Recently, there was a media article on magic based on a journalist’s visits to the famed Magic Castle in Hollywood. Entitled “Enough with the Card Tricks”, the writer states that she generally enjoyed her visits but, as the title explicitly states, she saw way too many card tricks. Translated: A lot of the magicians were doing the same things.
Of course, as magicians, we know the card “tricks” performed were almost definitely not the same but we sometimes forget that all “pick-a-card-tricks” are the ‘same’ to muggles.
In fact, the same is said about stage or illusions shows as well, as explored in a review by well-known Las Vegas-based show critic Mike Weatherford here. I think Teller said it best in the article when he responded to why magic shows do not seem to have innovated as much as other arts, “It’s a tremendously difficult art form… as hard an art form as you can find.”
Having pursued both the close-up & stage side of magic at a professional level, whether it is live shows, TV or mega illusion events, one common goal for us has always been for us to be different, from the concepts we present, to the personalities on stage and the presentation of acts. It is a difficult, time-consuming and expensive process but obviously important as evident by the media articles linked above.
I personally do feel that it is easier for close-up magicians to innovate and strive to be different, compared to their stage counterparts; in terms of cost, time and effort. That, in no way, implies that skills needed for any one form are inferior. Both are completely different magic forms with distinct skill sets required.
Readers of the blog know that besides our “bread & butter” performance & design related work, I have been busy re-releasing my books to the mainstream magic community and providing free content to illusionists worldwide through www.illusionbooks.com ; my small bid to contribute back to the art by growing the knowledge base.
But, I have also been hard at work recreating, restaging and reproducing my formal close-up show. One of the cornerstone philosophies of the show, was for it to “feel” and “be” different from almost anything else in the world. At least, you will never find such a collection of varied magic acts & creations in a single show that still features a strong sense of magic purity without feeling “gimmick-y” or being novel for novelty sake.
So, with the motto of “No Card Tricks”, I created (or re-created) a show over a 2-year period with golf balls, cigars, Zippo lighters, tomato can, hourglass, dice, slot machine tokens and an industrial-sized nut & bolts among other things.
The show is still progressing well with quantum improvements every week. It is about 2 – 3 months from being good and about a year from being great, as long as I can keep up this 3 – 4 hours-a-day practice schedule.
I’ve gained a lot of insight doing private shows as well as have different people watch the show when they drop by the studio. Several magicians of all levels, expertise and experience have also viewed the show and provided excellent feedback, even if they did not make any specific comments. But, their natural responses during the show and eye movement have been useful feedback. Every performance has been educational for me.
All acts have been laid out completely and most of the script has been written. I’ve been fine-tuning the movements and breathing for each routine to coordinate with the techniques utilized. I’m also in the process of analyzing all the routines using Troy Hooser’s approach of calculating moments. That has proven to be very useful in bringing the show up another level.
Having said the above, I have to admit, I still have two card “tricks” in my show called “Triple Destination” & “The Inside Out Deck” (Busted!). But, they are really good “tricks” (IMHO haha). Plus, I only do one in any one show. In fact, if the show is less than 30min. I do not even perform one of them.
We have already started booking the show for “paid rehearsals” as I call them and we are firming up plans to do a public show at the end of the year where Ning & I will be showcasing new material. This formal show will also be an integral part of that show. Stay tuned for details!