Maximum Entertainment: Director’s Notes for Magicians and Mentalists has swept me off my feet.
A gem of a book, it will please the critics—that is, if it has not yet blown them away.
The magic intelligentsia will surely talk about this book for years to come. The marketers will endorse it as required reading for students and performers of magic. But since the book contains not a single magic trick, those who will need it most will probably pass it up in favor of the latest, newfangled items on magic dealers’ shelves.
What? A book for magicians and mentalists without a trick in it?
You heard me right. Not a single trick.
But, boy, does it burst with ideas on how to become a compleat performer!
Ken Weber is the author of Maximum Entertainment. A successful magician and mentalist, he has two university degrees in theater as badges pinned on his chest. According to the book’s blurb, Newsweek magazine named him “one of the most frequently requested” performers in the college circuit.
The book has a singular purpose. It sets out to teach the theory and specific techniques to transform good performers into great ones. Toward this end, Ken Weber illustrates lessons with stories and crystal clear examples of why some performers slay audiences and why some bore them to tears.
The book has a simple premise grounded in today’s verities. Let me put it in my own words. The common, though glossed-over, observation is that most magicians are do-it-yourselfers while mainstream artists have their support staff.
Jay Leno, for example, has a team of comedy writers. David Copperfield has technical advisers and illusion builders. George Bush has speechwriters. Tom Cruise has a director. Lisa Macuja has a choreographer. Josh Groban has a voice coach. Miss Saigon has its musical director. Other performing artists have their supporting technicians (lights, sounds, special effects, etc.). On the other hand, The Amazing Juanini Pablo The Great is left by his lonesome to do all this stuff.
Indeed, the ordinary magician is his own researcher, scriptwriter, director, choreographer, light man, sound man, and artistic coach on top of being the performer himself. If performing magic is tough, wearing all those creative and technical hats all at once makes his life even tougher. If he falters in any of them, his performance will fall short of the standards by which the public measure performing artists.
Ever wonder why a great number of people think magic performances are uninteresting, uninspiring or even downright tasteless?
The reason could be that a great number of us need all the help we can have in improving the theatrical and artistic aspects of our shows.
That’s what Maximum Entertainment offers to do. It provides magicians information on directing, stage movements, script writing, controlling audience attention, music, microphone handling, sound system, lighting and many other techniques to enhance our performances.
I’ve read Maximum Entertainment twice already like a little boy giddily on the loose inside a candy store. I hoarded all the sweets I can possibly take home and more.
I’m now revisiting some of the lessons to soak up additional information. I love the parts on Rehearsing and Scripting, since I usually can’t get my lazy butt unstuck from the sofa when it’s practice time.
I particularly delight in Ken Weber’s views on The Six Pillars of Entertainment Success. I discovered that not only I am unaware of these pillars but also that once I understand what they are, I can draw up a program to ratchet up the quality of my show merely by adding these pillars to my program.
Let me just list some of the book’s contents which I find most useful: The Hierarchy of Mystery Entertainment, The Big Three Audience Reactions and how to get them, Creating Material and Developing the Act, How to Be Funny, Voice and Language Skills, Sound and Lighting, Dealing with Spectators, and Closing the Show. Performing Close-up magic and Mentalism have special chapters detailed enough and bursting with enough information to be independent books by themselves.
Maximum Entertainment contains so much more than what I have listed. But since this review is just to whet your appetite, I’ll leave up the rest of the gems to the readers for them to discover and enjoy.