After taking a few lessons the student may find that he has a hitherto unsuspected talent for the art of ventriloquism, which only needs proper cultivation to be made a source of amusement and profit. As in music, there is a certain technique which must be thoroughly mastered before one can become proficient, and certain exercises conducing to voice production and culture which must be faithfully gone through with before one can give an efficient exhibition before the public.
One must learn how to use the mouth and tongue to achieve certain results, how to speak interiorily with entirely motionless and almost closed lips, and how to make each of the sounds or voices used distinctive in tone, pitch and character.
The successful ventriloquist must also be cool, confident and something of an actor. The voices to him present no illusion, and he can judge of his success only by their effect upon his audience. I say no illusion, but this is not quite true; for though he knows that he is creating the sounds, if he is thoroughly proficient, there seems a sort of isolation between himself and the voice which discourses with him. If he is talking with "a man on the roof " and his performance is perfect, the voice almost seems even to him to be that of another person and he enters into argument with it with as much earnestness as if this were so.
The farther removed a ventriloquist is from his audience, the greater the illusion he creates, and yet it is remarkable how near the auditor can stand to the performer without being disillusioned. During a performance given at a fair in Masonic Temple, Boston, several years ago, I had for my stage only a round dais at one end of the hall, raised scarcely two feet above the floor.
The audience stood so close to the platform that I could almost touch the foremost persons, and I felt that under such conditions I could have very little success. But even here, a bright young lady who stood among those in the first rank of the crowd and directed her attention entirely to my face and lips in order to test the matter, afterward assured me that the illusion of "the man Under the floor" was perfect, and that the voice did not seem to proceed at all from myself. This may sound egotistical, but I simply relate the incident to show the perfection which may be obtained, and for the encouragement of those among my readers who desire to take up the art.
Unlike the magician, who requires an elaborate "fit-up" to properly perform his illusions, the ventriloquist always has the mysterious at his command. From a haystack by the country roadside or from behind the closed portals of an empty store or the depths of an open sewer in the city, he can evoke "spirits" to amaze and mystify the hearers, which yet exist in nothing more substantial than his own voice.
A half-hour's exhibition of ventriloquism with the aid of mechanical figures, which carry on a bright and amusing dialogue with the performer and possibly contribute a song or two, varied by conversation with invisible people or imitations of various tools and musical instruments after methods which will be explained later, will often be eagerly accepted as an agreeable departure from the monotony of readings and vocal and instrumental music usually given at local entertainments.
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