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Theatrical Magic Review

Official Review

January 1st, 2008 3:09pm
Reviewed by Bryce Kuhlman
I have a sorted history with this book. When I first read about it, I almost bought it. A few weeks later, it showed up for review. By that time, I had decided that I didn’t want it. I thought that something written by “Big Daddy Cool” just couldn’t be good. When the next round of review products came available, I decided to give it a go anyway.

I’m glad I did.

It seems like we get a smattering of books on “theatrical magic” every decade or so. Each one includes common elements. The good ones go beyond what’s been said before. This actually takes a different approach to the whole subject.

There entire book is based on two axioms: 1) magic should be character-driven and, 2) magic should have meaning. Personally, I think these are excellent ideas that tend to be either completely ignored or taken entirely too far. I’m with Eugene in thinking that everything should be taken in moderation. Some of the best characters are simply a more defined version of the magician’s natural personality. And most magic themes already have meaning built-in.

Assuming you buy into the two axioms on some level, you’re going to love this book. Although previously unknown to me (and probably most of you), the author has spent most of his life as a performer, either of magic, music or traditional theater. He’s built and toured his own show with a large cast and a fully-developed theatrical story. While I’ve never actually seen him perform, I’m going to take his credentials as proof that he knows what he’s talking about.

The book contains the standard chapters on character and plot development. The rest of the book contains the background, scripts and (sometimes) methods for routines that the author (or a friend) has developed. He goes into great detail with the motivation for each routine and includes the entire script with directorial/choreographic notes. Some methods are included, but that’s not the point of the book. In fact, a couple of them don’t even have working methods -- they’re more of a pipe dream.

Many of the routines were built for the author’s Big Daddy Cool character. They obviously won’t work as-is for most of us. But it’s not really the script that’s important, it’s the thought that went into it. This is useful for each of us, regardless of our character.

The routines later in the book have various themes, from romantic interludes to geishas to a very distasteful pirate story that would have been a good candidate for The Violent Book of Mentalism. There’s also a routine that might be the last creative masterpiece from Gene Poinc.

To top it all off, the Appendix contains a 19-page glossary of theater terminology. For those of you who perform in theaters but don’t have any formal theatrical training, this will allow you to work more efficiently with directors and theater crews.

If this book suffers from one thing, it’s simply repetition. The author’s main ideas are repeated in almost every chapter. Considering that the ideas are straightforward and that there are over two dozen chapters, my brain got tired of reading the same words over and over again.

Available at your favorite Murphy’s Magic dealer

Product info for Theatrical Magic

Author: John Pyka
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $45.00
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Manufacturer's Description:

A Magician is an actor playing the part of a magician. Famous words, a famous quote. Too seldom do performers understand and use this philosophy! In this book, John Pyka uses his character Big Daddy Cool, and other original magical routines to teach you the premise and process of taking your magic from the realm of a puzzle, and making it in to THEATER!

Now, many of you will say "but, magic isn't theater," or "magic is entertainment in and of itself," or "the amazement is the meaning." Magic can (and should) be amazing, it can also be so much more.

A magic show doesn't have to be a string of special effects and nothing more.

It can tell a story, make a statement, or even instruct or educate.

Unfortunately too many performers have created shows that are nothing but a string of special effects, that has no meaning or relevance. This is one of the reasons that many people regard magic as meaningless diversion (usually for children). It is because so many magicians have made it so. We have removed meaning and relevance from our magic. How sad. So, how do we fix this?

Our hope is that this book will help make a difference. And you, by reading it may well be a part of the change.

Theatrical Magic, in the simplest terms, is magic that is character and story driven.

Whether it is known as Story Telling Magic, Bizarre Magic, Gospel Magic, or some other title, it is magic is that is used by the performer to accomplish several goals. 1) To tell a story, 2) to establish or showcase their character, 3) to solve a problem, 4) to make a statement, or 5) to instruct/educate.

Often, magic accomplishes several of these goals at once. Of course it should go without saying that a fundamental purpose of theatrical magic is to entertain, amaze, and create wonder within the story.

Sections Include: What is Theatrical Magic? The Story Behind the Stories: Swingin' At The Roxy

Mambo Scarves - Tahloola's Demise -Titanic Thompson Sidewalk Shuffle - Making Magic Your Own Jiggernaut - Character Development 101 Character Study/Bio Close-Up Stage: - Wonder Pen-atration - Scotch & Soda - Houdini's Metamorphosis - Everything's Rosy - The Legend of Billy The Kid - What's My Motivation? Analyzing The Christ/Anneman Alignment Move - The Grand Stage: The Vizier's Love - J Johnny's Angels - Snowstorm in Armenia - Adventures of the Blue Phantom - The Vampire - Exercise In The Absurd: AKA The Pirate Act - Food For Thought Other Voices: - The Key to Room 158 - Nelson Griswold w/ Eugene Poinc - Broom Suspension by Bill Palmer- The Shaman by Jason Michaels BONUS: Tricks for Monkeys - Ruthless Ambition - Discount Ring Flight and Recommended Reading.

Pages 180 - Softbound

You can view a sample HERE.

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