Introduction to Magic Performances.
Table of Contents
The use of Gimmicks
Getting Paid for Performances
Hello, my name is Jesse, a magician who performs on all platforms, with experience in all forms of the magical art. I have performed for 1 person and for a 1000 people. I am not here to say, this is what you need to do to be successful, but more along the lines of giving you a guideline in my experiences as a magician, and as a vendor. This article is more geared toward people who would want to start performing effects to the general public. This will also serve as a refresher to people who are experienced in this art. One thing before we get into the article, I constantly hear people refer to magic illusions, or effects, as "tricks," please, for the sake of the art and self respect, teach yourself to refer to illusions and effects as just that.
The use of Gimmicks
Gimmicks are great to use, only if you know how to properly use them. If you fumble with a gimmick, then you are almost certain to get "caught" in the effect, and it will blow it for you. There are a million gimmicks on the market today, some great, some simple, some complicated, some flat out dumb. Since i am primarily a card handler, I will talk about some things with card gimmicks. Card gimmicks themselves are excellent tool to have, especially if you are learning some of the advanced sleights. With my personal arsenal, I carry with me a invisible deck, a stripper deck, and a straight deck at all times. People sometimes think, well why do you carry so many decks around with you? My response, "Well, i know a vast array of effects, and the use of gimmicked decks aids in the proper and complete execution of said effect." As complicated as that may sound, it really is not. I have developed methods, and techniques to allow the switch of the decks, at a moments notice, that we will not discuss in this article due to exposure. There are many ways of accomplishing this, you will have to find out what works for you, as a performer, and entertainer.
As said before, i wont go into any type of "how to do a DL," type of conversation, as it constitutes exposure. What i will do, is explain my performance, from beginning to end, with a stripper and a invisible deck, along with a few bits of my own personal patter in there. Most of my magic is done, impromptu, on the street, with many people around, which the use of a gimmicked deck aids in the cover needed to perform certain sleights. In the explanations of how i perform these effects, I am going to be to the point, and then later, we can analyze the performances. So here goes for the Stripper Deck and the Invisible Deck routines, as developed by me.
*On a street, people around, going into shops, people walking, talking, laughing* I approach someone who looks like they are on that street for recreation purposes (ill touch more on this later) Hello sir, how are you doing today, if i can have a minute of your time, id like to show you something. Spectator agrees, performance continues. Have you ever played poker? Many people will say yes. Oh ok, so you understand what 3 of a kind, 4 of a kind, royal flush, are in poker.. Let me show you something, and how i seem to beable to have some lucky hands delt to me. I deal out a 5 card hand to me and the spectator, and ask him what hes holding, as the spectator displays a random hand, i show him a straight royal flush.. i tell him, pretty weird ain't it? Ok ok ok, just to make this fair, here take the deck, shuffle up the cards real good, cut them, shuffle some more, then hand them back to me. I then proceed to deal out another hand, and ask the spectator to show his hand, again, random cards, maybe a pair, maybe two.. Again, i show my hand, a straight royal flush. Spectator is amazed. I then hand the deck back to him, cards are all in there, no way i could pull them out in full view of the spectator. I put the cards back into the box, put them back into my pocket, and say, well, if you have the time, id like to show you one more. Now its time for the invisible deck routine.
Sir, i just showed you the weird luck i have with a poker hand, now i will show you a real illusion. I am going to grab this deck of cards (i pretend to grab a deck out of the air, and hold it) Could you think of any card that is in a deck of 52, and once you have that card, let me know when you have the card, but do not tell me. Now i am going to take the cards out of this invisible pack, go through them, and turn one over, square the cards up, put them back in the pack, close the box. Then i slap my pocket where the invisible deck is located. and i say, "did you see it?" This confuses them enough to start thinking. Now i say i have taken a card, and flipped it around, so theres one card, in the entire deck, that is flipped around. Could you tell me the card that you were thinking of (lets say Jack of Diamonds) I say, when i slapped my pocket here, the invisible deck i had, materialized into a authentic bicycle deck. I pull the deck out and ask the spectator to watch very closely, in case i go over the card. I go through the cards, and come to a face down card, and say, theres a card thats face down, lets look through the rest to make sure. I use a lever type reveal, and that is flooring. Look, the card you thought of, and the card i predicted, are exactly the same, i appreciate your time, thank you. Put the deck away, and shake his/her hand, and walk away.
Heya, do you have a few minutes of FREE time i could use? The way you approach someone is key. If you go up to someone and say "hello could i show you a magic trick" I would say 70-75% of the time, you will get a negative reaction. A big part of this art is mystery, if you knew what someone was going to do, would you stick around to see something you have already seen? No, you wouldn't. Exactly the reasoning for the mystery element. Another key point to hit on, is giving the impression that you DON'T know what your doing, while being in complete control, and having complete confidence in what your doing. I see alot of guys referring to Blaine and angel.. they are PERFECT examples of this. If you watch how they approach people, 85-90% of the time, they get a bite.. camera edits aside, this is reality, deep down everyone wants to see something cool, and in magic, your first impression will make or break you.
When people talk about controlling spectators, they don't mean, grabbing them by the arm physically, they only mean it, mentally (grabbing them by the arm hehehe.) Once you have there attention, by the approach, you want to make sure you know when to let the spectators speak, and how long to let them speak for. You cant possible expect to keep control of a audience if you constantly let them interrupt your performance. There are people out there, for instance, who will TRY to faze you, or try to mix you up by speaking. This is why when i practice magic, me and my fiancee will goto a bar, or downtown, someplace noisy, so i can overcome distraction. This does work. Now back to the matter at hand. I see alot of people mentioning David Blaine and Criss Angels magic on the internet, and even in person when i do my own performances. These guys have got it down, whether you like them or not, whether you think they are magicians or not, the do what they set out to do, ENTERTAIN. If you watch them, when they go up to someone, they almost always say the same line, and it goes something like this. "I don't know if i can do this or not, sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn't." With that line, it does a few things, it sucks them in, they think your just gonna do some ladeda effect with no meaning, worthless storyline (patter) and it isn't gonna be great, but you have them sucked in from the approach. Another thing this accomplishes is, now, there attention isn't so focused on your cards, or whatever you have in your hands, they are focused on your eyes, and you need to be focused right back to there eyes. A great example of controlling spectators is in a 2 card monte routine. In this routine, you constantly hold there hand, move it around, when they let you move there hand, guess what that does? It gives YOU, the performer, CONTROL! Now you can pretty much do anything, they are at your mercy. You complete the effect, and at this time, you can choose to keep going with a different effect, or decide to walk away.. If you decide to walk away, always thank them for there time, shake there hand, and since cards are super cheap, i usually give them the deck or cards as souvenirs. They will remember that moment for years and years to come.
For those of you out there, who think you understand misdirection, lets see if you really understand it. Have you ever had someone literally burn a hole in your hands during a routine when you don't want them too? Ever had someone who does exactly what you say? That is the difference between understanding misdirection and not understanding it. Controlling a spectator(s) and misdirection go hand in hand, without one, the other is useless and vice versa. I see some people complaining about the same things, cant get off a pass, cant do a lift, cant do anything without the spectator carefully watching. This is where misdirection comes into play. The best way to misdirect someone is to be loose, casual, and confident. Do not be uptight or fidgeting with your effect. Keep the patter going, do not stop, keep there attention away from the effect until YOU want them to have attention to it. This takes time, to develop and polish, but it is never perfected. People always ask why i say it is never perfected, this is why. Ever been performing, and had a heckler, (why controlling and misdirection go hand in hand)? The reason for this is because the misdirection AND control wasn't there. When you understand misdirection, you will be able to take 80% of the population and keep there mind going in a hundred directions at the same time, yet keep them focused on the task at hand. Misdirection is very much a clever necessity, and must be developed for each performers style.
In conclusion to this article, I hope that i have been able to answer some peoples questions and misconceptions about performing. I see alot of people that have so much trouble with this stuff. It has also been said that once you do something over and over, it gets easier every time. Now this is not gonna rid you of the butterflies on the first performance, or even the hundredth time you have performed, this article is more of a tool to help develop the basic necessities of magical performance. Practice makes perfect, and that phrase couldn't be anymore true to this art. I have been lucky to have been able to meet some great magicians, from Copperfield to McBride, to Denny Haney, and teller from penn and teller, so alot of this advice comes straight from the top, given to me as a magician, and me giving it to the community.
If you don't remember anything written here, remember this. "Disbelief, is the art you have chosen"