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mouliu
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My question is: as a magician, is it OK just to show tricks after tricks? How can we the novice do better than that? When should we the novice consider this issue at this period?

Background: I've been doing free shows in schools. The purpose is to buildup my set. So far so good (of course much room to improve). I start knowing which trick works and which not, polishing patters, testing new tricks, etc. I enjoy the process and so do the students and teachers.

Tonight, my magic teacher performed in a charity club gathering. I followed him and be his assisant. The setting wasn't nice: 50 tables and the farest one was almost 30 meters away, guests were having dinner (not concentrate), without microphone only music (that's my magic teacher's choice, but it's quite hard to talk given that the guest were having dinner and talking loudly), etc.

I watched him performing from backstage. Suddenly, I felt kind of sad. He was performing tricks after tricks (mostly very short rountine creating visual effects). Many of the guests just kept talking and appluse was rare (except from the m.c.). He didn't get the respect a magician deserves.

My second thought is, to what extent the set he plays cause the result? Just showing tricks after tricks ITSELF is a problem?

I compared it with my experience in schools. The students and teachers are very involved. Maybe my rountines involve more audience's participation, but, I don't really see a big difference from my teacher's set (in the sense of just showing tricks after tricks).

I'm kind of panic. Anyone points me to the right direction? Should there be a main theme throughout the set? Or, just forget it, simply make the set as perfect as possible first? Anyone here has similar worry? (i.e. just showing tricks after tricks is not good enough)

I'm confused.
A novice't reflection: I like watching my audience's jaws drop, but sadly in reality I'm just too busy to enjoy it. Smile
Frank Tougas
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There are three ways to avoid this type of thing. One is to group tricks into short routines where they appear to be one thing but consist of several individual tricks. (Ex.) Light a candle blow out match and it changes to a flower. Flower changes to a red silk, red silk vanished and candle blown out wrapped in paper and torn open to reveal the red silk, reach into your coat and produce a lit candle. (This seems to be one effect but is many).
The next method is by linking things with the words you use. Making some logical transitions between tricks by what is said. The last example is by telling a story and illustrating it with magic. What you pick depends on your skill level, your comfort level and your character. I am sure you will get lots of great advice here as there are many knowledgeable people who frequent this board.

Standby Smile


Frank Tougas
Frank Tougas The Twin Cities Most "Kid Experienced" Children's Performer :"Creating Positive Memories...One Smile at a Time"
Kent Wong
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Wow, that's a lot of points raised in one topic. I'll try to address as much of them as possible.

Your first question concerned the development of routines, acts and shows, as opposed to doing trick after trick. In your post, I believe you actually answered your own question. We are entertainers, and magic is simply the medium through which we entertain. So, which approach would be the most entertaining to an audience? In most cases, a well thought out performance that continues to build towards a climax will be much better received than simply performing the next trick that happens to come out of your pocket.

In addition to the flow of effects, you also need to concentrate on the transitions. This is how you move from one trick to another without sacrificing the rhythm of your performance or losing the attention of your audience. This is a much neglected area of magic.

As for when you should start focusing on routining and transitions, that answer is easy - do so immediately. When practicing a new trick, you will often practice the individual moves and then master that one trick until you feel absolutely comfortable with it. That is the first stage of practice.

Then, you combine that trick with several others so as to create a short routine that builds towards a strong climax. At the same time, you decide how you are going to transition from one trick to the next in the routine. Now, you practice the routine, complete with timing and patter. Consider this a full dress rehearsal that you need to repeat until it feels smooth and natural. Some people find it very beneficial to video tape themselves at this stage to they can address issues such as body posture, eye contact, verbal distractions, and other performance issues.

Once the routines have been practiced and perfected, you are ready to perform. I follow this procedure with each and every trick I purchase and I don't subject anyone to seeing the trick until it is ready.

As for the charity function that you witnessed, it sounds like there were many additional issued that led to the poor show. Here are some of my observations:

1. Poor Sound - if the audience can't hear you, they can't enjoy the show. He should have either insisted on a sound system or he should have brought his own. Even if the venue suggests that they have their own system, I always bring my own as a back up.

2. Poor Visibility - I wasn't sure from your post if the performance was on an elevated stage or platform. Just like with sound, it's hard to get anyone's attention if they can't see you.

3. Poor Audience Involvement - with a stage performance, it is always difficult to establish the same intimate relationship with your audience as in a close up setting. The stage itself is a formidable barrier. But it can be done and every effort should be made to involve the audience in the show (both emotionally and physically).

Hope that helps.
Kent
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calexa
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To be honest, I can't understand your teacher. Why is he using such a room, with music, but no micro??? He should have enough experience to see that this is a difficult setting.

Magixx
Optimists have more fun.....
mouliu
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Thanks guys, I'm suprised there're already 3 replies in such a short time. What a wonderful place themagiccafe is!

I read yours increditable advices again and again.

Quote:
There are three ways to avoid this type of thing. One is to group tricks into short routines where they appear to be one thing but consist of several individual tricks. (Ex.) Light a candle blow out match and it changes to a flower. Flower changes to a red silk, red silk vanished and candle blown out wrapped in paper and torn open to reveal the red silk, reach into your coat and produce a lit candle. (This seems to be one effect but is many).


ummm...to group tricks into short rountines. I did try to do it and gave up very soon. Now I've to rethink it. My experience is, I listed out 2 sets and asked a magician for comment, "how can I link them up? they seems to be isolated tricks without connection." he told me that, "The tricks are so diverse (e.g. rubberband, money, cards -- a few or this and a few of that) and you're not a pro, just showiing the tricks one by one is ok."

Later on when I tried my set, I grouped tricks with similar materials together (e.g. 2 rope tricks and then 2 floating tricks). That was the best "linking" I can do. But I have never thought about transition. After reading the advices, I guess I've to work on it.

Thanks Frank.

Quote:
On 2005-06-28 13:56, magicman845 wrote:
In most cases, a well thought out performance that continues to build towards a climax will be much better received than simply performing the next trick that happens to come out of your pocket.


Yes, totally agree. That's why I start to question my current way of doing magic.

Quote:
In addition to the flow of effects, you also need to concentrate on the transitions. This is how you move from one trick to another without sacrificing the rhythm of your performance or losing the attention of your audience. This is a much neglected area of magic.


Oh yes, I hope I'd have read such words earlier. In my (a few) performing experience, whenever I go to my "magic table" putting back and picking up props, audience starts to analyse the last trick. Sometimes, it takes some effort to get their attention back. And, I've to do it 12 times for a 13 tricks set! Before I didn't realize that's a problem. Now I do.

Quote:
As for when you should start focusing on routining and transitions, that answer is easy - do so immediately.


Thanks for replying my question that directly. Also, thanks for writing in details on how to incorporate a new trick to a set. That's really helpful.

About my teacher's show.
1. Poor sound - I didn't ask him, but I guess that's he may think his set doesn't make mcuh difference with or without microphone. By visual alone audience should be able to understand what's happening.

2. Poor Visibility - there was a elevated stage. but just too far away for some tables (30meters +).

Thanks Kent.

Quote:
To be honest, I can't understand your teacher. Why is he using such a room, with music, but no micro??? He should have enough experience to see that this is a difficult setting.


Magixx,

My teacher was invited to perform there. He had no choice of using which room.

There were 2 micros on m.c.'s hands. I wrote sth about that in the last reply. Just come to another idea: given that ppl were having dinner, talking loudly and walking around (you know, in that kind of charity function ppl walking around, making use of every possibilty to give out namecards and make connection), is there any difference with or withour micros? would talking without audience's attention worsen the scenario? I know a good performer should be able to catch audience's attention even in undesirable situations. But frankly I don't think a magician can do much about it in the scenario mentioned.

(Additional info. magic was just one of the performance in the gathering, there were dancing, karaok, etc.. followed., sth like varity show)
A novice't reflection: I like watching my audience's jaws drop, but sadly in reality I'm just too busy to enjoy it. Smile
calexa
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Well, if it wasn't possible to turn of the music (and you are right, a micro wouldn't have made any difference) maybe he should think about switching to some kind of table hopping performance.

I was working for example last weekend in a Hotel. They had an event with about 250 people, there was dancing, talking...., and there was also a magician. He just performed for one table at a time. Although it was very loud he was able to get people's attention on that table he was working. And it worked!

Magixx
Optimists have more fun.....
mouliu
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Magixx,

Running tables is probably the best way getting out of those constrains, I agree.

That's a big topic: how to run table under that setting? I guess there should have much discussion on the "table-hoppers" section.

In fact my teacher did some table-hopping afterward. In most tables he got nice response. I think it's the mindset of the party/gathering hosts matter: how to persuade them "on stage" isn't an appropriate way of showing magic under certain conditions. You know, they may not think their money worth if there's no fancy things (including a magician) on stage.

Luckily I don't need to deal with it at the moment. Rather than showing trick after trick, how to buildup my set is my immediate concern.
A novice't reflection: I like watching my audience's jaws drop, but sadly in reality I'm just too busy to enjoy it. Smile
abc
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South African in Taiwan
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Hi,
I live in Taipei but I am a South African. PM me if you want to meet up and we can have a chat and see if I can try to help you out a little. I am more of a comedian than magician but I may be able to offer some advice.
Maybe just have some coffee and be friends.
ABC
Kent Wong
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Mouliu,

I just realized where you were posting from! The cultural nuances of Hong Kong and Taiwan are markedly different from what we are used to here in North America. Although my previous advice on routining would certainly still apply, the audiences for which you perform are very different.

For instance, if the charity event your mentor performed at included a dinner of any sort, I am sure that most of the evening was focused on the food and the opportunity to socialize with everyone else at the table. I wouldn't be surprised if there were mah jong tables set up in the back of the room (I actually have experience playing in such circumstances). Any entertainment on the stage would have merely been a "background distraction" to anyone sitting just a few rows back. This is especially so if the performer was not able to use a microphone and interact directly with the audience.

In that type of a situation, your mentor would have been absolutely right to go with a pure silent routine, played to background music. Performed properly, this would have a lot of artistic appeal. But no matter what he did on stage, he should not expect to get a lot of reaction from the audience. In fact, he may not even be remembered.

Table hopping would also not have been appropriate if there was a meal involved in this event. Chinese meals come out at a farily quick pace, with a flurry of eating activity throughout the evening. It would be almost impossible to perform in the midst of all that chaos. I do know some people who do it - but it is very, very hard.

So, another key piece of advice is to thoroughly understand the background of your audience. That way, you will be better able to anticipate, understand and prepare for the audience responses (or lack thereof).

Kent
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rikbrooks
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I did a corporate gig last week. A local corporation was celebrating its 37th birthday. Before my stage performance I was doing some walk around. I didn't want to tip my hand. I didn't want to perform magic. My goal was to build up to the stage show. I wanted people to think "WHO was that?"

My appearance at the party hadn't been announced (I wanted it that way, was trying something out). So nobody had any idea that there would be a magician.

I would just walk around and do very quick tricks. I might walk up to a group and say, "Hey, look." Then do Schneider's 'Source'. 10 seconds with a silver dollar, 3 vanishes, 3 productions, 2 penetrations - no words.

Then I'd just smile and amble off to the next group while 'hooking up' my Raven. Then came my performance, a smoke machine and a PA and when I walked out from behind the tent flap I heard at least a dozen people say, "That's HIM, that's the guy!"

It all depends on how you work it. Sometimes wham bam works.
mouliu
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Kent,
Yes, that night's situation was just as what you described, except no mahjong table Smile

Rikbrooks,
Quick table-hopping before going on stage? I see you point -- to buildup one' s magician image before on stage. Thanks.
A novice't reflection: I like watching my audience's jaws drop, but sadly in reality I'm just too busy to enjoy it. Smile
Jaxon
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A lot of advice has already been given but I think I should point out one more thing.

Overlooking the quality of the performer (which I obviously don't know). One thing you mentioned can have a huge effect on an audience. Probably more then most people realize. That's the fact that you said all the tables where pretty spread out. In other words the show was over here but the audience was over there (And probably there, there and there too) So it wasn't "An audience" it was "This group and that group" and all of them weren't in the performers turf. So basically there was no audience but a room full of on lookers.

One time I did a kids show and they had all the kids seated along the wall of the room while I performed in the middle. When I asked for an assistant not one hand went up. So I started to do a different trick that didn't require an assistant. For my next trick I still couldn't get any of them to come up and join me. I finally had all the kids come and sit on the floor in the middle of the room a few feet in front of me. I did one more trick where I basically had one of the kids help me but I didn't ask them if they would. I just handed one of them the prop and made the magic happen with it. Then I asked for a volunteer and just about every hand in the room shot up. From then on I had no trouble getting them involved. They where raising their hand at the end of each trick even when I didn't ask for it.

The distance of the audience makes a huge difference in their response to a show. This might have been the case with your teacher. Him doing "trick after trick" may have been the result of him trying to find something to wake the audience up. That's a scary place to be because before long we'd start to use our "not so good" material because we are running out of options.

There's a thing entertainers call "The third wall." This is the invisible wall between the entertainer the spectators. What this third wall does is separates them from the show. It's more like watching a television. It's not something you're a part of but something you just witness. Breaking through this third wall means to make them feel a part of the show. That this is live and they can be more then an observer. Their applaud, laughter and other type of responses are actually a part of the show. The spectators kind of feel like you are performing for them personally even though they are only one among many. It's not an easy thing to learn and it's almost impossible to teach how to do. What you need to have in order to break through this third wall is experience, preparation and confidence.

I hope that give another angle to think about. That fact that you say you're a novice and already thinking about these things is impressive.

Ron Jaxon
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After regaining my ability to hear after 20 years of deafness. I learned that there is magic all around you. The simplest sounds that amazed me you probably ignore. Look and listen around you right now. You'll find something you didn't notice before.
mouliu
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Jaxon,

The idea of "the third wall" you raised is really insightful. I can imagine how distance and setting affected the atmosphere of the kids show you mentioned. I was a teacher before, taught mentally challenged kids and autistic kids, who relatively speaking have low attention span. They like visual things and to be involved. Somehow I think most audience (except those buying tickets for magic shows) are similar with the kids I taught Smile
A novice't reflection: I like watching my audience's jaws drop, but sadly in reality I'm just too busy to enjoy it. Smile
abc
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I haven't really given my opinion here but here goes in any case. The big difference culturally here is the way people treat meals. Having lived here and perfromed here if I knew they were going to eat while I was on I would have declined the show. I don't need the money that badly so I am in a good position to decline shows but there is also another reason. You need to market yourself while performing and there is no way to do that when attention is not focussed on you. That counts for anywhere in the world.
But meals here are an opportunity for people to have conversations drink some beers and have a good time and it is very different to the way it is perceived by people that do not know chinese people. They spend hours in KTV and I have made some of my best money where friends asked me to do 10 minutes in a KTV before they start singing. (I usually end up spending the money on KTV and beers with them in any case) In my personal opinion the magicians here are excellent but under appreciated. I have seen guys do some card manipulations that have left me stunned. (from a skill and practise point of view). You have to consider the way they approach studying and why they are excellent at math orientated subjects. They work like machines.
The problem is to find the right mix that matches the culture and I am not sure that that has been done yet. Japan has a competition where people see how quickly they can arrange a shuffled pack of cards in order. (Hideo Kato may have more info I have just seen some video footage and it is quite impressive) That would never be impressive where I come from but it is very impressive here. Magic that revolves around challenges of "skill" seems to be much more effective here. They play a game called "DA LAO ER" which translates to Big old two and I have done sets just using the card game as a reference. They love that. Then I have seen people do card manipulations and as great as it is they are not impressed and get the usual "WOW .....where is my beer?" I have done things using the money that they burn for the deceased and have had great responses to stupid tricks and I have done some very dificult but excellent tricks where the effect have been so so.
I find that magicians are using DVD's and books based on what western people like and then performing these tricks. Where my sleight of hand ability has declined my presentation ability has become much better. You have to understand what they want to see and I agree routining is probably the most important but you have to routine around what they know. My magic mentor once said to me if I have just had a great meal and you produce a chicken sandwich I would not be as impressed as I would when I am hungry. The same applies here except a bowl of noodles or rice would be much more impressive than a sandwich. I think that the magicians here are struggling for identity but when they get it down everyone would know about them. They are really good. They need to stop being like western magicians and start being like eastern magicians. The talent is here. I hope it comes to live soon. I have seen guys perform in the night markets here that are excellent but not pro because of the lack of money. As sick as this may sound I get twice what a chinese magicains gets for a show because I am a foreigner. In principle that is wrong but I have over the past few months realized what works here and what doesn't for me as a foreigner but I still need to figure out exactly what will work for a chinese magician. The way people perceive religion and the supernatural has a huge impact on how they appreciate and view magic. The same applies here and once you get the right mix you will be very successful. You have to play with it and make your show entertaining to the audience. I have done shows here where the MC translates it into taiwanese because the audience is older and they speak taiwanese not so much chinese and because there are things you can say in one language that you can't say in another. So many things to say and so little space but that is basically my point of view as unstructured as it came out.
Azaziel
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Remember when you do your tricks. slow your pace.. let them be absorbed by your audience..If no reaction happens it doesn't mean it didn't happen on the inside..
The greatest tick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.
Erdnase27
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I always tell a story into a routine. like osterlind does. a smaa=ll storythen the routine very sloly. let evrtything absorb, after trick story etc:)
"He must be content to rank with the common herd." - S.W. Erdnase
jnrussell
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I've been doing magic off and on for 50 years. It was just in the last 18 months that I began to use the "routining" concept. I used to do "my first trick", then "my second trick", then "now for my next trick", etc.

I like tying several together. It makes sense of the tricks, makes them last longer, and keeps one from becoming a puzzle to solve.

Can't believe it took so long for me to get this!
John Russell
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djurmann
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Read Eugene Burger's mastering the art of magic. The advantage of forums like this is the wealth of information it affords. The disadvantage of forums like this is you don't really know who is giving the advice.
Drosselmeyer
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Mouliu,
You are a very good student and have keen sense of observation. I am struck by the feelings you expressed in your post: "I watched him performing from backstage. Suddenly, I felt kind of sad."

This alone tells you much. Go with your gut instincts. You have the answer at hand. No, it is not good enough to do trick after trick.

Also, you were able to identify the problems with the venue, how the gig was organized and how this impacted the quality of the final performance. You will be able to control some of this by being careful how you book your performances.

No reason for you to panic. You certainly have situational awareness!
Regards,

--Drosselmeyer
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