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Improving One Self and Act
Dare I say this and not be crucified for it by the magic community at large? I think I have found a productive use for all magic related videos found on Youtube; Self improvement! To improve your own act you need to know what the audience likes and dislikes. The easiest way to do that is to become the audience yourself. If you live in fortunate areas like Los Angeles, or Las Vegas then you’re blessed with a plethora of magic venues in which you can see many talented, and not so much so, acts perform. If you don’t have a strong thriving magic community where you live then the good news is there is always YouTube! By watching with a constructive and critical eye others perform you develop a true sense of magical timing. You learn to know not only how the magic is done, but when it happens. Magic I’ve heard described is the moment in time where the spectator creates that special memory of the performance, and not the slights used to get there. When you watch a performance consider many things. Blocking, Body Language, Tone of Voice, Colors, Costumes, Lighting, Music, Spectator Participation, etc. You’ll see what patter works, what styles of delivery you personally like best, and you’ll begin to incorporate elements of these personal favorites into your own style of presentation. Like slight of hand, this is also a skill that will develop over watching hundreds of performances. It’s something everyone should be doing.
Getting reviews from others is a great way to improve your act. If you can share your performance videos with other magicians their input on your patter, act, and magic could be worth gold! You should also be aware that you’ll most likely encounter three kinds of reviews. The first is from magicians, the second is from laymen, and brother let me tell you they are as different as night and day. Magicians are great for getting a good idea on how your technical chops are. They can spot the subtleties that are wasted on a lay audience. While your laymen are wonderful at letting you know the feel for pacing, patter delivery, and overall impression of the act at large. You’ll need them both to get a well rounded idea of how your act is growing and developing. The third kind of review is also the hardest kind. That third kind of review is the kind you give yourself, and believe me, no critic is harder than the one staring back at you in the mirror. Also, as a final note here, take all advice from other magicians with a tablespoon full of salt. Magicians tend to be a very opinionated bunch, and not all opinions are good ones.
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We are very fortunate in this day and age to have access to the internet. Online websites with forums geared toward magicians are quickly replacing clubs as the popular medium for getting constructive criticism and sadly spreading gossip about magic. However I think if we truly want to progress our art form to the next level we should also seek to improve ourselves online as well as off. One of the easiest things we can do online is to not be so quick to verbally destroy each other without backing up our assaults with legitimate and logical opinions. Improvement begins with the simplest reply. Instead of offering your reply of X thing sucks, discuss why X thing sucks so badly, what about it you didn’t like, and how you think it could be better. If you can’t be bothered to put in the time to consider these things intellectually, then you shouldn’t be bothered to reply at all. This also is a great exercise for building your critical attention to detail that you’ll need to review your own act and improve the weak points in your own performance.
Lastly, I want to leave everyone with this thought. Magic and its presentation is entertainment. Always be your best, 100% of the time, anytime you are in front of people. Be it at the mall, or on the stage. Like other aspects of entertainment positions are filled based upon who has the best audition, if someone can out perform you, then you are out of a job. Nothing is guaranteed in show business. I want you to be your best. Like the eternal phoenix, constantly rising from the fiery ashes of it’s own demise we consistently die to ourselves only to be reborn anew, stronger, and more able to aptly go out and perform. Our acts improve with each time we cast off the shell of who we were and embrace who we’ve become. Either get fired up about entertaining people, or just get fired! To quote my chess teacher from high school: “Your move.”