OFFICIAL I.C.O.M PAST LESSON ARCHIVE
Advanced Lab 10/97-12/97
“T.I.P. of the Wand” – October 1997
“Repetition…The Mother of Learning.”
By Bill Wisch
I first heard that line…“repetition is the mother of learning”, from Tom Hopkins, the famous sales trainer. It hit me like a ton of bricks! Why try to rediscover the wheel every time you need something new or different? Take the effects you already do and polish them, re-work them…play with them. By doing the same effects over and over, you not only make them part of you but you also allow for a more creative freedom in what you say and how you perform it.
I work at the Caesar’s Resorts in the Pocono’s in Pa. every Friday and Sunday for four hours, each day. I’ve been there since the spring and have literally performed every effect in my pockets hundreds of times. Believe me when I say you’re never done. You never have a total lock on every effect in every situation. I know that most will blow them away 99% of the time, but I enjoy always trying different ideas and presentations to get even more close to perfection.
Don’t get me wrong…it’s fun and crucial to always be trying new material and different effects. What I’m saying is not to ever stop repeating and repeating your present effects. A great friend, outstanding magician and past mentor, Francis Walsh (brother of Audley Walsh, the world famous magician and gambling authority) once told me another bit of advice that I never forgot…”after the proper amount of practice, if a trick doesn’t work the first time in your performance, make whatever changes you can and try it again. If it doesn’t work again throw it away. Try something else”.
Selecting tricks and effects in magic is like selecting clothing…everyone needs a different size. You wouldn’t be happy with a size 46 jacket if you need a size 40, right? The same thing holds through with the magic you do. It’s as much a part of your personality as the clothing you wear and the attitude you project.
The point of all this is that the effects that work for you are worth the repetition, since you already know they work for you. One final thought, not to be taken literally but to be pondered at least…never change your tricks…just change your audience!
Solid Gold Transposition
Co-Director’s Note: The following is a “Virtual Lesson” that was sent by Bill Wisch to a very talented I.C.O.M student interested in transposition effects. After trying it myself, it was so good! I have transcribed it here for all I.C.O.M with Bill’s permission.
Bobby J. Gallo
Please work the routine with a deck of cards in-hand as you follow these step-by-step instructions.
- Four aces…alternate colors…square them up and turn them over.
- Double lift and show them..replace and lay down the top card onto the person’s hand.
- Carefully! Do this…Count three in this fashion…Count top card of the three as one, count second and third as 2 & 3 BUT, only push the top card from left to right hand singly and then place the second and third card ON TOP of the Single card as you count two and three.
- Double Lift again showing matching colors to the spectators ace.
- Put top card on top of the spectators card. Explain that you will cause the cards to change places when you snap your fingers. Do this in a manner as if you’re going to cause the two cards on the spectators hand to change.
- Snap Your fingers and ask if he/she felt the switch. If they say no, you say dramatically…”I DID!” and turn your two cards over. If they say yes, you say…”GOOD”…ME TOO!” and turn over your cards.
I use it in many heavy situations and KNOW it knocks out even the most callous spectator. You’ll be seeing a lot of color changes and more transpositions coming in I.C.O.M in the near future.
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
As the endnote concluding the article on Setting implies, arbitrarily separating the components of theatrical production, like the academic separating of the united and living systems of the human body, for purpose of anatomical study, is not to be done in reality, without killing the patient or the performance. Setting is character, is acting, is costume, is make-up, is action, is blocking, is business, is properties (props), is plot and story line, is climax, is denouement, is lighting, is sound, is special effects, is encore, is coaching, and is directing. All components of the theatre are interrelated and integrated, in order to produce living theatre.
Dr. OM’s DEVIL’S DICTIONARY* is a continuing feature of this series of articles which purpose is to provide the reader with a vocabulary, a glossary of terms of Magical Theatre.
A RUNNING ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY* *will be provided, as relevant to the subject matter of each article, and later will be collected in alphabetical order, as a reference tool for members of ICOM. The first items in the Bibliography related to Part I, setting are:
Gassner, John. PRODUCING THE PLAY. WITH THE NEW SCENE TECHNICIANS HANDBOOK by Philip Barber. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. New York, 1953.
(An excellent general introduction by Sterling Professor of Playwriting, Yale University)
Nelms, Henning. PLAY PRODUCTION. A HANDBOOK FOR THE BACKSTAGE WORKER. A GUIDEBOOK FOR THE STUDENT OF DRAMA. Barnes and Noble, Inc. New York, 1958.
(Outstanding. A must on every serious magician;s bookshelf.)
Parker, W. Oren and Harvey K. Smith. SCENE DESIGN AND STAGE LIGHTING. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc. New York, 1968.
(Herein lie the nitty-gritty practical details of scene design and construction and stage lighting. Truly hands-on information.)
The magician who does not provide a setting for his performance will have to settle for the accidental setting which is already there. A prepared setting, on the other hand, manifests the place for the character to enter; the world of the magical drama; the environment for wondrous things to happen.
Having provided the audience with powerful hints about the magician-character prior to his entrance, by means of the visual setting which, as well, establishes the TONE and MOOD of the performance, the magician-actor makes his first entrance into his imaginary world of magic.
The magician’s character may be himself, as in real life; and idealized version of himself, bigger or smaller than in real life; or an altogether assumed PERSONA. An assumed persona may in time become the magician’s own true self, or, at least, an ALTER EGO.
The COMMEDIA DELL’ARTE was the improvised ITALIAN COMEDY performed AD LIB, but on the firm underpinnings of stock characters, stock plots, and stock lines. The Commedia dell’ Atre players of the middle ages chose, or were assigned, a single part which they played exclusively throughout their entire theatrical career and real lives. Pulcinella (Punch) was always Pulcinella; Harlequin was always Harlequin; Columbina; and II Capitano was always II Capitano; and so it went among the many other stock characters of the Commedia.
Becoming the characters the players portrayed was not restricted to on stage appearances, alone; the actors actually became the characters they portrayed in real life. They dressed the dress, walked the walk, and talked the talk of their characters, every moment of their lives. They literally came to be their characters.
The Commedia actors were, of course, comedians whose origins might be traceable back to Aristophanes, the writer of comedic satyrical plays, in ancient Greece and to his counterparts Plautus and Terrence, in ancient Rome. The Commedia throughout the middle ages, was constituted of bands of roaming players. During the renaissance, they traveled, from Italy, across France and England, where first Shakespeare and later, during the neoclassical period, Moliere were influenced by them. The English Comedy of Manners of the eighteen century and comedic writers of the nineteenth century such as Oscar Wilde picked up Where Shakespeare and the French Moliere left off.
In modern times, the slapstick characters of the Commedia dell’Arte descend as the great commedians of the modern age: Chaplain, Laurel and Hardy, Toto (in Italy), Cantinflas (in Mexico), Fernandel (in France), Marcel Marcau (in France), W.C. Fields, Harpo Marx, Red Skelton, Jackie Gleason, and Art Carney; and the great comedic magician’s: CARDINI, CARL BALLENTINE, JOHNNY THOMPSON, and JUAN TAMARIZ (in Spain) were distilled through the British Music Hall and Vaudville, perhaps themselves unaware of their origins.
What makes them great is the uniqueness of the characters they portray. All artists, even Mozart, began by imitating their heros, but they synthesize what they borrow with that which is unique within themselves.
A performing artist must seek within himself for his stage character. The SELF consists as well, of family influences: a father, a brother, an uncle, or a friend. The psychological ingredients which go together, constitute a COMPOSITE CHARACTER; the principle component of which, is the background and experience deriving from the personal life of the magician-actor, coupled with his physical appearance, and his vicarious experience resultant of his reading, theatre going, and studying. Konstantin Stanislavski repeated over and over again, in both his writings and his teachings, that an ARTIST OF THE THEATRE, his term for ACTOR, must be “a man of education.” Magicians should think of themselves as specialized artists of the theatre.
In the legitimate theatre, actors spurn type casting, but recognize the futility of casting against type. A short, middle aged, chubby actor is not likely to make a believable suave romantic lead. Although there are exceptions to every case, the character assumed should be appropriate to the physical reality of the actor-magician. Not that Mel Books could not play a part appropriate to a robert Redford; but no without deliberately changing the originality intended tone, mood, and genre of the production: tragedy would become comedy, and there is nothing wrong with that, if that is what is intended. Unintended shifts of the genre from tragedy to comedy, however, result in nothing more than theatrical disasters. In magical theatre, Juan Tamariz cannot do a Channing Pollack without intending comedy.
Konstantin Stanislavsky was the leading modern proponent of an actor’s seeking within himself to find the emotion he wishes to register through his character, by recalling an actual past life experience with that emotion. If an actor wishes to portray love for an actress on stage, he must dig into his past to evoke the feeling of love he felt for a woman in real life. If a magician-actor does not believe that the magic he is performing is really happening, the magic will not happen for the audience. Only that which is believed by the magician, will be believed by the magical theatre audience. The audience cannot be fooled, but must be made to believe, because the magician believes.
The inner self of the performer prevents his becoming a mere clone of his artistic influences, his heros, and audiences do expect and demand originality. The necessary imitation of the novice in art, is not acceptable in the professional. Originality is not the only attribute a professional magician must possess, but without originality all other attributes such as skill of magicianship and skill of acting do not add up to become artistic magical theatre.
The prevailing point of view among the majority of modern magicians is that the magical performer should appear as an ordinary guy, as himself, perhaps, e.g., Mark Wilson. If such is true, then he must certainly be extraordinary in his ordinariness. The opposing minority point of view is that the magician should appear as an extraordinary man possessed of extraordinary powers, e.g., David Copperfield; yet another minority point of view in that the magician should appear as a less that ordinary man, an anti-hero, e.g., a slightly tipsy character, or a fumbling and bumbling character, who is accidentally able to perform magic, or upon whom the magic happens beyond his control, e.g., Cardini.
There is no controversy here, given the realization that there are different strokes for different folks and whatever works, works. Character and style are, after all, functions of individual suitability and personal choice.
Whatever the character choice might be, ordinary guy, or wizard it had better grasp audience attention from the first moment on stage. A lesson might be applied here from the master himself, the Bard, Shakespeare, who grasps audience attention with his three witches chanting a spell on Macbeth, over their witches’ brew. Even though the audience has never before seen the character, he had better be recognized, accepted, and welcomed for what he is: familiar yet novel, ingratiating, magnetic, amusing, interesting, charismatic, awesome, sympathetic, mysterious, or frightening; it matters not, so long as the audience does not have to figure out, but immediately KNOWS the character.
On the other side of acting from comedic acting, are actors who perform in tragedies, modern problem plays, and melodramas, as tragic characters, Actors so engaged come out of the same traditions as do commedians, but from the darker side of tragedy dating back to ancient Greece.
Notice that the term SERIOUS has not been used to differentiate between comedy and tragedy, because both are serious, in fact, a great comedy will as seriously treat the stuff of life as will a great tragedy. Great comedy will equally wrench the heart. Think of Chaplain’s kitten. Dr. OM does not subscribe to the term PROBLEM PLAY, because he sees the modern problem play as a modern tragedy, even though it does not conform with the description of tragedy in ARISTOTLE’S POETICS. Dr, Om believes that Aristotle would alter his description, if he were making his observations at the onset of the twenty-first century, instead of about four-hundred B.C.
Distinctions often made between the Stanislavskian method actors emerging from actor’s studio and the Technical actors who, as some would have it, merely don a part like a completely covering animal costume. How absurd. Both a technical actor of the stature of Marlon Brando, find the characters they portray and the emotions they emit within themselves. Eventually, method, whether called method or not, evolves into technique, after long practice of the acting art, and the characters and emotions can be made manifest, at the push of an inner button.
In magical theatre, the distinctiveness between comedy and tragedy are better termed: COMEDIC MAGICAL THEATRE and DRAMATIC MAGICAL THEATRE, and will, therefore, henceforth be employed, as coined by DR.OM for this present series of articles on stagecraft and showmanship. Of course, the DRAMATIC MAGICIAN will not be absent of humor and will introduce COMIC RELIEF, just as did Shakespeare in his tragedies. Some of the historical masters of Dramatic MAgical Theatre are: Robert Houdin, the father of modern magic, The Herrmanns, Keller, Thurston, Ching Ling Foo, Ching Ling Soo, Lafayette, Houdini, Blackstone, and Dante.
Even as the identity of the character must be established in the first few seconds on stage, so too must the magic begin immediately or the magician will lose his audience, because they are expecting to see magic. The magic performed should be an integral part of the ACTION, which is the subject of Part III, to follow.
Chekhov, Michael, With a preface by Yul Brynner TO THE ACTOR on the Technique of Acting. Harper and Row, Publishers. New York. 1953 (An Important study for the performing artist)
Christopher, Milbourne. THE ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF MAGIC. Thomas E. Crowell Company. New York. 1973 (Whenever Dr.OM approaches a new subject of study, the first thing he does is read the history of the field, in order to provide himself with the necessary background for understanding. There is no better history of stage magic than Christopher’s. Highly recommended reading.)
McGaw, Charles. ACTING IS BELIEVING. Holt, Rineharty, and Winston, New York, 1955. (Let the title speak for itself)
Nelms, Henning, MAGIC AND SHOWMANSHIP A handbook for Conjurers. Dover Publications, Inc. New York. 1969. (Right on the mark for magical theatre production. Nelms is both an artist of the theatre and a magician.)
Stanislavsky, Konstantin. AN ACTOR PREPARES. Theatre Arts, Inc. 1936. ( The Bible for performing artists)
Stanislavsky, Konstantin. STANISLAVSKY ON THE ART OF THE STAGE. Hill and Wang. New York. 1961. (More from the master)
Be sure to check out new additions to Dr.OM’s Devils Dictionary for October.
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 ICOM’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.*Be sure to check out the I.C.O.M Online Library for Dr.Om’s “Devils Dictionary”, a list of theatrical terms worth learning…** Will also be found in the I.C.O.M Library as a permanent reference.
“T.I.P. of the Wand” – November 1997
“The M.A.G.I.C. Word of Showmanship”
by Bill Wisch
This month I would like to begin a series about a most important topic…showmanship.
I will lay the ground-work this month and give you a workable definition. Then in the following months I will expound on the different elements and their practice.
In the late 70’s I did a performance that really opened my eyes…not the magic…but the REVIEW.
The review was in the Linking Ring, I believe, and it stated that my technique was fine, but I lacked showmanship. After I picked up my ego and dusted it off, I began wondering what this “showmanship” was all about and how I could add some to my performances. I looked and looked but there was nothing on the subject. I read “Showmanship for Magicians” by Henning Nelms, and was surprised that the book dealt mainly with ROUTINES rather than showmanship. Next I checked out my Linking Ring and M-U-M collections (going back reasonably far) and noticed that any article or information written about showmanship was quite off the mark as far as developing it or, for that matter, even telling what it was.
I had to serve jury duty at the time and while waiting around for cases I had two weeks to just read one book after another. I decided to read about the great showmen I had heard about and see if there were any traits that were prevalent in them all that gave them the ability to be master showmen.
Of course, Houdini was my first choice. Then George M. Cohan. Next came P.T. Barnum. Now when I say I read books I mean I was a total fanatic about the subject. I really wanted to research each of these gentlemen and analyze their careers.
After reading the biography(ies) and any other information I could find (including going to the Barnum Museum in Connecticut, I came to the conclusion that I must first define showmanship, because nobody had, at least I couldn’t find anybody that could. I asked dozens and dozens of salespeople and everyone would give me a RESULT (i.e.. pazazz; excitement; entertainment, etc.), but not a true definition. I checked the dictionaries and there wasn’t a definition. When I looked up the word, it said…”see show” and that was it. Well, I put in a bit of time thinking of what I felt was the definition, according to the greats I had just investigated and, fortunately, a workable definition came along.
Once you can define it the whole term takes on a different light. Here is my definition (which, by the way, is now used in the Webster’s New World Dictionary: “Showmanship is that quality of performance or display that CREATES and SUSTAINS dramatic interest”! That’s it! I knew it was it because I then could go back and reinvestigate the showmen I had studied and find links from showmanship prowess to dramatic interest.
I’m going to close this month’s installment for now, but I promise that in the next few months you will learn how to create and sustain dramatic interest so easily and so efficiently, that you won’t recognize your work, regardless of what type of show or performance you give. I am genuinely excited about giving you these “secrets” because I KNOW they work! I spent six years doing presentation/demonstrations in the early 80’s for some of the top corporations in America. Believe me when I say the material I presented was , I’m proud to say, cutting-edge and of great value to literally thousands of sales pros in the USA…I have =the testimonial letters to prove it!
So get ready to start the show…manship. See you next month.
The Ring and Wand
Bobby J. GalloOne of the all time classic effects of close-up magic.
This is the one premise that many magicians have built reputations on. The following is a version that is within the technical abilities of most readers. As always, when it comes to routines of this advanced nature, we are here to answer any questions.
The magician borrows a ring as he displays his magic wand. He wraps the ring in a handkerchief and then asks a spectator to hold the two ends of the wand after it has been examined.
He asks another spectator to feel the ring inside the handkerchief to confirm that it is there and to announce to the other audience members present that all is fair.
Next the magician places the handkerchief over and partially around the wand and pulls it swiftly toward him. As the hank comes away, the ring is seen to have penetrated onto the wand!
The effect is done with the use of an extra ring, which you have in your pocket at the beginning. It is a simple matter to obtain an imitation gold band wedding ring that will closely match one that someone is wearing in the audience. In reality, I do not like borrowing rings from the audience and would personally take one off my own finger, have it examined, and perform the trick with that. It is just as effective and you do not run the risk of damaging someone’s ring. After all, gold is a very soft metal.
When ready to perform the trick, get this ring into your right hand and grip it in finger palm position. ICOM Sleight of hand gallery Fig, #17. Take the borrowed ring in your right hand, holding it between the tips of the fingers. Spread the handkerchief over your left palm. Then act as though you are going to put the borrowed ring in the center of the handkerchief but, instead, drop the concealed ring onto the handkerchief and close your left fingers and thumb around it concealing the ring inside. At the same time, classic calm borrowed ring into your right hand.
Take the handkerchief in your right hand and straighten its folds, then give it to a spectator to hold (if the ring is borrowed, do not give it to the person who lent you the ring! They may peek inside the hank and you are sunk!). Pick up the wand in your left hand and transfer it to your right hand, sliding it through the center of the ring held in your partially closed right hand. Keep hold of the wand with your right hand, which is closed around the center portion of the same.
Pick up the handkerchief in your left hand and at the same time ask a spectator to hold the two ends of the wand Ask another spectator to feel the ring inside of the handkerchief and tell the audience that it is indeed there.
Then let the handkerchief lay on the wand beside your right hand. Push it over to cover the ring on the wand, simultaneously taking your right hand from the wand. Then draw your left hand, still holding the handkerchief, quickly away from the wand. This will cause the borrowed ring to spin around the wand, and will reveal it to the audience. This is the focal point of the routine, play it up dramatically! Ask the spectator to remove the ring from the wand and use the inherent misdirection to“pocket” the duplicate ring.
These are bold moves practice them well. With the proper pacing, you will never get caught with the duplicate ring.
Dr. OM’s Treatise on Showmanship and Stagecraft for the Performing Magician
Once a character has entered the enviroment provided by the setting, ACTION can take place. The magician will most certainly be the PROTAGONIST (principle character) of his magical theatre production, and his professional assistant, or assistants chosen from the audience, may be seen as as the ANTAGONISTS (minor or secondary characters) as may the audience, itself, when interacting with the magician. Action in magical theatre is both ACTIVE (the magician performing alone) and INTERACTIVE (the magician engageing with trained assistants or with the audience as a whole). Assistants drawn from the audience, become psychologically representitive of the larger audience, as a single personification of the audience.
NON-INTERACTIVE magical performance, if there is such, is DISPLAY MAGIC, i.e., the magical artist exhibits his feats of skill and wonder, for the audience to witness without engagement, but not without INVOLEMENT. The audience becomes involved much as it would witnessing a performance of legitimate theatre, dance, or music. If the magician does not feel the electicity (VIBES) from the audience, his performance is not working, even as display magic.
The term ANTAGONIST does not necessarily mean adversarial, although it might. A love story, in book or on stage might invlove a protagonsist, e.g: HE, with an antagonsit, e.g: SHE, in the most amiable and loving way, and the resulting CONFLICT would not mean confliction in the common parlance, but the DRAMATIC TENSION developing from the circumstances surrounding the lovers. So too, the magical artist, his assistants, and audience become involved in the interplay of the conflict of his drama, resulting in a theatrical experience without animosity (unless expresssly intended for comical or dramatic purposes). Of course, theory in the ideal is no guarantee against the occasional heckler, nor the adversarial relationship between magician and audience in CHALLANGE MAGIC. Dr. OM does not subscribe to challange magic, it is not his SHTICK, but, again, different strokes for different folks. Nontheless, to Dr.OM, Magic is ENTERTAINMENT.
Professional assistants should be engaged in the area of action and conflict, not merely wander on and off stage delivering and removing furniture and props. Assistant who do so, are functioning as stage hands, not actors, In legitimate theatre performed without MASKING or CURTAINS, the stage hands are either dressed in black and perform thier tasks vivibly before the audience, as part of the action of the play. Classic examples of expert actor-assistant dramatic interaction with the magician are to be found in Cardini’s Swan Walker, his wife, dressed as a bell hop; Johnny Thompson’s (The Great Tomsoni’s) Pam, his wife; and David Copperfield’s legion of supporting actresses and dancers, not his wives.
Truly fortunate is the successful master magician who can afford the professional services of scene designers and crews, sophisticated lighting and special effects, stage managers and make-up artists, costumes and elaborate settings and stage machinery, coaches and directors, producers, and agents. The journeyman magician, on the other hand, must go it on his own, and is, most of the time, his own PR man, driver, and roady, as well.
There are, of course, magicians of all sorts and purposes; each with his own special brand of magic. Working up an original act and sticking to it is the answer. No one can do it all. Competing with all other magicians and trying to learn thousands of tricks is to create a Frankenstein monster in the mind, with which no one could compete. The magician artist should be entirely himself and be highly selective in assembling his own personal magical repertoire. He should work up a character and an act which is unique unto himself. The focus of Dr. OM’s articles Is primarily upon stage magic. However? applcation to close-up and walk-around magic has been noted. let it be observed, as well, that there are ancillary applications of showmanship and magicianship. As a teacher In the classroom, Dr. OM has employed magical effects to illuminate subject matter in courses taught in ancient world literature and poetry; and sometimes, only to effect a change of pace and stimulate student attention.
Successful businessmen and salesmen have used magical entertainment of clients with good results, as have bartenders, entertainers in general, and all manner of professionals. Dr. OMrs dentist entertains and readys children patients with magic. The
General principles of stage magic can be applied to any pragmatic useof magical entertainment adding another dimension of personality and talent recognition to the layman professional, as perceived by his clients; another level of respect and regard; an ice breaker.
The ICOM course in magic is a superb pathway to accomplishment, both for the professional and aspirant magician, and the general practitioner.
STAGE PRESENCE is acquired by both nature and nuture; a performer is either born with stage presence, like a John Barrymore, and/or learns it through careful attention to his PHYSICAL LIFE (bodylanguage) Being born with the magnificant stage voice of a Joseph Dunninger & is a great gift, but careful attention to VERBAL LIFE and training of the voice is another area of education for the magician-artist. The study of ventriloquism is an aspect of a magician’s verbal life which carries over into stage voice projection and the development of good speech. Remember that even the greatest had their strengths and greater strengths (certainly not weaknesses). John Barrymore’s exquisite voice and profile surpassed his ability in stage movement; Helen Hayes’ movement surpassed her vocal attributes. Dr. OM, many years ago had the honor to write a newspaper review of Helen Hayes, In her perforanance in Luigi Pkandello’s COSI E SI VI CREDE (It’s so, if you think so). In that performance, Miss Hayes excecuted an impossible cross from upstage left to down stage right. Witnessing her cross was worth the evening in itself. The way she broke the cross, paused, turned, gesticulated and then went on again was, as they say, a piece of art. That Helen Hayes had been a dancer in her earlier days is no coincidence. An this happened at the Helen Hayes Theatre named for her. By the way, a performer of magical theatre should read many plays in a pursuit of a deep understanding of stage composition. Pirandeflo’s plays might be a good place to start. His plays deal with the conflict between illusion and reality. In his youth, Dr. OM learned much about magical theatre from having directed several Pirandello plays: CECE, I’M DREAMING, BUT AM I? and THE MAN WITH A FLOWER IN HIS MOUTH. Kopit’s DAD, POOR DAD, MAMA HUNG YOU IN THE CLOSET, AND I’M FEELING SO SAD is another great school for studying theatre akin to magical theatre, as is Strindberg’s DREAM PLAY. Magical theatre is, after all, a species of the school of SURREALISM.
Fortunately, continuing education courses, college courses, academy studies, and private studies are usually easily accessible, at least in urban areas. For studies in magicianship, there is, most happily ICOM. Where there is a will there is a way. T. Nelson Downs became an expert coin manipulator during his spare time on the job, as a telegrapher, as did Thomas A. Edison, as a telegrapher, lay the groundworks for many of his future inventions during his spare moments, as a telegrapher. Thinkng out and imaging the verbal and physical life of a performance is an excellent way to prepare for physical practice and rehearsal. Dr. OM speant many hours at the table with his acting casts before putting a play on the boards for rehearsal. The verbal life of a part
Be sure to check out the ICOM Library for additions to the Devil’s Dictionary as well as the “TWELVE COMMANDEMENTS FOR A SOUNDER VERBAL LIFE” Both by Dr. OM!NOTE: ACTION will be continued in the next issue, and will include Bibilographical entries and: 21 STEPS TOWARD STRONGER PHYSICAL LIFE. In the ICOM Library, Dr. OM section!
MOTIVATES the physical life andshould always be studied first.
Ronald J. Dayton
This simple little effect is something I played around with in 1992. It is based on the old magic spot card effect in which, depending upon how the card was turned, and which spots were covered at any given time by the fingers of the hand, the spots would visibly grow in number. In this version, a gummed foil star is seen in one corner of a blank card. The star magically travels along the bottom edge to the center of the card.. .then to the opposite corner. In the end, the star vanishes completely, and is found attached to the back of a playing card previously selected by the spectator.
Place a blank (white both sides) playing card, or white cardboard cut to the size of a playing card in front of you on your working surface. Attach a foil star (color of your choice, but all three stars must match in color) at both the upper and lower left corners. Space them in about one quarter inch from each left edge. Now turn the card over end for end away from you and attach the third star at the center edge nearest you. That’s all there is to it.
Following the simple illustrations, figures 1 through 13, you can work through the moves with card in hand. To begin with, it is held as shown in Fig. 1. Single star faces you, left first finger covers the top corner star at the front. Only the lower left front corner star is visible. with a smooth turn-over action of the card and hand, figures 2 and 3, the card is seemingly pushed through the hand by the left thumb, Fig. 4, and as the card emerges, the star is seen to have moved to the front center edge. The card is now transfered to the other hand, the right hand taking it at point X and displaying it as in fig. 5.
The right hand now pivots back toward you, and the thumb again pushes the card through to the little finger side, figures 5,6,7 and 8. This time, as the card ernerges,the star has traveled to the opposite corner. The left hand first finger and thumb momentarily grasp the partially extending card at Y as the right hand moves across the top front 1/3 until the fingers of the right hand are covering the star at that top front right hand corner and the card can be held as in Fig. 9 by the right hand (This is your view.)
The final turn over is shown in figures 10, 11 and 12. As the card begins to emerge, the lower or front end is blank. It appears as if the star has vanished! The left hand thumb and first finger once again grasp the card at corner 2 ( thumb on tip, finger below) as the right hand moves across the top edge until the first finger covers the center star at that point. The card may now be displayed as in Fig. 13, double stars facing you, first finger covering the single top center star at the front. The card appears to be blank.
Put the card away, then have spectator turn over their earlier selection. On the back they will find the missing star! This, of course is a fourth star which you placed on the card you would force on them during the routine. It’s fast, clean, and has an unexpected climax. Enjoy working with it, and make it all you can!
Dr. OM’s Treatise on Showmanship and Stagecraft for the Performing Magician. Part IV December 1997
When performing a part in the high school. play, Margie automatically smoothes her hair back with her hand, not as the character she is portraying, but as herself, the audience knows th.at Margie, not her character, is commiting the gesture, which, therefore, intrudes upon tile action of the play. When Bette Davis smoothes back her hair in a film, the gesture is seen by the audience to be made by her character, because at that precise moment the gesture means something in the context of the performance, reveals that which is on the mind of the character, and is unobtrusively part of the flow of the action of the play.
When a magician commits a gesture on stage, it should be MOTIVATED by the action of the magical play he is performing and by the character he is effecting. Just as the provided setting or unprovided bare stage is visible to the audience, so too is every physical motion. of the actor-magician. Every movement should, therefore, be intended, planned, practiced, and rehearsed, as a meaningfully contributing element of his performance, including motion meant to be misdirective.
The actor-magician must stay in character; BE the character, throughout the entire performance, even when interacting with the audience. Consistently BEING the character prevents the magician actor’s street existence from intruding upon his stage existence. The two modes of existence are not the same. The audience knows that they are not the same and can tell them apart. Even when the magician actor’s street existence is the archetype for his stage existence, the two are not synonymous; the street existence must be transmuted into the street-stage existence, or inevitably intrude upon the dramatic experience. The magician-actor himself eventually BECOMES his PERSONA.
Action must develop into PLOT or STORY LINE. Nothing is more unsatisfying in a performance, than a magician executing a series of unrelated “TRICKS” which do not constitute a story line posessing a beginning, a middle, and an end. A magical performance without story line becomes a series of athletic feats, rather than meaningful magical effects which forward the plot of a magical play. Magical performance is not to be seen as a sport, but as a play or playlet, if it is a shorter, let us say, twelve minute ACT. Magical effects should not be seen as a mere exhibition of skill, but as an integral part of the action, As sport oriented as the American is, most fans would soon tire with the mere exhibition of skill. without the drama of the game. Few fans would care to see a basketball star dribble a ball about the court all evening long, without meaningful, motivated action; without the dramatic plot of the game; without having posed the DRAMATIC QUESTION: Which team will win; which team will lose?
The routining of magical effects must be planned, such as each effect contributes to the story of the action arid plot to compose a cohesive play. Story line is not exclusive to stage magic, alone. Close-up magic is drama in miniature, for which the same tenets hold, as in stage magic. The difference is a matter of size. A close-up pad, a table top, a small portion of floor space, or, in stand-up and walk-around-magic, a limited area of room space, serve as the stage, and the magician is still on stage. Anything less than a dramatic presentation results in the execution of mere “TRICKS” or PUZZLES which usually annoy, rather than entertain..
The audience does not want to be made to feel foolish, or to be made to feel that quiz questions are being presented. Whether they consciously know it or not, they want to be drawn into the petit drama of close-up magic, and experience the performance, as if it were, in fact, a full stage production with a plot providing suspense. The question left in their minds should be a DRAMATIC QUESTION, not: how did he do it? Granted, part of the audience experience is in trying to figure out how the magic is effected, but only after the performance. During the performance the audience should be so caught up in the illusionary drama that they share, rather than compete with the magician. In order to share an illusion, the magician must be caught up in it himself. Technically, the experience is made possible through dramaturgy seamlessly fused with magicianship, such that the magical effects do not stick out of the play, but are entirely parts of the play. There is no better misdirection than audience attention. being drawn. away from the mechanics of magicianship by the drama of magical theatre–that’s art. Being so caught up by the drama, the audience has neither time nor scope of attention to figure out on-the-spot how the magician is doing what he does, instead, the audience is drawn into the wonderful. world of shared illusion, rather than witnessing an exhibition of avowed trickery..
Let it be known that everything discussed in Dr. OM’s series of articles should be regarded as objectives toward which to strive, not necessarily to be fully realized. Dr. OM, himself, makes no pretensions about having achieved all objectives, in his own act, nor has he ever witnessed an absolutely perfect magical production, even by the greatest of magicians. Close-to-perfect can be most satisfying, however. Magical Theatre is perhaps more a goal than a scored goal, but in striving to refine, the product gets better and better, in. an approach TOWARD perfection, through planned practice, rehearsal, and performance. Performance is a testing and experimental. learning experience for any performing artist: the moment of truth. A magical theatre piece should be an incremental composition. with as little left to chance as possible, Remember that only perfectability, not perfection is given to man. Dr. OM speaks as a student of drama, not as one who pretends to know the absolute truth. Of one thing he is quite sure: Magical. Theatre is a specialized genre (type, or kind) of the Art of Theatre, in general; and, that which applies to all drama, applies to the drama of magic.
The art of routining individual. magical effects and sequencing them so that they flow into one another, as part of the action and plot, are treated by ICOM’s master magicians. Herein, Dr. OM intends to deal only with the staging context of magical presentation; to deal more with the theatrical aspects, than with the aspects of magicianship. Magical Theatre is a high art when performed at best; an an which holds its place among all the other arts; a most serious endeavor.
The student is urged to early formulate the attitude of the artist, at the very beginning of studies of the art of magical performance. Dr. OM has often been left breathless by the performances of artist magicians of the calibre of BILL WISCH and BOBBY J.GALLO. This is what magicians must ultimately strive for: to leave the audience breathless.
Any rule of art may be broken, if broken awaredly, intentionally, artistically, and beautifully. In order to consciously, productively, and positively break the rules, the rules must be known. The
unaware and accidental breaking of a rule can result in good effect, but rarely. Accident most often is disasterous. When an unhappy accident occurs, it should be discarded; when a happy accident occurs, it should be incorporated in subsequent performances, as an item of growth. There is an old adage among magicians: Study the basics; the basics will never let you down.
*NOTE: Writing thoughts down on paper is a marvelous way to organize and clarify thinking. For the purpose of encouraging members of ICOM to do so, Dr, OM. invites those interested to write to him to express their views on stagecraft and showmanship. Letters will be considered for inclusion, in part or in whole, at the end of each of Dr. OM,s articles, in a new feature section entitled LETTERS TO DR. OM. When appropriate, Dr. OM will respond, comment, or answer questions in an italicised subnote. Dr. Om can hardly wait to hear from you.
THE JANUARY ISSUE WILL BE DEVOTED TO: ILLUSION AND AUDIENCE
Co-Directors Note: This is fantastic! I sincerely hope all who read these golden pages take advantage of this one-of-a-kind opportunity Dr. OM has presented. BJG
“T.I.P. of the Wand” – November 1997
Using The Elbow As A Servante.
I realize that I began a series about showmanship in November and I decided to delay continuance until January to begin the new year and have everything in a new volume of I.C.O.M archives. So next month we’ll delve into some neat stuff and set sail on our “showmanship”.
In 1975, when I began lecturing, one of the most unique offerings (I was told) was the material I introduced on using your elbow as a servante. I’d like to expound on that a bit and also introduce the concept to you.
ELBOW: from the English word “ell” which was a variable measure to the early weavers. It was the distance from the fingertips to the crook, or “bow” of the arm.
Well, since we, magicians, are weavers of illusion we should make use of this unexplored attribute.
There have been an effect here or there using the elbow, mostly for concealment, but as a servante, it seems to have never been effected. Why not? When you sit down you “create” your lap, don’t you? But when you stand you don’t have a lap. Why not “create” a mini-lap (or laps)? Your elbows are perfect to be put into service for just such a task.
I used the technique(s) I will teach to you for a while before introducing them. They work! And they work deceptively well! I’ll keep it simple and basic this time around and expound on it in future months from time to time. There is so much to be written about this that I actually planned a hardcover book entitled “JOINT VENTURES” back in the late 70’s, but finances and others projects didn’t allow the proper job to be done (I had over 550 photos of effects and routines using the techniques!).
Scenario: You walk up to a table and look relaxed, arms folded. You ask if the spectators would like to see something really “neat”. Both hands are empty and you casually reach up into the air and lick out “something” invisible. You give it to a spectator to hold and examine. Naturally they play along. After “examination” you take the object back and make it visible. Believe me, your hands are always empty…you can have sleeves rolled up…you never go to the pockets and still come up with a coin or knife, ball, deck of cards or anything else of similar size.
LOADING THE ELBOW CREASE
1) The object to be loaded is in RH finger palm position. The object (ball, knife, coin, etc.) is taken from the pocket just before the effect is to begin.
2) Cross the arms naturally. If the object was finger palmed in the RH that would put it onto the base of the left bicep just above the bend or crease. Naturally, the right fingers conceal the object while the arms are folded.
3) You can approach a table or small group in this relaxed position without any suspicion whatsoever.
The RH leaves the object on the left arm as the arms unfold. It is gripped firmly between the left bicep and forearm. The right arm can now be removed and used to “pluck” an invisible something from the air while the left hand is in open position, with left arm slightly bent retaining pressure on the object and keeping it from view at the same time. Be sure to keep your angles in mind if the object is a little oversized.
The object has been loaded secretly into the elbow. Naturalness is the key throughout the technique. Try the moves your self and eventually, after a bit of practice, you’ll be able to cross your arms and load the item exactly like you would casually fold your arms. It’s like any other magical technique or sleight…make it part of you.
ACQUITMENT OF THE OBJECT
1) After handing out the invisible something to be examined, fold the arms again. This time the RH, instead of being flat on the left bicep, is held in a loose fist between the arm and body. The opening between the thumb and index finger is directly below the object in the elbow.
2) Relax the left arm a bit and the object will drop right into the right fist.
3) As soon as the object has fallen safely into the right fist the hand (with the object) makes a magical gesture as if grabbing something in the air.
4) The RH drops the “something” into the LH. You actually DO put the object into the LH without the audience realizing it.
5) The LH closes over the object without allowing a flash. Now the RH makes a waving gesture at the supposed empty left fist and the hand opens to disclose the object.
NOTES: The elbow-servant technique should prove quite useful in magical performances, both stage and close-up. The applications are completely unlimited.
If you use the techniques with your own natural style and manner, the spectators will be completely mystified. Also, the moves can be used to help provide cover at times for the lapping performer at a table…think about it
There are quite a number of stand-up rest positions. This folding of the arms is only one method of using stand-up rest positions. More to follow. Happy New Year!
Notice: This material “IS NOT PUBLIC DOMAIN” and is intended for the personal and performance use of International Conservatory Of Magic members only. This entire page is under copywrite 1998 by the International Conservatory of Magic and its respective contributors. No part of this page or its contents may be re-produced without the expressed written permission of I.C.O.M. All marketing and publication rights are reserved. Violation of this is considered intellectual property and information theft and carries penalties under federal law.