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Magician as Actor

acting magiciansDuring the summer months The Magic Circle, rather than having a lecture or show, attempts something a little different.  It often brings in performers who are not magicians but can bring other abilities to the table.  This year there was a very inspiring drama teacher who wanted to show how some of his skills could be applied to magic.

I always find it rather fascinating how many people want to try and make magic somehow a subset of acting generally.  Being a magician, it is argued, is like being an actor playing the part of a magician. 

Except it isn't.

Firstly, magicians break the fourth wall, which actors don't; secondly, magicians are normally playing themselves, whilst actors are impersonating somebody else; thirdly, magicians write their own scripts, whilst actors use those written by other people.

pollockThat is not to say that some of the skills that actors use can't be utilised by magicians; but I'm yet to be convinced that going to drama school or attending improvisation classes can somehow enhance your abilities as a magician.  As far as I'm aware, the likes of Dynamo, Derren Brown, Paul Daniels and Tommy Cooper never had an acting lesson in their life.

It also works the other way around; there is no great magician who has succeeded in becoming a great actor.  The best example of somebody attempting this is perhaps Channing Pollock, in his time - and still today - considered to be one of the greatest magicians of them all.  He deliberately gave up magic (he famously gave his act to his London chauffeur) to pursue a career as an actor - but with very limited commercial or critical success.

goshmanAll of this offers no disrespect to the drama teacher who made some excellent points in his presentation. Interestingly his most significant conclusion was that what both acting and magic have in common is that what you need to bring to the table is 'yourself'. 

But then we knew that already; "the magic" as Albert Goshman used to say, "is you".

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