OFFICIAL I.C.O.M PAST LESSON ARCHIVE
We are truly honored and delighted to have yet another well-known magical personality in our midst. Neal Prete is one of Connecticut’s leading magic clowns. He performs for children as well as adults. Every Wednesday he table hops at a nearby college.
He also invents popular magic effects and sells about one mile of super rope every month!
Besides performing, he teaches magic, clowning and juggling. A magic veteran of 37 years and of clowning for 22 years.
A VISIT TO THE AUDIENCES’ MIND
As magicians, our objective in performing magic is to fool the audience. And not in a negative way. Not to be hurtful. They should be entertained and bewildered.
“How did they do that?”
If you are a great chef… you should cook a great meal. If you are a comedian.. you should be funny. If you say you are a magician, your magic should be strong.
Here is an analogy I came up with to make my magic stronger. Picture a ladder or stairs in the mind of the audience. Our goal to climb higher and higher up that ladder. The higher you go the more impressive the magic is on the crowd. As you keep climbing the magic will leave a powerful impression on the spectators.
There are many ways to get from the bottom to the top. Take the example of vanish of a coin.
If you were to pretend to place the coin from your right hand into your left hand and you open your left hand the coin is gone. But your right hand is held tense and awkward. The audience will look at your left hand and then to your right hand. They will initially be fooled. They were fooled at a lower level of that ladder.
Let’s go up a step. The coin is faked into the left hand and the right hand is natural. The audience is fooled.
Here is a high rung by Bill Wisch. Any time he pretends to place a coin in his left hand the right will always pull up his left shirt sleeve. It is automatic for him. He always snaps his fingers of the right hand. At some level, the audience wi1l translate that the coin can’t be in the hand because he was doing “something” with the hand.
Slydini would pretend to pick up a coin off the table with his right hand. In a smooth motion, he would drop the coin into his lap. Then he would pretend to place the coin into his left hand. He made a magical gesture and both hands are empty. Very high on the ladder.
I understand this as a simplified explanation. I believe all our magic can have a strong impact on moving up the ladder. The moves should be natural, timing is perfect, props an audience can relate to, original patter is some to the vehicles to get to our goal. Please feel free to add to this list.
A few examples of magic high on the ladder would be David Copperfield’s FLYING. If you were going to fly by magic, that is how it would look. Not like Peter Pan. The hoops and glass boxes were added to make the magic stronger and more believable.
We already mentioned Slydini. Even if you knew what he was doing you were still fooled badly.
Juan Tamariz is another. He has his own analogy with a path to follow that will have an impact on your audience. It is called the False Solution method.
I recently saw a street performer in Florida. Nice guy. But he performed the Professor’s Nightmare with very thick ropes. The moves were smooth. Good job. Except I heard someone in the audience mention the ropes were gimmicked. The magician only fooled her at a low level. Of course, she was wrong. But in her mind, she was not fooled.
In the book, STRONG MAGIC by Darwin Ortiz, he mentions just by rolling up your sleeves while performing would increase your impact on the audience. It’s up your sleeve.
I hope this will. help in your thinking of magic. More importantly your performance. Any questions or comment please let me know.
You can write to Neal though The International Conservatory Of Magic
Dr. OM’s Treatise on showmanship and Stagecraft for the Performing Magician Part XII
REMINISCENCES AND EXCURSIONS
As promised elsewhere in I.C.O.M. In This installment of Dr. OM’s Treatise, a simplified system for punctuation is presented at the end of meandering thoughts inspired by questions put to Dr. OM by Directors Bobby J. Gallo and Bill Wisch over a most pleasant luncheon meeting toward the end of September past. Bobby J. and Bill, you ask for a functional definition of CHARISMA. Dr. OM restricts his definition to THEATRICAL CHARISMA which is synonymous with PERSONAL MAGNETISM and STAGE PRESENCE.
CHARISMA is that elusive quality in an actor-magician which attracts, fascinates, and holds the attention of the audience, and appears to be innate rather than learned. In film and television which deal in close-ups, the attraction is effected principally by facial expression; on the broader live stage, CHARISMA is effected by the physical stage presence of the entire body, and body language, including facial expression. That is not to say that long shots of the actor do not occur in film and television. The image of M Pacino sauntering down a slope of the Sicilian countryside in Godfather I illustriously crosses Dr. OM’s mind, at this moment. The two media have captured body language charisma memorably in other actors such as Jimmy Dean, Marlon Brando, Carey Grant, and, certainly, in Sofia Loren–enough said. On the legitimate stage, make-up, lighting, and costume can transform an otherwise nondescript actor into an heroic figure. Even where charisma is not innate, the assumption of a persona, a character, can transfigure an actor who is commonplace on the real street. Of course, the actor must believe that he truly is the character portrayed, in order for the transfiguration to take place.
Charisma works upon the audience in the manner of mass hypnosis. Although a minority of the audience may be unaffected by the actor’s personality, the majority must be captivated by the personal appearance, voice, and mannerisms of the actor who is regarded as charismatic. Charisma on the stage is not necessarily charisma in film. Grand style actors such as John Barrymore did not fare well in the film. A film actor of the style of Jimmy Dean would probably not fare well on stage, unless an adaptation to the broader delivery demands of the stage were made. Much is to be attributed, too, to the prevailing audience psychology at any given point in time. Could the phenomenon of a Frank Sinatra occur today, that is, could he, Frankie, just as he was then amid the Bobby Soxers, without change, exert the same charisma upon a turn of the century audience. Perhaps, presenting the right image at the right time is influential upon charisma potential.
Charisma is differently manifested among different actors and different magicians, Think of the differences in charisma evinced by the undeniably charismatic actors who follow: Jimmy Stewart, Lawrence Olivier, Clark Gable Anthony Quinn, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, and Spencer Tracy, to list a few historic male actors. Let us not forget the ladies: Greer Garson, Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, Kathryn Hepburn, and Marlene Dietrich. And What about the very special differences among great magicians such as Keller, Thurston, Blackstone, Dante, Cardini, Dunninger, Scarne, Vernon, and Slydini. Something beyond sexiness made stars in those days. The greats were felt to be members of the audience’s very own families. Yes, it was the body and body language that did it, but something transcendent, too; something of the spirit, of a great soul.
Granted that there are baser forms of audience appeal which result in artistic decadence, but true charisma provides the audience with more than what it wants it provides the audience with what it needs, at any point in historic time. Charisma is the stuff of hero or anti-hero, as the time and the need may demand.
Dr. Om fervently believes that everyone possesses the potential for charisma: CHARISMA CAPAX (charismatic capacity). Charisma resides in the SELF, where the Hindus call ATMA and the west calls SOUL. The actor who can tap that self possesses charisma if he can learn to share it in communion with his audience, under the condition of mutual and interactive love. Manifestly, that actor materializes in his persona or character which is beloved to the audience in a family way and he is beloved because he is familiar. He reminds the audience of a father, a brother, an uncle transfigured, in fact, a unity of the soul stuff where everything is connected to everything else; where the audience becomes a unified family unto itself. Every human being can find this power if he can find it within himself. You can.
The Glorious Ball and Vase
Ronald J. Dayton
In the very early years of magic…after, we were lifted from the ranks of alchemists and charlatans, and before the advent of many of the brilliant sleights we now take so casually for granted…many magic effects were of a mechanical nature. Props were painstakingly made by genuine craftsmen. Clock-work and gearing ratios, counterweights, hydraulics, and all the best of the sciences of the day melded together to create incredible illusions for wizards of that time. Finely turned products in wood were also available to those who could afford them. One which has survived in varying degrees is the Ball and Vase. It is a commonplace, standard piece of equipment in almost every modern beginner’s box of magic. Sadly, the allure and majesty of its predecessor have been lost…plastic injection having replaced lathe-turned hardwoods. But as in so many instances…the possibilities of the original concept are still present…and well-crafted vases in wood and brass are still available for a price.
Youngsters of the current generation are, for the most part, only aware of the basics of the Ball and Vase. In times past, inventors did strive to expand upon it…in some instances making genuine improvements. I firmly believe that modern conjurors are still capable of doing the same, given a bit of encouragement, and some general suggestions as points at which to begin their work. Some of the ideas I am about to present for your consideration may also apply to the Egg Vase which uses the same deceptive construction as the original Ball Vase.
Decades ago, creative minds created vases with hollow stems in which a silk could be concealed. Using only the shell section of the vase, sans the solid ball, a person could create the impression of pulling the ball from within the vase from below…transforming it magically into silk as this was done…then lifting the cover to prove the ball had indeed vanished. Various plungers and locking devices were also employed in early vases. Each variation served a specific purpose and expanded the range of the vase itself.
Perhaps the advent of plastic injection is a blessing in disguise for modern students of magic. Modern vases come in a variety of sizes and colors. They are inexpensive and readily available. They are also easy to work with when it comes to experimenting and making prototypes of new styles and concepts. One need not fear ‘botching’ a job, or making a mistake because the initial cost is minimal…and replacements can be had in short order. Plastic is also easy to cut and drill. Modern adhesives and glues also ease the task of making modifications.
You may be asking at this point just where I am going with all of this…and what ‘changes’ am I talking about !? The component parts of the apparatus number only four. The lower base, stem, and cup… the ball, the shell, and the top cover. What can we possibly do to modify anything?
What if…say with the Egg Vase, we carefully cut the half egg section from the shell piece and replaced it with a slightly larger than half egg section cut from a Weller Egg? What would we have? We would have a shell section, the dome portion of which could be pushed in or reversed to a concave position. In other words, instead of facing upward, the ‘egg’ in the faked shell section would be down inside the pedestal cup when positioned on the vase. A small or medium size genuine or even a blown egg could be placed over the concave rubberized shell. This gives you an egg vase that you can take the cover off of and hand for inspection…remove the visible egg, and later, show an egg back in the vase by allowing the Weller piece to convert to a convex position.
This is a little something I actually did for myself several years ago. It may inspire some ideas of your own along these lines. I cut the half ball section from a standard large ball vase then glued a flat disc of plastic over this newly formed ring of plastic. When dry…I glued a Red Sponge ball section which I had cut in half on top of the disc. I then replaced the solid ball in the vase with a matching whole sponge ball. These modifications allowed me to do the standard Ball and Vase, and to immediately into a Chicago Ball routine which is the multiplying Billiard Balls done with a special half shell and several sponge balls of the correct size. Using sponge balls also allows for the production of several balls from the same vase…visible shape or color changes . or even a magical segway to the multiplying rabbits if you wish.
Ball Vases could just as easily be modified for use as part of a Multiplying Soap Bubble routine such as marketed by Abbott’s Magic Company in Colon, Michigan. A Ball Vase could incorporate a hollow billiard ball, or Silk Production Ball in place of the solid ball. The currently popular Bounce-No-Bounce balls might also apply as part of a routine and sleight of hand switching and loading.
Invisible threads could easily be used in conjunction with lightweight balls, allowing the ball to float magically from the vase to your hand prior to a series of deft sleights with billiard balls.
In a combination of the silk ball, loaded with a silk of a different color…and a section of a round children’s balloon, of yet a third color and slipped over the hollow ball…a series of surprising changes are possible. The ball is removed from the vase…caused to change color by slipping off the rubber shell…then the newly transformed ball is changed into a silk. For a finale’, you vanish the silk, then lift the cover of the vase to reveal that a ball the same color as the silk has magically appeared.
A Hank Ball loaded with a measured amount of glitter of the same color would make for a spectacular transformation from ball to dust. A mouth coil could also be considered as a load concealed inside the ball.
Certain mechanical multiplying balls are hinged, and nest together to form a single ball…yet may be manipulated to produce the appearance of one ball between each finger of the hand. Consider these as well when thinking of the Ball Vase. Small crystal balls are used in unrelated effects. Why not consider tying them to the use of a Ball Vase as well. Given a little more thought, I am certain there are modifications and applications still to be found. One of the most bizarre to come to mind in recent times is this; Check the stem of the vase you are working with to ensure there is no hole down through it. If there is, seal it with a bit of calk or glue to make the bowl of the vase watertight. Next, using a small section of orange silk…glue the silk to the top of the half shell section of the vase. Do this in a manner so the silk appears to be sticking up as if it had been poked down inside the vase, and simply extends above the top edge. Lastly…fill the bowl section of the vase with water colored with orange food coloring. The end result is a vase that will permit you to magically transform an orange silk into orange liquid. Quite a surprise to the unsuspecting.
These are my thoughts on the Ball and Vase. I have presented them to you in hopes that they will assist you in thinking in a creative and divergent manner. Please feel free to make use of any ideas you might care about. That’s what they are here for. But stop to reflect on the material overall…and look for whatever new thoughts they have hopefully instilled in you.
Due to membership demand (see, we do listen! <G> ), New installments of Dr.Om’s Stagecraft will now appear here first as well as be added to his cybermagic Textbook(tm) in the Library.
PLEEEASSSSEEEE read the following installment. it is the best one I have ever seen because as a full-time professional I immediately recognized that every word concerning the practical application of magic as a profession is true…BJG
Dr. OM’S Treatise on Showmanship and Stagecraft for the Performing Magician Part XIII
THE ARTIST MUST STARVE FOR HIS ART
Dr. OM’s dear vanished friend, Poet, and Anthologist, Oscar Williams, without lament, but as a matter of acceptable fact, was often given to saying that: “An Artist must starve for his art”. Mr. Williams, who brought his own friend, the poet, Dylan Thomas, from Wales to America, lived in a loft on the top floor of a partially abandoned office building on Manhattan’s Water Street. He playfully called the loft his penthouse–ah, the magic of poetic illusion. In fact, there did exist a tarred roof terrace, alluded to as the penthouse terrace; a make-shift kitchen with a table-top wrought-iron gas burner for cooking; a spacious general office room providing much place for books, paintings, plants, and friends; and adjoining private offices serving as bedrooms. There, with his wife, poet, and painter, Gene Derwood, the couple practiced their arts and lived the Bohemian Life.
Oscar Williams had left a lucrative career as a young genius in the advertising industry, in order to devote himself wholly to his art. The choice would seem to be between either starvation for one’s art or reduction to the role of “Sunday Painter.” Artists who unfortunately do not succeed in their arts; who do not achieve professional recognition, worldly acclaim, monetary reward, and fame, all too frequently end in bitterness and despair for having surrendered their lives to art without compensation. To some few, success matters not a whit; doing what the artist does is all that matters.
Charles Wideman, one of the founders of modern dance along with his colleague and collaborator Martha Graham, lived in a tiny room no larger than six feet by eight feet, located just off the entrance to his second-floor walk-up 14th. Street, New York City, dance studio. Certainly, one might expect that one of the great artists and founders of Modern Dance might have faired better than that, in his old age, but America does not especially care about artists and art. Charles turned out of his stable quite a few outstanding dancers, some of whom Dr. OM worked with during the time that he served as Director of Theatre, at what is now New Jersey City University.
In those days, the institution was known as Jersey City State College. When the college conferred the Honorary Doctorate upon Charles Wideman, it was a young Dr. OM who drove the dance master in from New York City to Jersey City. Dr. OM was then driving a Siata, a Spanish Fiat roadster, about the size of an orange bathtub. The older Charles, sitting beside Dr. OM, in the two-seater, died a thousand deaths, as they sped through the Holland Tunnel, with the top down. The young OM had never given the matter a thought, in advance, but a more proper sedan drove Charles home, after the ceremony; home to somewhat less than polite poverty, in the studio where Charles eked out a meager living, after paying the overhead.
Charles Wideman’s Christmas and Easter Oratorios, as witnessed by Dr. OM over several years of performances, were consummate works of art offered up as puffs of smoke, as are all works of performing art offered up, even when the life is camcorded out of them. In those days, there were not even camcorders. Viewing a Channel 13 documentary on Modern Dance, a few short years ago, Dr. OM was thrilled to see his old friend Charles cavorting across an expansive lawn with Martha Graham and her troupe: eternally young and forever dancing, on film. “An Artist must starve for his Art.”
As for musician’s Dr. OM has known too many geniuses, in their own rights, who had to hold down menial day jobs, in order to Gig at night or on weekends. When they entered into that other glamorous world of their existences, all seemed worth it, after all, but inevitably, as with Cinderella, there comes Monday morning and the necessity to return to the drudgery of their hum-drum struggles for their daily bread. Dr. OM knows a top Jazz guitarist who plays a night alone now for thirty dollars and a meal; a piece of Jazz history so abused is enough to make one cry.
Actors, actors, actors all over the place and unemployed; working at supermarket check-out counters for “what for,” because a real job or profession would seem to be a betrayal of faith that someday the break might come. There are writers who are teachers; teachers who are writers; and all manner of professionals: lawyers, physicians, pharmacists, engineers, businessmen, and professors, who in their heart of hearts are artists without a Gig.
The independently wealthy are more fortunate. Artie Shaw, for instance, was early on financed by two maiden aunts; Today’s most famous illusionist was supported for a time by his parents, as he prepared himself, after having rejected college enrollment or any other mundane endeavor. He served out his self-apprenticeship in a New York City loft, just as did the poet, Oscar Williams. If he did not starve for his art, he certainly sacrificed for his art. Success does not come cheaply, even to the super talented.
Which brings us to the subject of the rest of us. What do we do? Are the horns of the dilemma the two of either starve or Sunday paint; is there no middle road for the aspirant artist-magician to walk? The choices are hard because there are no guarantees, but such is the stuff that makes life a great adventure: the not knowing.
Dr. OM’s gut advice to the young is: “Provide yourself with practical security, my boy.” Lord knows, the responsibility of supporting a family, which does have a way of coming along, demands practicality; better to prepare for earning a living than to be found unprepared when the loving obligations to family arise; obligations which have pulled more than one young artist away from his art and cast him into whatever occupation he might find.
Time was, before the arrival of the media technology when the local firehouse had no choice but to hire a live band or magician for entertainment; when two and three a day acts flourished in vaudeville, night clubs, and after- the-movie live performances, but, T.V. cut the mileage off any live act, as the “jukebox” and its more recent counterpart the “Disk Jockey” have undone the live musician, and yet, there is nothing like the electricity of a live performance.
Decadence in taste is perhaps the greatest enemy of the artist. Jimmy Durante used to say: “Everybody wants to get into the act.” Standing cautiously on the brink of elitism, Dr. OM believes it fair to say that the diminishing audience attention span is the consequence of lowering taste and so many being so “into themselves” that they would and do upstage, even the best in the business, with their: “How great I am.” chatter. Where are the sophisticated audiences gone? Where has the appreciation of talent hidden? Artistically, it is solely the responsibility of any artist to hold his audience, just as Shakespeare, himself, had to grasp even the groundlings; economically, however, it is quite another story when the disappearance of the audience is causing the disappearance of the magician. The first portion of this article dealing with the other artists is for the purpose of not making the magician feel singled out for punishment but is it not a crying shame to hear about top-notch close-up artists having to perform at children parties, not by choice, as Dr. OM does, but out of econonuc necessity–it is not really the bag they chose and for which worked so hard and long to develop their expert “bag of tricks.” Dr. OM is not intending a gripe session here, but, rather, a reality facing. These days only a few make it in the arts, either because they are among the most talented and most fortunate, as well, or because they sink to the lowest level of mass appreciation: the soap opera double-take syndrome and raucous rap.
On the more positive side, there are the casinos, the corporate parties, the hotels, the resorts, and the cruise ships, but the competition is fierce. Futurists are predicting that in the century ahead automation and robotization will allow a great deal of leisure time, even among the working classes, and that service industries, including entertainment, will be at a premium. Some of us are young enough to wait for that advent.
As a professor, Dr. OM has managed throughout the years to combine his vocation with his avocations; perhaps the teaching profession is still the best place for such a combination. There has for forty-two years been a place in his teaching for writing, magic, music, directing, acting, and plastic arts. His life has been joyous, especially because the art of teaching, itself, is the one of his great passions which has allowed the pursuit of his other artistic passions. Thus has he found the fortuitous solution to his own dilemma. Call him Lucky.Dr. OM, therefore, optimistically urges the young artist to deliberately, not accidentally, find that vocational passion which will accommodate his other artistic passions. Leave nothing to chance. Plan for a future profession or occupation which will be compatible with the practice of the art of magic. Take note, for instance, of I.C.O.M Directors Bobby J. Gallo and Bill Wisch having identified a place for magic among business and professional members’ vocational activity. If you are going to be or if you are a magician, you know that you must use your imagination, so put your imagination to work in plotting your magical course through life. You CAN do it.
NEXT INSTALLMENT: XIV. REMINISCENCES OF GREAT MAGICIANS
The Brainstorming of two Magician’s
Looks Like we have yet another installment of I.C.O.M-versations! This is a continuation of ideas using the “Open-Back Back” concept described in the following archives..
10/98: I.C.O.M-versations #1, “The Open Back Pack”, 11/98: I.C.O.M-versations #2, 12/98: I.C.O.M-versations The Brainstorming of two Magician’s POST- CONCLUSION,
Instead of moving the case downward, for the forehead card rise, try closing your eyes tight as if concentrating. Place the box against your forehead and open your eyes wide as if in revelation, raising your eyebrows (and forehead) at the same time. This will cause the card to rise with no perceived movement.
Here’s something else that just popped in: Glue the cutout portion of the box to the back of a joker. If this card is on top of the deck, it will automatically plug the box opening, allowing both sides to be very freely shown. When the deck is removed, discard the jokers to the side and the deck is clean, along with the box being ready for any of the