I found myself at a wonderful kids party this past weekend and I was the entertainment. Being a childrens entertainer can be an absolute rare priviledge that should not be taken for granted and should be cherished for how rewarding it can be. I don't always, but I should. And I won't lie, some kids magic shows I perform are much more rewarding than others and this can be for many different reasons, but it is always something that can be rewarding if you have the mindset to find the reward in it. There is a certian element of controlled chaos, like herding cats, that needs to flow through a magic show for kids ( and to a lesser degree for adults ) and you have to embrace it and surf the chaos or you will lose every time. Here is a lesson I learned, once again, this past weekend.
We have all found ourselves pushing to get something from someone ( well I have ) and I have become acutely aware that it is ugly. It is not nice, it doesn't look good and it's a form of bullying, at any degree. I found myself being a very small bit pushy with a very reserved birthday boy this past weekend and I knew in that moment, I was reminded right then, that if I went any further my show would be tinged with ugliness. Just slightly uncomfortable, nothing that anyone but I would notice, but it is not something I will tolerate in myself, my shows or my interactions anymore. I know better. Sometimes the lessons of experience do bed down and become the guard rails of your actions.
There can be a tendency amongst magicians to use audience participants and volunteers as necessary but as only as a functionaries to facilitate their performance. I myself have been guilty of this and of not constructing a routine that takes into account the necessary immediacy and input of having someone share the stage with you. It can happen when you are trying out a new performance or routine and have many factors of performance to take into account. Under these circumstances, sometimes the interaction, care and interest in the volunteer takes a back seat. As a magician, you need to guard against this happening. The audience volunteer sharing the stage with you is vital to the routine, their personality and the choices they make need to be of utmost importance, or at least it should seem that way. Having been an actor for most of my life, I can tell you, the easiest acting you will ever do, is to actually do what it is you should be doing and this is one of those easy things - really listening, really responding. And it does truly matter how the volunteer behaves and interacts and the choices she/he make. It is vital. A magician who has no regard for their volunteer and for who it is evident that their choices are of no consequence, is an ugly performer. And their performances will be hollow and fatuous. A magician ( or any performer ) needs to be alive to the possibility of anything happening and to the immediacy of what is happening in every moment. There is gold to be found in genuine and sincere interest in people. Sometimes, they can make your performance the stuff of legends and more memorable than anything that you could possibly achieve on your own. This adds to the feeling of immediacy and unpredictability of a magic performance and strengthens the impact and power of performances. Generally, I construct my routines so that the input of the volunteer is vital to the outcome.
Someone who comes to mind as I write this, who I have witnessed does this beautifully and easily in her performances is my friend and fellow magician Simone Turkington. She is undoubtedly one of the best female magicians in Los Angeles and performs regularly at the Magic Castle. Last time I saw her perform, she was brilliantly cheeky and at the same time generous and giving in her interactions with the volunteers in her magic show! If you are in L.A. you should look out for her performances and if you are ever at one of her shows, get involved if you have the chance; you won't regret it. She's wonderful...