What IS a Parlor, Anyway?
I know you’ve never asked, but today I thought I’d write a little bit about the different forms of magic. Broadly, magic fits into three different types.
But what on earth does all that mean?
If you’ve seen any live magic at all, then this is almost certinally what it was. Usual performed with minimal or simple props, the tools of the close-up magician are cards and coins. It’s where most of us start, and bluntly where we finish. You’re tipsy uncle who wheels out the same card trick every family gathering? He’s doing close-up. But it’s not all 21 cards in three rows of seven. Despite its relatively humble appearance, close-up can have some of the strongest moments as the magic can actually happen in the spectators hands. If you’re seeing a professional performing this type of magic it’s probably going to be a ‘strolling’ magician at a wedding or corporate event, though there are plenty of resturants, clubs, and even pubs that employ magicians to entertain their guests.
Great close-up Magicians
The next phase up from close-up magic is parlor. Getting its name from when magicians used to perform in a formal setting in the best room of a person’s house, parlor is performed for audiances smaller than you might get at a theatre, but larger than can gather around comfortably for a close-up experience. A street show would also fall into this category. It’s a bit bigger, and a bit more formal, and you can get away with using slightly bigger and more developed props. Also, unlike most close-up gigs, the audience is more likely to have come specifically see some magic. This makes a huge difference to a performer.
Great parlor performers
This is it, the big leagues. David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, Houdini, names that span time and distance. Here you can perform the great, grand illusions. People fly, national monuments disappear, and there isn’t a glamorous assistant who isn’t sliced in half. Grand illusion and big box magic, when you watch a great stage performance, what you sacrifice in intimacy you gain in shear spectacle.
Great Stage Perfomers
I guess I’m thinking about the different forms of magic because right now I’m working on my Edinburgh Fringe show. Though I often perform parlor, most of what I do is broadly adapted from close up routines. As I don’t drive I tend to travel light, which stops me using more bulky props. But now, planning and scripting a different type of show, it’s both liberating and intimidating to know I am going to be doing something different, and in doing so I’ll have to stretch myself.
In short, today, instead of working on my Edinburgh Show, I’ve been doing this blog instead. Because I’m an idiot who really enjoys talking about magic.
Someone stop me!