Unity

"The skillful writer has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents, but having deliberately conceived a certain single effect to be wrought, he then invents such incidents, he then combines such events, and discusses them in such a tone as may best serve him in establishing this preconceived effect."

Edgar Allan Poe

"To my mind, unity is as good a criterion as any for determining what is art and what is not."

Gary Provost, Make Your Words Work

Of the many elements that go into creating a strong act the most important are constant build and a balance between unity and variety. The first matter we discussed in the last chapter. The second well discuss in the next two chapters.

The point of putting together an act is that, whenever you perform more than one trick, the cumulative impact of the effects should be more than can be accounted for by the individual impact of each trick; the whole should be more than the sum of its parts. To achieve this, the performance must come across as a unified whole rather than just a string of unrelated tricks. Let's look at the four major elements you can employ to impart unity to your act.

Characterization

The most fundamental element that should tie together all the effects you perform 1S the fact that they're all performed by the same person. 276

Amazingly┬╗ many magicians fail to achieve even this element of unity Z their performances, not because each trick is performed by a different person, but because each trick is performed by a different

y0u can't perform your first effect as a serious mentalist, your next effect as a corny practical joker, and your last effect as a smooth-as-silk cardshark and expect the performance to register with your audience as a unified whole. Yet, if you've perfected a detailed credible, and appealing performing persona it can tie together even a performance of otherwise unrelated material. The most striking example of this I've ever seen is in the act of Irv VV'einer. In Irv's college concert show, he performs mime bits, gambling expose material, Hindu fakir effects such as the "Needle Through Arm" and stopping his pulse, straight magic such as "Spongeballs" and "Cut-And-Restored Rope," and mentalism such as a "Headline Prediction."

A lesser performer could never make this melange of disparate material work. It would be like watching a pathological multiple personality perform. People would ask, "Who is this guy? Is he a card cheat, a magician, a Hindu fakir, or a mindreader?" The magic would undercut the credibility of the mentalism, the gambling material would undercut the credibility of the Hindu effects, and so on. Furthermore, this grab bag of unrelated material would never register as a unified act. The whole would be mucli less than the sum of its parts.

However, Irv has achieved the difficult task of creating a character that makes all this material work together. That character might be described as follows: an older man with an exotic past who has spent a large part of his life traveling the world experiencing things and delving into mysteries that the rest of us only read about. Like Marco Polo regaling Europeans with spellbinding tales of what he saw in his travels, Irv has come here tonight to share with you some of the arcane arts and knowledge he has gathered from fnr-flung corners of the world. Viewed in this light, it becomes apparent that the wide variety of material he presents is necessary to develop his character. (Remember that we learned earlier that choice of effects is one of the most basic tools for conveying your character to an audience.) 1'aradoxically, because of the pprformer's staee persona, a wide variety of material is actually essential to imparting unity to this particular act.

The moral is that a strong and consistent character is the only absolutely essential ingredient in creating a unified act. However, this doesn't mean that you can perform any tricks you want. Rather,

0 0

Post a comment