Bill Abbott Lecture ? Delivers on Promises

 

Bill Abbott and Volunteer

The beautifully appointed rear room of the Garden City Magic Shop was our home for the evening and Carlos Blades was our host.  Carlos is to hospitality as white is to snow.  It is his essence.    

 

Speaking of snow, Bill Abbott is a working professional from Toronto, Ontario.  And while his background ? and apparent passion ? is mentalism, the effects presented this evening were decidedly non-mentalism. 

 

Mr. Abbott is a quiet but quick man.  His ability to work the room and stray from what must be a rather well-rehearsed script was commendable and entertaining.  Each lecture has a central theme.  In the past, some lectures have focused on: developing stage presence, being original, buying tricks and lecture notes, or even how to develop original methods of getting magic club audiences to buy lecture notes on stage presence. 

 

Mr. Abbott?s focus was on the development of the character through the presentation and selection of magic.

 

In keeping with Mr. Abbott?s character, the lecture began with a calm, low-key presentation of a cut and restored rope but with a double production of the slip knot.   The routine was standard, but nicely introduced with the fiery transformation of flash string to a full length of rope.  It was a nice introduction into the routine with flash string taken out of his button hole. 

 

The second effect was a complete contrast to the first. Mind Control borrows from standards such as the Equivoque or Magician?s Choice as well as the old Mental Prediction.  The effect, however, was more powerful than the two ploys independent of each other. …

 

Bill Abbott and Volunteer

The beautifully appointed rear room of the Garden City Magic Shop was our home for the evening and Carlos Blades was our host.  Carlos is to hospitality as white is to snow.  It is his essence.    

 

Speaking of snow, Bill Abbott is a working professional from Toronto, Ontario.  And while his background ? and apparent passion ? is mentalism, the effects presented this evening were decidedly non-mentalism. 

 

Mr. Abbott is a quiet but quick man.  His ability to work the room and stray from what must be a rather well-rehearsed script was commendable and entertaining.  Each lecture has a central theme.  In the past, some lectures have focused on: developing stage presence, being original, buying tricks and lecture notes, or even how to develop original methods of getting magic club audiences to buy lecture notes on stage presence. 

 

Mr. Abbott?s focus was on the development of the character through the presentation and selection of magic.

 

In keeping with Mr. Abbott?s character, the lecture began with a calm, low-key presentation of a cut and restored rope but with a double production of the slip knot.   The routine was standard, but nicely introduced with the fiery transformation of flash string to a full length of rope.  It was a nice introduction into the routine with flash string taken out of his button hole. 

 

The second effect was a complete contrast to the first. Mind Control borrows from standards such as the Equivoque or Magician?s Choice as well as the old Mental Prediction.  The effect, however, was more powerful than the two ploys independent of each other. 

 

Mr. Abbott borrowed about twelve objects from the audience, including watches, an empty potato chip bag, and a can of Coke.  He collected the items without explanation and assembled them in a line on his working table.  Once the objects were assembled, audience members were asked to select portions of the collection until there remained only two items.  At this point, there was no Magician?s Choice or force, the spectator fairly selected the item and it was exactly as Mr. Abbott predicted.   

 

Sponge Ball routines exist, we are convinced, because of their impact on audience members and certainly not because they offer magicians a challenge or a chance for innovation.  Unfortunately, because of the effect on audience members, they are often repeated throughout an evening of strolling or close-up and eventually reduced to the one move, one effect.  A single sponge ball goes in the spectator?s hand, another sponge ball vanishes from the magician?s hand.  The spectator opens her hand to find the missing sponge ball has joined its sponge ball buddy in the spectator?s hand. 

 

The spectator coos, begs for the trick to be repeated, the magician forgets the golden rule of magic (the one about not repeating a trick) and performs the same routine again and again.  Actually, after a few repetitions, there is no routine.  It is just the phenomenon of a ball appearing in a spectator?s closed hand.  The trick reduces magicians to facilitators of funny feelings. 

 

Mr. Abbott and Chico

Mr. Abbott?s sponge ball routine, however, was linear, non-repetitive and impressive.  Mr. Abbott’s routine was neither repetitive nor trite.  It involved a nice final load produced from the spectator?s hand.  He did not belabor the point before the production of the final load.  The follow-up was nice, as well.  As part of the process of picking up some of the balls that had tumbled from the surprised spectator?s hand, he would accidentally drop as he retrieved a ball.

 

 

Mr. Abbott?s performance of the Mullica Wallet was nicely done but not novel.  His handling was smooth and professional; although because of his position on the slightly elevated stage, the move was flashed to those of us below the sight line.    

 

But the effect did not end with the production of a spectator?s signed card from the wallet.  He used the marked card in a series of experiments in card control and ended with the production of the same signed card from his mouth.  This idea for the final production of the signed card from his mouth was great and well-considered. 

 

One of the benefits of having a spectator sign the card used in an effect is that it makes for a wonderful souvenir.  One of the downsides of pulling anything out of your mouth for a spectator to keep as a souvenir is the long glistening strand of saliva that usually accompanies the item. 

 

Mr. Abbott?s idea for handing the spit-covered card is genius.  He inscribed his autograph on the card to join with the spectator?s signature and then immediately encased it into a plastic sleeve.  Voila! No spit to spoil the magic memory. 

 

[As a side note, we wanted to let readers know we will not be allowed to present our innovative improvement on the Losander Bubble act at this year?s IBM convention in Reno.  There is a local ordinance that prohibits the ?display, manipulation, or destruction of bubbles made of or consisting of a solution including saliva of the performer.?  We have appealed the ruling but it does not look hopeful.]

 

 

Mr. Abbott, as we mentioned earlier, believes the performer should work to establish his character, his persona as part of his routine.  He explained that introductory effects should be used to introduce the audience to his character.  If that is his purpose, the character introduced by his tricks is decidedly low-key.  The Mullica Wallet is well-done and makes sense as presented. The production of the signed card from his mouth is not done as a final flourish but almost as the rightful conclusion to his card control routine. If one can remove a signed card from one?s mouth in a low-key but dramatic manner, Mr. Abbott has done just that.

 

Deep down in the basement, we have the land of abandoned magic.  Some of the tricks were bought as a whim at a convention, some bought because we honestly thought we?d be doing a full-manipulation act like Lance Burton one day, some were bought because we were just starting out in magic.  But in that land of the abandoned tricks, we have those effects purchased for us, when we were young, that were never used. 

 

The Buddha Papers falls into the last category.  We received many of these but always as parts of magic sets bought by relatives or well-intentioned parole officers hoping to keep us off the streets by encouraging the study of magic. 

 

We performed The Buddha Papers once, got it out of our system, and put it back with the other effects in the Land of Never-Mind.

 

Mr. Abbott?s handing of this effect, will cause us to risk exposure to radon, rat droppings, strange smells, and cobwebs, to find our Buddha Papers.

 

Buddah Money Papers were used well to explain how a famous Toronto Bank Robber would escape from the Toronto Don Prison with the help of one-legged Lonnie.  A photograph of the famous prisoner behind bars is placed into the papers, they are folded, and a match is lit representing the candle light by which the prisoner would work to escape.  The papers are now opened and the photo has changed.  It now shows the cell but lacks the image of the prisoner ? the photo is torn as if the prisoner?s image physically left the print.  Beside the photo, a hacksaw blade is found, apparently left by the escapee.

 

His final effect of the first half was an Ashes on the Palm effect.  You may have performed this effect with a marked sugar cube that transfers its mark to the spectator?s hand as the cube dissolves in a glass of water.

 

Mr. Abbott dresses up the effect with a wonderful story about his fond recollection of his recently deceased dog, Flash.  He shows a small tin of his puppy’s ashes and he recreates Flash’s big trick by putting a bit of his poor, deceased animal’s ashes into flash paper.  He lights the flash paper and instantly the doggie?s ashes are consumed in the blaze. 

 

Now, in the spectator’s closed fist is found a bit of Flash’s ashes smeared on his palm.  By accompanying the trick with this sweet story and the small props (including the very small box containing the deceased dog?s ashes) make this a very nice routine. 

 

Mr. Abbott begins his second half with a silent effect called Sponge Snack.  It begins slowly with a very nice set-up complete with a small lunch pail, a table cloth and the incredibly visual production of sponge balls from his mouth over and over: ending with a giant sponge ball kicker. 

 

The Thing was the second effect of the second half and was also done silently.  It was what had been billed as a levitation done anywhere — even surrounded.  An invisible ball rises from a glass box and appears to float up and into the cloth.  This routine was also shown silently.  The use of the glass box is used to distract the audience from the magician?s hands as the invisible ball floats gently up and under the cloth.

 

Mr. Abbott?s handling includes a wonderful twist ? made possible by the premise that the ball is invisible.  As the ball is floating before you, under the cloth, you can perform an Asrah-type of move.  The cloth is flipped upwards and the invisible ball is gone.  That reads weird but it is accurate. 

 

Chico

Chico ? The Mind Reader was our favorite routine.  Again, the effect is not novel but the routine is perfect. Chico is a monkey, complete with monkey sized fez, and banner proclaiming his talent.  The addition of a third party, the volunteer from the audience, made the effect even more entertaining. Mr. Abbott?s handling of his monkey puppet was so charming and played for just the right amount of time. 

 

At the end of the evening, we considered what we learned.  We understood Mr. Abbott?s theme of developing a character and being consistent in the portrayal of that character throughout the show.  But the larger lesson, to us at least, was to reconsider those effects we own but have dismissed.  We can provide a second life to the long-abandoned tricks by developing an innovative story or narrative routine in which they can be used rather than depending on the trick to equal the routine. 

 

Mr. Abbott?s lecture was thought-provoking and, in the case of Chico, charming.  It will not fill your hands with new tricks and books and DVDs.  His marketing seemed limited to just the effects that should be marketed.  The lecture will not leave you with new moves or effects but will depart a desire to re-think the moves and effects you already know. 

 

Inside Magic Rating: Four out of Five ? Very Good!

 

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