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When they smash your gimmick...

Stage time is one of the most important things you can have in order to be a good performer.

That’s it. That’s todays blog. Have a good week!

Okay, whilst that is the crux of what I want to talk to you about today, let me give you some more context. Being a performer really is an interesting job. Most ‘normal’ jobs, you train, put what you’ve learn’t into practice in a safe environment and often with a teacher or trainer and then when you’re ready, you go into the real world. The issue with magic is, we tend to miss out that middle piece. We have to take the knowledge we have and most of the time, practice it ‘in the real world’. When money and people come into that equation, that can start to play with our anxiety a little. “I’m getting paid for this, I have to make sure it goes perfectly!” Or “This is their wedding day so I have to make sure everything is great!”.

And whilst every gig you do should be treated with the upmost respect, there are ways to get around this anxious transitionary period. When you meet an audience member, you could very well be the first magician that person or audience has ever seen. So you owe it to them to take that performance seriously and to do the very best you can. Your performance could profoundly influence the way they view magic and magicians for the foreseeable future. So when I talk about these situations to can uncover to create a good transition from practice>professional, I’m not saying it means you can do a lesser job, I’m simply saying, you can alleviate that anxiety a little.

This week I had to do two hour shows, quite literally back-to-back for two Sixth Form groups, each with about 150 teenagers in. I had written a scaled down version of my full length stage show and taken some parts of the big show that I thought would work well for this particular audience. To give you can idea of my set list: Envelope was introduced and placed on display > Tossed Out Deck > MD Mini with Inception ending > Spirit Slates Routine / PK Touches > Thought of Person Mind Reading > Venom Cube > Toxic > Envelope Reveal

That should give you some context of what I’m about to describe. In the envelope I have several pieces of card with “predictions on”. However, I do not frame it as a ‘prediction’ in my performance. I like to reframe it as, “In today’s show, if everything goes well, I will influence people to do and think these things…”. This mini re-frame means that each reveal feels relevant throughout the show but I’m not sure if I’ll succeed in making these things a reality. Something I’ve recently started doing as well to give it authenticity is placing something in there that ‘doesn’t happen’. This just makes my claim feel more legitimate and that everything could have gone wrong if I hadn’t done my job correctly.

The prediction ‘predicted’ the 3 cards chosen during the Tossed Out Deck routine, one of the faces of a Rubik’s cube that they had mixed as an audience and finally a piece of scrunched up paper. This symbolised the piece of paper that I’d been throwing into the audience during the show. When they un-scrunched it, it had the number that they made during Toxic and when it was turned upside down, it spelt out ‘ELVIS LIVES’ in Cryptext. A nice built up ending.

So, let’s get to the problem. During the second performance, one of the audience members threw the Venom Cube to another students which subsequently hit the floor and smashed mid performance. During a different routine, I immediately became aware that the cube had smashed and it was causing a stir and I was loosing a small section of my audience.

Piece of advice 1, always have spares at hand in a show. I often have spares of tricks on the stage hidden away and this time was no different. I told them not to worry, grabbed what was left of Venom from them and gave them a fresh, un-gimmicked cube to mix and continued. The world saga lasted about 30 seconds and avoided any major issues.

As the performance wen’t on, I had a sudden epiphany, inside the ‘prediction’ envelope, there is a picture of a Rubik’s cube with one side solved which is going to make absolutely no sense because I’d have to abandon Venom cube. Not only am I trying to perform spirit slates with a PK Touch, but I was also trying to work out a way to fix this issue all mid performance and without letting the audience know.

No doubt, this situation would have brought some performers huge anxiety and if I’m honest, at one time, it would have done that to me too. So here is lesson 2 for todays blog, always prepare back ups. When we perform close up we have a lot more control of our environment. On stage, really, it’s a one take wonder moment in which you have to get it right straight away. That being said, when I’m on stage, I always plan for a back up. If that Tossed Out Deck doesn’t go right for whatever reason or I have a difficult audience member, I keep an Invisible Deck in my inside jacket pocket. Then, I can ask them which card they saw and pull it out of the ID. It might never be used but really helps with worry when starting performing.

Back to the issue at hand. How did I get out of this problem? Well, I quickly realised that the stack I used on Venom was the same stack in Kev G’s Cube Cards. And I happened to know I had some of those cards in my case which was on a table behind me. So during the audience clapping for the spectators who were on stage, I quickly grabbed the cards. When the cube came back to me from being mixed, I told them I would teach them out to solve the cube and then give them a ‘test’ after to see who was paying attention. Then as I solve the cube I get progressively faster so there is no way anyone can follow along and it’s a nice comedy tension defuser. Then, for the prediction I reframed the routine as, “Here I have a stack of different mixed cubes. I wan’t you to pick a random one out and then show it to me for 5 second and I’ll mix this cube to match the image” Once they did it, I mixed my cube into the Cube Cards stack and revealed I’d matched it perfectly. Then, I placed the cube on a side table in view of the audience with the correct side facing them that matched my prediction.

As I put the cube down, I reminded him, “You could have pieced any of these mixes. There are 30 different mixed cubes you could have gone for, but this is the mix you wanted”

DONE! Now the cube matches my prediction and it was a decision they made randomly.

What’s the point of this blog post? Without stage time, I wouldn't have known what to do.

Stage time is one of the most important part to becoming a good performer. The more you do it, the better you become and not only performance but structuring a show, audience management and dealing with these issues on the spot. I hear a lot of performers talking about not doing charity events. I think this is a real shame because it gives you the perfect opportunity to perform for a large group of people without the added pressure of being paid. Like I said, still be amazing but it’s just another anxiety barrier to take away. Every year I cap my Charity Event quota at 3. It means I’m giving back to the communities I’m working it and helping raise money, but it means I get more stage time easily.

My 3rd and final lesson of this blog is, use magic to do good for the community. Find 3 charity events this year and commit to them. No, you won’t get paid but you’ll be doing a wonderful thing and if you’re trying to transfer from close up to stage, it’s invaluable practice for you.

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