(Close Window)
Topic: Practice vs. Performance
Message: Posted by: Kent Wong (May 1, 2006 12:52PM)
I'm quite fortunate to be in regular contact with many of the magicians in my City. We often get together to discuss magic and practice tricks upon one another. But practicing in front of friends or other magicians can't take the place of a real, live performance.

Here is a case in point. One magician friend of mine is extremely adept at cards and coins. Technically, I don't ever hope to reach the same degree of proficiency that he has already attained. But I had never seen him perform live for a lay audience until the other night.

A few of us had gotten together and then decided to go out for a drink afterwards. The bar was pretty busy and one of the guys decided he would show the waitress a card trick. That was painful in itself. When the waitress came over, here is what he said,

[guy]: Do you like magic?
[waitress]: Umm ... I guess. ...
[guy]: Great! Pick a card.

Now, like I said, the bar was busy. The waitress was just coming over to check on our drinks. She clearly didn't have time (or interest) to suffer through a card trick. To her credit though, she sat through the trick and was politely "amazed".

Then it got worse. My young magician friend suddently jumped out of his chair and swept right into a coins across routine. There was no introduction. The patter was almost non-existent. And the technical moves were even worse. Instead of coins flying from one hand to another, the coins kept falling to the floor as he got more and more flustered. The effect finally ended with the waitress saying something like, "Umm .. that was really ... Interesting".

Then she left. And she never came back. For the next hour, I was sitting there nursing an empty coffee cup, knowing it would never get refilled. Can't say as I blame her.

But it was a shocking revelation to me that some magicians, who are so technically proficient, relaxed and friendly when practicing in front of other magicians can come across so differently when performing in real life. It was also a glaring reminder that performance is a fine blend of presentation and technique. If either is lacking, it spoils the recipe.

Message: Posted by: Cory Gallupe (May 1, 2006 02:14PM)
Oh, it makes YOU feel embarrased when you see something like that. You feel so bad for the person. I know the feeling. It sounds like he doesn't have much experience to me.
Message: Posted by: Magicshore (May 1, 2006 02:16PM)

Sounds like your friend may have just been showing off to your group and the waitress was merely a target. But then again..there are some performers who can be great at slight of hand but lacking in the skills of presentation. Sounds like his timing was bad also since the place was busy.
Message: Posted by: Kent Wong (May 1, 2006 02:58PM)
Part of being a good magician is also knowing when NOT to perform. By performing in that situation, the waitress was being prevented from serving her other tables. Other customers were being neglected and she was losing money.

But if you are going to perform, make sure you are ready. Make sure the technique and the presentation are second nature.

Message: Posted by: dominik (May 1, 2006 03:08PM)
I had a similar experience, except not nearly as embarrassing, plus I got over it more quickly.

Practiced like crazy, and when I was to do the thing for real, live spectators, I did ... um ... who... why ... what the.... oh my...
You get the idea!

Now that I perform magic on a regular basis, most of the nervousness has just faded away. I still get a bit nervous in front of most spectators, and a bit more nervous in front of (a few) others, but its more thrill than fear. Usually everything works fine, and it FEELS JUST GREAT!

One point of advice though:

NEVER, EVER perform for a waitress when she is busy!! The ones I know make for a great audience once their shift is over. If they know you, they might even approach YOU and ask you to perform something for them or "do the trick with the 4 kings / coins / whatever for so-and-so".

(Which btw is a nice compliment for you and makes you feel like practicing and performing 24/7.)

Also I have to add, though I still do the knucklebusters, one of the most requested items that I do now is like the easiest trick in the world. Don't be afraid of simplicity!
Message: Posted by: Jaz (May 1, 2006 03:32PM)
That was not a good time.

Technical ability is great providing you have the presentation to back it up.

You can sit in front of your mirror or camera and get all the technical aspects as right as rain and prepare what you're going to say. Go before a live audience and the nerves can take control and things are not what was imagined.
Totally different game but the most important part learning in mu opinion.
Message: Posted by: Cory Gallupe (May 1, 2006 04:27PM)
Very true. Nothing will get you as prepared as you need to be exept for live audiences.
Message: Posted by: JackScratch (May 1, 2006 09:54PM)
Ah,the X or X discussion. Why must it always be like this. To start with, you can practice till your fingers fall of, you still won't be a magician. Script, Block, Edit, Rehearse, Repeat. And when I say rehearse, I do not mean practice. There are a lot of things missing in this story that no amount of practice, or live performance is likely to solve, and even if it did, it would likely solve it at the needless expense of countless audiences.

There is no substitute for experience, this is true, but there is no excuse for a lack or preparation. The audience has done nothing to deserve it.
Message: Posted by: Matt Malinas (May 2, 2006 04:53AM)
The timing was definetly not good. but then again , I am sure you all know those times when you feel prepared or you are anxious to show a trick that you love to someone and just perform. you can't help it. it happened to me a few times.
the reactions were not that great of course but it was allright.
what I think is that this friend of yours' is spending a lot of time practicing sleights but never takes into consideration the presentation. and he doesn't perform for laymen. that is a downside. performing for laymen is the best practice you can get.
he will eventually realize that something is not working and maybe he'll focus on his presentation.

Message: Posted by: rikbrooks (May 2, 2006 12:20PM)
That happens. It's the worst when you are first starting out. You aren't ready for it and it broadsides you. You've heard the horror stories so you practice, then more. You do it in front of other magicians, friends, you are ready, everyone says that you are ready. Here you go, it's a stranger, he smiles at you, sure, show me a trick.

Then you forget your own name! Ummm, I'm uhhh, a well... I uhhh.

First day with the new tongue?

However, it gets better. The good news is that it's never again quite so bad as the first time. Now, if I'm showing something new I start with something I do SO well and then move into the new. By then I'm not so nervous again.

For me, maybe for others too, the moment that I do the first thing right, I fall into a groove and it's all smooth sailing from there.
Message: Posted by: dominik (May 2, 2006 12:41PM)
For me, maybe for others too, the moment that I do the first thing right, I fall into a groove and it's all smooth sailing from there.

I still remember the first night I performed more than just one trick or two for a few strangers. After the first trick it hard, it was all smooth sailing on cloud 9. What a feeling!
Message: Posted by: Kent Wong (May 2, 2006 01:17PM)
Yup, I remember when I first got started in magic, my hands would shake uncontrollably when doing even the simplest of tricks. Over time, confidence and performing ability improve and things do get better. Some of this is just a natural evolution in performing ability.

The really shocking thing about my previous story, however, was that these guys didn't consider themselves to be beginners. One of them even performs paid gigs, and they're both members of the IBM! That's why I was so shocked. Maybe it was just an off night for them - I am, after all, an eternal optimist.

Message: Posted by: rikbrooks (May 2, 2006 04:01PM)
Being a member of IBM does not guarantee that you are any good. It does improve the chances though.