Sunday, February 9, 2014

What ANNIE can teach us about Coin Magic

The curtain is about to go up on a performance of the Broadway show ANNIE. As I sit here in the audience I started to think about theater and Coin Magic.

Look at all the work that goes into a theater show:

- finding a good script
- hiring the right actors
- dress rehearsal
- showtime!
- after-show reviews
- tweaking

Meanwhile, I see so many magicians at lectures, conventions, and especially on YouTube, who string a few mumbled words together and muscle-hump their way through an effect they just learned a few minutes ago. “Sad” does not even come close to describing it. “Pathetic” is more like it.

These same magicians wonder why a play has hundreds of people in the audience who have paid to see the show while they have to force a performance on anyone who comes close enough to grab.

What if we applied these steps to Coin magic...

Find a Good Script: You’re not David Blaine (and THAT was a character he was portraying BTW. David is very well spoken in real-life). Write down what you want to convey. Is it a cute story or a simple narration? Then write it down. Edit it so it’s concise and strengthens every move. Then memorize it. Now you can say good-bye to all those illusion-destroying ‘uhs’ and ‘OKs’.

Find the Right Actors: Maybe those silver Walkers aren’t the best coins for this job. Is there another coin that might lend to the story line you’re creating? If you’re doing an effect about 'acrobatic coins', maybe use 3 Italian coins, or 3 Chinese coins to represent the characters.

Dress Rehearsal: There’s practice, where you learn the moves. Then there’s rehearsal where you put it all together. When you rehearse you should stand or sit the way you will when you perform. Say, out loud, the presentation you have memorized, pausing for the appropriate times when there would be audience interaction. Wear the clothes you’ll wear when you perform. This will help you to block out any pocket management issues. The only difference between this and an actual performance should be the lack of an audience.

Showtime: Put what you’ve learned into practice. Treat every performance, no matter how casual, as if you were auditioning for your own TV show. Leave it all out there on the stage.

After-Show Review: Theater groups have critics to tell them how well they did. As magicians, we should seek out critiques from our friends and audiences as well. But only after they have seen the finished product. Ask them to be brutally honest. Sugar-coated reviews will do more harm than good. And here’s the most difficult and important part; LISTEN TO THEM.

Tweaking: You should constantly be reviewing your performances and making changes. Last night I performed an effect that I have done for almost 20 years, and I found a better way to do a part of it. Just a tiny change, but it makes the routine that much better. To paraphrase Paul ValĂ©ry; ‘ an effect is never finished, only abandoned.

I challenge you to apply these ideas to just ONE effect in your repertoire; you will quickly see just how powerful your magic can be. And it may put you one step closer to your first sold-out theater!

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