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Loyal user
Valparaiso, IN
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Profile of Popo
I have to first admit that I have not read all of the posts on this topic so I may be repeating something. If I am then ignore me(I'm used to it, I have a wife and kids!)

I've read some posts about using choreographers and directors. I believe wholeheartedly that one needs to to take their performance to another level. What I have not seen is talk of who critiques your performance prior to taking out to the public? I've seen people talk about their friends and collegues. Yet, I do not believe that they can be the most objective for a couple of reasons.

First, their closeness to you will influence their critique as well as your reception of it. This will be true no matter who. This does not mean that their input is not valuable, just not the most objective. Also, they are not who you are going to be performing in front of. The way they watch a performance and how a "layperson" will watch may be worlds apart. I have seen the posts that pontificate about performing for an audience before one is ready. Yet, short of taping your performance and letting people see it and critique it, how do you get that feedback that is so valuable to putting together a show that is not only technically correct but highly entertaining to the widest audience possible for you?
Jon Gallagher
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Veteran user
Elmwood, Illinois
395 Posts

Profile of Jon Gallagher
In my experience, I've just added a couple of new things at a time after extensive practice sessions.

For example, I recently put a jumbo McCombical Prediction into my act. I had it for several years long ago, but it never got a great reaction. I sat down over the summer, and came up with what I thought was a good routine. I went backwards, from the climax to the introduction as I wrote. Then I went forward and rewrote.

I rehearsed it for about a month, getting the jokes down, getting the handling down, then video taping myself. My wife and kids thought I was crazy and that it would never fly for an audience.

We tested it for our annual Ring banquet. Granted, the audience was made up of mostly magicians, but it got a great response. I tested again for another magician's banquet. Finally, I sprang it on a lay audience. The reaction was good in all three cases.

I'll be using it more and more often until it becomes almost a habit. Then it'll be time to add something new. Right now, I'm working on Kevin James' Floating Rose and have been since January. It should be ready to perform in public by June.

I learned my lesson about performing things before I was ready. Your reputation is on the line each time and when I realized that (some 20 years ago), rehearsal became VERY important.


Hey! I'm finally a Dot Com!
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149 Posts

Profile of magicmonkeyphoto
I think starting with your family and friends can be good, or bad. If you are lucky enough to know some top notch quallity pro magicians, try and get them to help. If they are pros, they should be able to look at it from a lay audience's perspective. After you go thru all that, and you think it is possibly ready for regular folks, consider doing a show for free with the understanding that the audience is to fill out cards that you will have printed out with questions you will want answered. It works for the movie biz!

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Big Daddy Cool
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The Houdini Room at The Casa de Cool
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Start a super group. I and a very small group of workers in Nashville get together regularly to critique and brainstorm. It is very valuable time.
Swing hard, swing often, and we'll catch ya on the Flip-Side!
John Pyka
Stephen Barney
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I use a peer group review and a couple of people who I consider masters in their trade. My main mentor is rarly wrong in his apprasal of my work. Some times it is not what you want to hear but it is always what you need to hear.
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Profile of stevesmagic
I am a firefighter and my colleagues are the most cynical bunch of guys you could meet. Their honesty of the value of my performance and choice of effect is invaluable. If they are impressed I will perform this to anyone!!
to the blue sky at the top of the hill...
Brent McLeod
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New Zealand
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Usually I use a top pro magician/entertainer with a reputation who does similar shows to myself.
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Independence, KY USA
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Profile of RonCalhoun
May I suggest using a video camera at your stand-up shows? You'll be shocked to see what the audience really sees.
Alan Munro
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Kentwood, Michigan, USA
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Profile of Alan Munro
I think that the audience should critique the show, based on their reactions during the show. A video camera is great for this, as well as a tape recorder hidden in the audience.

An amateur magician should start with a very short act and gain experience from that. The point is that it's a great motivator to get in front of an audience early and often. Then when you have a little experience, add a little more material to the repertoire.
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Profile of onezero1
I have a group of young friends who care nothing for method or magic as an art, they just want to see "something cool". Whenever I meet them, it's always, "Any new tricks, Ben man?" They are as lay as laymen can be. To them a trick is either "OK", "COOL!", "WHAT THE???" or sometime's, "Aah, it's alright". (Which means its boring.)

I find them to be a most satisfactory barometer of an effects impact.
'though it stands to reason that a samurai should be mindful of the would seem that we are all negligent.
Nick Wait
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Lichfield, UK
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All great advice, you've got to get an insight into everyone's reactions. Videotapes are the best.
Brad Lancaster
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You are right concerning the closeness issue of family and friends, but if you are fortunate enough to get their input, take it. The bottom line is, initially they will be your only gauge in building your show.

The type of show that you are talking about is only developed through performance. In other words, you have to be ready to fall on your face. I don't care how many months you have taken to fine tune and polish your routine or how much time was invested in finding the "right" costuming, lighting, music, and props. Not until your show has been performed several times under various conditions will you have a show that is not only technically correct, but highly entertaining to the widest audience possible.
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106 Posts

Criticising An Act. When you begin to put an act together start with as few tricks as possible. 3 maybe 4 to begin with. You need a good attention grabbing NOT short (2 to 3 mins) Opener. This must be routined to enable you to CONTACT , CONTROL & HOLD an audience. It must have the effect of making an audience LIKE you. Then the follow up cements this thn the main trick and a closer. The closer must not be too long. Leave 'em wanting more. Now to the criticism. Your family and friends make a good start to run the Act through. They will (if a normal lot) have very little to offer in the way of CONSTRUCTIVE criticism BUT it helps run the act in. NEVER (unless he/she is very experienced in magic and holding audiences,and you trust their standards) ask another magician. They will tend to see it from the point of view of @how THEY would do it' Usually you then get their own routine, normally explained in a long, very boring way. If you know of an experienced (amateur or professional) Theatre person who are used to dealing with pace, flow, audibility, atmosphere etc.; in other words the facets of a theatrical performance. Ask them to look at the Act. The video camera is useful mainly for checking moves, handling, angles perhaps..nothing more. It only has ONE eye and that eye is relentlessly focussed forward , often in one direction. If you want to measure an audience's reactions then put a small cassette recorder nearby and listen afterwards. Then you'll hear which gags registered at that PARTICULAR performance and hopefully know where you miss timed or had 'dead spots' when nothing was happening. If only you could get a friend to video the audiences' faces & reactions. That would be useful. In the end you have to teach yourself to observe and listen to your own act outside of the performance you're giving. To do this takes several years and you need to know the Act, backwards, forwards, upside down et. Rehearse. Rehearse. This is NOT practice ie the moves BUT the ENTIRE act even down to the shoes you;re going to wear.
Allen Tipton
Allen Tipton began magic at 9.Joined Staffs. Magic Soc at 14. President 8 times Guild Of Magicians Nottingham UK IBM member.1980 reproduced Dante's Show & made Magician Of Month by IBM Intern.President.Currently writing Dear Magician series in Abra magazi
Brent McLeod
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New Zealand
1678 Posts

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I also believe you have to dissect certain routines & work backwards from there as "Jon Gallagher" mentions above.

I was having trouble with a Silk To Egg Routine -& completley reworked it & tried it on 2 magic club audiences - then a large dinner party & then finally a Lay audience.

The effect got the reactions I wanted but this was hard work & lots of tinkering with a routine to suit me - but I needed the critical aspect to get there.
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