Being Real While Being Fake

November 3, 2011

I‘ve been doing magic for a long time.  Almost twenty years now.  For the majority of that time, I have always performed as myself, that is, I never really had a “character.”  This is the way I prefer it.  My artistic goal for my performance is to genuinely express myself to my audience and share a real connection with them.  It always seemed to me that that goal would be hindered by some sort of facade of costuming and different than normal speech that would be needed to create a different character.

Now, as some of you my know, last weekend, I performed in our city’s Renaissance fair.  There was no way I was getting out of doing a character for that.  I have so much respect for people who can really create a persona on stage and totally get lost in it.  It is very difficult for me.  I’m not a great actor by any means (See examples here and here) and maybe I never will be, but I did learn something important: even when you’re playing a part, you can still be real.  “But, Eric,” you say, “how can that be?”  Well, I’ll tell you if you promise to stop using your brain keyboard to type questions on my blog. “Ok.  Sorry.”  Thanks.

You see, even though I had a made-up persona on, it wasn’t really a block for my real personality like I imagined it would be.  Because I was able to create the character myself, it was, in a way, just a different part of me that I was bringing forward.  I was still open to connection with the audience and able to have real interaction with them.  I could still be myself while being someone else.

My favorite performers (in any media) are the ones who after I see them, I feel like I know them better.  There’s a kind of real courage evident in going in front of people as yourself and figuratively (maybe literally, I haven’t seen your act)  exposing yourself  to them for their judgement.  And when they judge you, they are really judging YOU.  It’s amazing, it’s vulnerable, it’s beautiful.  Now, don’t get my wrong, people who perform in character need to be brave too.  If you can’t sell it, if it doesn’t FEEL real, they’ll tear you apart.  While it might be easy to blame the character if things go wrong, you have to take with that the fact that when things go well, the character gets the credit, not you.  I don’t think I’ll ever do a lot of character work (I don’t think my ego would allow the credit to go to someone else, even if it is still technically  me) but, I will do the fair again next year, so I’ve got some time to work on it.

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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.

Quick Update

September 28, 2011

Hey, everybody, it’s been a while.  I just wanted to put some things up here quickly, but fear not, a longer post will be forthcoming  later today.  First off, don’t worry, there will be a new Magic Time video soon.  I got thrown off my usual schedule last week due to stupid sickness.  And by that I don’t mean that I had something called “Stupid Sickness” (I don’t think that’s a real thing) I just mean that the sickness I that I had was stupid (seriously. Look it up,  Bacteria and viruses aren’t exactly Mensa material).

Anywho…

I’ve got some stuff I want to write about today so look for that later and I’ll also be working on a new video.  October is a fun month for me with my wedding anniversary, birthday, Halloween, and I’m even doing a magic show at the renaissance fair again, so I should have some good stuff to share with you through my video films.

Ok, that’s it for now.  Check back later today, there will be more.

Beginnings

September 27, 2010

I started to learn magic when I was 12 years old. Ever since then, I knew that a magician was what I wanted to be. I’ve devoted as much of my life as I could to learning the craft and art of magic, but the goal of performing for a real audience has been constantly pushed back.

First, it was college, then girlfriend, then wife and house. In one month’s time, I’ll be 30 years old. One week later, I am scheduled to give my first formal performance in over ten years. This will be the story of my preparation for that show and hopefully, the story of getting a leg up on a dream almost 20 years old.