Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Magic of being a Mensch

Penn & Teller, in their opening week on Broadway, did not fail to literally thrill and delight the audience with their unique form of "magic" - or trickery, tomfoolery, sleight of hand, plain bullshit, as the talkative Penn Jillette would describe it. Of course their version of trickery is masterful, practiced and Olympic in its skill and style.
 The small "parlour tricks" were big fun: like revealing how old timey magicians  pulled what were actually fake rabbits out of the proverbial hat, to completely astounding us by turning the fake demo rabbit into a real one before our eyes.

The bigger tricks, like their version of "disappearing" an elephant or the classic sawing a woman in half were all done with literal levity, audience participation or jokes...but they never talk down to the crowd.

But, it was afterwards that I saw an almost bigger trick: a crowd of humans tightly encircling a man in the center and practically consuming him with flashes and fevor, but being tamed by the lone subject in the middle.
Teller, or "Mr. Teller" as he was known when he was my brother's teacher at Lawrence High in NJ, soothes, and calms the crowd, cooing at them in kind voice. Teaching us still....

His part of the stage act never involves speaking a word, but when Teller talked to the crowd that was something to hear. He was patient, polite, generous and, well, a mensch with every single person. If he needed to coax a camera-shy person into a photo, or remind an anxious, clamoring kid that there was a bigger kid (me) who had been waiting longer, he never raised that voice or seemed irritated. He continuously reassured everyone he was not leaving until everyone had a photo or an autograph. There must have been a couple of hundred clamouring fans. I can't imagine how he was not claustrophobic with people pressing in on him.  And yet, the crowd was tamed, and behaved, if that is not oxymoronic in describing crowd mentality, thanks to one of the best communicators I've ever seen.

See them while you can. Through 8/16.

1 comment:

E.B. Moss said...

Great companion piece to this post: see the Times Talk video in which ...TELLER TALKS! But more importantly, talks about how NOT talking - or speaking softly - can be so powerful.