Known for his appearance on Fool Us, David Parr joins Tyler and Jonah. Bringing his theatrical background to magic this episode, David discusses the value of live theatre, the power of storytelling and Fool Us.
David received a magic set when he was younger, and, once he learned all its tricks, needed to know more. His studies led him to the local library and magic store. Soon after, he was performing for library programs in his hometown of Milwaukee. As he moved into regular gigs, his focus was on the enjoyment of performing magic and letting people experience the things he loved. It wasn’t until seeing Doug Henning perform that it dawned on him that magic was something he could do for a living.
Sharing the Live Experience
David emphasizes that the value of live theatre lies in the moment. Everything the audience and the performer is experiencing is a product of that set of people, in that room during specific conditions. The value of the ticket comes from the ephemeral moment that the audience gets to experience. From these moments, the audience can have their effect on the magic which allows the performance to undergo its evolutionary phase.
During his show with Joe Diamond, David mentions that they use to ask the audience who had seen a live magic performance before. Most people had not. For David, this becomes an opportunity to define what live magic can be for the audience.
David believes that the definition of your magic influences what you do. He explored this concept in his book, Magic Mirror, which he co-authored with Bob Neal. While Bob came up with a (self-admitted) convoluted defition, David realized he needed to come up with his own simpler definition. This led him to his current description: Simulated impossibility.
This base definition becomes his foundation. From there, he builds the theatrical and technical elements that allow him to fulfill and exceed his audience’s expectations. By giving people multiple levels to engage with, David is able to capture people’s attention and give them memorable moments. People will find something to engage with–whether the puzzle element or the stories–if you give them multiple elements. By the end of the show, people should have an understanding of who he is as a person.
Storytelling and Scripting
Theatre and film have procedural aspects to their narratives, David explains. Narrative is a powerful tool at our disposal because humans are programmed to connect with narratives. By taking them from point A to point B, you can create memorable moments that they can retain in their mind after the show is over. People will go out and try to share their memories, extending the performance beyond the initial room.
David strongly believes in scripting magic. Scripting is the chance for a performer to make deliberate, conscious choices about their performances and why they are doing specific things. David goes on to remind us that you don’t have to be chained to your script. You can deviate and respond to your audience–a script will just allow you to return to the trick without the need to fish around.
When writing your script, David recommends recording your performance and transcribing everything you say during it, including the verbal ticks. You can then see where the problems are and can start to make conscious choices about the way you’re performing. You can begin to ask questions like, “what does my audience need to know to understand the narrative?”
David points to his Fool Us performance as an example of how important narrative is. The back-and-forth game of his trick acted as a compelling enough narrative that people were caught up watching; they didn’t have the opportunity to reverse engineer the procedure. David goes on to say that he fooled them with theatrics as he knows Teller is aware of the effect’s principle.
Ask yourself “Why am I doing this?” If the answer is “look at me” then you probably need to reassess why you’re doing magic. Asking this question over and over will allow us to grow not only as performers but as people.
Question of the week?
Who am I? How have the threads of the people who have inspired you been woven into your work? Magic is a process of self-discovery.
What do you like about the 2018 magic community? Something you don’t like?
Many magicians are clinging to the past because they can’t horde secrets anymore. They are denying the reality we live in. So give them more beyond that. Give them a human being to relate to.
Take Home Point
Jonah resonated with the idea of editing and including as little as necessary to give people multiple layers they can connect with.
David liked the idea of determining what it is you want to accomplish.
Tyler liked the idea that a script is not a straightjacket and that it can only serve to better your performance.