Sunday, August 16, 2015

Get Out!

Dear Magicians,

Please stop saying trite shit like "let's get into it". I could turn this phrase into a drinking game watching magic demos and get hammered in 10 minutes. You HAVE to be able to find something better to say. I believe in you. I know you have it...

into you.


The Mngmnt.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

They call her Billy "Guest Column" Kidd...

In a recent issue of Vanish Magazine I wrote an article asking some different female magi about various things. One of the performers I talked to was Billy Kidd. One of her answers intrigued me and I asked her to expound upon it to publish here.

I think magicians need to learn how to be more aware of themselves on stage and more aware of their audiences. If you are a solo act  you should always be listening to your audience. They will give you secret information as to when to say your next line, when to do your next sneaky move, when to say the punch line to your joke and so on. If you are a double act, learning to actively listen to your partner on stage is equally important. I don't mean just listening for your cue... actively listening and reacting to whats going on around you. This will naturally put you "in the moment" during every performance making things seem fresh and spontaneous. This also allows the magician to improv and react accordingly which is what clowns do all the time. Which in return might give you new material that actually comes out of something spontaneous.  But how does one learn how to do this? Well its not going to happen in front of your mirror. 
The amount of hours and time one puts into practicing their sleight of hand should be the equal amount of time one should put into there stage time/actual performance time. Sadly this is not the case for most magicians. I think this is why some of the public consider magic cheesy, and unappealing at times is  because they are actually witnessing bad performers and not bad magic.
Sometimes I think magicians think that being a good performer just means talk loudly and do facial contortions and mug to the audience. Blagh. I know our books say video tape your self and watch what you do. This isn't just to see what angles are best. Listen to what you are saying and when you say it. Are you repeating lines as transitions because you have no idea what else to say? How many times do you say the word " actually...." or  " and now for my next trick...."  or " you know what..." etc. Watch yourself on camera and ask yourself if you can stand on stage without moving or holding something and still be equally engaging. And if you are not getting booked and have nowhere to practice stage time then make it happen yourself. Go out and street perform, do open mic nights, create your own theatre even if its in your back yard. Just go out and DO IT!

Magic is such a technical art form in one sense. I think one of the most important things we forget to do as adults is keeping in the essence of play. If we can unlearn how to be an adult on stage you can find so much freedom within your magic to make things more memorable and stronger for your audiences. Its so easy for us to copy patter word for word in the book or watching the DVD. So how do you make those classic tricks unique to your performances? How do you create something new even if its from something old? Play. But to Play you have to know so much about your habits and who you are as a person and magician. Violist Stephen Nachmanovitch says " To create, we need both technique and freedom from technique. To this end we practice until our skills become unconscious."  Then there is the argument of are you a magician that entertains OR an entertainer that does magic? Ugggh.... to this I say F*** off! You should be doing both equally and just as importantly. Unfortunately our concern over the technique takes over everything. We should be able to take our technique and basic sleights for that matter, personalize it until it engages people rather than relying on the store bought gimmick that will make you a superstar on the internet over night. 

I have been working professionally in theatre since I was 12 years old and have been fortunate enough to work with some of the top actors in Canada. When I got involved with magic and started meeting magicians I looked up to everybody and every bit of knowledge they were willing to share. People were very generous in telling me what books to read how to practice certain sleights and what not. For that I am forever grateful. When I first started watching magic shows and competitions at conventions I didn't understand why it felt like I was watching a high school drama production. Until I realized that lots of magicians don't create enough stage time for themselves, are unaware of who they are as a performer, and are too concentrated on the technical side of things. Are magicians merely actors who are playing the part of magicians? I think we should be but are not quite there yet.

Monday, July 27, 2015

And it's a sexy lamp with the assist!

Ok so bear with me on this post. It might get a little weird.

In writing there is a number of unofficial "tests" such as "the Bechdel test". As with most things, people start to add to that kind of stuff and eventually you end up with something like the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

That aside, I found an interesting test that could be applied to magic. It's called The Sexy Lamp Test. It goes a little something like this:

"I’ve got another test that works just as well. The Sexy Lamp test. If you can take out a female character and replace her with a sexy lamp, YOU’RE A FUCKING HACK.” - Kelly Sue DeConnick

Taken into context for magic, if your magic assistant could be replaced by a sexy table, you might want to rethink how much you are paying that person because they are essentially a prop. 

 You wouldn't have to pay this as much to do the show.

There is so much great dynamic by-play that can be achieved by adding a second person to the act so why waste that by just using them to steal things from or ditch onto?  

So take a step back and either start writing or head out to your local Ikea. Your call.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

From the ashes...

Some of you who might have been following this journal from early on knows I drew some inspiration from The Magic Circle Jerk blog. Not in writing or color scheme, but the fact that he kind of started the boom of magicians taking up keyboard and finger to say what they couldn't (or weren't allowed) anywhere else lest they be berated by the armchair ass klowns who inhabit message boards and have never done anything else with their life except lord over an imaginary domain that matters only to other talentless back seat drivers.

But I digress...

I am here to alert the masses that you should rejoice and peons should quake with fear. The Jerx is here to enlighten your load.

Open wide.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Running with the devil... music.

A couple years ago I posted my treatise on running your own music for shows.

All of that info is still valid. (Except maybe the price of Go Button has gone up a bit but still cheaper and better than many other options on the market) I have decided to add one new toy in the mix.

Sometimes something might just go wrong and if you don't have a sound person who knows how your set-up works you might a bit boned. The way to get around this is to have your music player with you on stage but you might not always have a direct box to plug into and then you have wires running all akimbo.

If only someone made wireless audio cables.... oh wait.... They Do!

These items are made for guitars BUT work with any other audio devices... including ipods. You will need to nab some adapters because they use 1/4" plugs but most sound boards support that. I picked some up from Ebay for around 70$. They are Bluetooth which means you don't have to worry about weird interference. The best part is they have a low-latency which means there is no delay (that I have seen) between the time you press play and it goes. They also charge via usb so you don't have to keep buying batteries for them.

The only downside I have found thus far is they are a bit clunky in size. If you get an adapter I suggest one with a wire so your ipod is not some giant long contraption taking up space.

Now there are other bluetooth receivers for car audio auxiliary ports but they don't have a long range on them. These are made for distance while others are made for the confines of a car. These aren't the only devices made for this purpose, but they are a more affordable alternative than more high end models out there.

Feel free to do your own research but if you trust my judgement like Danny Weiser does, you might just like these.

Monday, June 15, 2015

I'm different... just like everyone else!

Dear Magicians,

Stop trying to say that your magic is different from everyone else when it's clearly not. If you say you are trying to "change the face of magic" then you can't do floating table, bowl-a-rama, strait jacket, linking rings or really anything else associated with ANY OTHER MAGICIAN!


The Mngmnt.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Guest Article: Slave Labor

For long time readers, you know that from time to time I have some guest articles pop up. Friend of the feed, Aaron Stone (proprietor of Fearless Portraits), was asked to lay down some of his thoughts on a subject we had talked about in passing. With a little... encouragement, he got it finished for your perusal.

I’m chained to a desk made of razorblades, surrounded by barbed wire, armed thugs, and angry attack dogs, staring at a Word document that says, “hey, write something from yer brain-meats for my blog.  If I’m never heard from again, these words must serve as my mark upon the world.

 We’ve all heard the saying, “if you’re just performing for yourself, you’re masturbating. When practicing, we performers tend to use all kinds of methods to watch ourselves: odd angles, mirrors, cameras – the idea that we can witness and review our own talent is intoxicating. However, there’s a serious problem when you perform with your practicing habits: You look like you’re practicing. 

Having trouble thinking of examples?  Ask yourself when you see something, "would a professional do this?" The first one that comes to my mind is watching someone performing card manipulations. A consummate professional will have a powerful stance, good posture, an expression that fits the scene and character/persona, and clear actions.  How often do you see someone back palm a card, and they’re turned to watch it, too? You practice where you can see the moves you’re making – but if you’re a professional, why are you watching your own hands?

Let’s take this thought a little further before we hit the bigger one. Think of how you spring cards. When you are starting out learning to spring cards, regardless of the exact method you use (I spring off the thumb, as you’ll see), you are more focused on catching the cards than making it look pretty.  This inherently means you’ll “follow through” the spring, by ‘catching’ them with your throwing hand. Watch the GIF to understand, if that isn’t clear.

The difference between practicing and professional, is realizing what is “practice” and what is for performance. The next GIF shows you what the same spring flourish looks like with no follow-through, or ‘catch’ at the end.

This minor change in presentation greatly effects the perceived quality of your skills and performance.  This is also just an easy example, but I believe you should apply this thinking to all of your methods and handlings. 

To analyze your own material, simply ask yourself, “WHY do I do it this way, and how would an ‘ideal’ magician do it if magic were real?  Then, work to polish to perfection.

On my next point: Flow. Darwin Ortiz had a great section in his book, “Strong Magic,” about timing in presentation. I completely agree with all of it, and think you should read it (and re-read it), but I want to expand upon that line of thinking with the addition of Flow. 

Your magic, your act, your performance (whatever it may be) should have a smoothness to it.  You NEVER want to tell a story in a framework format.  That’s a fancy English term for “boring.”  Example: if you can tell a story by saying, “This happened, and then this happened, and then this happened, but then THIS happened!” you’re not telling a story. You’re relaying facts. 

“What should happen between every beat that you’ve written down is either the word ‘therefore,’ or ‘but.’” – Trey Parker, creator of South Park. 

What that means, is that each beat of a story can be a thought, or a moment. Real world example? Watch any truly-professional show. The story, both in movement and dialogue, will tell a story. However, if you’re doing “for my next trick,” if not done tongue-in-cheek, feels cheap to an audience. You should reach the peak of a thought, and the moment it loses interest: switch. 

Switch? To what? Another story! This is called the, “Meanwhile, back at the ranch,” technique. You see this used frequently in movies, television shows, and even the better live shows. You’ll see something that has to do with the main story, then a “switch” to something unrelated,” then back to the meat of the story. Lather, rinse, repeat, until the final part of a great story.

And now, the beauty of it all: the finale. A professional knows that their performance is more than a series of tricks. More than just words. More than patter and rehearsed motions. A professional act will take the audience through a series of events, smaller stories, that all tie together into a cohesive piece that will be memorable to your audience. Take the moments you’ve created thus far, and bring them together and hopefully receive abundant applause.

Look at what the people see. Sit for a moment and watch yourself perform, from the perspective of a layperson.  Are you a professional, or are you still just practicing?