Robert asks: 'As a professional magician do you always stick to your staple material or keep learning new magic tricks, and create new acts out of them all of the time? Also, if you do stick to your staple material, what do you do if you keep on getting repeat bookings as you cannot show the same magic tricks from your acts twice.'
Every professional magician is different, and I can only answer this queston from the point of view of a close up magician. Stage and Children's show magicians may have different ways of doing things.
On the whole most magicians will agree that they have a staple set of routines that they do over and over again at each booking. The magic tricks are built into 'sets'. Each set consisting of 3-5 magic tricks that fit well together. Some of the sets are built for walk-around and others are designed to be performed at guests tables. At most gigs, I have 6 of these sets that I rotate. I don't show the same tricks to groups of people near each other.
I've used many of the core tricks within my sets for the past 20 years. I know these core tricks deeply. I know they work, suit my character, and get great reactions. I've performed them so many times that I have all the little details and subtleties ironed out. I have entertaining responses for just about any question or reaction that may be given by the spectators. This only comes from repetition and live performance, so these core effects are very valuable to me. The other tricks within each set come and go over time. I'm always keeping an eye out for something new to swap into one of the sets. That keep things fresh, and my interest going.
Adding new magic tricks
Adding a new magic trick into my working material is a hard process. A professional magician doesn't add new tricks into their repertoire just because they like the trick themsleves.
Professional magicians choose tricks for the audience rather than their own personal entertainment.
I may love a trick, but I won't add it to a set, because it doesn't suit the other material, the flow of the set, my style, or the audience that will watch it. Giving up on a trick that you love it hard to accept, but it doesn't mean you can't won't perform it for family and friends, it just means it's not in your working act. I play with magic all the time. In fact, that's part of my job as the owner of The Merchant of Magic, so I always have a deck of cards or a coin in my hand. But that is very different to 'building an act'. The whole key to professional magic is narrowing down your material to a select group of tricks that you will perform over and over again to different people. It's hard to find 'space for a new trick' within my sets, as I know they work well already. Sometimes I may take a new trick with me to many gig's but it never get's performed. My 'sets' work, and when it comes to performing, I follow the pattern I know gives a good product.
When it's the same audience
Like all working magicians, I get a lot of repeat bookings. However, the client is the same but the audience rarely is. I may do an award ceremony for a company every year, but the guests change all the time. If I do have people in a group that I have seen before, I still have 6 sets to choose from, so I've always got some magic they haven't seen before. It only becomes and issue if I've performed to the same people 6 events in a row, and if that happens, I'll show those people a few core effects and then something outside of my working sets that I reserve for family and friends. That sort of situation is very rare for me bacuse I have mainly have repeat clients that have different guests attending events.
I often offer clients bispoke magic as part of my service. It's usually corporate clients that want bispoke effects presented to their guests. For these bookings, I will create a few effects that take on a theme for the event, a products USP features, or a message the client wants to highlight to their guests. Again, I have a bank of general effects that can easily be adapted to these presentations. It's a small group of tricks, that can be changed to give infinite variations.
So that's my working material: 24 tricks
Each of these tricks have been 'mastered'. I know them TOTALLY and they are performed for the public over and over again. The tricks are grouped into small sets and rotated. I learn new trick all the time, but they are not part of my working material. Some may find their way in, but the majority don't. That's enough material to cover most repeat bookings.
Every magician is different. I've worked with many that change their tricks all the time and are constantly trying out new styles and material. Each person has their own way, but from experience, I think that most professional magicians work the same way that I have just described.
What do you do?:
How did you choose your working material? How many tricks make up your core working material? Do you plan which tricks you will perform? How do you deal with repeat bookings? Please share your advice in the comments section below: