By Bob Sheets

From the January 2001 issue of The Linking Ring, reprinted with permission.

The magician of today is writer, director, sound man, set designer, wardrobe guy, musical director, and choreographer. You wouldn’t hire him to do any one of these things alone. Clannish magicians go to each other for tips, bits, ideas. Many times they don’t ask they just borrow moves, music, lines or whole routines from Copperfield, Ricky Jay, Penn and Teller, etc. You can only give or take ideas based on your own knowledge and experience. Which is why so much of the work you see looks derivative. What ever method you use to approach your art or craft involves some kind of process. The journey.

At some point the performers above and others come to the realization that they “cannot do it all themselves.” A new search begins with a look into other disciplines and another performer’s process. Theater, creative writing, computers, movies, science, visual arts, karate, yoga, musical composition, business -- any one of these pursuits themselves could be a life-long pursuit. I like biographies for a peek into the process of famous people. Enter here a step into the real world of theater.

I, in search of some new process, signed up for the Bob Fitch seminar. I could not have imagined where this week-long journey would take me. The focus was on personal discovery and growth, and I experienced and witnessed both. The focus was not only on observing, but doing. The day would start at 8:00 in the morning and end at 10:30 -11:00 at night with performances by the participants and coaching from actor’s actor, Bob Fitch and acting coach Ed Bordo.

We were greeted and began this process each day with yoga. I have never taken a yoga class in my life. But as the week progressed with sleep deprivation part of the “process” these yoga sessions energized me for the day’s work. And it was real work. Voice exercises from voice coach Ed Bordo yielded an understanding of each individual’s strengths and weaknesses in verbal communication. Activities involving the conscious use of the five real and five imagined senses were fascinating. Stage movement and group and individual exercises where equally revealing as a spectator or when personally involved. We were asked to do things that we all wondered what would be revealed, gained etc. We were instructed not to think about these things but to just do it.

I saw people work through incredible blocks and free themselves from some self-imposed rules. I got to feel what a spectator feels as he watches a theatrical performance. I had forgotten how effective or ineffective we can be by using or not using certain theatrical devices in our work. Many of these invisible and physiological aspects of performance were explored. It also became obvious that this was only an introduction to a large and life- long study of how these ideas can be incorporated into our performance. I believe every person left a little awed at how much really cool stuff just poured out of us.

I can only describe this theatrical boot camp aimed at magical performers as one of the most self-motivating, hands-on classes I have ever taken. I saw truly magical and VISIBLE transformations in all of the participants. I cannot stop thinking about it and have daily revelations and am encouraged to take more theatrical and associated classes such as the one offered by Bob Fitch to keep me moving forward as a performer. You’ll have too shoot me to get my seat at the next seminar. So get your own.