it means that your act must consist only of effects fh might bo expected to do, performed in the wav tk . Aara™
would be expected to perform them your cbar„^r
Ad act may be tied together by the practice of eninl™ prop or type of prop in every effect. In all my acte S?^ «We the central prop in each effect. This is also true in Oif Card" Martin Nash, Eddie Tullock, and prohablyTther w
R<*» P-fcrm, only effects with coins i n hi ESS? " ^ There are many other props that are adaptable to this ™ f could put together an act „.p^ entity % ^ 0le
(for example, the "Blank Paper to Bills" trick >he»T mjTC"
Bill - and the "Floaling Deli BUI)" oran '^l J™ f
^„^/for example, Dr. Sak'e Spotted ftce, "Matrix" done with dice, and Dice StacS) ***
thats been explored far more r,,[l„ ;„ „, I™ is a conreo,
Have successSly .sJa"™^ ££ f™ phonograph records, light bulbs, or jewels ' ES'
Theme way X^r^r" 0f the performing the act X^™ JS?*™ the 0ste">'''Ie reason for "»»rung. an entire art I ? °f M Gffeet substantive meaning is the theme of the act " substantlve meaning; that
Other ttanTnie^S' SKT^*"6 message or any rationale »">n5 with that. Aa L Ca^T' ^ 'S «gtc act has at least onB Z™ ™s fserved, ultimately every «"ten. "A spectator who watX ",,!*lKme °f -Mic. As he ha. separate it from any other kjrl f " SCt identify it and «*■« m^icaL" fter kind Df artistic manifestation because that However, an act that 1
Acme can ach.eve a CS' fu""6 ^^ distinctive o her way. Every e£f ^ * unity that is difficult to attain in any •II b«ng performed for fte >«« because thev are
« theme is to a* act „ 'ame rsa™. toward the same end.
lhat «f hee°Z6 * ? an a shouldn't be fussed in connection withtaS?, 1 ™b^ntive meaning we as the theme of an entire act In ^ ^ may ^ 278 7 eambhne lecture my only real
. tri entertain the audience; however, my ostensible purpose c0lICenl ke the audience more aware of the many ways in which they is inb"°heateti when gambling. That ia the theme of the act. ClL° .1 r]y a mentalist appears before his audience to expand their S"h islanding °f the hiiden powers of the mind. This theme ties fher everything he does in his performance. We have already rS£ ssed the developing field of bizarre magick in which the rmer cnacts what appear to be authentic occult rituals. A rf rmer who specializes in this field has as the theme of his act the exploration of the supernatural.
Jtcts that revolve entirely around one kind of prop are often referred to as "theme acts." However, such sloppy terminology only serves to obscure an understanding of the different elements that contribute to the success of a performance. To illuminate the distinction between props and theme, let's consider how wc might structure an all-dice act Under Props we saw that an act might be comprised entirely of effects with dice such as Dr. Sak's "Spotted Sorcery," trv Wciner's "Soft Dice," "Matrix" done with dice, and Dice Stacking. These are all quite unrelated magic effects whose only common bond is the use of the same kind of prop.
Suppose, however, that 1 begin my performance by explaimns to the audience how 1 used to be a fanatical dice player. Recently, 1 swore off the game for good after a series of mishaps. 1 had been told that to be certain a pair of dice is fair you should check to moke sure they add up to fourteen on opposite sides. But, in the fast en* fame I checked the spots kept changing. ¡"Spotted Sorcery"] When I went to phy craps at a friend's house where I knew 1 wouldn t be cheated, to downstairs neighbor kept complaining about the noise of the di.e rolling across the floor. ["Soft Dice"] After I gave up on crap , J dropped into the neighborhood bnr. Even myTath. A coupie of guys were figg^X fc £
a cup. When 1 tried my hand, 1 couldn t even rou r kept piling up. [Dice Stacking routine]
I .i,^ rlicp effects could be added to the With a little thought, several •tk«' ^^, ^ occurred to a act, all presented as examples tfmi« ^^ ^ Bmpioy hapless, would-be dice pb^B-W*» ^ .,„hy , ,uil playing dice, the theme would not 1« • ^ use only ^ „as an dice." In our first example, me ,ua|„„e.
If we change the theme sllgW"> ' ^^ [hat dm t use due. card effects and other i""1?™ "rformed >he perspective of a While all these effects woulil De p ^ of ra^ah8p9 and former habitual gambler who was bizarre events he experienced in his quest for action. This m fication of the theme offers greater versatility, but slightly less u since a variety of props are used n%
We can have an all-dice act without the why-I-quit-gamblinK them or we can have a whv-1-quit-gambling act without limiting our8eW only to dice, or we can have an act that is unified both by the whyJ8 quit-gambling theme and also by an all-dice props approach. SinJ consistency and unity are essential qualities in all effective magic acts—and in all art—it should not be surprising that a change in any one element, theme, props, or character, may entail changes in the others. However, that shouldn't blind us to the fact that each is a different element with different functions.
Every presentational technique entails limitations as well as advantages. In the case of employing a theme, the limitation is that the performer must bypass any effect that cannot be made to serve the theme. Any digression from the main point will weaken the impact of, not only that effect, but the entire performance. You may love "Coins Through the Table," but don't do it in the middle of a gambling act.
Keep in mind that the thematic relevance of each effect must have credibility for the audience. Some performers seem to feel that any flimsy patter link is enough to allow them to drag in whatever effect they want. Such an approach is doubly harmful. The irrelevant effect hurts the act and the transparently contrived patter connection only serves to highlight how inappropriate the effect really is. With theme as with characterization, consistency is the keynote. Ideally, every effect should not only be compatible with the theme but should help to develop the theme in some way.
So far, we have limited our examples of theme acts to well-explored territory. However, the possibilities for effective themes around which to build a strong close-up act are limited only by one's imagination. Here is an idea for a close-up theme act I had several years ago but never used. (I've been told the idea has been independently thought of by others.) Anyone who cares to use it has my permission to do so. For the rest of you. it will at least serve to further illustrate the concept of theme in magic.
The performer comes out holding a child's magic set under his arm. He explains that he received it as a hirthdav present last week. After all. the box says on the side. 'Tor ages seven and older." He's older than seven so his friends figured he qualified. Having practiced diligently for the past three days, he feels ready for his first performance. He opens the cardboard box and takes out some small plastic prop of
,he kind usually found in these sets and proceeds to perform m,ndboggling miracle with it.
The act continues in this vein. The performing props all consist of c|,enp plastic slum items of the kind found in children's magic sets The effects all consist of powerful, entertaining magic. The premise consists of the claim that these are really the tricks that came in his •Official Junior Magician" set and are taught in the instructions- the performer learned them in a couple of days. The power of" the performance would stem from the contrast between the unassuming toy props and the miraculous magic the performer produces with them. Needless to say, this incongruity could also generate a great deal of humor.
There are a good many effects to choose from in constructing such an act A number of top close-up workers have at some time worked selling slum magic in novelty shops and developed sophisticated routines for these tricks in order to maintain their sanity. The best-known example is Michael Skinner's great routine for the Ball and Vase trick.
Also, many sophisticated effects have been reproduced in cheap knockoff versions. A few years ago there was a children's magic set on the market that actually contained an Okito coin box made out of plastic. If you could track down one of these, you could perform the David Roth coin box routine with it. Why not perform the Vernon Cups and Balls with one of the cheap, small plastic cups and balls sets they sell in slum shops?
You could also use some of those ingenious Tenyo effects which are invariably produced in plastic. In this case, the cheap appearance of the props would be an asset rather than a drawback. If anyone does decide to develop this idea, I recommend that he check out an effect of Jack Chanin's in Phoenix No. 194 called "Jap Jape." It is a wonderful "Bill in Cigarette" effect using, of all things, two of flit-plastic drawer boxes sold in novelty shops that every child has owned at some time. The sponge rabbits is another effect that would work well in such an act. Remember, the props you use don't actually have to come from a children's magic set; they just have to look as if they do.
As with most themes, this one has implications for the character portrayed by the performer. He must not come aero«, as a magician, but as a layman who has just learned a couple of tncka Flounshes would be out of the question as would any blatant
(In reality, it would take considerable professional ability to perform such an act with the apparent artlessness requ.red.)
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