Monday, October 21, 2013

The Essence of All Art is Presentation

"For the art of magic, this means 'dramatization.'  That is that the trick, as our basic element can only be a means or a building block in our play, farce, comedy, or drama.  The trick, presented by itself, has no artistic value, as a "harmonic" on the violin is only a virtuosic flourish, a "trick," if it is played all by itself, without the composition from which it has been taken."

"An artistically presented trick loses its character as a trick. It ceases to exist as an independent entity. The spectator will no longer think of the trick, but of the event into which it is imbedded. As long as the audience still concerns itself with figuring out "how," it is either an artistically unappreciative or illogical audience, or our drama was not breathtaking. The heart remained cold."

"Also in the "art of magic" (which sounds better than the more applicable "art of illusion"), the art is the heart of all things. The trick, the magical effect, can only appeal to and stupefy the intellect. ("Stupefy" reminds one painfully of stupid!) This leaves our emotions cold and unmoved. There is no spiritual content, no experience. An artist can call forth the gamut of human emotion by magic - from smiles, to shock, to horror, to tears. This may sound somewhat eccentric to some 'tricksters', but that does not alter the facts."


*from the book Magical Adventures and Fairy Tales

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It's all about....them.

Most people are chiefly interested in themselves and to sell your magic to any audience you must find out what most of them are interested in.  You will have to ask yourself if your magic addresses any of these popular interests of people around the world? And if not, how can you incorporate these interests into your show?  Be brutally honest...what tricks do your audiences love & why do they love them?

The Closer.

The majority of any audience tend to easily recall the ending of any show. Think about the last movie you saw and you will probably find that the ending is what you remember quite easily. So how can you create the most powerful ending to your routines or show that will also contain a memorable impact? Human brains hate to be bored and love the unexpected. Do something unusual. Do something unpredictable. Close your performances with a key script line and the most important visual image you want everyone to go home talking about and remembering for years to come. If you do this correctly, they will.


Human brains love a story. Stories and storytelling are probably  the most common and popular features of all global cultures. As human beings we have a natural ability to tell stories, and an equally deep-seated desire to be told stories. For thousands of years. religions have attracted disciples and followers and passed down principles through stories, parables and tales. Aesop's fables, the epics of Homer and Shakespeare's plays have all survived for centuries and have become a part of popular culture because they are extremely good stories. Stories, anecdotes and real-life examples should be use whenever possible if you want you routines to be remembered and to make an indelible human connection with your audience.

It's a lot about style.

The WAY you deliver and sell your magic to your audience is much more important than WHAT it is you actually do. .  Professor Albert Mehrabian carried out some investigative research several years ago, to find out which factors most influence an audience during a presentation or performance.  This research showed that most of what an audience remembers are things they have seen. The next important factor is the tone of voice used by the performer and the least influential factor is the actual content of the show or presentation.  According to Mehrabian's study the ratios are as follows; visual impact 55%, tone of voice 38%, and script and content 7%. It's not that content isn't important, but if you fail to get the visual side of it (body language, use of props, blocking and volunteer management) right and then compound that failure by not sounding right, then the content won't matter at all.

If it's not on the page - it's not on the stage.

I meet many magicians (professional and amateur) who tell me that they don't want to script their routines because they want to improvise and be spontaneous. First, to improvise you need to have something to improvise upon - this is called a script! Second, this is just laziness.  If you want to be different, make your routines uniquely your own and feel the satisfaction that comes from real work - start scripting your material. This does not mean a full word-for-word memorization and delivery, but it does mean that you thought about, and wrote down what you want to say.  Be sure to memorize your routine's opening and closing line.

Be yourself.

Your routines, methods and clothing are not your performance. You are your performance. I know this is not what the manufacturers of the latest tricks are telling you (Bill Abbott?!) but it is the unvarnished, naked truth.  You should choose tricks you can put your "originality" stamp onto and that are inherently a part of who you are.  How is it yours? How are you presenting it differently that anyone else on the planet? Will you still be performing this routine ten years from now (and loving it)? You don't have to re-invent the wheel but it would be nice if you painted it your favourite colour. 

Being Seen & Heard

When you enter into the realm of stand-up, stage or cabaret magic you soon realize that the environment is rarely ever your creation or choice. Imagine the worst possible scenario you could be faced with and something worse than you ever imagined will eventually be a reality.  You must be prepared. You are a professional. You have to construct a bullet proof show that will work in any environment you are thrown into. Your angles, use of a microphone, the proximity of the audience how to play large with smaller tricks and making sure the larger effects play well at a short distance from the audience are all things to contemplate. 

It's Seriously Not Funny

Don't try to be funny. Most people who are nervous on stage tend towards joke telling, puns and bad one-liners. As a professional entertainer you have no business doing this. Let the humour come from the magic you're performing. Contrived lines and "bits of business" that are rehearsed will sound rehearsed. There is nothing worse than humour badly executed by paid entertainment. Don't laugh at your own jokes, wait until your audience does and even then a smile is best.

Fake it.

You're at the gig. You've already made yourself known to your contact person at the event. You've set your show, you've packed your pockets. At this moment you need a shot of confidence to turn your terror into a positive experience. Many will disagree with my advice for you at this point but listen carefully. Fake it.  You can actually fool yourself into believing you are the life of the party and having the time of your life, by 'acting' like you actually are.  Just pretend to be  happy wherever you are, make-believe you are confident, simulate self-confidence, even if it is just for the first ten minutes and an amazing thing will happen.  You will actually begin to feel that way.  This is partly because of your audience's response to your attitude and overall demeanour.  This is not a specific technique, but rather an attitude 'aid' that will help you in every facet of entertaining.

What you PROJECT is more important that what you actually FEEL and what you actually PERFORM.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The 7-11 Show

I met world renowned veterinarian Sheldon Japhine at a magic masterclass held in Toronto several years ago and we coined the phrase the "7-11 show".  This show would consist entirely of props you could purchase at any 7-11 store (or equivalent; gas station, drug store, 24 hour variety store or Walmart).  With those props you have the ability to perform in any environment for any audience. 

This wasn't just an exercise for the armchair magician but for the working pro who will inevitably be caught out with lost luggage and a waiting audience.  

What will be in your 7-11 show?

Pack Smart Play Anywhere

As magical performers we are becoming more and more a global service industry. When the local economy has been gutted by widespread recession, we have the ability and means to look elsewhere to find clients, audiences and ultimately pay checks.  The potential to market to locations and clients around the world is forcing many to become truly mobile.  There is a group of savvy performers that realize that it is more advantageous to fill a stage with personality and entertainment rather than large props and paraphernalia.  Working towards strategies, insightful techniques and workable solutions to propel you to think smarter about your magic and deliver a show that is high on impact and low on luggage.  Whether we are flying, driving, taking a cab, public transit or walking to the gig.  

The key is to focus on the size of the potential effect on an audience and not on the size of the props.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Joy In The Journey

Make the most of every moment in your show.  Stretching and pulling every last ounce of entertainment from your props, script and interactions with your audience.  The destination is simply the end of the journey.  

It's really the journey that matters.  

And if you're enjoying it, there's a good chance that your audience will enjoy you it too.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Keeping It Unreal

There's a constant question asked by magicians, "Does it work in the real world?" 

It's a legitimate query that warrants a practical response.  The problem lies in the fact that performers are focused almost exclusively on the wrong thing.  The method.  Is it performable with audience members on all sides? Does is reset easily and quickly? Do I have to practice or rehearse before I perform it in public? All questions that are valid from a working pros point of view BUT focuses on all the wrong things.  The first question we should be asking is, "What is the effect on the audience?"  From there we can ascertain whether the method is practical, whether or not we can pull it off as performers  and if we can "sell" it to the audiences we most frequently perform for.

One of my favourite pieces to perform is one that I seldom do.  It has major angle issues, uses thread, can occasionally not perform as rehearsed and has no out when something goes awry.  And it has gone awry. Twice. But the impact on the audience is one that is so strong emotionally that it surpasses everything else I have ever performed.

Sometimes being practical and taking the SAFE route is not always the BEST route.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Falling In Love

The secret to winning an audience over is not to 'blow them away' too soon, as we have occasionally been taught.  If you blow them away too soon they'll develop a dislike for you and worse they won't care what you do next.  Instead of "here's a puzzle you can't figure out. Enjoy suckers!" you should adopt the attitude that you are introducing the best side of yourself to someone you're trying to impress.  Court the audience. Woo the audience. People need to fall in love with you.  Make it easy for them.  Be loveable.  Once you're loveable - you can do anything.

Here is the optimum relationship progression between performer and audience:

From Curiosity to Attention. From Attention to Amazement. From Amazement to Admiration. From Admiration to Love. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The NASA Position

Plant your flag.
Stake your claim.
Mark your territory.

If you get to your gig early enough, you will be able to solve a multitude of problems that wandering in closer to your performance time will never allow.

When you arrive make sure you have the space you need, the furniture you need, the most optimum performance real estate - being sure you are seen and heard. Do your mic check. Set your props on stage if you can.  Find a private place to change if the client hasn't provided one.

Getting early to a gig means you can relax and enjoy your experience on stage with piece of mind that you've put out the fires before they had a chance to ignite.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

About Face

Your face is a big part of your branding.
It's who you are. And it's what the audience wants to see.

Something Doc Eason  talks about during his lectures is performing 'up and out' rather than 'down and in' which is the common malady of close-up workers transitioning to stand-up and stage performances.

Your face is the most interesting and compelling thing about you. 

Use it. And use it often.