The Chinaman The Ghost And The Cat A Chinese Fantasy

In this lesson we will take up the art of pantomime in illusions. There is an excellent opportunity for the modern day magician to clothe his illusions with a pantomime story. In this way what might be used for an illusion lasting for a few moments can be lengthened to an illusion story, an act or almost an act in itself. Cabinets as commonly used in illusion work are employed to vanish, to make appear or exchange one or more people. A great deal more interest and showmanship could be evolved if the vanishing or "appearing" act could be the part of a story and worked into the dramatic. There are times when a speedy production or "vanish" is essential, but there is also occasion for a story worked out in illusion form.

Who will ever forget the interesting illusion of "The Watchman, the Sailor and Monkey" as performed by Kellar? Around one illusion cabinet a whole act was built, and a mysterious one. I was yet a boy when I first saw it, but I can never forget the lasting impression that it made upon me.

With a bit of thought and ingenuity a commonplace piece of apparatus can often be turned into an unusually interesting piece of entertainment. This is where YOUR individuality comes into play — there is no limit to what you can do - no limit to the big name and success you can make for yourself.

I have often looked over stage settings back of the scenes between shows and thought, - is it possible that by putting these things into story form and combining them with living people such an interesting show can be brought forth. What a difference just a lighting effect may mean, a bit of music, and the art of the players!

There is nothing particularly interesting in an illusion cabinet itself, but the interest arises in what you are able to do with it. The same cabinet might form the basis for a hundred different stories.

"The Chinaman, the Ghost and the Cat" was originally produced by me for a Chinese stage presentation in one of the larger moving picture theatres of Chicago. The stage was set with an orchestra or band, and I had to get some sort of a Chinese fantasy blended in in front of the orchestra strong enough to become a feature number. Of course, in the up-to-date moving picture houses there is a great chance to make use of the beautiful lighting effects.

One of the most successful effects I ever worked out was to have the orchestra start a Chinese number, and while they were playing have lights gradually dimmed into the blues and the pinks, and at the same time have two cabinets eased onto the stage, revolved around and placed about twelve feet apart on the stage. Gradually the orchestra was toned down with the lights, and cabinets brought out a bit. The larger cabinet was gradually illuminated with a spot light and the illusion started. As each figure appeared, it was followed by a different colored spot light. There were bands of light thrown across the stage to illuminate the figures as they appeared on certain parts of the stage. The result was a very colorful, fantastic illusion that was an act in itself and one of the prettiest pieces of color in the stage presentation. The fantasy seemed to evolve from nowhere and disappeared accordingly. Not a word was spoken. It could have been a dream.

For another stage presentation, I would redecorate the cabinets on outside and with a different story present an entirely different stage atmosphere. Naturally the position of the cabinets would vary and an extra piece of illusion material added as needed.

With the romantic picturesqueness of the many countries, beautiful pantomime illusions could be worked up. The principle can be utilized in so many effects. Perhaps in some instances the cabinets could be built to resemble small houses, tents, etc.

Audiences are hungry for novelty and it is a wise magician who will dress up his act with novel picturesqueness. This tends to put you in the PRODUCTION class where real money lies in the show business.

Here is a chance to use your IMAGINATION and build up a pantomimic novelty on picturesque lines.

In the meantime, let us go into the details of "The Chinaman, the Ghost and the Cat" and see how the illusion is built and how the various appearances, disappearances and changes are accomplished. You will also note that only three characters are used. I will first describe the effect as seen by the audience. EFFECT:

Two cabinets about ten to twelve feet apart are seen facing the audience. The smaller one at the left has a front door which is closed, while the cabinet at the right has no door, but audience can look inside. However, there is a curtain which can be closed or opened at will. The larger cabinet is empty. The performer enters, dressed in long cloak and hat with feather in it. He carries rather small treasure chest. He places this on floor. He removes from pocket of cloak a professional looking beard such as a doctor might wear, and slips it on. Then readjusts hat. Then revolves cabinet enough for audience to see rear and that nothing is concealed. He brings cabinet back to original position. He picks up chest and steps into cabinet. Suddenly the curtain starts to slowly close, screening the inside of cabinet. This is a weird effect, as no one is near to close it.

The curtain opens again and there stands a Chinaman holding a treasure chest. He gazes about, then quietly steps out of cabinet onto floor. Still looking about, he spies the smaller cabinet. He goes over and opens its front door. It is empty. He steps up into the cabinet and opens the back doors. He steps out at rear and examines cabinet carefully. He closes the rear door, then coming to front, places the treasure chest in the cabinet and closes the door.

He starts back to the larger cabinet, but notices the curtain slowly closing. He hesitates. Curtain opens again revealing a ghost-like figure in the cabinet. Chinaman slinks back to side of cabinet out of the way while ghost steps down on floor and sort of glides over to the smaller cabinet. It opens the door and sees the treasure chest. It picks it up, steps into the small cabinet and closes the door after it. Chinaman rushes over to the cabinet and opens door suddenly, only to find that ghost and chest have both disappeared. Amazed at the loss of his chest, he closes the door and starts for the larger cabinet. But again the curtain slowly closes and opens again revealing a large catlike figure in the cabinet. The cat looks around, but does not see the Chinaman. He gets down from cabinet and goes to his left and around cabinet to rear. Chinaman follows him. Cat comes on back of smaller cabinet and looks at it, then down front and turning and seeing Chinaman behind him, he rushes into the cabinet and closes curtain after him. Chinaman also rushes in after him into the cabinet.

The curtain slowly opens and neither cat nor Chinaman are within the cabinet. Curtain closes again.

Just then the door of the smaller cabinet opens, and out comes the cat with the treasure chest. He looks around, then dances around in center of stage and cuts up antics over his luck. During these antics the curtain of larger cabinet opens again and the ghost appears. It comes down to center of stage behind the cat. The cat does not see him. Suddenly ghost touches cat's shoulder with his ghostly hand. The cat gives a move of amazement and surprise. Upon seeing the ghost he makes a run for the small cabinet. He gets inside and closes the door quickly after him. Ghost goes over and opens door showing that the cat has disappeared. Over in the other cabinet the curtain is thrust aside enough to have the cat stick his head out and wave at the ghost. As ghost starts for cat, the cat disappears. Curtain opens showing cabinet empty. Ghost looks in and about cabinet. As it does this, the door of other cabinet opens and cat sneaks out and grabs chest and slips back into cabinet. Ghost finds chest has vanished, so it then comes over to smaller cabinet and, in looking for treasure chest, opens cabinet showing it empty. Ghost, shaking head, glides off the stage. The door of smaller cabinet opens and cat appears with chest and after looking about, starts for other cabinet. He places chest on floor and waves his hand at the cabinet. The curtain closes. Just then a shot is heard as performer enters from side of stage, dressed in cloak and feathered hat and beard as at the beginning. Cat sees performer and rushes into cabinet behind curtain. Curtain opens showing cabinet empty. Performer removes beard and hat and shows he is really the performer. He picks up chest and exits. Or curtain goes down as he bows.

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