I added the links in the above quote from exodus so we can see the dictionary definition of our chosen terms compared to our own.
A trick is "here pick a card. Look I found it." An effect is the motivation for finding a card. It's the psychological part that draws you in. It's what seperates a professional
from an amateur
Is it? Is it really that one simple definable difference? I'd hazard a guess that our knowledgable friend exodus knows not, nor was suggesting it. But taken as a statement, completely abstract and without deeper meaning or the obvious magical competance of its author, is it?
To suggest that amateurs are magicians who perform tricks, while professionals are those who perform magic (or illusions, effects, demonstrations, test and so on ad infinitum) is a ridiculous and sweeping generalisation. I myself have experienced quite the reverse on several occasions.
Take my time in Sheffield as good selection of examples. I used to hang around the local bricks and mortar magic shop (Magick if you're that interested) on Saturdays where members of the Sheffield Circle and hobbyists such as myself would meet up and share conversation magic and methods. There were three people there of the crowd that ranged from 4 of us, including Russ who owned the place, to 10 or more that did magic for no money what so ever; a young lad I forget the name of, a final year college student I also forget the name of and of course my good self. When ever someone, professional or otherwise, had a new effect to show everyone he would have that look about him; like a boy with a brand new toy eager to show off to the world. Given these were performances to other magicians, but that never stopped them from being presented exactly as they were or would be done in their performances, paid or not. I showed them my new effects and was always given hearty congratulations on my performance, followed by tips and ideas I always took onboard. Our young school lad often pulled his brand new gimmick out of his pocket and tried to get someone to help him with his performance. Me and the college student helped each other with sleights and effects, patter and routining between ourselves and came out with good results.
The thing was that of the 2-6 professionals you could expect to appear at any given time, one of them was only a so-so performer. His magic was a little old fashioned which didn't help, but it was the way he failed to draw you into his effects that made him less than good. Compared to some of the effects the college lad could throw down on the table he was the amateur above, while the genuine amateur was more like a professional. Given the same piece of magic to do, even with the same patter, most people in the room seemed to connect more to the 18 year old lad with blonde hair and glasses than the 50+ year old man with less hair and glasses. His tricks came over as just that; tricks. He did do some fantastic stuff, don't get me wrong, but even as a magician I felt it to be unmagical.
I recently had the pleasure of watching James Browns' award winning close up routine on You Tube and was amazed at how good it was. Every single effect he did was magical, even to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting I'm the very essence of magic itself and it's going to be a good act to make me smile, far from it. The thing is that even though I knew what he did here and there it still made me feel that wonder and amazement you want from magic, and you want your
spectators to feel. James' routine was exceptionally professional in the 'polished, slick, top of his game' sense of the word, as well as the "professionals perform magic not tricks' sense.
It was while I was hanging around these local stars of magic in Sheffield, Adam Bell, Roger Curzon, Damian Surr, Russell Hall, Les somethingorother, a fella called Jim, that I heard stories. Stories that involved 'respected' members of the local Sheffield Circle of Magicians. Now, I'm not about to start badmouthing people or openly mocking them, I am merely going to relay to you some of the stories I've heard of various professional magicians whilst neglecting to name names.
One story I remember was of a professional magician who was barred from his local pub because the regulars were sick of seeing his magic. Apparently he didn't know when to stop, and when people were telling him he wasn't good and would he leave them alone he'd only try harder. This poor fellow did this for several nights until the management asked him politely to leave and not come back.
Another story, or rather several stories I shall roll into one as is convenient, was of a very respected member of the actual Magic Circle, and a telly magician for many many years. He apparently managed to bore several separate audiences independently of each other by being rubbish on stage. He had no connection, nothing of interest or magic was happening.
Sticking with television magicians for now I remember Penn speaking in an interview a little while ago about ringing his father the day Copperfield was making the Statue of Liberty vanish. At the end of his conversation Penn asked his father if he was watching, and got a reply along the lines of "you should know better than most he's only going to make it look
like it's disappeared". Professional magicians so often miss the mark with their illusions I feel. When I watch someone vanish a statue, or a bridge, or a train carriage, or an elephant, or levitate between buildings, or any of these larger than life illusions I always find myself thinking the same thing "that's a clever trick". This then denies them professional status, for if these illusionists are doing mere tricks, albeit giant ones, they surely become amateurs. That's not to say that I don't think big illusions don't ever work, I like some of the Morgan illusions, and have seen Paul Daniels do big magic. Mark Wilson did big magic too and his was very good. It's just that sometimes these illusions lose their magic because they become too far fetched, too big. They become tricks.
One final story I remember, which isn't hugely relavant I'll admit outright, but needs telling at least once if only for mild comic relief, was about a Sheffield Circle magician who was performing in one of the cities more upmarket hotels. One of his effects involved fire and fuel, and he began to pour said fuel on the many hundred pounds carpet of the hotel foyer. The staff only realised he was serious when he dropped the lit match on it all and caused more damaged than his paycheque would cover. Maybe not so much a good example of tricks vs effects, but certainly a good example of how professional isn't always a term to define the quality of what you get.
To reinforce to original motive of this essay I will now relate some of my own personal performance experiences to you all. As you read these remember that I have performed on stage less than 10 times in the public arena, and every performance I have done has been for free.
The first show I ever did on stage was in The Pack Horse pub's function room in Leeds. It was a nerve racking and exilerating experience and one I will keep with me for ever. After the show had finished we (Magic Rich and myself) got some of the loudest applause all night, and we knew we'd done well when the comedian that was headlining the event declared us to be "complete rubbish, what the edited was that all about?!". After the whole show had finished we had somewhat of a crowd around us expressing their love of the set we had done, and how good we were. On the train home the following morning, encouraged by our runaway success we came up with a complete show for the following month.
The next show we performed was a 'comedy of errors' type affair with the name and theme "Fire and Blood". We nearly drank BBQ lighter fluid. I stabbed Rich in the side. Rich had the audience perform a rather large piece of pyrokinesis and set fire to the entire backdrop to the stage. It was a triumph in every possible way it could have been. The final effect was a book test in which Rich asked the spectator to burn the word chosen into his head. After this failed, he asked the entire audience to do the same. All of a sudden the backdrop to the stage burst into flames and there smouldering in the aftermath amidst a completely unharmed backdrop was a burnt in word; the word chosen by the spectator.
You would be correct in summising this got rather a large and loud ovation. It was the talking point of the night, not least because the next three acts had to perform with a black burned reminder of our presence. After the show had finished we ended up with our crowd again and all people could talk about was the incredible finale. The BBQ lighter fluid game went down a storm and the stabbing won some appreciation also. But it was this fire effect that won us that night. Everyone that saw it was blown away. And everyone that saw it said so. And yet, we received no questions as to "how did you do it?!"
Granted there are so many differences between the professional and the amateur using our setout definitions it would be hard to list them all. Include to the quality maxim and we'd be here for ever. But the idea that amateurs only perform tricks and professionals perform effects is an overly romatic and not very realistic one. Think long and hard about professional magicians you've seen on stage, in lectures or on the television. Now think, how many of them made their magic magical? Now think about all the reactions you've
had yourself. How many of these were about how magical and incredible your effects were? How many of them were merely asking how it's done (and by this I don't mean the fairly standard mouth open eyes wide slow delivery whisper "how...did...you do that?! It's not possible...etc.")? For me the difference in the professional's effects and the amateur's effects lies in the performance. And I'm well aware of how painfully obvious that statement is, and how you probably now feel like I've taken 15 minutes of your life off you. Sorry. But it's true. But stick with me, for this is not the main difference between the professional and the amateur by a long shot.
Magic is a very subjective thing, and no two spectators will ever experience it in the same way. Tricks are not subjective and nearly every spectator will inquire as to the tricky method at work. I think that whether you perform magic, effects, illusions, demonstrations, etc. or tricks is down to your connection with the audience yes, but it is not the mark of a professional over an amateur. I am still an amateur (no pay) magician and feel I put on a very magical show when I perform, close up or on stage. I would like to say that I am very professionally minded when it comes to magic, and I take it seriously enough to one day make money from it. And it is this attitude to magic that I think is the key defining difference between our professional and our amateur. While one is sniffing out the latest gimmick or packet trick or utility device on the market, running to the theatre via the magic shop to pick up his closer for the night or sitting on forums giving a little too much away and not caring, the professional is sitting like Holmes' smoking bhudda, thinking away carefully about refining this routine, scripting this effect and making everything flow nicely and score maximum reactions without 'frying' or 'destroying' his audience.