Issue #1 - The Evolution of an Idea
I am an avid magic creator.... mostly for my own amusement. I enjoy taking the classics and finding a way to make them fresh, interesting and entertaining. I tinker with woodworking, electronics, computers and all general kinds of building of stuff. Frequently the stuff is magic related. From time to time I'll be posting a feature on the website which I call "The Inventor's Notebook". I'll share thoughts, ideas and methods with the hopes of fostering creative ideas in others.
Last year at a club meeting, Bill and I performed of our new routine, "The Bottle & Glass Trick?". If you weren't at May's meeting you can catch it here.
After that presentation I rec'd inquiries as to where my ideas come from, so I thought I would share a few notes about the development of our routines.
First and foremost, Bill and I have a clearly defined persona we want to project as an act; a comedic combination of a bumbling magician and a superior assistant. It may sound obvious, but knowing "who we are" immediately channels our creativity in a certain direction -- is this a bit that has possibilities for the image we want to project? If not, move on. I need to resist trying to shoe-horn it into our act because I think it's cool. Having this somewhat unique persona forces me to be more creative which is challenging but I find it fun and very rewarding.
Second comes the story. What story do we want to tell. Conflict is built-in if we stick to our personas but we still need to weave a story. In 90% of our routines I will recognize that one or more effects seem to have a component that would fit our persona and could be weaved into a story. Then I will think of the story -- usually actually taking the time to make a little story board with sketches of the main concept. As I think of the story I also try and think of opportunities to add comedy by-play. I like running gags as I think in the context of our personas it adds another layer to the complexity of the story. These need to be weaved into the story not just tacked-on. Tommy Wonder's concept of Mind Movies is inspiring, if you are interested in the topic. It can be found in his Book of Wonders.
Here is a storyboard from another routine we developed inspired by Tommy Wonder.
Finally comes the method. Frequently at this point I don't necessarily know the exact method. Sometimes an idea will percolate for years before I land on a method. Other times, I know the gimmick / method going in, but how to craft it into a unique routine is what takes time. The linking rings and multiplying bottles are both examples of this. These require what I think of as choreography. How do I orchestrate the sequence of moves into a logical routine that supports the story, all the while having to operate within the constraints of the gimmick (number of rings, bottles, etc). This is hard and takes time, especially because I need to be sure that every necessary move has a supporting reason. A great example of this is in the bottle routine. I want to put a tube over a stack of bottles and steal one of the bottles. If I did this outright it would all be very obvious. However if I put the tube over the stack and then Bill starts to pull out a wand, I can then have a bit of by-play with him -- "Oh no! You aren't messing me up this time!" -- and then return to the tube and "Now I forgot where I was - let me start over". I can make the steal and the move has a reason.
Here are examples of ideas I have percolating... one where the general method is known but I don't know the full story yet. The other I know most of the story, but not the method.
- Bill and I do a parody of Penn and Teller's Bullet Catch using Nerf Guns. We actually end up with each other's Nerf darts in our mouths. I know the story I want to tell and I've got a few rough ideas for a method but nothing concrete yet.
- Bill and I do an act with Stratospheres (Devil's Tube / Stoplight Trick). The novelty is we use two -- one with Bill and one with me on the other side of the stage. Instead of the red ball moving to the bottom, the balls move back and forth between tubes. Here I know the method, but haven't worked out the exact story or choreography.
Ultimately, like pieces of a puzzle, all the components will fit together... the story, the method and the comedy. When that happens we have an act. Sometimes it doesn't and then I drive my Wife crazy because we have a bunch of crap laying around the house that I procured trying to come up with a method.