Original Publication Date: 7/1/1997
"Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity." This profound statement made by the Greek Philosopher, Plato, more than 2000 years ago is still and always will be absolutely true.
I would like to give a few opinions about the subject, this month, Simplicity is the opposite of complexity. If you think about actions and words as being the tools we use in the art of magic, then keeping them simple would be the best policy. Believe me…it is.
To discuss why is not to experience why. If you have ever wanted to learn a classic of magic, more than likely it has very few steps and a rather simple and easy-to-follow patter line. When you experience the reaction to a classic you realize why the effect is indeed a classic. It maintains attention, interest, excitement and fantasy throughout.
Complexity, on the other hand, usually leads to boredom, lack of interest and inattention on the part of the spectator. Why? Because usually the performer him or herself is so involved in details that the artistry of the acting and the spontaneity of the performance get as far along the yellow brick road as the toll booth.
Think about how you like to see magic done. To the point with the magic just occurring, I would suppose. I know that the more a magic effect, routine or show appeals to me the more direct and involving it is. This is all common sense so far but it amazes me how few performers really create the artistry and excitement of the magic.
There must be some sort of list of rules about lifting a magic performance out of the mundane or boring state? Yes, there is, and simplicity comes at the top.
I taught literally thousands of salespeople about showmanship and selling during the 1980’s. There was no list of rules about creating showmanship at the time so I had to research and create a list myself. This material has proven to be stunning in application and believe me when I say that anyone can use the five elements I found predominant with fantastic results. I plan to teach everything about the subject in the lessons ahead, possibly as a series, so I’m excited about the opportunity to share these secrets with you but for now I only mention the fact that keeping a sales presentation simple is one of the most valuable techniques used by the top producers in any selling venue.
Any magic that you now do, just analyze sometime. See if you can’t break things down and get rid of all unnecessary actions and words. You’ll be surprised at the results in interest. Also, it isn’t a bad idea to check out a few books on selling and on acting if you’re really serious about developing your magic into powerful and dramatic performances.
So many magicians, clowns, entertainers, use magic as a “throw-a-way”. It’s no wonder that the general public has little respect for the art. In Europe and other parts of the world magic is reverently performed and artfully prepared. Magicians are looked up to as stars as opposed to little more than a hobbyist with a few secret props or clever strategies.
Please don’t misread my feelings. In magic anything goes to get the effect, but if effects are kept to a simple conclusion and if spectators don’t have to sit through minute after minute of cluttered mayhem, the artistry almost has to show itself.
I once was given the opportunity to write a few words about my teacher, Slydini. His main performance strategy was simplicity of action and word. This was taken to a high art by the great master and I certainly was amazed and captivated by it.
Plato and Slydini had much in common…they were both right. Keep everything you do and say simple and, believe me, you’ll have a lot more fun…and so will your audience.