December 2012

Ring #320    

The Blue Ridge Magicians


President            Eddie Tobey “Tobini”

Vice President      George Buckley

Treasurer           David Clauss

Sgt. at Arms       Jim Champion

Secretary          Dennis Phillips


Breaking News

Mark it down: December 7th!

 The December Meeting is the annualChristmas Banquet and our gift-swap and “steal”!  Bring a gift and play the game.

President Tobey will E-Mail the menu and pot luck needs.


Ring Report    

November 2012  Meeting

November is the annual Ring meeting for the election of our officers. We tabled the election until the December Banquet due to the lack of a quorum.  At this point it appears the slate of officers will remain the same. We really need some members to volunteer their service as a Ring President or Vice President. President Tobey’s work schedule has greatly increased and he needs some relief or help

Steve Pittella brought up the fact that The Gateway in Waynesboro is investigating having a “Battle of the Magicians” stage show. If you would like to appear for a cash prize in a small stage show and do you best tricks, Peter Monticup will be producing the event and you should contact him. More details will be coming.

The theme of this month’s show was: DVDs you enjoyed. President Tobey began with an ESP Deck DVD and showed some ESP cards. The DVD explained some great effects with the deck. Eddie then showed a Dan and Dave DVD from which he learned some fancy card flourishes.

Dennis Phillips then brought out the classic Grant’s “Keg ‘O Plenty” and explained how this effect was in many large illusions shows such as Dante’s. The effect is that many drinks can be poured out of a make-shift “keg” which is actually a mental tube with paper drumheads on each end.   Dennis then talked about a new DVD called “Stretching the Truth”.  The DVD explains how to make the effect.  The method is similar to Martin Lewis’  “Card-o-graphic”.  In the case of Stretching the Truth, a spectator is asked to select an animal cracker from a box of animal crackers. The magician comically makes a drawing predicting the lion animal. It is a simplistic generic cartoon. It gets a laugh and is repeated with the selection of another animal cookie.  Again a simplistic drawing of an elephant is made.  Finally another animal cookie is selected from the box and the magician has drawn a prediction. It is a giraffe.  Once again the magician had made the identical simplistic animal drawing. The audience laughs as the magician fills in a few spots and explains that the giraffe has a neck problem.  Then, the head visibly rises and the neck stretches!  This more correct giraffe drawing is torn off and shown to be drawn on the sheet.

Dennis went through the technique that he used to mold the animal crackers from real crackers so they would be more durable and some other improvements.  He concluded by showing how a suggestion from Steve Pittella led to making a mold of the mouse used in the classic “mouse pitch”. Dennis used inexpensive silicone caulk for the mold and Rock Hard wood filler tinted with acrylic paints, for the casting.

Dennis Phillips

 Dennis Deliberations….      Editorial and Comment



By Dennis Phillips

I have never been a fan of Penn and Teller. I respect their ability to create a niche in show business as “The Bad Boys of Magic” but they are a caricature of magicians and their persona is more satire and ridicule than it is any actual magic. They are a cruel joke on magic and in my opinion just a notch above The Masked Magician.     But, again, if some people enjoy that type of entertainment then so be it.

At several places Penn acknowledges that show business is nothing compared to “real” jobs. He would much rather spend hours working on a movie set or perfect a routine for his live show, than sit at a desk, answering to a boss he can’t stand. He tells the story of meeting Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine. “I just kept looking him in the eyes and trying to imagine what it felt like to help save that many lives Doing card tricks for a living is stupid no matter who you’re talking to, but look Jonas Salk in the eyes, and it seems everyone else is doing stupid card tricks for a living.”                               

 Well now Penn Gillette, who may have a good knowledge of magic is pushing his other profession of being a Professional Atheist.  I am not sure that the whole cause of Atheism needs a loud-mouthed bully and comedian as a spokesman.   He is a rabid promoter of his form of junkyard dog Atheism. (I regret any negativity I am casting upon junkyard dogs).       My comment to Penn, “Me thinks thou protestith too much!”

He picks out the most extremist example of religion and then beats the straw man to death.  I wish he would give it a rest.

People who want to mix radicalism with show business totally turn me off.  I am tired of Entertainers on a crusade in politics and religion.

 Why do so many in the general public say that they hate magic? It’s probably because they’ve seen poor magic or an arrogant, boorish magician, or both at the same time.

 Wayne Kawamoto lists five commonly made mistakes made by magicians and notes that it is not always just beginners who make them.

 1. Arrogance and Acting Smarter Than the Audience

 No one likes a performer, or even a person, who thinks he or she is smarter than everybody else and tries to demonstrate it. Magic is not an opportunity for a magician to show off or demonstrate how clever or intelligent he or she is.

 When magic is performed in a manner that says “ha ha, I know the secret and you don’t,” it’s been turned into a puzzle and the audience is only encouraged to try and discover the secret. Also, many magicians don’t understand that what works for Amazing Jonathan is not necessarily what they should be copying and doing in their shows.

 The Amazing Jonathan is an acerbic performer who humiliates his audience and assistants for comic effect. You can see some of his work here. I don’t know of any science performers who deliberately set out to offend their audiences but there are plenty who inadvertently come across poorly by showing off how clever they are.

 The most important trait for anyone on stage to have is likeability and no-one likes a smart arse. The best way to get audiences to like you on stage is to act as you normally would in real life. Be nice. Be generous. Be polite.

 2. Humiliating or Embarrassing Volunteers

When audience members come up to assist, they are going out of their way to help the magician. It’s imperative to treat volunteers with respect and not go for the easy jokes that get laughs and belittles and embarrasses volunteers. Sure, there are lots of bald, fat, ethnic, gender and more jokes that one can utter, but for entertainment of a higher level, these can be left behind.

 I think the secret to using volunteers is to know exactly why they are being used and then to send them back a hero. There is no more effective way to lose the sympathy of an audience than to treat a member of that audience poorly.

3. Inadequate Preparation

 Magic is not simply a matter of visiting a magic shop, purchasing a trick or two, taking them out of the package, reading the instructions and then performing them. Entertaining and baffling magic takes time to develop and practice, and routines need to be engaging, dramatic or funny, whatever works best for a magician’s personality or character.

 An old saying in magic goes like this: an amateur practices until they get it right, a professional practices until they get it right every time.

 You have to give yourself enough time to 1. write the show, 2. get the props together, 3. rehearse the demos, 4. and then work out how to perform them.

 Just because, as a beginner, doesn’t mean that you can get away with preparing poorly. In fact because it isn’t what you do on a regular basis you will need to prepare for it that much more.

 I would suggest, as an absolute minimum, you’ll need to set aside between ten and twenty times the length of the performance for the preparation. A ten minute presentation needs between and hour and a half and three hours to prepare. An presentation that lasts for an hour would require the best part of a working week.

 4. Not Properly Structuring a Show

 Tricks in sequence should be varied. One card trick where a spectator selects a card and the magician finds it may be entertaining, but five such tricks in a row are probably too much. Mix up the effects.

 Wayne gives excellent advice here that I’d like to take further. Structure goes beyond mixing up your demos. Structure is essential in any performance and structure comes from knowing exactly what you are trying to do. Every show should have an ultimate ambition; you should be able to say in a single sentence what the whole point of the show is. Once you’ve identified this end point you can then decide where to start and how to get from the start to the end.

 If you have identified a clear reason why you are performing your show you won’t end up performing the equivalent of five card tricks in a row because you won’t just be performing card tricks you will be taking your audience on a journey that will require a good selection of exciting demos.

 5. Wearing a Character Costume

Many beginning magicians may feel or know that their magic is inadequate and will consider wearing a costume – a clown suit, wizard outfit or more – to seemingly make up for this. After all, the logic seems to go, if one doesn’t feel that they are optimal at magic, at least they’re dressed up as a character.

 However, this is faulty thinking. And unfortunately, some entertainers in costume are a sign of awful magic. Some professionals such as Ed Alonzo, Sylvester the Jester, Rudy Coby and Bev Bergeron do make great use of a costume and use it to enhance their character.

 A costume should only be worn to reinforce the character that an entertainer is portraying, which, in turn, supports the theme of the magic effects. If an entertainer is dressed as a wizard, for example, what’s he doing with a deck of cards? Shouldn’t he be casting spells or causing things to float and such?

 This is great advice. Do you really need that lab coat? Perhaps if you are going to do something messy you should wear it but do you need to wear it at the start of the show or after the messy section has finished? And what about that clown suit? If you have been to clown school and perform a science show that includes real clowning then you might need it but otherwise why are you wearing it? And as for that comedy mad-scientist wig, those thick-rimmed glasses and the tie-died lab coat… I’ll let Wayne have the last word on that:

Bottom line, the path to good magic is to build solid magic and presentation skills and perform in an entertaining manner. Save the money and forget the cheap costume. Work on the magic instead and in the long run, become a far better entertainer.

Dennis Phillips





About blueridgemagiciansring320

Secretary of Ring 320 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians located in the Western Virginia.
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