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.