Tools for Improving your Magic, Part 1
Conjurer's Coffee Break - Episode 008
- Hello and welcome to the first two-fer.
- That's two episodes linked by a common theme,
- And even better, released at the same time.
- So, this week you've got two episodes for the price of one.
- Well, they're all free, but you get what I mean.
- I hope you're finding some value in them. Please let me know by finding the comment section for this podcast on my website at edsumner.com/magicians
- In this weeks episodes I'm going to be talking about two documents that I created, both with the purpose of helping me and you to improve our magic, but they go about it in different ways.
- The first is an analysis framework, and the second a pathway for developing the range of magic that you perform.
- That one's for the next episode.
- First let me introduce you to The Performance Rubric.
- And it's worth saying, that it might be best to download this to have in front of you. If you have time to do that, then go ahead and pause the podcast now, or if not you can always grab it later and as these are short episodes you might want to listen again.
- Welcome back!
- So, first up, what is it?
- The Performance Rubric is a free tool to help you to assess your magic either by yourself or with a magician colleague.
- It's based on a grid structure with four categories running vertically and four levels running horizontally.
- So, that's right, great maths, there are sixteen boxes.
- The idea is that thinking about a performance, either with another magician or by watching yourself back on video, you can find which level a routine sits at for each category.
- And then from knowing where you are, you can think about what to work on to reach the next level.
- Of course, sometimes you end up sort of between levels, and there might be parts during a show where you don't want to hit level four for everything.
- For example, you might want to do a great "trick", rather than make everything "magic" - the difference between the two will be a topic for the future, or for in person, so let's just leave that there.
- With that in mind, it's worth also reminding you of the motto of this podcast. You build a better business when you become a better performer.
- That's why these documents exists. If they help you to improve your performance, that will be noticed by your audience and your business will improve from there.
- OK, one more thing before I jump into this, I know there is another similar framework for how they score the entry exam for The Magic Circle.
- That might be one worth checking out too.
- Especially, if you are wanting to take that exam, but at the very least for comparison.
- This one that I've made though, I think is incredibly useful and I've found that the students I teach and mentor, also gain benefit from using it.
- OK, this is going to become clearer as we talk through it.
- So, let's go through the categories.
- They are: technical skill and handling - so can you do the moves, and are you doing the most deceptive move.
- Next is: showmanship and presentation - what's your hook to make this worth somebody's time? Believe it or not, just watching tricks is not that interesting for most people.
- Next: audience interaction and connection - which I think is a really important one. After all magic is for other people, so do they feel like they are involved, or as if you're just performing for yourself? We've all seen people that perform like that, right? In fact, this ties in with being present during a performance, which is something I spoke about in episode 3.
- Finally: the magical atmosphere or the magical experience - in short, are they reaching for secrets, or do they believe it's magic?
- And now let's talk about each of the levels within those categories, and I'll try to give examples where I can.
- It's worth noting that the categories are often linked, such as with the first level of technical skill and handling, which is described as "The performer can complete all of the moves and sequences without error, but this may require some thought on the part of the performer."
- It probably also means that your presentation suffers because your mind is taken up with focusing on getting the moves right.
- We've all probably felt this too, when we pick up a new prop. You can do it, but it takes effort, there might be pauses, moments where you have to think, and it's unlikely you can do the trick consistently to the same level every time.
- Level 2 is "The performer can complete all of the moves and sequences seamlessly without thought and without any unnecessary moves."
- Now that you have the routine in your muscle memory, hopefully you're paying attention to the audience.
- As I've just mentioned, it's hard to focus on presenting and performing your magic until you reach this level of muscle memory, but by now you should be able to for want of a better term, to "sing and dance at the same time."
- Level 3 is "The performer completes the entire routine with the most effective timing applied."
- So, here you are starting to think not only about how you perform the routine but when each move is performed.
- Level 4 is "The performer has considered and implemented, where necessary, subtleties which further help to disguise the method."
- In one of my routines, I itch my face or adjust my glasses, so that I can show the back of card, which later will be switched for a duplicate with a different back. That's an example of a subtlety, a way to "show" everything is copacetic, without having to say "this is a normal pack of cards!"
- OK, at level 1 of showmanship and presentation, "The performer has chosen (or been given) a theme for the routine."
- That seems pretty straightforward. Although I have seen magic at a level lower than that where someone simply demonstrates what happens. As I said, that's usually pretty boring.
- Level 2 is described as, "The performer has thought about other possibilities for the theme of the routine, and can communicate why they have chosen the theme they have."
- At this level, you're starting to make decisions, about what suits you, and that's always a great thing.
- And a deeper topic for another day.
- Level 3 is, "The performer has created an original theme for the routine and written a script for it."
- Here, you've not just made a decision on how to perform, but you've written a script.
- Again, this is a topic for a future episode, but I would encourage you to write a script for the routines you perform often.
- By writing it down, you're able to play with the structure. Perhaps a different word works better, or that part might be best said earlier.
- I tend to find that my scripts get written after I've performed a routine a few times in a low pressure environment, but eventually when something starts to crystalise, I write a script in order to polish it.
- Ooof, that was quite the analogy!
- And finally for this category, level 4 is, " The presentation is personalised to the performer and would not fit easily into the repertoire of another performer. The presentation helps to both disguise the method and improve the effect."
- This is my favourite, and something I'm always striving for in my magic.
- Magic that fits me.
- As for presentations that disguise the method. The best example I have is a routine I perform where I leave a space for the audience to fill in the blank, I say, "... oh and that card was the ...." and then act as if I've forgotten. They answer with what they think the card is, not knowing that I've switched it already.
- That's perhaps a little cryptic so if you want to know more, you'll have to ask me in person.
- On to audience interaction and connection, which again is something I'm always looking to improve with my performances. To make things more conversational.
- At level 1, "The performer performs “on rails” with basic interactions with the audience."
- Choose a card, think of a number. There's little for the audience to do.
- Level 2 is, "The performer has considered how best to involve the audience in ways that improve the performance."
- So, this isn't just treating the audience member like a table, but instead asking them to do something meaningful, like think of someone close to them, rather than just think of a word.
- At level 3, "The performer actively involves the audience and allows room for moments of improvisation."
- And this is where things get really exciting, I think, as the show has the potential to be different each time.
- Of course, improvisations often come from a huge wealth of experience, so it might not actually be that different for every performance. I'll talk more about improv later down the line too.
- Hopefully, you can see that these descriptors have a lot more than can be explored in them, but hopefully they are useful jumping off points for you.
- You know, one concern I had when creating this tool was that it might be too limited to just close up magic. Does it also fit for a stage performer who performs an act to music?
- The answer is I don't know, so please let me know in the comments section for this podcast, but as I've just mentioned, if they can at least get you thinking about your magic, then that has to be a good thing.
- So finally for level 4, "The performer includes elements that make the performance feel like a “one off” unique experience for that audience."
- This one changes slightly, as it's about creating a unique experience for the audience. Do they feel like that could have only happened to them, on that night?
- Alright, last up is the category of magical atmosphere and experience, and here's where it changes again because most of the others have been focused on what the performer does.
- Whereas this category is about how the audience feels.
- That's more difficult to judge, but one way is to listen to what the audience says afterwards, do they say, "very clever?" / "I don't know what you did there?" / "NO WAY!" or are they completely silent?
- And which do you think fits which level.
- I'll leave you to ponder that one.
- At level 1, "The audience is confused / puzzled by the effect."
- At level 2, "The audience is fooled by the effect and can't easily backtrack to the method."
- At level 3, "The audience is fooled by the effect and has no interest in backtracking."
- And as I mentioned, these categories are linked. Part of prevented someone from wanting to look for a method is in your presentation. So, don't set it up as a challenge, but do engage your audience and get them on your side.
- And finally, at level 4, the goal we are all aiming for, (I hope), "The audience is truly amazed and believes they have witnessed “real magic."
- Have you ever achieved that? How often?
- Anyway, there's been so many moments throughout this where I've thought there's more to explore there in a future episode or in the show notes, so do check those out at edsumner.com/magicians, share the podcast with friends, and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from.
- Thanks for listening, and don't forget the companion episode to this episode is also available right now.
Additional Show Notes
- First up here is The Performance Rubric mentioned in the podcast: The Performance Rubric
- I may update it at some point, so please also check my Magician's Only page for the latest version.
- The Magic Circle version can be found by contacting them at https://themagiccircle.co.uk/ and it also comes to mind that there is a scoring format for FISM too, so that would be worth searching for online.
- As mentioned in the podcast, none of these may work for you, and you may want to create your own metrics for what great magic is. That's great, and is a useful exercise.
- See also, this blog podcast about "singing and dancing at the same time." - How do you speak so smoothly during a performance?
- Finally, for these notes, I wanted I wanted to add a comment about the third category, which for me is so important. It's often said, that if people like you, they will like your performance. I think that's true, and part of my performance as a magician is getting people "on side." I think of it as getting them invested in the performance. I think, I read this in Fitzkee's - The Trick Brain (I don't recommend the book although others do), but... here's the saying,
People like people, more than they like things.
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