Close up magic and stage magic have several different problems. Let’s look at a few of the differences:
The audience in a stage show has chosen to see you perform your magic tricks. With close up magic, the audience does not know who you are and often that you will be performing.
The audience visits a theatre to watch a magic show. They make the decision to come to you to watch your show. With close up magic, you go to them. Because of this, the locations are very different. With a stage show, you create the environment that the magic tricks are ‘staged’ within. Close up magicians fit in to a larger event, so your magic needs to be designed to complement an existing event. You need to be prepared for location surprises at close up magic gigs.
Stage magicians can ensure that the lighting for the show is perfect for the magic tricks they will present. If you need a ‘dark’ area you can make sure that happens at just the right moment. If you need the lighting to focus attention away from an object or from you, for a few moments, this can be easily built into the show.
The main disadvantage for stage magicians is that the lighting makes it hard for them to engage with the audience. Lights can stop you from seeing the audience. Because of this, careful rehearsal needs to be done, to ensure the act is engaging without as much of the personal contact that close up magicians can create.
Close up magic happens in random locations, often in restaurants and busy bars. The lighting can be too dark, or very bright, and you will have no control over it. You need to make sure that the magic tricks you can perform are suitable for as many lighting set ups as possible.
Stage magic is supported by a PA system so the whole room can hear you. Sound effects can be added, as well as backing music. This can be used to change the mood and attention of your spectators when you need that to happen.
Close up magic takes place inside a larger event. It’s social in nature and happens in and around conversations. A band or loud music may be the background to your magic tricks, so you can’t assume that your audience will even be able to hear you. This creates a real challenge for you as a close up magician. You need to engage with the spectators and entertain them, but at the same time, you need to make sure that your magic can be understood, even if the spectator can’t hear you very well.
Good close up magic is presented in designed sets of magic tricks for different sound conditions. You should have at least 5 or 6 magic tricks ready to perform, should you find yourself in a situation where nobody can hear what you are saying. If you don’t do this, you may find you are limited in locations that you can work at a gig. You really don’t want to be forced to be positioned in the bar area away from the ‘action’ simply because the magic tricks you do, requires people to listen to you.
Stage magic has the advantage of being able to control the environment to reinforce the magic or the presentation within a particular magic show. Everything can be arranged exactly how you want it, to present your magic tricks for maximum impact close up magic has no set. It may be the street, a bar or restaurant. However, this doesn’t need to be a disadvantage. The restaurant has objects, rituals and a structure that can be used to your advantage. Choosing magic tricks that compliment the situations you perform in, can turn the restaurant or bar into a perfect set. You need to be much more flexible and design your magic tricks to use the settings you have access too, in a way that will strengthen and highlight your magic tricks. Part of your job as a close up magician is to define your performing area, and communicate that to the spectators very quickly when you join each group.
Stage magicians can tell a story as much through their costumes as the magic itself. From a Chinese 19th century royal court, through to a sinister torture chamber. The act is set in a theme that communicated the story of the show.
Magicians that perform close up magic either wear a suit or dress down for street performances. They match the costumes that their spectators wear. The goal is to integrate, rather than stand out. It’s important that you think about what is best for a close up magicians to wear.
When a stage audience is seated, they have been arranged in a position to pay full attention to the show. Close up magic is often performed strolling magic, or magic at restaurant tables. The audience isn’t going to be seated so everyone can see you. When you perform close up magic, you need to move around. You need to engage different groups and capture peoples attention. It’s very important that you take some time to practice this and examine how your magic will work when your audience is not all sat directly in front of you.
Beginners often struggle with this, as they practice their magic tricks as if the audience is watching a stage show. When it comes to performing in a real world situation, they become confused and unsure how to present their magic tricks as people move around or are seated in a way that could expose their magic secrets.
The moment the lights go down at a stage magic show, everyone is paying attention. The stage magicians job is to keep that attention and stop the audience either leaving or falling asleep.
Close up magicians need to win the attention of the group, and then keep it. Spectators can be interrupted, become distracted by everything else happening. The food could be just about to arrive, an argument could be simmering between the group. Your spectators could be in deep conversation or even simply show no interest in your table magic at all. Social skills are very important for close up magicians, probably more so than good technique. The audience has no obligation to pay you any attention, so you need to give them as many reasons to like you and find your magic entertaining as you possibly can.
Stage magicians are being watched from the moment they arrive on stage. Many of the techniques of misdirection are different from those of magicians doing close up magic. Close up magicians, by definition, are closer to the audience. You will need to use misdirection techniques specifically designed for this situation. Tactics like eye contact, crossing gaze, positioning and questioning can all be used much more effectively in a close up magic setting.
We have all been trained from an early age to clap at the end of a stage performance. This is not so much the case for close up shows. Because close up magic is much more intimate, spectators tend not to use applause. They simply tell you how much they liked the magic trick they just say.
Unlike stage magicians, close up magicians need to train their audience to give them applause.
Take a moment to think about these differences. List the magic you currently perform and next to each trick or ‘set’ answer these questions:
1) What practical steps can you build into the magic tricks you already perform that can communicate the need to clap after you show a group your magic tricks?2) Which environmental conditions would be ideal for each trick?
3) How can you adapt various performing conditions to enhance the magic?
4) What could you say or do, to capture attention and keep the spectators engaged?
5) How could each magic trick be adapted to increase the amount of participation and connection from the spectators?
Liked this post? Help us spread the word, by telling your magic friends: