I spent the weekend in Ft. Worth, TX attending the TAOM convention. (Texas Association Of Magicians) It is a regional convention that occurs in a different TX city every year. It can be one of the bigger conventions one can attend, depending on the year. Up until this year, it is the only convention I have ever attended. (thus far I have been to three conventions this year, which is odd because I usually only do one every 3-4 years)
Most every year I go to TAOM, I join in the merriment that is the magic competition. This year was no different. Now I am personally not a fan of competing BUT it has it's place so long as everyone remembers that that place has nothing to do with accolades or trophies.
My stage act is not generally one that radiates what is typically considered magic fodder. There is no hard-core manipulation. I do NOT produce doves. You will never see linking rings, cups and balls, or zombie ball in my act. Much of this kinda cuts me out of a lot of the categories upon which magic contests are judged. Originality is not seen so much as a skill but more of a tacked on feature, which counts for very little of your score on a judges sheet. Real world application is not ever a CONSIDERATION for these acts. There are a great deal of magic acts that go over great at a convention but fall short in the interest of the general public.
I am going to tell you the reason I still compete, even tho' I KNOW the deck is stacked against me (no pun intended) and then I am going to offer up some advice. I do it because I want to remind people I am still out there and make them AWARE of what I can do. The perfect place for your peers to see you is at a magic convention. This is the sole reason I participate in the whole debacle. (It sure as hell isn't for the fact that I LIKE getting up at 8am and then have to try and be funny)
Now why should YOU compete? The same reasons I do. Never go in thinking you are going to wipe the floor with other people. The moment you do some Korean kid with a bunch of colored playing cards is gonna saunter in and make you his bitch. You need to be aware that when you go into this, it is to show off what you can do, who you are, and get your name out there. Even if your act doesn't win, don't let it get you down. Listen to the buzz of the crowd. Often the audience can tell you more than the "judges" do. A trophy might look nice on a shelf somewhere, but word of mouth will get you a lot farther.
Speaking of performing in front of a crowd, here is some advice for those of you who do want to showcase your talent. Step away from the mirror!! I have seen SO many acts that do not engage the audience in any way, shape, or form. They get on stage and start performing like they would at home in the camera. Before you EVER compete, and I will repeat this EVER, find some places to do your act in front of a real audience. Again, the people watching will tell you more than you can ever know. The timing of an act in real life is much different. The methods used at home might not even be necessary in front of the drooling masses. Polish your act by performing your act in real time... not your own time.
Speaking of timing, I would like to comment on something I do think is a tad silly in the realm of Close-up. A number of conventions put a time limit on how long your act can go. For stage I think this is a good idea. It's sets a focused goal that FORCES you to pick and choose the best pieces of your act. Mind you that doesn't mean you HAVE to add material to STRETCH it to the limit but I digress..
However for close-up, (which isn't TRUE close up at a magic convention. It's really parlor. Be aware of this before you go into battle for the first time), I do not believe there needs to be a HARD limit. I think there should be a reasonable suggested limit, but a hard limit with no leeway is absurd. Even in real world rehearsal, you cannot judge audience reaction time. How long it takes to sing as card, shuffle a deck, or any other number of things that we tend to require others to do in an act. I understand there are some people with no assemblance of time, but putting a defined limit on something that is so free form or yer screwed is a bit archaic... but thaz just me.
So that's some advice from my skewed brain. For those who might be wondering, no I didn't win. No I don't care. I came away feeling that that TV show about a bar...
where everyone knows my name.