Striking a Balance with Pit Hartling
September 12th, 2019
audience, card magic, cards, challenges, closeup, creation, creativity, performance
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Jonah is joined by Pit Hartling this week to explore creating magic, counting tricks, and making presentation decisions. Pit is a German magician who brings his own take to sleight of hand card magic.
At the age of ten, there were a series of small moments that built his passion for magic. He discovered a wooden magic set in his aunt’s basement; he saw the German magician, Marvelli, perform a series of classics that sparked Pit’s interest; and he entered his first magic shop in Hamburg where he purchased his first magic props. From there, his passion continued to grow in magic, and he found himself performing tricks for his schoolyard friends.
By University, Pit was frequently performing to the point it wasn’t a question of if he was going to become a magician, but if he was going to finish his degree. He didn’t, but he hasn’t looked back on that decision.
Pit has two approaches to creating magic.
The first is determining what plot or phenomenon he wants to demonstrate to his audience. For example, he has an effect that is influenced by Douglas Adams’ concept of the Infinite Probability Drive. Pit then selected an effect that would help him clearly demonstrate the concept in a clear and amusing way to the audience.
The second is finding a method you want to use and fitting a plot to it. Referring to Tamariz, Pit explains how that without a deceptive method at the core of your performance, you cannot create magic. You can entertain the audience, but you won’t be fooling them. By starting with a deceptive method and building the effect around it, you have a better chance to create impactful, enjoyable magic.
Pit doesn’t want his audience to leave with any false beliefs or understandings about the world while also leaving with a sense of impossibility about what they witnessed. To avoid having his audience believing falsehoods, Pit believes it comes down to the performer’s tone. To create an emotionally true sense of magic while keeping it intellectually fake, the performer needs to discover a tone and delivery that works for them.
Additionally, you can add elements that play up the plot while showing the audience that it’s not real. Props and additional plot structures give the audience a hook to attribute the magic to while also allowing them to recognize that “oh, okay, he’s not a mind reader.” Pit points out though that if the method and performance is strong enough, you still have a strong effect on your hands.
By getting spectators to challenge you to do certain things you’ve prepared for, you can make it seem like you’re omnipotent and could have responded to any challenge they threw at you, essentially making your magic stronger.
Pit explains that challenges don’t arise randomly. They are usually triggered by something you have done or setup. There are points in magic where an inherent conflict is setup and the spectators want these conflicts to be resolved. If you figure out where these challenges are and how you can respond or use them to your advantage, you can bait them into challenge you and get the bigger payoff; the spectators will believe they set the conditions for you.
You can read Pit’s article on the subject in the free essay collection Magic In Mind.
Working with Magicians
For the past 25 years, Pit has been working in a group of ten magicians called the Flicking Fingers. He explains that the show is more than the sum of its parts and relies on the synergy of the performers. The group has been able to get into theatres that, as solo performers, they would have never had the opportunity to perform at.
Pit has also been part of a show called Magic Monday for the past 19 years. The show focuses on four clearly defined characters who have interactions throughout the show. The added advantage of working with a group is that you can have people working backstage to pull off methods while the performer is on stage.
Offstage, Pit notes the advantages of working with other magicians. By simply talking through ideas with your peers, you can often spark ideas or understand how to improve your material.
What do you like about current magic? What do you hate?
Pit enjoys that the magic scene is thriving; there are several venues opening in Germany for closeup magic shows.
Pit, saying it’s more a pet peeve than anything, doesn’t like little things in magic books where it says “Now the spectator may shuffle the cards.” There’s better ways to phrase that instruction in his opinion.
Take Home Point
Pit reminds the audience to think from the spectator’s perspective. If you can understand what a spectator will think or feel at a particular point in a trick, you will be a much better magician.