Many magicians seem to think that any group of magic tricks can be built into an act.
When we begin learning magic, we learn as many tricks as possible that come our way, that fool us and seem easy enough for us to learn. During the early stages of learning magic, we don’t think about performing a magic act, just performing great tricks.
It’s only once we acquire a range of tricks, that we begin to think about how to build tricks together. But by then it’s too late. We have spent out time collection random tricks, and have a chaotic collection of magic with no common thread.
Who’s to fault?
We tend to define the type of magic that we perform by the props we use, saying to ourselves: ‘I’m a coin worker, a cardtist, a mentalist’ etc.
It’s easy to collect new techniques and routines simply because they are ‘what’s new’, rather than because they would be perfect for the flow or theme of a set we are constructing.
Popular magic TV shows often seem to be a disparate collection of tricks shown one after another, but that’s not the case:
Dynamo magician impossible, presents seemingly random tricks, but each one is introduced and a scene is set. A theme runs through each episode of Dynamo, tying the tricks together.
Derren Brown builds each show into a theme, choosing and presenting tricks which build to present an overall message or theme.
These are distinct from ‘audition’ shows, where the contest and voting create consistency and each performer is presented as an individual to be judged. It doesn’t matter that there is no theme between acts.
Do you approach creating your magic act, the wrong way around?
Imagine going into a supermarket and buying a basket full of random ingredient simply because each one tastes nice, then going home and planning the menu for your dinner party, using all those ingredients. The meal would be a complete failure.
You need to plan the menu FIRST, then buy the ingredients. The same planning you would do for a meal, needs to be applied to creating a magic act.
Start with a simgle theme or one favourite trick, then slowly build up the next ‘course’ in the ‘magic meal’:
- Starter – A strong engaging magic trick that captures attention and sets the theme for the set.
- Maincourse – a longer trick that requires more engagment from the spectators.
- Dessert – A strong closer, leading to a climax that gets applause
- Coffees – A professional farewall
Which magic tricks to choose:
Look at the range of tricks that you already know. Just because you know them and they are strong tricks, in and of themselves, doesn’t mean they fit well together.
Choose one trick which you love, and look for more tricks that compliment it and build up your act.
Start from the ground up so you have coherence and structure. Sort your current ‘bank’ of magic tricks into groups that fit their position in an act: Starters, Maincourses, Desserts.
Search for new magic that will fit the gaps in each of your sets. Your best tricks don’t need to go in the same set. Create 3 or 4 strolling magic sets, 3 or 4 table magic sets and 2 or 3 stand up or caberet sets. Spread out your best tricks across these sets and start adding new material to reinforce them.
I can’t be bothered to do that!
You don’t have to work like this. You can continue to present random tricks without a theme or thread running through them. Many successful, professional magicians don’t work on act structure, and that’s OK. You can very easily continue to perform unassosiated tricks and get great reactions. I would say though, that your magic will be getting a great response despite the lack of a theme, rather than because of it. A little thought into act construction will lift the performance to a new level, leaving the spectators amazed at your magic, and feeling that they have seen something greater than the sum of it’s individual parts.