Monthly Archives: July 2014

Through a Murky Window, one is unsure of what they see : Clarity in our magic.

As magicians, our ultimate goal is to entertain (should this not be true to you reading this, might I suggest a change in profession/hobby). In order to be successful at this goal it is imperative that our audiences understand what our magic is all about. We need to make sure that each effect we do is received in the manner in which we delivered it. Yes, I am talking about clarity.

Clarity

Google defines clarity as “the quality of being coherent and intelligible.” Being clear in our instructions and the way in which we give over our magic is an integral part in our goal to entertain. The last thing we want is for our spectator(s) to watch a trick that you have spent hours practicing and a lot of time and effort in setting up, only to be disappointed because you never explained yourself clearly and therefore the spectator completely missed the climax and the warm-fuzzy feeling they would have gotten from witnessing the true magic that is you.

So what are some of the steps we should take in assuring clarity?

Before we get to the part of delivering your patter and trick effectively and clearly, we need to actually establish if our patter is clear and if the direction of the trick is clear.

Darwin Ortiz in his book Strong Magic discusses the idea of clarity. Strong MagicHe says “What is really essential for strong magic is not simplicity of effect, but clarity of effect.” (Ortiz, 30 ; 1994). Clarity does not equal simplicity. A simple transposition will not make sense if it is not clear. Similarly a floating piece of money that jumps around a card box, where the construction is very complex; the presentation needs to be clear in order for that effect to be understood.

Ortiz spends some time on the topic of clarity and I will summarise what he is saying and hopefully this will aid in our magic becoming clearer.

First, Ortiz suggests writing down all the tricks that you do and under each one, in 3 sentences or less write a summary of the effect. Actually grab a pen and paper and write them down. Go now please. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

Now that you have written your effect summaries, perform each effect and then look back at the summary. You might find that you need to change a thing or two but ultimately you want to end up with the essence of the trick on that piece of paper.

The next step is looking at the summaries and making sure that when the spectator sees the effect, they are interpreting it how you want them to. There are only a few effects where without voice they can be understood only one way. Most tricks require patter. For example, you are doing an ambitious card routine; who is causing the card to come to the top? Is it the snap or magical move of the magician or is it a gesture from the spectator? Is it a word, a relevant time frame? A phrase? Do you get the idea?

The next bit is to look at your patter and see where the emphasis lies. Are you emphasising the important aspects of the effect? Where you put emphasis on shows what is important. In a pick-a-card trick, are you spending more time on the aspect of losing a card in the deck or on the aspect of finding it? Is the trick about finding the location of the card or making sure it’s superbly lost and can’t be found? Now go back to your patter and get rid of any action, word, phrase, or sentence that does not contribute to the essential effect that you are creating.

Patter informs the spectators what is about to happen; paints a story for the spectators to grab onto. The last thing we want is to burden our spectators by making them work, and what is the type of work that we hate doing? Mental work. If your patter is structured in such a way where the spectator has to actually think and you’re leading them down convoluted pathways, then they will get lost and your effect and hard work will be all for naught. It will also piss them off!

When it comes to designing our tricks, we want to make things as easy as possible not only for us but for our spectators. If we clutter our patter and tricks, it will not only cause confusion but it could also make the spectators upset for either paying for a magic show and instead not understanding a single part therefore ruining their evening/day; or wasting time and energy in trying to follow the magician’s stories.

I spent time working through this process and it was a huge eye-opener for me to see what clutter was surrounding the tricks I get paid to do. I hope you will gain as much benefit from the exercise as I have. Good luck!

 

 

 

Ortiz, D. (1994). Strong Magic. Ortiz Publications. United States of America.

 

 

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Filed under Cape Magician's Circle, Magical Musings

My Visit To The Magic Castle.

For years we have dreamed of going on holiday to America. “The dollar is too expensive”; “You possibly can’t afford to do this.” Well let me just put it out there for all: We did it, on our own, no help, our own initiative, and we saved every penny we took with us. Boy I am so proud of our trip. We had such an incredible time. Now, I’m not going to spend this post going through what we did from Day 1 to Day 14, but I will touch on a few experiences that have some magical touches.

Ever since getting into magic, I have heard about the Magic Castle, In Los Angeles and how it is a prestigious club where magicians perform. I’m fortunate enough to have quite an extensive digital library of Magic and a lot of the magicians seem to bring up the Castle and how it is an honour to perform there. So naturally I have wanted to check the place out, and I swore to myself that when I finally do get to the States I will go and visit the Castle. It’s like a tourist coming to Cape Town and not going up Table Mountain – unheard of. Little did I know tickets to L.A are so expensive, but that didn’t stop me and we made a whole trip out of it. We went to Disney, Universal Studios, Venice Beach, Santa Monica…. I digress. The Castle. Yes. So you need to be invited in order to go. I have a friend who performed there in December and he put me in touch with Tom Ogden who “hooked a brother up” and Lee-Ann; our host Rocky Solomon, and I went on the Sunday night to experience the Castle. That is exactly what it is, an experience. No two experiences will be the same. That is what is so awesome about it.

And Tom, who is a long-time member of the Castle and has performed there was an incredible host. You see, the website doesn’t really do justice to the Castle. The Castle is full of history. History that one can’t put on a website or in a blog post. It takes passion and love to take time to learn that the Castle is more than just a place for people to watch magic and Tom shared that side of the Castle to us. It really enhanced our evening. Thank you Tom.

You walk into the atrium where already the atmosphere is set for you: magic and mystery. The first bit of magic happened when I said the magic words to a wall full of books “Open sesame” wooooop, the door slides open. It felt eerie, yet welcoming. Everyone is dressed up so eloquently – suits, ties, dresses, and make-up. This pre-requisite for the Castle really puts forward how it takes the magic that is performed there: unique, high standards, special, and well-respected. We never ate at the restaurant due to the kosher food being incredibly expensive ($60+ per person per meal), so that meant we had to wait in longer lines in order to see the shows. Tom waited with us which made the wait so much quicker because that was when we really got to shmooze. We laughed and chatted about the Castle and Cape Town. Again, he is a character who I could see loves magic and loves what the Castle stands for.

The shows that we saw were just marvelous. I was fortunate enough to see 2 close-up shows, a ventriloquist, and 2 parlour shows. It is clear that the performers at the Castle are of a high caliber. Probably one of the best parts for me was seeing Irma in action… she is the ghost that plays the piano. Tom introduced us to her as his South African guests and she began to play our anthem. The people before us requested a song by 50 Cent, she played it, and she played it good. When you give her a tip “there’s a little something for you” she plays a happy tune. It was so awesome to watch. I wouldn’t mind a haunted piano in all honesty… as long as it doesn’t start freaking me out with theme songs from “Jaws”, “Psycho” and the like!

It was quite interesting to learn that pictures are not allowed to be taken in the Castle. Tom informed us that years ago it was permitted for photography, however because the lighting is so dim, the photos don’t turn out so well. The Castle is also a popular place for celebrities who just want some relaxed time with their loved ones and well you can imagine how relaxing it is for them if there are people crowding around and wanting pictures. All that being said, here are some pictures of the Castle taken by Star Foreman off the LA Weekly Slideshows. I hope you enjoy them, but please note that the pictures you see do not do it justice, and I highly suggest that you make sure when you’re next in L.A to go and check it out. It is a magical experience that you and whoever is privileged to go with you will not forget!

Stay tuned for more on our USA trip – Monday Night Magic in NYC is next!

Magic Castle, until we meet again…

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