It Is Without A Doubt That Film
It is without a doubt that film easily shows magic better than live theatre. Movies for both theatres and television have the ability of special effects and editing on their side. They do not have to rely on the conventions of everyday life. If something or somebody is supposed to fly, there are camera tricks where the camera can be turned or ropes and levitation systems can be digitally edited out of the pictures to make it look like flight is happening. An object can disappear at will because it can be edited out of a picture and then edited back into the picture. This makes it seem like believable magic cannot happen in the theatre. However, that is not the case. Many plays deal with supernatural or magic elements. While theatres with larger budgets can produce these effects better than those with small budgets, all of them are able to produce supernatural and magic effects.
At least since the time of Shakespeare, the idea of magic has appeared on stage. In Macbeth, the idea of black magic appears. The fake depiction of black magic is not necessarily anti-Christian, however being involved with it definitely is. We are warned in Leviticus, "Do not turn to mediums or wizards; do not seek them out" (New Revised Standard Version Bible, Lev. 19.31). The depiction of black magic and the results that it can cause can be a teaching tool for Christians. This means that there needs to be a decent way of depicting this without actually being involved in it.
Shakespeare made this easy for theatre artists. In Macbeth, black magic is never practised. However, it is easily believed that some type of black magic took place. This is because Shakespeare used "word-magic" (Stein 272). He does this by giving Macbeth a prowess of speech that shows he knows that the witches are evil by addressing them with the unfriendly greeting, "How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!" (271). Yet, Macbeth also deliberately enters the world of black magic (272) with the words, "I conjure you, by that which you profess, Howe’er you come to know it, answer me!" (271). Not a single word spoken by Macbeth truly conjures any black magic in real life. However, the words work perfectly for the stage.
Being that there were no special effects during the time of Shakespeare, this word-magic was needed. With the invention of indoor lighting, more special effects were able to take place. While the setting of Macbeth was dark with black magic, the setting for Shakespeare’s A MIdsummer NIght’s Dream was light. The magic in this was light hearted as it took place in the magical world among the fairies. The fairies have the magic to create their world, and thus theatre artists want to be able to create that world on the stage. One of the ways that this is accomplished other than using only the lights on the rigging is to use follow spots in order to "highlight the fairies" and maintain "the magical quality around them" (Tundermann 6).
As more technology becomes available, it becomes easier to depict magic on the stage. Not only the fairies in A MIdsummer NIght’s Dream are magical, but so is the setting. Sometimes the best way to achieve that magic feeling is "with a look that could occur in the real world, but still have that ‘magical’ sense to it" (Thistleton 3). Fog is a natural phenomenon and is something that, when good reason is there, can be. In the case of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oberon says, "With drooping fog as black as Acheron, And lead these testy revival so astray" and being that the tree is a "focal point," that having fog coming from it would add to the magical quality of the overall production (23).
These simple elements paved the way for effects in stage productions like The Wizard of Oz. Effects that have been used in some productions are flying monkeys, a melting witch, and an indoor tornado (Sullivan 16). Others use a gauze curtain that reacts to the light. At times it can be seen through, but becomes dark whenever the lights on stage are off (Swartz 72). Elaborate costumes also help with these magic illusions. Ways this might be done are having animal costumes that seem "elaborately real" or a costume with an elaborate system of strings that operates the function on a large mask while sounds are created by a stagehand in the wings (79).
One of the more recent stage productions to use illusions to bring the belief of magic to the stage is Matilda: The Musical. Among the many special Paul Kieve has created for the show, there is one where he convinces the audience that a piece of chalk can float and write on a chalkboard all by itself (Costa). He also designed a special effect for one of Matilda’s stories that uses a projection on the back curtain of the set. However, few details are known about Kieve’s creations because he keeps the magician’s code (Cook). At first, this may seem counterintuitive to Christianity, but it is understandable. It is a profession where those who watch the results know that what they are watching are illusions, but they like to be entertained by what seems to be real. Keive is fine in keeping these secrets because the magician’s code is meant to keep magicians out of trouble just like it says in Proverbs, "To watch over mouth and tongue is to keep out of trouble" (Prov. 21.23).
Yet, for all of the technology that has become available to create magic on the stage, Kieve knows that Victorian era magic tricks have not gone obsolete. He points out that the Victorian era magicians had to know what they were doing because they weren’t just trying to entertain people; they were trying to trick them. Kieve understands the value of this magic. He rightfully believes that magical effects should be used sparingly so as not to diminish a story (Cook).