THE BOB FITCH 2000 PERFORMANCE WORKSHOP
By Stan Davis
I went back for the second year. Here's what I think:
I am often disappointed in the response I get from audiences. There- I said it. I hope I'm not the only one. Maybe all the rest of you are always greeted with awe and astonishment when you present the work of your life's love of our art. The progression, for most magicians I have known, is this: "I have to buy that trick so I will know how it is done." "*That'll* fool them. They'll never figure this trick out." "Maybe not. Where's the next great trick? That one will fry them..." "I should find a new handling for that move..." "Here's the XXX ad. Wow- now THAT will get the response I want from audiences."
We speak about the many jobs magicians take on in their acts:
- Special Effects Technician
- Sound and light technician
- Stage Manager
- Mime (We ARE pretending that imaginary objects and actions are real, aren't we?)
What does it mean that we do all these things? I could have made the above list many years ago. I would have felt superior to actors or playwrights at the time. Look- no hands! I'm doing it all! You poor limited fools! Now I realize that I was doing it all only in the sense that I was ignoring most of it. Max Howard says: "Acting is not self-taught"
I was making magic AT my audiences. I knew how ithe tricks looked from my own point of view- in other words, I knew what I wanted to have happen. I had no idea of the many skills that theater professionals have evolved to give the audience the experience we want them to have:
- How to write a script that people understand, are moved by, and that involves them. The script of a play, or a screenplay, shows us who the characters are by putting them in situations where they are challenged, where they have to overcome obstacles, where we grow to like them and *want* them to succeed. Is this true of our performances, or do people see someone who throughout the show can do things that the spectators can't, with no other insight into our character? Who cares about a show like that? (Other magicians might, but non-magicians?????)
- How to design effects that can be seen from the worst seats, in which it is clear what happened. Do your audiences see the props clearly? Do they know what they are and what they represent? Do they see the changes that happen to them?
- How to use your voice to be heard and understood- more importantly, how to use your voice so the audience thinks you are talking to them rather than AT them.
- How to arrange props on a stage and how to move between them.
- How to develop and project belief that those vanished objects are
still there, that the fake bottle is a real one, that the coin vanishes
when we say it does, that the cards are ungaffed....
- How to sequence movement and talk, or large and small muscle
movements, so people see and hear what we want them to- rather than having our actions interfere with each other
- How to allow audience emotion to build rather than killing it.
- How to deliver a line, a gesture, a look to make the impact we want.
- How to convey emotion
- How to make each performance seem like the first one.
- In short, how to see our performance from the point of view of the
audience and make their experience what we choose it to be.
If you already have all these skills, don't keep reading. If not.....
This is the curriculum of Bob's week-long workshop.
I have a lot of work yet to do, yet these two weeks have changed me.
After the first week last year, I shifted from making magic at my
audiences to making magic FOR my audiences. Now I find myself making magic WITH my audiences. I have learned how to look at and listen to my work from the other side of the footlights, and nothing about my performance will ever be the same.