Monday, May 19, 2008

Hey Gang!

This month is the start of something new. Each month, I am going to be posting a sample from one of my my books. Up first is a sample of the first chapter of Theatrical Magic, published by Leaping Lizards Magic. Enjoy it. This sample is free to you! If you like what you read, then you can buy the full printed version right now! Included with the purchase of Theatrical Magic, you'll also recieve 3 routines not found in the book, plus 4 hours of personal coaching via phone!

Next month I'll be posting the first chapter of How To Produce Your Own Theater Show & Make Money Doing It! to be released as an exclusive e-book in August 2008.

So what are you waiting for? Dig into and enjoy this sample section of Chapter 1 of Theatrical Magic!

Chapter 1
What Is
Theatrical Magic?

"Have you ever closed your eyes and wished that you could be someone else? Maybe even live in a different time or different place? I have. You see, growing up wasn't always easy for me. I wasn't cool or popular, and I was often made fun of and picked on - mostly because of my weight.
I discovered that I could escape my reality through music, and theater, and magic. I learned that I could create unforgettable, larger than life characters that could do amazing and impossible things. It made me special. It made me unique."
John Pyka, from The Really B!G Show

I never set out to be an entertainer. I thought I was going to be a comic book artist. But looking back, theater and entertainment was my destiny from the beginning. When I was around the age of 6 or 7 I began creating variety shows at family gatherings and holiday events. Eventually these evolved into productions staged for the neighborhood, and I charged a nickel to come see the show. These shows always included songs, skits, and dance. The shows were most likely horrible. But my die was cast.

At the age of 8, I saw a magician performing in a mall in Ft. Wayne, IN. It was the first magician I ever saw live and I was spellbound. He performed a bird production act that ended with the production of a large parrot. I decided that I wanted to learn how to do that. On the back of one of my comic books was an ad to earn cash and prizes. One of the prizes was a magic kit. I sent away for the kit and about 4 weeks later a package arrived in the mail. It was full of 11 boxes of greeting cards. All I had to do was sell 9 boxes of the cards to win the magic kit. I sold all 11. I got the kit and $2 cash to boot! I learned all of the tricks within a week and began adding magic to my dreadful neighborhood variety shows.

As I entered Jr. High School, I became very active in theater and music. I would go on to pursue acting with a passion throughout High School and win numerous local, state and even national awards. Because I am a skilled singer, I performed in a lot of musicals, and was even cast in The Hi-Los. I mostly pursued magic as a separate interest. That was, until I saw the MUMS on TV. They blended magic, juggling, and Commedia Del Arte. It was the first time I began to think about blending art forms.

As I grew into adulthood I began to blend music, magic and theater more and more, until one day I finally realized that they were not separate art forms at all, but one and the same. I now hold to the theory that Magic is a theatrical convention used to tell a story. This is also true of music, dance, Commedia, masks, pantomime, etc. They are all theatrical tools that should aid in telling a story.

Many will disagree with me, and say that magic is an art in and of itself, with no tie to the other conventions. I used to think along these lines as well. I did not believe that theater should have any more of a purpose than to entertain. Period. All of those plays and songs that made a "statement" or tried to "make people think" or were going to "change the world" just made me want to vomit. Oh, I loved a good, moving story but in large I felt that entertainment was just entertainment for entertainment's sake, and the entertainer had no mandate to create art.

I liked fluff. There, I said it. And because of that, one of my all time favorite shows was the Broadway musical Cats. I loved that musical for the reason most people hated it: No story, meaningless song and dance, nothing but music and dance spectacle. It was bliss. Then it all came crashing down around me.

If you are not familiar with Cats, the premise is simple; Based on T.S. Elliot's narrative verse "Old Deuteronomy's Book of Practical Cats" several cats are presented as candidates to ascend to the Heavyside Layer, and come back to a new life. One by one the characters boast of their merit to have the honor. Mr. Mistoffelees, the magical cat, even saves Old Deuteronomy (their "king") from a kidnapping attempt. In the end it is Grizabella, the former glamour cat, who has squandered her life and alienated everyone who ever knew her, who gets the honor. Huh? What? That makes no sense. It was such a glaring inconsistency that one could only ignore it and enjoy the spectacle. At least that's what I thought, and it was easy to do because the story was deeply buried in spectacle.

After adoring this musical for well over a decade, one day it hit me. The story isn't meaningless, it is deeply profound, but so simple that you miss it. You see, it wasn't the cat that deserved a new life that got the honor, it was the cat that needed the new life the most that got the gift. Wow. That revelation shook me to the very core. Seriously. Everything I believed about theater and entertainment was personified by Cats, and I had just learned that I was completely off base. Theater must have meaning.

Now, many of you will say "but John, magic isn't theater," or "magic is entertainment in and of itself," or "the amazement is the meaning." While I do agree that magic can (and should) be entertaining, I also believe that it can 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 except 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 all meaning and relevance from our magic. How sad.

So, how do we fix this? Well, I hope 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...

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Bizzaro. said...

Nothing wrong with spectacle.. I even wear some!

Regardless, glad yer doing this. I'm pimping it's efforts on my journal as well. Kudos and other snack foods.


Christian Cagigal said...

I'm really glad to have found this blog. I too have been producing my own theater magic show. It's more in the bizarre direction. I have to say I completely agree with what you said about art, entertainment, theater and musicals......except CATS...sorry.... =p

Coming from a musical theater background myself I have always felt that most people miss the fact that even old and cheesy Babe's in Arms was making a social statement against something like racism.

I loved what you said about Color Monte too. In fact I've started carrying around a Tarot version with me but I'll only do it on special occassions, it's a bit dark. But, the same classic plot and moves are all there, it already is quite perfect. No need to mess with it.

Harry Anderson was a huge "hero" to me. Even though my work has gone more into the subtle and fanastical these days (think Christian Chelman) I still always hold Hello Sucker as an outline for my shows.

I would add that I think Harry's show goes just one tiny step beyond being character driven. Not only he's he sharing 'why' he got into magic at the end of the show. But,he's sharing 'why' he just performed that entire show for 'you' give 'you' the audience that same 'religious experience'. Your experience of watching and laughing and participating in his show WAS the story. 'You' are the characters in it. And, hopefully got the same life changing experience that he got. Then he bows. Packs up his carpet bag. And, leaves. Much like the character in the song that's played during the shell game. He's kind of a wanderer/traveler/ least that's been my take.

While he might have not been your bag, David Copperfield at his early days has some really great story vingette's with grand illusion. Funny, he too was kind of the 'magical traveler' in some of those, helping people with their conflicts, solving problems and such.

Anyway I think this blog rocks. I would be honored if you gave my blog a gander sometime.

Best to you,
Christian Cagigal
SF Bay Area

Tony Eye said...
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"Big Daddy Cool" John B. Pyka said...
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