If you perform magic tricks often over many years, it's important to keep it fresh and at it's best. Lets look at how magicians can keep their performance sharp over time.
A few months ago, I updated my Macbook to the latest model. I started it up, went through the welcome set up and was confronted by a brand new, factory default desktop that was full of possibilities. There was no clutter, no random documents that I had forgotten about and no bloatware apps hanging around. Everything was fast, new and tidy. It felt like a fresh start, full of the productivity possibilities.
Now, it’s a few months on, and things have changed. My documents folder is stuffed full of half written blog posts. There are stacks of apps that I probably will never use. The laptop has lost it’s new and shiny glow, becoming just my office for coffee shop work days.
Just like getting a new computer, buying a new car, or moving house. That feeling of starting again and staying fresh never lasts. We get used to things very quickly, and the excitement that ‘new’ gives us is fleeting.
The same thing happens with magic. Each new magic trick feels like a new world of possibility. It’s the focus of all your attention, and you can’t wait to perform it as much as possible. However, over the process of practice, rehearsal and performance things change.
Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt. It usually just produces boredom. Boredom leads to cutting corners, and pulling back the energy that you communicated to your audience when you performed the magic trick originally. How can we stop this from happening?
Things that have to stay the same still change.
Take a look at one of the favorite magic tricks you have purchased. Chances are you are performing it in a similar manner to the way it was performed in the instructional DVD that came with the props, or how the magician who published it, tends to perform it. It’s the established routine that most magicians use.
However, over time you may have added your own expression to the presentation. Your own one-liners, timing, back story and moves. Adaptions sometimes happen slowly over time as fellow magicians suggest changes or additions, or spectators show you the ‘impact moments’ in performance, when an adjustment would improve their reactions. The performance changes slowly over time. There’s a name for this:
Have you ever noticed how people that sell newspapers on the streets have strange ways of shouting out the name of the newspaper? Or how market stall owners shout out about their wares in a garbled way. It’s an example of performance drift taken to the extreme. They have said the sentence so many times that it has started to degrade, and they don’t notice it themselves.
In just the same way, our own performance and presentation of a magic trick degrades. It’s just part of nature. Familiarity and repetition slowly introduce tiny errors or shortcuts in our presentation and patter. It’s a very slow process, so often goes unnoticed because we run on autopilot and have become bored with the magic trick.
Reset the Matrix.
Every now and then, take time to go back to the beginning and start again with the magic tricks you perform. Strip away all the experience that you have acquired and look at the magic trick with the fresh eyes of a magic beginner.
Identify all the changes that you have introduced through performance and assess each one on its own merits. A great way to do this is to keep a video diary of your performance. Over time, you can watch an early performance and a recent one and see what has become stronger, and what has suffered from performance drift. Strip away all the baggage that has been added to your presentation and reset the magic trick to it’s core moves.
Once you have stripped away your additions, add only the strongest changes and adaptions to create a fresh routine that is the best it can be. If you try this out, I know you will be surprised by how much it changes your presentation for the better.
You may love each and every magic trick that you have built up to be of a performance standard, but part of the process of staying fresh as a magician, is to see past the love you have for a favorite magic trick, and strip away everything you have build up. Once you do that, you can recreate it again, using just the best parts. This process will allow your magic to evolve over time without the atrophy that time applies.
Falling out of love is very enlightening. For a short while, you see the world with new eyes. – Iris Murdoch
What tips do you have for keeping your magic tricks looking fresh and new? How do you make sure you don't get bored and degrade your performance when performing a magic tricks often? Leave a comment in the section below: