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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Time after time » » First-Time Performance Story (I Flopped!) (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

hoodrat
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Southern California
383 Posts

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I have been collecting and practicing various mentalism and mindreading effects over the past five years. I really prefer this branch of magic. I am seriously thinking about advertising myself later this year to perform at parties, etc., as a side gig.

Last night, a friend of mine invited me for a New Year's Eve dinner party and wanted me to bring along some effects to do. Well, I worked up a 45 minute routine that I would like to start doing later this year as a hired mentalist at parties, etc. I practiced all this past week at home by myself, and I carefully thought through most of the routine and the order of the effects which culminated in a "grand finale" type of effect. I think my routine is interesting and would go over well with a small audience.

I basically start out showing them some visual illusions on large sheets of paper and proving that our minds don't always see things correctly in reality. Often we can all be looking at the same thing and yet be totally unaware that there is also something else there of equal importance that we just don't see. Or, we can be led to believe that we are seeing two different things at the same time, yet the two things are exactly the same even though our brains and eyes tell us they aren't and cannot possibly be the same thing. This segues nicely into some mentalism effects using decks of cards where I prove that what the spectator sees isn't what necessarily really happens in reality. Then the routine sort of segues into the idea of free choice and whether we truly do have free will when it comes to making a decision, etc. This leads into other mindreading/predicting effects.

When I went to my friend's house where the dinner party was at, I arrived carrying a big, heavy box full of my props and equipment (i.e. Mental Epic board, decks of cards, envelopes, pens, etc.) I had a lot of stuff! However, at the party, I suddenly got very self-conscious and embarrassed when they finally asked me to do some effects after dinner. I basically "chickened out" and said no. I knew everybody who was at the party except for one person, so it wasn't like they were all total strangers. I just felt really self-conscious about sharing my routine and my mentalism effects. I guess I just didn't have the confidence that I could pull it off even though some of my friends there have seen other effects I've done in the past and were saying how good I was, etc.

So...all that work and preparation for nothing, I guess. It's sort of a letdown in a way.

Is this common to experience "stage fright" like that? I guess it probably is. I've never yet performed a 45-minute routine like that for anybody, so I guess the lack of performance experience would equate to nervousness. I also hadn't yet performed many of the effects in my routine for anybody (i.e. Mental Epic, Flashback book test, etc.). How does everybody else deal with this situation? How do you "break in" to performing? I guess you just have to do it -- take that leap of faith (after practicing!) and go out there and do your stuff. I really wish there was a local magician's club where I could go to "try out" my routine on a sympathetic and helpful audience to get their feedback.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this story. Happy New Year!
eddieloughran
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It's always hard to try out any new thing in public. I think one of your problems was that you took too big a leap. Walking before running, and all that. Forty-five minutes for a first show was very ambitious.

You must try again, but next time only plan on three or so effects. Or even one.
Don't take loads of gear, do it very low key. It goes without saying that you need to be well rehearsed and have a prepared script.

The work and preparation is not for nothing. If fact the lack-of-performance has taught you a lot.

Many people find public shows hard at first. The first effect is the hardest. Make it a simple, short one, that can't go wrong and you don't have to think about.
JasonV
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Although I'm really just a beginner, I had pretty much the same experience. I've spent the last six months practicing card tricks just as a hobby. I've been showing new tricks to a few friends at parties and such. It was at the staff Christmas party that I basically did the same thing. The boss heard I did magic and casually asked if I'd do a few tricks at the Christmas party. Nothing serious, it's just a small party. I said sure and spent the several weeks practicing tricks, deciding on bits of a routine, etc.

When I got there and had to start, everything 'fell apart'. I had envisioned going up to a group of people, having everyone watch me and be interested. What I hadn't (and couldn't have) prepared for were the people. I did a simple trick to start. Afterwards, some people started talking and not watching me for my second trick. That threw me off, and I got nervous. I decided to try a different trick which required a bit of misdirection... But, one person was sitting there STARING at my hands... I had no idea how to misdirect them...

Anyhow, I managed to keep going. Luckily (?) it seems not everyone was that interested, so I just did a few simple self-working type tricks and everyone was pleased.

BUT (here's the good news) I did learn a lot from that. I kept doing tricks at parties for friends and things and paid a lot more attention to how I was feeling and learning to judge people. About a month later I was asked to do tricks at another party for a friend. This time things went really well.

I didn't try to 'force' everyone to watch my magic. When two people started talking between tricks I realized they weren't interested and 'cut them out' of audience; turning to the others and saying, 'Let me show you something else.' There was one guy who was very analytical and basically figured out one of my tricks. I was able to change the subject and get him to participate in a trick I knew he wouldn't be able to figure out, and quickly restore the 'magical' feeling of the presentation.

I also didn't even try tricks unless I could do them flawlessly. Not that I wouldn't have been able to do the more difficult tricks, but that my confidence was higher because I knew I wouldn't have to do them. And that confidence gave me more 'control' over the atmosphere of my presentation.
calexa
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Inner circle
Germany
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Thanks for sharing your experiences! I know that feeling.

When I started my work in an adult education center about three years ago, I nearly panicked. I have never done something like this before, and I was so nerveous.

And now I have my first kids' show this year in June, and my first show in front of adults in July. Well, it´s again something completely new for me, and I know what kind of feelings I will have then.

Magixx
Optimists have more fun.....
Cliffg37
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Long Beach, CA
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Hey there hoodrat,

Are we neighbors? You are listed in Southern California, so I wonder if I might know you.

Listen, you tried to take an awful big bite with a 45-minute show on unfamiliar turf.

May I suggest starting with a five or 10-minute routine (my first was built to run 10 minutes, but applause and laughter made it a bit longer).

And do your short routine at your own house, or at a friend's house, but not on the spot. Maybe in front of a few friends or family who will be on your side if you mess up something.

It takes guts to be "on stage" the first time, and it is tough to prepare for no matter what you do. If we are neighbors, let's talk and maybe we can help you out.

Cliff
Magic is like Science,
Both are fun if you do it right!
weepinwil
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USA
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I usually find friends harder to perform for than strangers.
"Til Death us do part!" - Weepin Willie
Pete W.
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Coffeyville, KS
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Reading some of those experiences bring back memories...I mean, nightmares.

All of us have gone through similar circumstances. I know it's hard to believe now, but you also will look back and realize that the only way to overcome "flops" is by experience. I perform weekly in restaurants and nothing beats experience.

Oh, yes, I still "flop" occasionally. Rarely does anyone notice, though.

You learn from mistakes. And each mistake makes you better. HONEST!

By the way, I still get a little nervous approaching that first customer of the evening, and I've been doing this stuff for years!
"Amatuers perform different tricks for the same people. Professionals perform the same tricks for different people."...Al Goshman
tabman
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USA
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Wow!! 45 minutes is a long set even for a pro. Put your best stuff into a shorter set, ten or 15 minutes, and it will fly by. You'll have a blast and the audience will too. Thanks for sharing your story too.

-=tabman
...Your professional woodworking and "tender" loving care in the products you make, make the wait worthwhile. Thanks for all you do...

http://Sefalaljia.com
MikeDes
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Inner circle
Montreal
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Quote:
On 2005-01-15 16:11, weepinwil wrote:
I usually find friends harder to perform for than strangers.


I agree with you. Give me an audience of five people that I know and I can't do it. Take these same five people and put them with 100 people I don't know and I am fine. Go figure.
ashah
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Same is true with me. Friends are harder to perform for because:

a) They know you and your mannerisms, so it is more difficult to fool them with misdirection and your magic persona.
b) They have no qualms about trying to expose you or grabbing something out of your hands or discussing theories about how your trick was done. Strangers won't do that because it's impolite.
ashah
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Hoodrat: In addition to the length of your show, one of the other reasons that you were nervous is that you were not entirely comfortable with many of your routines. You said that, for many of your routines, it was your first time performing them for an audience. I try to never perform more than one new thing in a given show, because it would be too overwhelming.
SmoothAM
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I plan to do my debut show very soon. I am preparing 5 or 6 very good effects to use, and am currently practicing them and trying to plan out my show. I don't really know what to expect, but I am very shy, so the 1st show will probably prove to make me very nervous!
tabman
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USA
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Quote:
SmoothAM wrote: I am very shy, so the 1st show will probably prove to make me very nervous!


Many great performers are shy individuals. Just imagine the entire audience in their underwear and you'll do just fine!!!

-=tabman
...Your professional woodworking and "tender" loving care in the products you make, make the wait worthwhile. Thanks for all you do...

http://Sefalaljia.com
ashah
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And think of yourself not as a magician, but as "an actor playing the part of a magician". You can be a shy guy (Clark Kent) in real life, but become Superman when you're in front of the audience.
snap
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New York, USA
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I agree about having a shorter first show, but no matter how short it is, you're still, most likely, going to get nervous. My first performance was with an after-school program, and all I did was a cups and balls routine. Even then my hands were shaking like a leaf. It all depends on you, really. What you're prone to and how you react in front of people. What I've found is that, when I get nervous, I just stop a minute, take a deep breath, and imagine the best possible way it could go. Imagine how much applause you'll get at the end. Now I still get nervous when performing a new effect infront of a fairly large crowd, but now I enjoy the adrenaline rush. I hope this little tip helps!
**--snap--**
Brent McLeod
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New Zealand
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Hoodrat-

Put it down to experience-although a tough one!

Work on a shorter routine: 2-3 effects you know backwards & that are effective.

You will have to show just 1 of these to close family members first, before you perform in public. This will build your confidence & before long you will be performing a 10 minute set of good strong effects for strangers.

We all get nervous. The only consolation is knowing that you will overcome this in time.

Perform effects that really entertain your audience, even if it's a favorite effect. Drop it if you don't get the reactions you expect.

First, try 1 effect at a time, in front of someone whose opinion you respect. Maybe another magician? Then, move on to another, etc.

You will find in time thatyou are confident in what you are showing people & the nerves won't be as bad.

Good Luck. We all go through this.

-Brent
SmoothAM
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Thanks for the advice guys!
Winks
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Arizona
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The worst audience you can have is one composed of friends or worse...family. I have been professionally "in front" of people (not magic, I'm a clergyman) for 29 years. The hardest times are when family are present. I can well appreciate you being self conscious. If possible, start with some type of venue made up of strangers. Then, tell yourself you will never see those people again and go out and knock 'em dead.
Brian M.
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Winks is 100% correct. Perform for strangers if possible, or try your new material out at your local magic club.

Performing for other magicians is probably the most nerve wracking. However, if you make a few mistakes, it won't matter as much and you may get some constructive criticism. If fact, if you try to make it a habit of trying out your routines each month, you'll gain confidence from being in front of people on a regular basis. It's all about "flight time".

Brian
Nick Wait
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Lichfield, UK
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Quote:
On 2005-01-19 15:43, ashah wrote:
Same is true with me. Friends are harder to perform for because:

a) They know you and your mannerisms, so it is more difficult to fool them with misdirection and your magic persona.
b) They have no qualms about trying to expose you or grabbing something out of your hands or discussing theories about how your trick was done. Strangers won't do that because it's impolite.



I agree totally, audience management is so much hader in an informal setting.
Nick
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