Still Becoming a Magician

September 28, 2011

I don’t usually like to toot my own horn, so:

Warning:  The following blog entry contains several examples of mild to moderate self horn tooting.  Those with weak constitutions beware.

Exactly one year ago yesterday, I began this blog.

But that’s not all I began.  I began my journey to become a magician and to finally live my dream.  In one short year, I’ve gone from having done nothing to having done a renaissance fair, 2 anime conventions, a few birthday parties, some festivals, and I’ve even gotten a recurring gig at a local restaurant.  No one could possibly be more impressed with this than me.

And it is at this point, one year in, that I am struck with how accidentally brilliant the title of this blog is.  Let me explain.  At the start, I figured I would document my path toward becoming a professional, working, magician; I was becoming a magician, and at some point in the future, I reasoned,  I would BE a magician.  End of blog.  However, even now that I feel pretty comfortable calling myself a magician, I am constantly seeing ways to become better and grow as an artist and entertainer.  So I’m at a strange point in my journey now.  I can look back and see I’ve come a long way and I can look forward and see I still have a long way to go.  Thankfully, I don’t have to go alone.  The support from my wife, family, and friends has been remarkable and not only could I not have come this far without it, but, the way ahead wouldn’t look so bright without it either.  So thanks to all of you.

Now I begin the next steps.

Speaking of which, I took one last night.  I’ll set the scene:  a busy restaurant full of families, kids everywhere, and me, strolling from table to table entertaining one group after another.  I’ve worked there for a few months now, and have been really excited about putting all the theory about that type of performing to practice.  Since I’m only at each table for about 5 minutes, I only need 5 or 6 different tricks for any given night that I just do over and over again for each new audience.  There is no better way to get good at a magic trick than being able to perform it 20-30 times in a row for different, real audiences.  It’s been tremendous for both my skill and confidence.  So here’s what happened:  I’m at a table doing my stuff when all of a sudden there is sort of a shift in my brain.  I noticed that I wasn’t thinking about doing the trick.  It was more like I was in my head watching myself do the trick.  I could even hear myself talking.  That’s when I realized that I was on auto-pilot.  I had done the routine and performed the script so many times that I didn’t even have to think about it anymore and my body would just take over.  I knew it so well it was like a reflex.  I’ve heard of other performers doing this.  I thought all of this to myself while the trick was still going on without missing a beat.

I knew that I was at a crossroad (not the blues kind… well, could be, I guess).  I could use the power for laziness and just space out and wait to regain awareness in the car after the show, or, I could use the power for the growth of my abilities.  Luckily, I chose the second one.  My big (and when I say big, I mean BIG) goal as a performer is to express myself through my craft.  When I get done with a show I want people to feel like they got to know me; I want to be genuine and real on stage not some generic rabbit-puller.  So, seeing the opportunity, I reengaged myself with the performance.  I saw that when I knew I didn’t have to worry about the mechanics of the trick (my hands know what they’re doing), I was able to actually be present and communicate more openly and respond to the audience more genuinely. In short, I was able to let more of myself come through.  In shorter, I got real.

This is a huge step forward for me.  In the past, my anxiety about performing lead me to use the script as a crutch.  If I didn’t have everything I was going to say planned out beforehand, I would just get too nervous to do it.  And if something unexpected happened, or something got me off track… forget about it.  Don’t get me wrong, I still get nervous, probably always will, and I’ll probably always need a script of some kind but, I think I’m  slowly gaining the ability through experience to go off script, interact with the audience, then return to the script when I need to.  I’ve always been in awe of performers who can do that well, and frustrated that there’s no method in a book that tells you how.  Turns out, you can’t learn everything from books.  Some things you can’t learn until you learn them and you don’t know how it happened.

So now it seems that the “magician” in “Becoming a Magician” is not just the name of a job.  The magician is an image of myself as the performer, artist, entertainer, and person that I want to be and that I am working everyday to become.  So stick with me.  My journey is far from over.

I Need Structure

October 4, 2010

Well, it is now October 4, and that means I’ve got less than five weeks till the big show.  Since I’ve already decided on the set list, it’s time I began more structured practice sessions.  The last few weeks, in my practice, I’ve mainly been “playing,” getting used to the props, trying out a lot of different moves and such, but now it’s time to buckle down.  I’m going to pick one effect from my act and work on it and it alone each day, giving equal time to each piece.  No more funny business. In the week and a half or so before the event, I’ll move to the next step, rehearsal.  Then I’ll run through the entire show start to finish without stopping.  Rehearsal is really hard to do for me.  In the past, I’ve mainly focused on practicing each trick individually.  This can lead to some major problems when it comes down to showtime.  You’ve got to not only perform each trick seamlessly, but the tricks need to flow together seamlessly as well.  In other words, it needs to feel like a complete show, not just a bunch of tricks.

Also as I practice,  I’ll be refining the scripts for each effect.  Learning them together will help in the naturalness of the whole thing.  While scripts are really important in any show, they are particularly important here because of the venue.  At the ren. faire, I’ll be expected to sound authentic to that period.  Or at least like I’m trying.  Short post today, I’ve got a lot of work to do.