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Book Review: Theatrical Magic by John Pyka

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Book Review: Theatrical Magic by John Pyka
John Pyka not only knows magic, he knows theater. And his book, “Theatrical Magic” will make you think about the magic that you perform and inspire you to add meaning to it. I got a lot out of reading this book.

Where's the Meaning?

According to Pyka, unfortunately, too many magicians have shows that are nothing but a string of special effects, that has no meaning or relevance. This is one of the reasons why lay people often regard magic as a meaningless diversion (usually for children). And many magicians have only reinforced this notion.

Pyka defines “Theatrical Magic” as magic that is character and story driven and accomplishes several goals: 1) tells a story, 2) establishes or showcases a character, 3) solves a problem, 4) makes a statement, or 5) instructs and educates. His goal is to teach magicians to take magic that is often presented as a puzzle and turn it into theater and meaningful entertainment.

Throughout, Pyka discusses his character, Big Daddy Cool, and how he was developed, how he works in a show and how the effects support his character. Pyka also talks about his musical, “Swingin’ At The Roxy,” which featured songs, dance and magic and toured, nearly making it off-Broadway.

Not Routine

The book describes some excellent routines. Some, like the 21st Century Silks, were actually performed in his shows and allow Pyka to show how the trick was used with song and dance to develop a character and his relationship with two other characters.

Other routines are strictly in the design phase but show Pyka’s thought processes and how he would present an illusion or effect. I particularly liked his take on the “Origami” illusion. In Pyka’s hands, the stunning illusion becomes a story where the shrinking of the box and the swords serve as integral plot devices. These routines are only thoughts and ideas, but it’s a pleasure to get into Pyka’s mind.

Pyka also offers exercises on how to think about character and your presentation of magic. Most of the routines apply to stage shows and illusions, but there are some close-up discussions.

In “Theatrical Magic,” John Pyka offers considerable food for thought that can help improve your magic. This book, along with Ken Weber’s “Maximum Entertainment” (which Pyka recommends), should be required reading for all magicians.

-Wayne N. Kawamoto

MSRP: (US) $45

Dealers can purchase from Murphy's Magic Supplies, Inc.

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