Tuesday, December 27, 2011

WMF The Avant-gardist

Andrew over at Ye Olde Magick Blogge had such a nice run with the archetypes of magic. That inspired me (great term of ripping off an idea) to post my most disliked types of characters that magicians portray worthy of failure. Let's continue with the Avant-gardist:

A basic writing class will tell you, that when writing a fictional story the readers need a character that relates to them. Same goes for movies. An audience needs an "Everyman", an ordinary individual to identify with. A magic show is a bit like a movie. An audience is watching the magician. Usually magic shows are one man shows, ergo the magician needs to be the Everyman. He cannot be too far out. He still needs to be relatable. A bit weird is okay, but once the weirdness goes to a point where the general audience cannot follow anymore, I see a problem.

A typical example of this type of performer is Dan Sperry. He might be the nicest guy, but I cannot relate to his act. His motivation why he does magic remains unclear and way too much is left for the audience.

While it might be nice that the audience needs to make up their own damn mind, I still think that the main purpose of magic is entertainment. Making me think is not my idea of entertainment. Don't confuse that with stupefying the act. The movie "Inception" is a nice example on how to do it right. You have characters you can relate to. Their motifs are clear, yet the implications of the plot are far from being stupid or simple. (Besides, that is why the first Matrix movie was great and the other two failed aside from the pretty pictures)

Back to magic: I see why certain magicians want to be a character that is far out. Differentiating yourself from others is a way to be unique. But not at the cost of not being understood. If the magic show has no "Everyman" it better be so darn amazing that the audience can look past the fact that the "why" deprives itself from the show. Some manage that fine line. Most don't.


Tomsk192 said...

Interested in your Everyman theme, although uninterested in Dan.

Are you familiar with the medieval morality play, Everyman? Won't bore you with the plot, but a publishing imprint took its name from the play, and printed the following quote in every edition. It is spoken, in the play, by Knowledge:

"Everyman, I will go with thee
and be thy guide,
In thy most need to go
by thy side."

I'm not sure about your criteria for the Everyman role in magic. It works for many great performers, but other great ones go another way. I'm not talking about Dan Sperry, by the way.

Matt said...

Neat idea, but maybe missed the point of Dan Sperry's act I think...

It's well-known that to be a world class magician you need to have a strong "character" and original material. These are widely accepted as the two most important aspects. Although not everyone will agree, obviously.

For the one-man show, it's definitely important to relate to your audience. They should like you. Dan is actually quite likable albeit quite "weird." He certainly has a unique "character" going and sets himself apart in this way. He may not be TRYING to play to the typical "one-man show audiences" but is rather looking upward and onward. Many times magicians get stuck in the "nice guy" bit and while they entertain small-time, nothing is setting them apart. Dan has reached a level of fame that many other performers only dream about simply because of the character he portrays.

Bizzaro. said...

I think you can relate to the audience in other ways besides your look. You can't be too far out to be universally accepted but it also depends on your market.

If you are going for the highbrow art crowd you have to be a performance artist of a different nature. If you want the modern emo/hipster crowd well...

One of my friends likes to say "Just because it's different doesn't mean it's good" An act with dog shit is different but that doesn't make it good"

My reply to that is, "But what if it was the best damn act you had ever seen?"

You don't have to spoon feed the audience your back story but they need SOMETHING they can hook onto yes.

Illusions By Vick said...

Dan Sperry is a great example. Technically he is very talented, great chops, some very good ideas and presentations. While I appreciate the unusual character I can't help but wonder if it's help back his career or helped it? I love the idea of an anti-conjurer and magic that doesn't suck this character might just be a little too far out for the average person to relate to.

Illusions By Vick said...

p.s. Do the emo and goth groups or types really invest money in high quality high dollar live entertainment?

We know corporate America does