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Magic and Showmanship: A Handbook for Conjurers (Dover Magic Books) Paperback – April 13, 2000


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Magic and Showmanship: A Handbook for Conjurers (Dover Magic Books) + The Royal Road to Card Magic + Expert Card Technique: Close-Up Table Magic
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Series: Dover Magic Books
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Reprint of 1969 edition edition (April 13, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486410870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486410876
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #360,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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See all 18 customer reviews
It gave me real insight into how to create a consistent character and how to THINK about magic when I was doing magic.
Willard P.
I have read and reread this book at least 500 times these past 20 years, (from its original publication date) and each time I learn something new.
The Big Guy
He also provides excellent advice on costuming, stage craft, involving the audience and even posture to make your performance memorable.
Sterling P. Dare

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Eric B. Henning on April 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a magician since childhood and an actor/director by schooling, I have always been disturbed by the disconnect between the way magicians are portrayed in legend and literature (e.g., Merlin, Gandalf, etc.) and the average magic act (e.g., a greasy guy in a tux making fun of spectators).
That disconnect almost made me abandon magic. However, the amazing Henning Nelms has given hope to magicians (and audiences) everywhere. Nelms, a successful Broadway theatrical jack-of-all-trades who wrote what have become definitive texts on set design, lighting and even drawing by hand, was also an excellent magician.
"M&S" may be his most important work, however, because it gives the magician the tools of the theatre and the skills to use those tools. It is no accident that since the original 1969 edition of "M&S," magic has been changing into a more theatrical (and more compelling) art. The ground-breaking work of Eugene Burger, Jeff McBride, Alain Nu and others in the emergent "New Wave" of magic owe a great deal to Nelms' monumental book.
To the actor, the knowledge herein will seem basic; to the conjurer, it will be revolutionary. Some magi will dismiss "M&S" as a pipe-dream and go back to their endless stream of "pick-a-card" tricks (what sleight-of-hand master Jamy Ian Swiss calls "magic aversion therapy").
But those who carefully read AND apply the wisdom it contains will find a door into a whole new world. This world has made it possible, for example, for John Tudor and Rebecque to use magic in award-winning videos to teach children how to relate socially in positive ways.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Timothy M. Arends on December 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Nelm's Magic and Showmanship is like the Bible for magicians. By that I mean it is the MOST highly praised and the LEAST ACTUALLY READ of any magic book in existence! All magicians pay lip service to it, but I've never met that first one who actually followed the advice given.

Actually, the author does make some very good points. When you do magic, it is like a puzzle to the audience. When they can't figure it out, like any puzzle, they expect to be told the secret, which the magician refuses to do. This causes frustration.

The author's solution to this is to remove the "miraculous" aspects from the performance. For example, instead of doing the cut and restored string routine, you present it as a strong man feat in which a piece of string which has been cut in two cannot be pulled from your fingers. For a stage act, the author suggests doing a comedy routine in which the performer is playing a stereotypical magician, but he is possessed by an African Obeah man, who is causing all of his tricks to turn out wrong. By making it appear that the magician is under the control of someone else, he turns it into a comedy act which eases the audience's resentment at being fooled.

No close up trick should simply be pulled out of the pocket and performed; rather, it should be carefully worked into the conversation before performance. For example, you talk about psychics which segues into talk about a mind reading demonstration that you've been working on, which segues into the performance of a trick, practically without your spectators realizing it.

While I think Nelms' premise is correct, I don't think his solution is very practical for most performances.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Willard P. on June 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have been a professional magician for the better part of 32 years. When I first started into magic full time, this was one of the books that I read and re-read thoroughly. It gave me real insight into how to create a consistent character and how to THINK about magic when I was doing magic.
I fully believe that most people who have purchased this book have never read it. If they had, there would be more really excellent magicians in the world. But you can tell the ones who have read it and who understand it, because their magic is consistent, convincing and natural.
If you want to do good magic, buy this book and read it. It will tell you how to think, speak and act when you are performing. And it will give you some material that is not too difficult, but has very great impact upon an audience. And don't worry about performing that material in front of someone else who has purchased this book. He probably hasn't read it anyway! If he has, he won't tell the secrets!
Bill Palmer, MIMC
Merlin the Magician of the Texas Renaissance Festival
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Debra Doyle on July 1, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Magic and Showmanship is a book I recommend to all my writing students. It's better than almost any of the thousands of "how to write" volumes you find out there. There are all kinds of illusions in the world, and artists of all kinds employ the principles of showmanship in lots of circumstances.
This book will teach you how to outline, how to write a believable character, how to get your audience (the readers) to work with you, how to build to a climax, how to foreshadow later action, how to answer the readers' questions before they ask them, and generallly how to entertain. It's a fantastic work. I'm very happy to see it back in print.
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