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.


  1. Don't you think a performer needs both kinds of material in an act? Something safe and reliable that he/she knows can be performed under almost any conditions, and something that is riskier?

    Dai Vernon said once that the reason every magician needed to be good at basic card tricks was that they needed something "safe" that relied on their skills and their willingness to practice, so that when they couldn't rely on the high-tech, complex illusions, they could still work and earn a living.

  2. Such a great point and very inspiring. One of my favorite pieces is extremely angle sensitive and I can rarely perform it. However, whenever I do, it gets a great response. And it's always in my case, ready to go. Your point also speaks to one of the major challenges of the professional, which is the potential for disillusionment over time as magic can become "just a job." One way to fight that off is to focus as you describe on the effect on the audience. Practicality doesn't have the same connection to the heart as audience impact. Well said, my friend.

  3. I just wanted to say thank you. I love your blog. And this is great advice. You're out there doing it right and your giving it back to the art by posting regularly. Thank you.

  4. Thanks Bill.

    I agree. Magic is the experience.

    And personally... If I am not taking risks to privide more impossible moments, I am slacking.