FITZKEE - Showmanship for Magicien

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Text of FITZKEE - Showmanship for Magicien

  • SHOWMANSHIP For MAGICIANS

    TABLE Of CONTENTS

    INTRODUCTION

    CHAPTER IDo Magicians Need Higher Entertainment Standards?

    CHAPTER IIThings From Another Era

    CHAPTER IIIHow to Find Out What the Public Really Wants

    CHAPTER IVThe Things Big Audiences Really Buy

    CHAPTER VHow Music Adds Interest

    CHAPTER VIRhythm, Youth and Sex Appeal

    CHAPTER VIIPersonality and the Necessity of Selling Yourself

    CHAPTER VIIIColor, Harmony, Sentiment, Romance

    CHAPTER IXTiming and Pointing

    CHAPTER XSurprise, Unity, Character and Situation

    CHAPTER XICostuming, Grooming, Make-up, Personal Behavior and Smoothness

    CHAPTER XIIConfidence Through ehearsal R

    CHAPTER XIIIPhysical Action, Group Coordination, Precise Attack, Economy and Brevity

    CHAPTER XIVEfficient Pacing, Punch, Instinct Appeals, Combined Appeals, Grace, Effortless Skill, Spectacle and Contrast

    CHAPTER XVComedy

    CHAPTER XVIGetting and Holding Interest nd Attention a

    CHAPTER XVIITypes of Audiences and Their Preferences

    CHAPTER XVIIIHow to Routine

    CHAPTER XIXHow to Routine - Continued

    CHAPTER XXHow to Get Ideas For Acts

    CHAPTER XXIHow to Put An Act Together

    CHAPTER XXIIHow to Make Your Act Salable

    CHAPTER XXIIIA Magic Show in the Modern Manner

    CHAPTER XXVCheck Charts

  • INTRODUCTION

    The fact that I feel there to be a definite need for this book is evidenced by my having written it. While this work is intended primarily for magicians, there is very much here, particularly the analysis of audience preferences and appeals, which applies to entertainers generally. There is a right way and a wrong way of doing anything. But the right way of yesterday is not necessarily the right way of today. The following pages, of course, set forth only my viewpoint on magic presentation. It probably is not a particularly good viewpoint, I am reasonably certain, since I have been assured of this both directly and indirectly by many who know nothing whatever of the matter. The classic retort: "Well, he's working," is not necessarily conclusive nor unanswerable in connection with comment on an entertainer's offering. It might be answered that a burglar is working, and for profit, while he is in the act of drilling someone's safe.-And while honest men starve. The phrase is not justified economically or morally. The mere fact that a man is working may be due to many factors. He may have friends of influence. His compensation may be comparatively low. Someone else might be making a special profit by keeping him working. His publicity, not his abilities as an entertainer, may be keeping him employed. That a man is employed now does not mean he will continue to be engaged if he fails to keep abreast of the times. The arrangement of words herein and a great many of the ideas developed are mine. The facts, which are a contribution from the show business as a whole, are the property of no one person. They belong to the theater that discovered them bit-by-bit. There is one type of audience appeal I have not included in my lists. These days it has been found profitable. I refer to the off-color and ribald. Where it is permitted, it is a powerful appeal. I must insist I am not a moralist. But I feel that off-color material is definitely damaging to the show business. Sooner or later it will cause serious trouble. I refuse to include this appeal because it is a false one, spawned from the underworld, and eventually it will be driven back. I firmly believe the good showman will detour around it carefully, holding his nose. I strongly advise it. In the writing of this work I have found it more convenient to use the term "act" in referring to a magician's program. Perhaps those who prefer the terms "show," "program," etc., may find the book's applications more specific if they should substitute their terms for their type of performance, instead of the terms used. I am gratified that magicians generally have so accepted this work that a second edition is necessary. I profoundly appreciate the compliment magicians pay me in their willingness to continue to consider my ideas. The second book in this trilogy, THE TRICK BRAIN, has been published. It, too, is being remarkably well received. Except for minor typographical corrections and some changes in the text in the interests of clarification this new edition is substantially the same as the original.

    DARIEL FITZKEE San Rafael, Calif.

    December 21, 1944

  • CHAPTER ONE

    It seems inevitable that sooner or later someone must take up the matter of showmanship and presentation for magicians in a detailed manner. Too many performers of magic, increasingly so in recent years, either do not know or totally disregard the fundamentals of modern entertainment as exemplified elsewhere throughout the amusement industry. Years ago Dr. Wilson said, "Magic is an art that sometimes instructs, often amuses and always entertains." This writer disagrees emphatically with very much of that statement. Particularly does he question the "often amuses and always entertains" part. He is inclined to think that the doctor was somewhat carried away with his enthusiasm for a hobby. It is a pretty set of words. But it's also an ugly infection. In my belief he would have been more nearly correct had he written, "Magic, as exhibited by the majority, is the indulgence in a hobby that rarely instructs, seldom amuses and almost never entertains." Pure magic, as the presentation of a puzzle to be solved, particularly as performed by the too enthusiastic and poorly prepared devotee, almost never entertains anybody except the enthralled practitioner himself. And if this devotee is not watched, he is extremely likely to become an insufferable bore. Unquestionably this attitude will meet with considerable disagreement. But the bulk of opposition will come from those with little experience. The performance of magic is a minor branch of the entertainment field. We are not here concerned with the collecting of apparatus or books, the manufacture of magical apparatus, the recreational hobby aspects or any other auxiliary activity connected with the general term magic. Here we are entirely occupied with magic in its ultimate form. That form, of course, is its performance in the presence of spectators. In any other form it becomes research, exercise, recreation, hobby, or even a particularly exotic type of egotistical narcissism. Even if one of the alternative basic forms is the cause of a beginning in magic, sooner or later the doer-of-sleights or the collector-of-apparatus ventures outside his secret hideout and elects to "perform" for somebody. Then it is that the damage starts. Usually this type of "magician" is inadequately prepared and quite without any right to consider himself an entertainer in any degree. Of the thousands of performers-of-tricks who daily exhibit their wares throughout the world, but a minute percentage has given any thought to presentation or showmanship that is the heart-beat and the life-blood of the entertainment field. Yet just because this tyrant's exhibitions may be limited to but a few admiring and, let's hope, forgiving friends or relatives, the writer must insist that he still has no right to do so without some intelligent preparation in selling entertainment to an audience, whether his audience is large or small. The chief trouble is that the damage is not personal only. It is not limited to the bungler himself. It goes much further than that. It hurts all magicians as entertainers. And it injures all magic as entertainment. Take the number of exhibitions of magic that are given throughout the country in a single day. This means all of them--good, mediocre and poor. Fully seventy-five percent of the performances are poor according to modern entertainment standards. Another twenty-four percent are mediocre. The writer feels certain he is being conservative when he estimates that not more than one percent of the daily and nightly performances can be called smart and modern. When ninety-nine percent of a product is poor or mediocre ALL of it is classed that way. That's why every poorly prepared magical performer hurts the entire field. There is much tolerance for magicians as a group. Spectators are generally inclined to overlook the shortcomings of the magician probably because of some psychological conditioning germinated during

  • childhood. Yet this very favorable circumstance reacts as a considerable disadvantage. It creates too easy opportunity for the incompetent to inflict himself upon an utterly unwarned audience. Of course, all people in an audience are not favorably inclined towards magic. Many people have experienced extreme boredom as the result of poor presentation in the past. Others regard the challenge to their wits, and the fact that they are frequently ultimately deceived, as a reflection upon their own acuteness. This carries with it the implication that the person accomplishing the deception is of superior mentality. This type of spectator distinctly resents such a situation. Still another type of spectator simply is not interested. He is not interested in puzzles or trying to solve them. He is not interested in the mental effort. To him, such endeavor is just the opposite of relaxation. And this type of person is in the majority by far. This is provable conclusively by the magazine field, which is printed entertainment. Are the magazines filled with puzzles? Or narratives? Are they most interested in things? Or people? Spectator attitudes towards the presentation of tricks are complex and varied. In speaking of the presentation of tricks I am now referring to the generally accepted method of presenting magic. What this means is the exhibition of magical