger ring. Who’d have thought? All of this too becomes part of the growing knowledge in your firm background in magic.
Bobby J. Gallo
How to Perform Effectively in All Situations
It could be said that having a large touring stage show is every young entertainers fantasy. Many performers have attained this goal. But who are these people? Certainly we can see these men and women just by clicking on the television. Going to Atlantic City or Las Vegas. Many of the top paid Casino performers have financial backing and sources of revenues that allow them to stage these productions. It is true that some have started from nothing and have built their careers to get where they are today. Being a firm believer in the power of positive thinking, I truly believe that it is possible. But it must also be recognized that many of these stars have had backing right from the very start of careers, thus accelerating the process dramatically. So if it is in your heart, do it, but also try to look at things realistically as far as what your more practical approach towards breaking into show business may be.
While I have know Illusionists that were able to perform up to four isolated gigs in a given day, It also usually killed them physically and they were limited to engagements that they could drive to quickly. It is just a natural disadvantage of large grand illusions that they are not easily transported therefore ones availability, adaptability and accessibility as a touring performer may possibly suffer.
It is no secret to many fellow performers that I have known, know that I have always been just a bit envious of stand-up comedians and singers. Envious in the sense that these individuals can enter the stage and entertain an audience using nothing but a microphone. Of course it takes skill and years of rehearsal to attain any amount of competence, but the underlying fact of that matter is that they “DO IT”!. and that’s what matters.
With this in mind, let’s ask the next logical question. Why is it that magicians have never been able to apply this to their own craft? Why is it that in magic, The magician “MUST” share the stage with clutter and props that hardly ever impress the people watching them performed?(don’t you just love all of these rhetorical questions?). Can the magician be as , or dare I say it, more entertaining using little or no props? What’s the answer? And the envelope please……rrriiiiiip…..And the answer is, Yes!
At this point let’s get down to the bare bones of Commando Magic. A magical performer does not need anything but himself to put over a stellar performance. It is not necessary to scour the magic catalogs constantly buying prop after prop in order to develop a solid commercial act. Each and every performer must reach from within himself to provide his or her audience with unparalleled entertainment. If an entertainer absolutely must have big objects on stage, use people from the audience! Do effects that require assistants from the crowd, after all you must always bear in mind that people are props! By having audience members come to the stage to assist in a routine you make your performance grow in large proportions. Think about it, a magician can levitate a girl and it seems large, But I can do a mental routine, put five chairs on the stage, fill them with people, (who, by the way are working for free) and all of a sudden I am doing magic that is five times larger that the magician who is floating his high paid assistant! After the show, I have nothing to transport except my small case carrying the essentials. And as I have always said to my personal colleagues, if I need to use an animal, there are plenty of them in my audience! ( That’s a joke!) But even with all of these reasons aside, there is yet more points to be made in favor of the modern day performer who practices the art of Command Magic, (we’ll call them Commando’s) Many of these reasons were born in my mind during actual performances not unlike those stated earlier. But also, ideas were created out of sheer necessity, after all necessity is the mother of invention to coin a classic phrase.
There came a point when I was searching for that ultimate act. a situation I am sure 99% of my current readers find themselves at the moment they are reading these words. But I’m not saying that like it’s a negative. For in truth, perfecting a craft such as magic or for that matter, any variety art, can take a lifetime to achieve. I was searching for an act that would be both humorous, considering that I am a Comedy Magician, and also had to be commercial, so that it would be palatable to a paying public. Lastly, it had to give me, the performer, the peace of mind that comes with knowing that I could depend upon it no matter what situation I was thrust into. For there are other considerations one must take into account when one is a full-time professional entertainer. Such as the business end of performing and how a Commando act can benefit you in this area as well. One must also think of the performers energy level when they are working. When I was carrying a large amount of paraphernalia to each show I was so exhausted by the time I hit the stage that I could not perform to my full potential. There were times that I had to transport my show in 100 degree summertime heat. When I started the performance I was sweating. At the other extreme there were times that I had to move everything in sub-zero weather, hoping and praying that I would not trip and fall on the ice breaking an ankle on the way to the engagement. But probably the biggest problem came when I was booked to do a very prestigious show half way across the country and all of my props absolutely had to be there on time! It should also be noted that I had no way to ship the props where I was going ahead of time and everything had to be carried from the airport into a car that was picking me up, to the hotel, back into the car, to the venue, back into the car, back to the hotel, and the following morning to the airport. But it does not stop there, at that airport I had to board a small two prop commuter plane to a different part of the state where my whole show had to be unloaded, put into a rental car, where I drove to a major corporate office to negotiate an upcoming performance, back into the rental car, to the airport, unload the show and fly home. Now tell me, could I have done all of that transporting a ton of props? I believe you can answer that question for yourself.
I.C.O.M Online is extremely proud to present a world exclusive!
Dr. Om’s Treatise on Showmanship and Stagecraft for the Performing Magician
Co-Director’s Note: Those of you who have read the above have already realized that this is a serious educational piece. You would find no more quality were you to take a university course in theatre, for that is what Dr.OM is!, a genuine college professor. Therefore, some terminology may be a bit advanced even for the professional I.C.O.M’er. So Dr.OM has graciously provided a short glossary of terms he frequently uses which can be found in the I.C.O.M Library page next to our standard magician’s glossary.
Dr. OM’s treatise on Showmanship and stagecraft for the Performing Magician Part V January 1998
ACTION: ILLUSION AND AUDIENCE ILLUSION
Just the other day, Dr. OM had two experiences in his garden which seem worth reporting. Early In the morning, he was standing approximately four feet distant from a bird feeder hanging at about shoulder height. A tiny chick-a-dee alighted on the feeder perch, In spite of Dr. OM’s proximity. The bird fed, and, then, flew away.
Dr. OM approached the feeder, placing himself one foot closer. The bird repeated its performance, alighting again on the perch to feed. Having fed, the bird again flew away. Dr. OM, in turn repeatedly approached the feeder, until he was finally standing only one foot away. Again the bird returned. The lesson’ in magic, here, is: DO IT BY DEGREES, WAIT, AND KEEP THE HIDDEN MOTIONLESS. MOTIONLESSNESS IS A LESSER FORM OF INVISIBILITY.
When stealing from a pocket or table, have an apparent reason, motivated by the dramatic action, to place the hand in the pocket or reach the hand toward the table, perhaps to deposit a previously held object into the pocket or upon the table Then, move away from the source of the steal, motionlessly holding or hiding the stolen object and waiting for time to pass before producing the stolen object. Time and distance lend enchantment. Allow time for an interval of dramatic misdirection, making the production appear to be magical.
Later in the day, Dr. OM, standing on his front lawn, noticed the lowest branch of a broad leafed maple tree slowly rise, as if of its own volition. The motion was perfect, because a gentle current of air was raising the branch, slowly, evenly and by degrees, in a smooth continuous motion. Suddenly, the Illusion was shattered when the breeze heightened in intensity and the movement of the branch jerkingly accelerated; obviously moved by the wind, The lesson in magic, here, is: OBJECTS WHICH MOVIE SLOWLY AND EVENLY PRODUCE THE ILLUSION OF SELF POWERED MOTION; OBJECTS WHICH MOVE QUICKLY AND JERKILY APPEAR TO BE OTHER-POWERED). The tempo should not be so rapid as to create confusion, but, rather, should be at a pace the audience eye and mind can follow with comprehension. The motions should be smooth and even. Illusions are ever about and abounding in nature. If noticed and raised to a level of consciousness, much can be learned about illusion, from nature.
Consider the camouflage in nature: the plant which at first glance resembles an animal, even a human being; the animal or insect which imitates the plants in its habitat, thereby achieving invisibility, or at least, unnoticeability. Illusions of nature are archetypes of stage illusion, and their methods are to be applied in the techniques of stage magic. Man, too, like the animals and insects, Imitates. Stage illusion is an imitation of natural illusion: the inanimate become animate; the animate become inanimate; falling up, or flying, in defiance of normal expection (because of repeated experience which impresses that heavier than air objects fall down, thereby constituting the scientific law of gravity) suddenly, a camouflaged animal or insect which has been invisible to the eye appears from nowhere when noticed; a deer, taking just the right step, out of light, into shadow, seems to vanish, altogether; a groundhog becomes a tree stump; a tree stump becomes a groundhog; a squirrel becomes a broken branch base; a broken branch base becomes a squirrel. Metamorphosis, transposition, transportation, augmentation, diminishment are everywhere. Is it any wonder, then, that the ancients discovered magic through nature. Like the vacuum cleaner salesman of legend, Dr. OM manages to get his restaurant magic foot in the door through musical performance; gradually introducing the magic by degrees, until it is accepted and expected. One morning, recently, while driving to a Sunday brunch engagement, at the Copperfield American Grill and Terrace, in the Woodcliff lake Hilton, Dr. OM, driving through the town of Park Ridge, New Jersey, which has installed Christmas card, gaslight street lamps, on its main street, noticed at a distance the form of what he took to be a life sized cast iron jockey hitching post grasping a street lamp pole. Upon drawing closer he realized the form was that of an out of breath jogger dressed in tight fitting white clothes and sporting a white baseball hat. The jogger was leaning motionlessly with outstretched arm against the lamp post for support, still looking forever like a holiday hitching post in season Dr. OM, on his way to work, was quite entertained by a natural illusion. New science is old magic; old magic is new science. That which was taken for magic in one age becomes the science of a later age, and that which was taken for science in an earlier age becomes the magic of a later age; just as astrology becomes astronomy and alchemy becomes chemistry so, too, does once held scientific theory, at times, become future fallacy, ergo superstition, ergo magic. New science becomes new magic, too. When electromagnetism was first discovered, Houdin, the father of modern magic, employed the force, in magical effects which astounded audiences. Magnets are still astounding audiences.
Dormant plants appearing to be dead in winter spring to life in Spring and in Spring, the pollen and the seeds, transported and transposed by the wind, germinate, becoming new plants and flowers which appear where they were not before. A sapling cut to the ground will reemerge from invisible roots.
Just as all of nature imitates nature, the magician imitates the apparent miracles of nature: he causes the invisible to become visible, he causes the visible to become invisible, he restores the broken and the torn, He brings the inanimate (dancing hank) or the dead (cremation illusion) to life, he transposes or transports, he levitates or flys, he causes much to be made of little (Multam ex Parvum), and just as a small seed can become a towering tree over long time, the magician causes a tree to grow or a bush to blossom before the very eyes of the audience. Dr. OM, seeing a long crooked stick lying on the ground, took it to be a snake. The magician throws his staff to the ground and turns it into a snake.
REALISM IN ART IS THE ULTIMATE ILLUSIONISM, BECAUSE REALISM ATTEMPTS TO CREATE THE ILLUSION THAT, THAT WHICH IS HAPPENING ARTISTICALLY IS HAPPENING IN ACTUALITY.
CONTEMPORARY PERCEPTIONS OF REALITY
Modern man possesses several ways of perceiving reality. The first way is through the unassisted senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch in every day life, the unassisted senses are employed to perceive the phenomenological world, that is, the world of physical things. Man accepts natural perception as fact if not truth, in order to move about and function in the physical world, yet, even the layman is aware that other dimensions of reality exist.
The second way is through extensions of the senses such as the telescope through which the macrocosm is examined and the microscope through Which the microcosm is examined. Such instruments exist in varying degrees of power, from, for example, the simple microscope to the electron microscope and the simple telescope through radio wave “telescopy”. Each degree of examination discovers new realities. The table upon which Dr. OM leans appears solid enough through the unassisted senses, because of. Dr. OM’S physical size, in relationship to the table, and so Dr. OM may lean upon the table. Examined through electron microscope, however, the table top would be seen to be vast in space, in which countless atoms are spinning about like so many solar systems do in the macrocosm. If Dr.OM were small enough, he would fall right into the vastness of space of the table top. If the connectivity between the MICROCOSM (the apparently very small) and the MACROCOSM (the apparently very large) Is a continuum, It well might go on Infinitely (without end) and the macrocosm might be a microcosm to some larger level of existence.
The third way is perception by report, in which the layman engages when accepting on faith the explanations reported by experts in the fields of stud–~the disciplines. Experts in one discipline are laymen in other disciplines and mutually depend on report. So much so that communication among the disciplines is becoming more and more difficult, as a consequence of knowledge explosions within fields. The end of universal scholarship is said to have ended with Erasmus. No longer can an Aristotle be the expert in all fields of human inquiry. The average man is dependent upon expert opinion In everything beyond common sense.
Albert Einstein, in a letter to a friend described his own methodology as non-empirical. “lie empirical scientist must deal with the perceivable, that which can be measured. As each item of data is obtained and held in evidence, after testing and/or measurement, a case is constructed establishing a theorem (theory), which is held valid until refuted by contradictory evidence. On the frontiers of science where no measurements are obtainable in the face of the unreachable macrocosm about which he theorized. Einstein had to arrive at his theorems by way of an intuitive leap. A theorem would then be held valid until contradictory evidence were obtainable. The theory is valid as long as it works. As is well known, Enrico Fermi proved, all too well, that Einstein’s theory works.
There is held to be a fourth way to perceive or non perceive reality which is metaphysical, that is above and beyond the physical. Many such fourth ways have been described by those who claim success in their pursuit. Remarkably, great similarity exists among the descriptions of the many ways. The perceived, beyond the physical world, by pursuit of any one of the fourth ways, is held to be spiritual.
Of late, Quantum physicists, themselves, have been mystified, because, in probing the super microcosm, they have arrived at a nothingness where neither matter nor energy are perceivable to exist; they have reached another dimension , perhaps the dimension of spirit. Physics is now discussing multidimensionality in a manner which greatly resembles metaphysics. Geneticists have found a way, through cloning to simulate the creation of life, not to create life from nothing, or even from pure energy, but, rather, from existing matter: the DNA molecule. Art and science can redefine nature, that is, rearrange the order of matter and energy, as found in nature, but neither Art nor Science can create matter or energy from nothingness, nor destroy matter or energy into nothingness. The magician can seem to do that by seeming to create a whole object, even a person, from nothing, out of nowhere, into here, to the astonishment of his audience.
AUDIENCE READINESS FOR ILLUSIONARY EXPERIENCE
The layman, accepting reported science beyond his comprehension is accepting science as magic and is prepared, as general audience, for experiencing illusion. The day of the magician is forever at hand. The audience has been readied for magic. The audience has seen free flight and levitations of humans in the films of interiors of space craft. The audience has learned that earthly perception and experience can be contradicted. The audience is as ready as ever for magical theatre and stage illusion. The audience needs and wants the freedom of illusion, in an otherwise pedestrian and hum-drum world. The freedom of illusion is the freedom of the beauty of the flight of the imagination
The action of magical theatre must, therefore, be executed in the realm of illusion, of the surreal presented as real. Everything witnessed by the audience must be visited, as it were, in a dream, in which the impossible seems really to be happening; not distorting reality, as the audience knows it, but presenting an alternative reality, in which, as in a dream, anything is possible. Illusion provides, not escape-the soap operas do that-but transformation, of commonplaceness of everyday life. The transformation, or transportation, is provided no less in comedic magical theatre than in dramatic magical theatre. Comedy evokes awe by fiat (means of) joy, Drama evokes joy by fiat of awe. The result in classical theatre termed CATHARSIS (a cleansing of the psyche). Without pretending (or actually pretending in character) the modern artist of magical theatre, like the poet, provides his audience with a glimpse of the miraculous.
The magical theatre audience is exquisitely prepared by the natural world to accept Illusion; and what is illusion but the contradiction of that which is commonly agreed upon by convention to be reality: solids cannot penetrate solids; one object cannot be transformed into another, as with the alchemist’s transformation of base metals into gold. Noticeably, these feats are the stock-in-trade of the stage magician. Preparation of the audience’s willingness to accept illusion rests on the fact that to the majority of non-scientist laypersons, science is as mysterious as magic. For Instance, in the classroom, gravity is explained as the consequence of two opposed forces. CENTRIFUGAL FORCE, which pulls objects toward the earth and CENTRIPITAL FORCE which hurls objects away from the earth. Centrifugal force is demonstrated by swinging a bucket of water in a circular motion vertically from the floor, The force which holds the water in the bucket is seen to be centrifugal force. Centripital force is demonstrated by whirling a paddle ball at the end of a string, or rubber line, about the head and roughly parallel to the floor. The force which holds the ball at the end of the string is seen as centripital force. Given this lucid explanation, gravity would seem to be a bucket of water and a ball at the end of a string whirled about the head; and ,yet, laymen willingly accept explanations of laws of nature of which they have no real understanding, and will as readily accept contradictions of those laws , if they witness the contradictions with their own eyes. There seems to be little difference between the classroom explanation of gravity and the myth of Atlas supporting the earth on his shoulder.
The predisposition to share illusion rests not in the willingness to suspend disbelief, but in the continuing belief in myth, magic, and superstition and in collective hysteric experience throughout the age of science. Science is not the enemy of the stage magician, but the child of magic and the maidservant of the magician. Lately, the so called New Age return to chasing angels in the snow is evidential of widespread belief in the supernatural. Consider the popularity of TV’s ,”Touched by an Angel.”
Old myths in new clothing emerge with celebrity worship elevating the celebrity to the status of bigger-than-life heros and heroin. No evidence of collective mass hysteria can be found in phenomenon such as tile bobby-soxers swooning for Frankie to the rock concert head trip. How can these and so many other social phenomena easily come to mind be explained, except as a collective need for illusion, transcendency, and miracle.
With realization of the readiness and the willingness of the audience, not to suspend disbelief, but to believe, the magician should be fortified to step on stage with the courage of his magical convictions; to believe and be believed; to mystify; to elevate; to fulfill mythic expectations; to fuse his audience in an experience had in common; to celebrate the unusual; to create an alternative reality; and to thoroughly entertain his audience in a kind of communion; when they gasp together; when they laugh together; when they believe it might be so together; when they cry together. Magical theatre is a high form of performing art, indeed.
Magicians who are intimidated by major network magical theatre productions–take heart. THERE IS NO THEATRE LIKE LIVE THEATRE. The colossal King Kong as seen on the giant cinema screen, is seen as a hand puppet through a twenty-seven inch television screen. Imagine how horrendous he would appear to an audience on the live stage. Larger than life heros of the silver screen are reduced to lilliputian size, but a magician performing a parlor show for a child’s birthday party is fully life sized.
The appearances of magicians such as Dante, in early talkie films are rare and incidental to the main action of the film. Even more rare are films in which tile protagonist is a magician. Other than in actual live appearances in hotels, casinos, clubs, and legitimate theatres, audiences witness magical performance almost exclusively on television alone. The productions tend to be magical variety shows, rather than magical theatre pieces. In spite of the high budget productions of magical television events, the huge and, on stage, impressive settings and illusions appear to be no larger than the average square circle. In flight, on television, the magician is not hovering over the heads of the home audience. the vanish of an elephant, exposed or unexposed, appears to be little more than a pocket trick Counterdistinctly, a magician with his setting and properties on stage “plays big,” even to the most distant member of the audience, at the back of the house.
Television productions, reruns aside, tend to be one-shot shows, whereas the same live show performed before changing audiences can have long life spans. Other magicians can record television productions on VCR’s for study and imitation, but a live show is not easily recorded on a camcorder without the performing magician’s permission; a factor which maintains the integrity of originality. Building a live show takes years of study, planning, practice, rehearsal, and learning experience performances. Copyists can lift a magical effect, here and there, a routine, here and there, and lines of patter, here and there, but they cannot replicate the presence and personality of an artist of magical theatre. The many failed attempts at copying the master, Cardini, bear testimony. Of course, fame and fortune derive from television appearances, these days, but the great contemporary stage magicians have not abandoned live performance entirely, for occasional television specials. The growth and satisfaction that come from frequent live performance, as any actor knows, are the real treasures of the artist. of magical theatre, which are within the grasp of every serious artist-magician.
The audience may, in its group reaction, be regarded as a single organism, but the magician should single out individuals in the audience, making eye contact and speaking through the medium of that single person to the whole organism of the audience; he had better, as well, project his voice such that the proverbial deaf little old lady, at the back of the house can hear him, and he had better have something for everyone, from the least to the most sophisticated; from the grandchild to the grandparent The magician should not be too hasty in distinguishing between magic for children and magic for adults. “The child is father to the man.” The child persists, within, throughout adulthood. Much that is wonderful to adults is equally wonderful to children and magic which appeals to children becomes beloved to adults when the children become the show. A magician must either seduce or endear his audience; endearment is better than seduction, and longer lasting. Thurston, before a performance, would peek through the curtain, at the audience, saying over and over again to himself’ “I love my audience…I love my audience…I love my audience.” If a magician truly loves his audience, his audience cannot help but love him. There are no bad audiences; only poor conditions. A magician who truly cares about his magic and his audience will not perform anywhere, at anytime, for anyone. Inquire about the conditions of the venue, or, better, visit the venue, before accepting an engagement, unless the money is all that matters.
Clients sometimes want a stage show in a transient circumstance, in which the audience, passing through, picks up only bits and pieces of a performance designed to be a whole composition; better to suggest walk-a-round magic, instead, whereby the audience can be intentionally approached with bits and pieces, for the Performance of brief, but whole, illusionary experiences. Restaurant magic had better be stand-up; people do not like others messing in their food. The luxury of magically presiding at someone else’s table is rare. Parties of people who are very much into themselves, builds a resistive wall between the group and a performer. Better not to try at all than to end up with egg on your face through no fault of your own.
The old nightclub crowd was an outstanding audience, because it consisted of two, or a few, sitting at separate tables. Restaurants which confine parties to separate rooms may provide the modern equivalent, given that the sight lines are appropriate. Dr.OM has been able to perform his tableside show as a floor show, under such conditions. Aware, in advance, of the appropriateness of a floor show, he literally introduces his floor show, which is correspondently a portion of the first act of his stage show. If a stage show is constructed componentially, it may be broken down into smaller shows for non-stage venues, just as a band or orchestra may be broken down into smaller ensembles, for smaller venues.
On the other hand, a magician performing specifically for a party which expects a special performance in an Isolated chamber, will find both welcome and group attention. Magic is a visual art. The audience must be willing to look at you, and audiences love the intimacy of a performer being right there in the room with them.
1) The larger illusion of the world of the act is comprised of setting, character, action, and the smaller illusions of the individual magical stage effects and routines.
2) That which is rationally explainable is the province of science; that which perforce must remain forever inexplicable to the human mind is magic. The stage magician serves to remind the audience of the eternal existence of that greater magic.
3) Plot is the path the character performs his actions upon.
4) To acquire knowledge, the magician must be a man of contemplation; to acquire skill, the magician must be a man of action.
REASONS FOR BEING AN ARTIST-MAGICIAN
1) love of the Art
2) satisfaction from doing something well
3) Thrill of performance
4) Joy of sharing illusions with audiences
5) Aesthetic realization
1) pleasure and wonder given to audiences
2) Setting an example for the young, of doing something well
3 Exposure and perpetuation of the Art of Magic
4) Joy of sharing illusions with audiences
5) Sharing aesthetic pleasure
Ronald J. Dayton
Several suggested roads of travel toward an elusive goal.
A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
Other than our own ability to maintain a curious nature, to be as observant and aware of all manner of things going on in the world around us, there is yet another aid to creativity we may make use of. I will call this source, Challenge Creativity. I have used it often, and intend to use it even more in the future. It takes part of the pressure off you due to the fact that someone else is giving you the premise for the effect. They tell you, I want to see this, this and this. You then create a method for producing the desired effect. They have, in other words, issued a challenge to you.
I have accepted challenges, and issued a few myself over the years. Here is one I issued to a friend of mine. An empty glass tumbler is seen resting mouth tp on your close-up mat. A spectator drops a coin into the glass. The coin sinks to the bottom, then suddenly, is seen to rise slowly to the surface of the top. It then sinks slowly back into the glass. when the spectator is asked to tip the coin out of the glass, it is found to be impossible. The coin is discovered to be imbedded or sealed within the solid bottom of the tumbler.
I often got challenges from magic letter pals I corresponded with. It was an enjoyable exchange. The internet offers a whole new world of possibilities. You may also choose to approach various individuals you know at ring meetings, conventions or other social activities you may be attending. You may write or call an outside source for challenges. You may venture so far as to take out a small ad in a magic publication for that specific reason. The investment could be repaid many fold.They will be out to stump you. It will take your finest effort to meet the task. You may, of course, never discover a working method for many of the challenges issued, but that’s really unimportant in the overall scheme of things. What IS important is that the whole process stimulates your thinking.
I have yet to meet the magician who has ‘never’ had the desire to create an effect of his very own. It is conceivable that every individual ‘already has an idea for this effect, but they remain locked within their mind. People have themselves convinced that this idea will be scoffed at by their peers, or fear it will not work, or perhaps be purloined before it takes flight. The fact of the matter is that it will go ‘no where’ if it is not shared and developed. Someone may stumble upon the method for themselves, develop and promote it while you debate if you should take a chance or not. If THEY take the initiative and YOU don’t, the effect will be THEIRS, and your best intentions will be lost forever.
Being creative has a lot to do with finding a balance within yourself. Brainstorming for instance, seems to be finding a balance between the hemispheres of the brain itself. Each side, as you may or may not know, controls a certain set of mental functions. The left side controls language, logic, counting and classification. This is the side we condition in school. It is analytical, objective and orderly. It makes decisions, judgements. It is capable of editing and revising material.
The right side of our brain is the spontaneous side. It is intuitive and illogical. The right side is the ‘idea waker’. It will generate creative thought and allow things to be seen in a new light. Symbolism and association can run rampant here, but there is a catch. One side is usually the dominant side. This is also usually the most developed side… the left hemisphere. That is where the snag in creative thinking arises. The left side is in conflict with the right. In correct brainstorming procedure, the right hemisphere is allowed to work first.
It takes effort at first to get one side to relax while the other becomes stimulated. This is why you must shut out all negative thoughts, otherwise the analytical left hemisphere would have material to work with. Free your mind. Go with the flow, and the R.H. side will soon emerge. Like a toddler learning to walk, the use of the right hemisphere is developed in stages. Extend your time and your goals at each session. Push yourself. And just as a weight lifter gradually increases the weight on the bar, so goes the training of the more underdeveloped right hemisphere. By degrees you will be able to ‘turn off’ the left side of the brain while the right side works. After the creative process has been exhausted, the left side of the brain is allowed to engage and analyze the material.
Bobby J. Gallo
How to Perform Effectively in All Situations
Are Large Props Really Larger than no Props at all?
At first glance, this question seems to make no sense at all. However, when you stop to think about it, what is a grand illusion? Most illusionists and magicians would agree that a grand illusion is a feat of magic that involves people. A magician twirls around a big box and whammo! A beautiful assistant pops out. Great Magic? It sure is, however it takes allot of work and expense as stated earlier. Most importantly, it cannot be done in “Most” current performing situations. Now picture this, The magician is going to do the classic bank night effect. But in this case instead of strolling around throughout his audience, having spectators pick the various envelopes supposedly containing the large cash prize, he invites all of them upon the stage. Our situation is now this, a stage filled with, let’s say, five people, each holding an envelope. This entire trick now takes on grand illusion status. It uses five people, where the appearing girl only uses two (magician and assistant). The stage is now filled with five people, all involved with the magic in some form or another. As each person rips open their respective envelopes, they react to the outcome thrust upon them of whether they are a bit richer than moments before. Comedy, drama and magic are interwoven all throughout the effect. Finally, the last person makes the choice, the audience holds it’s collective breath, and the final person makes the revelation of whether or not they foiled the magician. The audience has been thoroughly entertained, the spectators are mystified and the magician has worked for at least ten minutes. Dare I say it, has the bank night effect become larger that the massive production box which takes a U-haul to transport, costs thousands of dollars, and only lasts about one minute? That question is truly a matter of personal preference, but is one was to ask me, I would reply that I have been using a bank night type of effect with great success in my stage show for years now! That is just one example of how minimalist magic can be used effectively for large numbers of people. The golden rule is “People are props!” For every person that is on stage, you have equalled using a Zig-zag or the like as far as props are concerned. Are the Rockettes at Radio city Music hall in New York City considered to be a small production? Of course not, but what do they consist entirely of? The answer is people. The Rockettes are a large number of people on stage dancing, that’s it! People can make any parlor trick into a grand illusion. It just takes creativity.
At this point I am sure that there is a number of readers that would suggest that a bank night type of effect lacks the “flash” of the production box. And that it would not hold the attention of the younger members of the audience. True, the younger members of the audience may not be entertained by this “mental” type of effect. However, one can adapt this principle to any type of magical premise. How about doing the classic rabbit from hat effect using four children on stage? Instead of just producing the rabbit, the performer produces a number of strange items for each respective child to hold. This all leads to the smash climax of the animal production! (using the “spring” type animal) The overall picture is that of a number of children filling the stage each holding strange props while the magician towers over them in the center holding a live animal. Most spectators watching would call that a very big trick. I know, I have been doing this exact routine in my family show for years!
So it was those reasons stated above and many like them that have sold me on the ideas and theories of Commando Magic. The art of performing with a minimum of apparatus. Today each of my different acts fit into their own customized bags that are regulation to carry on any airline. These shows can play Radio City Music Hall if need be, or just as well in someone’s living room. This concept has given me peace of mind, it has made me more mobile than one can possibly imagine, and therefore, able to get up at a moments notice and play any venue offered to me (which makes me very valuable in the eyes of talent agents)! This theory has been proven in actual performances in front of audiences of one thousand or more! It works! And works well! However, it must be stated that at this point I am not the only entertainer practising this, others have in the past and are currently using this style. I believe however, that I am the first to go into this subject in such detail. These are the same techniques that date back to the Parisian artists that performed on the streets of Europe for hundreds of years, they have stood the test of time and prove the adage “What’s old is new again!” But if the reader insists on knowing exactly why this theory of “Less is More” works, it can be summed up in this chapters closing quotation take published here for the first time. Why? Because an entertaining presentation is far more powerful than any large prop will ever be. and a commanding personality is what stars are made of.
Dr. OM’S Treatise on Showmanship and Stagecraft for the Performing Magician Part VI February 1998
As Janus, the double faced god for whom the cold month of January is named, looks back to the past and forward to the future, Dr. OM sits in the warmth of his study musing that the previous portions of Dr. OM’s treatise essentially boil down to the assertion that: All theatre is illusionary presentation of reality, as an alternative reality; and magical theatre is illusionary presentation of illusion, as an alternative reality, i.e., as miracles actually happening before the very eyes of the audience. A MIRACLE is an occurrence which contradicts a law of nature, as experienced through common sense.
Everything which happens in life, dream, or imagination is potential story. The panoramic maze of history (hi-story) is woven into story by historians who are story tellers who fashion subjective order out of chaotic and often unrelated events. The human mind imposes logic upon nature, because the human mind is inherently logical, in function, but events of history and events in nature, occurring as they do, are not logical, except when viewed short term through the human senses, the human mind, and the human sensibility. The other animals or an hypothesized macrocosmic perception far above and beyond the human senses perceive phenomena quite differently. The Big Bang, at best is a theory. No human ever saw the Big Bang, which is a cause/effect deduction of the logical human mind. Unfortunately for humanity, inherent as logic is to the human mind, humans do not always behave logically. Fortunately for stage magicians, audiences are not sufficiently swift of mind to employ logical analysis of illusion; at least not on the spot. They may figure out, or think they figure out the dirty work later, but that is part of the fun.
In order to simplify a metatheoretical view of history, consider Biography and Autobiography which look back upon a single life lived. The selectivity of the biographer, in the case of biography, or of the self-biographer, in the case of autobiography, imposes a logical pattern upon that life, which is no more logical in actual experience than Dr. OM’s, or the reader’s own lives. We cannot really see the future; we are not given absolute predictability or control over our lives. Forces outside ourselves, in conjunction with our own wills are at work. More often than not, external forces defeat the personal will, except for the stage mentalist and clairvoyant, of course, but bending a spoon is not bending the course of human events. Both magic and science make attempts to predict and control events personal and cosmic. In the present, as events ensue, prediction and control are not possible, except by a lucky guess or wish. Only compositionally in retrospect, looking back from some point in the future, can the pattern of logic be imposed, and that is PLOT.
The biography is a look back upon a life already fully lived, at least on earth; then, because the life has been lived from birth through maturity to death, or a rebirth not observable from this side of the line, a biographical life on earth is complete and potentially tells a story. Edgar Allan Poe, in his POETICS, insisted that a story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The main story line constitutes plot; minor story lines are termed SUB PLOTS. Contrary to a novel, which, because of greater length, allows the fulsome development of many characters and plots, the short story tends to fulsomely develop a single character and a single plot. A magical stage act is akin to the short story and should fulsomely develop a single character(the magician’s) and a single plot.
A magical performer would do well to be a playwright, or else engage the services of a playwright, just as he does the services of set designers, artistic directors, choreographers, and all manner of technical experts. The logic of the magical playwright’s mind imposed upon the sequence of actions and magical effects constructs the main story line of the act, or, better, the magical theatre piece. Aristotle, in his POETICS, advised that the plot be begun IN MEDIAS RES (In the Middle of Things). Action begun IN MEDIAS ‘(ES propels the drama forward through fictional time, as dialogue recalls the fictional past, informing the audience about what events of action have led up to the fictional present (the middle of things), and are propelling the protagonist (the main character: the magician) toward the fictional future, in tragedy, toward his preordained destiny of which the audience, but not the protagonist, has been apprised. In classical Greek tragedy, the CHORUS informs the audience of the destiny; in modern theatre, FORESHADOW informs the audience of outcomes of which the protagonist is unaware. In Arthur Miller’s A VIEW FROM THE BUDGE, the two of Greek chorus and foreshadow are embodied in the character of Alfieri, the lawyer, who literally functions as did the Greek chorus, in keeping the audience informed about that which Eddie Carbone, the protagonist, is unaware unto his very death. Dr. OM most highly recommends Miller’s play as a modern school for studying classical Greek drama, The PLOT builds toward a major climax constructed of minor climaxes (BUILDS, so-called in the theatre) along the way, which
result in the major climax. Think of the construction of an artichoke, as a model, or of a series of musical crescendos ( which means BUILDS in Italian) toward the major climax, e.g:
For the sake of clarity, the following bullet points have been added by the editor.
- The top graph indicates MAJOR CLIMAX (Center words are CLIMAX. Outer words are Build-1, Build-2, Build-3, Build-4, Build-5, from left to right).
- The Second from the top indicates SCENE (Center words are BUILDS. Outer words are Bit-1, Bit-2, Bit-3, Bit-4, from left to right).
- The final graphs indicate, ONE ACT, TWO ACT, and THREE ACT Plays respectively. (Center words are SCENES. Outer words are Act-1, Act-2, Act-3, from left to right.
The DENOUEMENT is the final revelation which follows the major climax and makes clear the outcome of the plot. The DENOUEMENT unravels the knot which the plot has tied and explains the very nature of the drama which has taken place.
In a murder mystery, the DRAMATIC QUESTION is WHODUNIT; the foreshadows are the clues discovered by the detective and shared with the audience; the minor builds and climaxes are suspicions raised about both non-culprits and the culprit; the MAJOR CLIMAX is the disclosure of the actual culprit; the DENOUEMENT is the detectives deductive account of the manner in which the crime was committed; the ANTI-CLIMAX is the manifestation of LIFE GOES ON, as the detective and the several other characters go their separate ways and the culprit is carted off to jail.
In MAGICAL THEATRE, each EFFECT builds in intensity and each ROUTINE builds in intensity, as part of a coherent STORY LINE (PLOT), until a MAJOR CLIMAX of both ILLUSION and PLOT are simultaneously achieved. The DRAMATIC QUESTION is both ILLUSION RELATED and PLOT RELATED. The DENOUEMENT is both the revelation of the outcome of the PLOT and the establishment of the actor as magician who has achieved the impossible throughout the MAGICAL THEATRE PIECE. The ANTICLIMAX is at the CURTAIN CALL, the ENCORE, and the MAGICIAN and AUDIENCE going their separate ways, after having shared illusionary experience in common. As these participants in the magical drama go their separate ways, LIFE GOES ON.
When a magician, entering the stage for the first time before a given audience, is able to immediately capture the audience and pull them into the alternative world of his drama, by virtue of the strength of his characterization which creates the illusion that his magician-character has emerged from a real past, exists in a real present, and is moving toward a real future, that magician has practiced the device of IN MEDIAS RES (beginning in the middle of things). Upon his entrance, Carl Ballantine used to quip: “I got here as soon as I could.” Silliness? Yes; Art? YES. Did he draw a laugh and immediately endear his audience; did he establish a past, present, and developing future for his magician-character? Most certainly.
When the suave persona of Channing Pollack first appeared on stage, he immediately captured his audience, as a sheer act of seduction. What lady in the audience did not draw a short breath; what gentleman was not both charmed by and identifying with his handsome figure? The forthcoming illusionary action was set by sheer characterization. Contrastingly, Ballantine employed the device of THE MAGICIAN IN TROUBLE, throughout his performance. His easel, reading: Ballantine the greatest, set the stage for his comical bungling mishaps; just as Pollack’s elegance of appearance set the stage for his delicate and deft manipulations and lovely dove productions. Both Pollack and Ballantine were not casting themselves against type, but rather, in accordance with the types they actually were: the former, dramatic; the latter, comedic; but both theatric. Pollack’s dramatic question was: “What lovely visual miracle will the magician next achieve? Ballantine’s dramatic question was: “Will he get it fight this time, or will he screw it up again?” Granted, here we are observing the shortest of magical stage short stories. The twelve minute or twenty minute magic act must perforce be a short, short story. Theirs were exquisitely composed.
Cardini’s act consisted of what was primarily a characterization: a tipsy gentleman of the evening who enters a hotel lobby and is paged by a Bell Hop portrayed by his wife, Swan. Cardini did not seem to make the magic happen; the magic seemed to happen to him, beyond his own will and much to his surprised alcoholic hallucinations’, but card, ball, and cigarette productions and vanishes, instead of pink elephants. Part the experience of drunken hallucination and part the experience of inexplicable actual magical occurrences, his card, ball, and cigarette manipulations were humorously magical and comically mystifying. Cardini’s characterization of the bewildered gentleman in top hat and tails who had imbibed a bit too much, immediately endeared him to his audiences, but it was the PLOT that held them and carried them along the path of his story line. Surely, there must sifil be a place for a gentleman of the evening who’s formal wear is still the insignia of the magician, in spite of the commentator’s observation, in the recently televised biography of David Copperfield, that David had somehow abolished the magician’s tuxedo by appearing on stage in modern designer dress. Perfectly suited to Copperfield’s persona? Of course. On the other hand Copperfield’s style, fitting his persona so well, does not preclude the lamentably lost Harry Blackstone, Jr’s contemporaneously appearing on stage in formal wear appropriate to his own persona and style.
Current full stage perfonnances of one and two hour duration tend to be a series of vignettes; a collage of short stories, at best, or nothing more than a lengthy variety show consisting exclusively of magicians, rather than mixed entertainment by singers, jugglers, dancers, acrobats, mimes, and magicians. Such shows have the virtue of providing convenient space for comnimercials.
Television spedals3~casino~d touring magic shows offer the same bill of fare, but provided by a solo magician. The world is waiting for one of the outstanding magicians of the day, perhaps David Copperfield or Lance Burton, to produce a cohesive magicai drama comparable to a two or three act legitimate theatre play; a serious engagement in magical drama, whether comedy or tragedy. Dr. OM hopes to be yet earthbound to witness such a magnificient performance successfully achieved and successfully received.
In parting with the February issue, Dr. Om leaves you with the thought and feelings of an invocational poem he wrote as prologue to his verse play: The Virtuoso’s Calliope, Copyright 1966.
But Nature made me heavy at the heels.
And could I,
I would have done fantastic feats
Before your eyes, to please,
But effort would be all sore thumbs,
And I would summon no one in a hexagon.
I would have sung your pleasure,
But though I hear the melody of love within me,
Desire outsteps the possible,
And I strain in vain to reach
The high note of a harmony.
And yet, if you would listen carefully,
If you could take the trouble,
You might hear the whisper of my wishes,
Be pleased by apparitions of the song,
Which sings in me and everyone,
Though silenced by a stage-fright of the soul.
FICTIONAL TIME: The time: past, present, and future contained in the work of fiction. Not the time required to read or witness a work of fiction, but rather, the compressed time passage described or effected within the work. Many real years passage are compressed in a work of fiction as fictionai time.
JANUS: The only one of the major Greco-Roman gods (The Pantheon) originated by the Rornans. Janus is the gatekeeper of the year and of all time.
MACROCOSMIC: The cosniically very large, in relationship to the size of man.
METATHEORFTICAL: Theory of theories. Literally: ABOVE (meta) theory.
PLOT: The culmination (RESULT) of setting, characterization, action, storyline, climax, and denouement.
SUB PLOTS: Think of the main plot and many sub plots of a long novel such as Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE.
TENSION: Imagine TENSION as a spring being wound, as the drama proceeds, until the spring is explosively released as climax.
Spotlight On The I.C.O.M Library!
The answer lies in the new banner you see above! There is good news and more good news associated with what we call the NEW I.C.O.M CYBER-MAGIC TEXTBOOK SYSTEM ™.
What is the the first part of the good news? Let’s take a look.
The Cyber-Magic Textbooks are clickable book icons that will be displayed in The I.C.O.M Online Library. Once these are clicked, members will have instant online access to some of the highest quality, full-length, original, magic textbooks available anywhere. They will always be there as a reference to all of I.C.O.M. An electronic library in the truest sense of the word! Some books will be less expansive than others such as “Ten Things Every Magician Should Know” But others Such as Dr.Om’s Stagecraft will be landmark educational resources without peer!
There are many spinoff benefits as well by I.C.O.M incorporating this new feature such as the fact that there will be no more waiting for further installments of Ron Dayton’s “Creativity” and Bobby J. Gallo’s “Commando Magic”. Both have been released in their entirety as I.C.O.M Cyber-Magic Textbooks and will be appearing in the I.C.O.M library sometime in March. This means you get the rest of both series in one shot! Wow! As for Dr. Om’s series, it will be there compiled in a Cyber-Magic Textbook as well. Only his will be “dynamic” meaning it will be added to as times goes on.
So what does this mean for the Spotlight section? Simple, Now you will get even more material each month! Since our series are complete with the publication of the Cyber-Magic Texbooks. We will be releasing more and different material here in the spotlight!
So stay tuned and watch the library, the books should be up around the second week of March. See you there!
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