Part 4 of 4 on Make Big Reactions!
Just last year, I was performing for a group of friends and as it turned out, I offended one of them. I was performing a card trick. That was my first mistake! Hahaha. (Ok, cards are cool, but this is a coin blog, so cut me some slack.)
I was performing the effect, Multiple Selection, which many great card men, such as Doc Eason and Paul Cummings, use to engage a large group of people. As the routine goes, I had about 12 friends each select a playing card which were lost and shuffled in the deck. I proceeded to find each one in impressive fashion.
Now, back to the offensive part. Each card must be revealed differently, and for my final reveal I did something that to some would be inappropriate: I pull the last card out of the zipper of my pants. It’s a bit of an awkward reveal, definitely a "card to impossible location" and gets a very big reaction. But on this day, it offended a friend.
To be honest, most days it probably offends someone, they just don’t tell me. Now, if you are in the camp that finds that effect funny, before you judge my friend as a pious prude, let me tell you why I think he was right.
I actually wrestled with this for weeks. It really challenged me. But I think it was something more than the lack of ability to receive a critique.
My friend had a reason or two why he thought I shouldn’t pull a card out of my zipper. They were good reasons that I now agree as a professional are not the best choice for my performance character (you will have to decide that for yourself if you do such stunts), but it was particularly how he approached me that made me pause. He said he had actually thought quite a bit about WHY I would do that effect. He knows me and knows a bit about who I am. He said he came to the conclusion that perhaps as a magician I was trying to create “shock,” since magicians rely on surprise to create effects.
And as I pondered on that effect, and all my performance effects for the next three weeks, wondering if I really offended him, wondering if I offended others, wondering…. I realized his conclusion was correct. Nothing malicious, sexual, or inappropriate was intended by the effect, but that effect “crosses the line” of what is acceptable to do in public. I just wanted to create shock.
And that was the problem. I don’t perform to create shock as if I’m Howard Stern. I perform to create wonder. I perform to stretch imaginations. I perform to Make Beautiful Magic.
Those are my goals. Not shock. That particular effect, paired with my performance character, does not accomplish the goals that I’ve set out to accomplish as an entertainer.
If I had been in tune with my goals, I would not have offended anyone. However, I was simply performing something the way I always had for the last 15 years without examination. If I'd examined the routine, I could have made my final reveal flow with my character and gained a continuity of response to all the wonder I had already created. Instead, the final moment had been leaving my audience in chaos on how to respond, weakening their united response.
And another great by-product of this self examination... I ended up creating an even better ending to my routine!
If shock is your goal, then make that happen. If wonder, if suspense, if fear, if art, if bizarre, if manipulation, if skill is your goal, then focus on that. So to sum up our four part series on “Make Big Reactions,” know what your goal is. Focus on that which you wish to clearly communicate and your performance will be rewarded with stronger and bigger reactions.
After Thoughts: Today’s blog fit well as part four to the series, but in reality, this question should be asked first. Unfortunately, when we are young in the art, we probably aren’t that clued in to ask profound questions. Once you get more serious and start to examine your performance, it’s truly worth while to go back and examine your goal(s). And it’s probably good to do so yearly, because they tend to change as we grow older.