Walk Around Dilema

Instead of mentally projecting your mentalism thoughts, type them here.

Postby Guest » 10/24/04 06:54 PM

:help:

I have been given the oppertunity to do some walk around magic at our company Chirstmas Party. I have been involved in magic for many years and have even had the occassion to perform. I want to try my hand at mentalism. I have read many books and learned many effects over the past two years that I have been studying but I have not put any of my recently aquired knowledge to the 'test' in a formal setting. I will tell you that my favorite effects have been created by Max Maven, (I have spent quite some time pouring over back issues of The Linking Ring and Max You The Man!) So my question to all you seasoned pros out there is:

1) How do you approach a table? (I already know I am expected to do this but is there some golden rule of ediqete that I should follow?)

2) I have many effects that I can bring to the 'table' but is there a rule about how long any one effect should take?

and last but not least...

3) What is a good opener for a show of this sort? Or is every effect an opener?

Thanks,
Gradock Lowe
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Postby Bill Duncan » 10/24/04 07:57 PM

Everything you need to know about "table hopping" can be found here:
Kirk Charles book list


Standing Up Surrounded is probably the best bet for what you're looking at.
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Postby Guest » 10/25/04 12:21 PM

There are as many answers to your questions as there are walkaround performers, but there's unquestionably a "party line" approaching consensus on the subject.

(1) Party line says to approach with a self-introduction, not a trick. Even so, Ron Wilson used to walk up to folks with a color-changing knife, saying, "Did one of you lose a red knife? No? Well, good, because this is actually a BLACK knife!" - this approach has gotten a lot of flack lately, but I believe that's just because it's been overdone (from our perspective, not the audience's). Also, it can come off as too "cute" and contrived.

In your case, since you're a company-man and likely to be recognized, your intro can be relaxed a bit. You might want to consider something like, "hi folks, guess what, I'm part of the entertainment tonight," and launch into your best trick with a table full of people you know. Induce big applause, so other tables see you and "get" what you're doing.

(2) There are, of course, no rules on tricks to use, but walkaround/restaurant magic has an element of guerrilla warfare to it; stick with short, punchy stuff, and divide the amount of time you'll have to walk around by the number of tables. Shouldn't be more than five minutes per, and probably more like two or three, time enough for maybe two good tricks.

Visual magic is best if that's your bag. As I lean towards mentalism, I typically do a lot of billet work using the Busch Billet (I've also used Osterlind's PCT, which I think is actually more effective, but I save a step by not having to tear it up). The "hidden info" is any number of things I can riff with (Derren Brown, Ted Lesley and Julian Moore all have excellent examples). Finally, I perform the peek while wearing an Osterlind Stainless Steel Blindfold - this adds a visual element and a touch of theater. Plus, it can be put on and taken off so quickly.

(3) I don't believe in "openers" for walkaround, because (a) your introduction serves the same purpose as your "opener," even if it includes a trick and (b) when you have time for only one or two tricks, there's not much point in labeling them. All your effects should be self-contained, hopefully memorable and strong enough to stand on their own.

Finally, because you're an employee and expected to be an "amateur" (because your job should take priority, right?), you're more free to "experiment" than a walkaround worker. Typically, a walkaround/restaurant performer will only actually perform two or three effects the whole night, and be prepared to possibly show as many as five. It's common for first-timers to carry loads of stuff with fancy gimmicks requiring difficult sleights, then wind up doing Crazy Man's Handcuffs all night long. In your case, though, you should try out as many things as possible. That way, you'll know for sure what should remain in your pockets and what you can leave in the drawer.
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Postby Guest » 10/25/04 01:04 PM

Avocat, it sounds like you are a real pro. Let me make things interesting, though, by discussing the approach to the table.

This subject has fascinated me for the past couple years. When I approach with the straightforward approach, I say: "Hi, I'm the strolling magician here tonight. Would you like to see some magic?"

However, last spring, when I started a hip, upscale restaurant in Santa Monica, California (Lula Cocina Mexicana on Saturday nights), I found that that approach was too unhip for some of the patrons, and I got an avalanche of no's. Some nights, it got downright depressing, all that rejection. Thus, I had to explore other more oblique approaches.

Actually, I recently discovered that Tommy Wonder prefers the oblique approach, since he thinks that the straightforward approach puts customers in a double bind. They don't know what "some magic" means, first of all. And they have to make a decision on the spot about something so unheard of that they don't know how to judge whether they want to see it or not. In addition, you put them in the position of having to hurt your feelings if they don't want to see it.

I've developed some oblique approaches myself, but have yet to find the ideal one.

In Gradock's case, however, the answer is entirely different. Most everyone will know you, Gradock, so the patrons will react to you in a different way.

Gradock, I think it best for you to ask yourself: What will be going through people's minds when I approach the table? Then your introduction to the table should incorporate that knowledge.

For example, the patrons may be thinking: Why is Graddock standing above us?

Your approach, then, might be: "Hey guys. No, I haven't lost my job and gotten a job as a waiter. They've hired me to perform magic tonight at the tables."

Or: "I made too many personal phone calls last month, so as punishment, the boss said I had to do a card trick for every table in the room. Hey--my loss is your gain."

Or: "You may not know me. My name is Gradock and I work in accounting. The boss wanted me to give a demonstration of how our competitors' accounting works." [and then go into the Six Card Repeat with dollar bills]

Or whatever fits your personality.
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Postby Guest » 10/25/04 02:44 PM

:D Thank you Bill, David and Avocat you have made me feel most welcome.

Bill I will look into the book.

David you had some funny intros and hit the nail on the head, I have indeed been asking myself what my friends and coworkers will be thinking upon my approach. Your suggestions were great.

Avocat, wow. Great info here, practically a 'how-to'. Between your advice and David's I think I will do very well. I will let you guys know how it goes.

Thanks again,
Gradock
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 10/25/04 04:06 PM

Gradock,

I certainly hope my answer to your original post didnt make you feel unwelcome. That certainly was not my intention.

Clearly you feel ready for this, so that is a big part of the battle (the biggest, actually). Besides the great advice already mentioned, I have a couple of things for you to consider, particularly since it is mentalism you seem to prefer. Find out everything you can about the venue: How will it be set up? Will there be 20 or 30 tables with a lot of people talking at the same time? You might be competing with a noise level that will make it difficult for everyone at the table you are working to hear you (hence Avocats comment that visual magic is best). In circumstances like that, the noise level tends to rise as the evening goes oneach table competing to hear over the others; its a cumulative nightmare. Also, find out if someone has planned having background music: you might have to compete with loud talking and loud holiday music as well! Find out if the tables are round (how many people at each?) or long, set up end to end in rows. This will have a major impact on how you approach the job.

Good luck!
Dustin
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Postby David Alexander » 10/25/04 06:37 PM

This is why I don't bother trying to get close-up gigs...because an amateur is willing to work for nothing, "saving" his company the cost of a professional entertainer.

If you want to learn how to work for people, volunteer to entertain people in hospitals, church socials, prisons, old age homes, convalescent hospitals. Active magic clubs often provide such opportunities.

You should consider the downside....that if you screw up, you'll be a fool in the eyes of your co-workers. Practice on audiences who will welcome amateur entertainment and leave the professional gigs to the pros until you're ready to charge money, or experienced enough so you know what you're doing. Your friends and co-workers are there to enjoy themselves, not be experimented on.
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Postby Guest » 10/25/04 07:57 PM

:p Good Evening Mr. Alexander,

This is not a flame, it is difficult to convey tone of voice over the internet but it is a rebutal. Let me begin by saying....

~How rude!~

1) I am a semi-professional magician and I do have some expeirence;

2) I am the current Presidant of our local magic club, and find it useful to consult my peers which is why I joined this forum to start with!

3) Ever try something new and need a little input? If not your missing the whole point of life in general!

4) Everything I have ever, let me restate that, EVER, read suggests that it is best to try your material out for friends and family. Don't know where you work sir but my co-workers are my second family and I am very proud to announce my friends as well. Chances are slim at best I will look like a fool since this is my second year performing for my company and I strive to keep it as fresh as I can.

5) I am currently involved in local charities but since mentalism is something new to me, (having only spent a couple of years activily pursuing it), I thought I might place a post here, sorry if it offended anyone.

6) I think it is very much your loss if you don't "bother trying to get close-up gigs...because an amateur is willing to work for noting, "saving" his company the cost of a professional entertainer". I have done a good bit of close up for adult audiences, (easier by far than adolescent audiences) and enjoyed the laid back atmosphere.

7) Last but not least here is a little trivia for you:

"am-a-teur, a noun, from the latin meaning lover, and from amare meaning to love.1: a person who engages in a pursuit for pleasure and not as a profession (2) a person who is not an expert. Are you an expert David, you sound like you are to me.
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Postby Guest » 10/25/04 09:48 PM

David Alexander is an expert.

I hope you never have an appointment with a semi-professional heart surgeon with some experience"

Stetson
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Postby Brian Marks » 10/25/04 10:42 PM

Jon, I know your a top notch pro but your not required to carry malpractise insurance. I know you take it as seriously as heart surgery but nobody dies if you mess up. If magicians had the training heart surgeons had, this thread would not exist.

People want to see their co workers perform. Nobody is deciding between the Amazing Brian at $500 and David from accounting for free. They like David and know hes good at making money disapear. I am sure if an amatuer insisted on a pro, there would be no magic.
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Postby David Alexander » 10/26/04 10:30 AM

Gradock Lowe/Dave Cooper

You said youd been involved in magic for some years and even had the occasion to perform. You further state, I want to try my hand at mentalism. I have read many books and learned many effects over the past two years that I have been studying but I have not put any of my recently acquired knowledge to the 'test' in a formal setting. So, from your own words it seems clear that you are an amateur who has never performed mentalism in a formal setting; asking the seasoned professionals how to work a room to successfully experiment, for free, on co-workers in a party setting.

Youre not asking for advice that will allow you to work as an amateur - the occasional trick or routine in a casual setting for a few friends - but how to work the room, going up to tables to perform. You are asking professionals to help you work the room like a professional gig, successfully, for free.

I criticize that and suddenly Im rude and youre a semi-professional, which means you perform for money. You close the letter by giving me the dictionary definition of amateur and ask if I am an expert? So, what are you, someone who occasionally takes money as a semi-pro, or an amateur? You seem to want to be both as the situation suits you.

Performing the occasional trick for friends and co-workers in a casual setting, something every amateur does, is nothing I have a problem with, but what you describe doing is taking the place of a hired professional.

Would your company hire a real professional to entertain? Well never know because youve set the value of magic as entertainment at zero. Why should they pay anyone when they have you willing to work for nothing.again this year.or more accurately, experiment on your friends and co-workers with a type of magic you have, by your own admission, no experience in performing in a formal setting. You dont even know how long an effect should last. Good grief.

You ask if I am an expert. Since the mid-1960s Ive worked as a professional magician in front of thousands of paying audiences; the first magician to work for Princess Cruises; the only magician to work for the Trader Vic Organization at their Beverly Hills restaurant back in the late 1960s (at three times what the Magic Castle was paying); nearly a year at the Paraiso Marriott Hotel in Acapulco; work all over Central America, Canada, the Far East, corporate work for Fortune 500 companies; thousands of private parties, and on and on. As a kid I took lessons from Jay Ose, was friends with Bill Chaudet, Harry Mendoza, Charlie Miller (lessons from him, too), lessons from Max Malinis son, Ozzie, and other top professionals. I was Jose Fraksons exclusive pupil for seven years and he was a pro for 60 years.

I grew up in a time when magic was difficult to learn. One learned out of expensive books which took time to read and understand and actualize; from ones peers, which took a degree of socialization; and from older, more experienced amateurs and, if extremely lucky, from professionals. This latter approach took patience and highly developed social skills because few professionals suffered fools gladly.

We didnt have the tsunami of printed and electronic material you have today that simply require one to watch and copy, and we didnt have the Internet with apparently unlimited access to information that people think is some sort of divine right. Simply ask and you shall be given.

I grew up in a time when information about magic took time and effort to obtain, when magic was difficult to learn and far less commonplace than it is today, far more special, long before there were videos and DVDs of every hack imaginable producing volumes of prattle and nonsense and being seen as authorities when they know nothing about the theatrical presentation of magic.

Ive spent thousands of dollars and thousands of hours honing my craft so that I can walk on a stage (or approach a table) with complete confidence of delivering the entertainment Im paid to create. Yes, Dave, I am an expert!

And as a working professional Ive had to fight against the rising tide of more and more amateurs who are happy to confuse or willfully ignore the difference between the amateurs performance and that of a professional entertainer. I respect Dustin Stinett because of his proper attitude towards performing. He defers to professionals when asked to perform in a professional setting. He knows his limitations and has respect both for what he does and what professionals do. He doesnt confuse the two. HE is the true amateur and, unfortunately, more the exception than the rule.

Restaurant magic is almost a dead issue at least where I live because so many amateurs are willing to work for next to nothingor for nothing. My steady restaurant gig many years ago paid me $25 an hour. There were very few of us doing professional close-up so I did not have to worry about some clown walking in and offering to work for less than what I was getting (a common enough practice these days, Im told). I paid my monthly rent with four hourswork. Economic websites tell me that what I was paid then would today be around $150 an hour in equivalent buying power, but todays restaurant magicians are happy with $10 to $15 an hour, equivalent to less than $1 to my $25 all those years ago.

I know of one guy who would drive from San Diego to Long Beach, over 100 miles, for a two hour, $30 restaurant gig once a week. The two best restaurant gigs in Orange County pay $50 and $75 a shift.a shift being four hours! One guy I know worked a restaurant for years for free just for the privilege of handing out his business card. Of course, he had a real job that supported him. A few guys manage to get a little better money, but they are few and far between and they are battling the cheap hacks, too.

Any question why I feel strongly about this?

So lets turn the tables Youre a graphic designer. Ive been told I have an innate sense of graphic design. Ive even spent some time studying the field, and Ive had the occasion to successfully work at graphic design, doing the covers of several books and magazines. Given my credits, you might call me a semi-professional graphic designer. Perhaps your company would like to bring me in for a couple of projects. Id be happy to work for free to get the feel and the experience. Since Ive done reasonably well in magic and have a few bucks put away, I could take your place for a week or two at no salary. Your company would save some money by not paying you and Id get all that experience experimenting with your co-workers.

I dont suppose youd much care for that.
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Postby George Olson » 10/26/04 12:32 PM

David!

That is one of the best posts in all the years I've been lurking on this Board.

Your thoughtful and articulate dissertation helps so much in what I've been trying to get across to folks in this area about how I look at this "job."

Sure I had a day job years ago, but now I've got to pay the bills.

GO
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Postby Guest » 10/26/04 02:10 PM

Ive worked the corporate & tradeshow magic/mentalism arena as both entertainer and client, and while theres no conclusive way to prove or disprove it, I cannot agree that an in-house amateur deprives work from a real professional.

More precisely, I cannot agree that an in-house amateur will deprive work from any real professional whose skills are truly on par with those of a real professional.

It simply misses the point to bemoan the rising tide of more and more amateurs who are happy to confuse or willfully ignore the difference between the amateurs performance and that of a professional entertainer. Hiring decisions are not made by tides of amateurs. They are made by clients, and clients who pay serious money to hire real professionals most assuredly do know the difference between an amateur and a professional entertainer.

In other words, the clients who truly matter will, almost by definition, know enough and care enough to hire a real professional. Clients willing to settle for an amateur testing his wares either (a) would never have hired a professional anyway or (b) might be more willing hire a professional once theyve seen what an amateur can (or cannot) do. It's a known marketing tactic, one used by a number of pros, to exploit a potential clients past bad experiences with magic by distinguishing yourself as the real thing.

Its probably true that the easy availability of formerly difficult-to-find arcana has resulted in a flood of amateurs. My point is this: maybe the currently-saturated market is a good thing, not a bad one. Maybe greater public awareness will deepen public appreciation for real professionals. And who better to appreciate, promote and possibly induce his company to hire a real professional than an in-house amateur who has followed, admired and perhaps even studied under that same real professional?

This assumes, of course, that such a real professional has not already burned that bridge by, say, stridently rebuking the hypothetical amateur for daring to venture outside his amateur-boundaries and having it too darned easy with all these videos and DVDs.

I confess, Ive had mixed feelings about the current availability of easy to master card/coin/mental magic. Im generally in favor of the free flow of information and ideas, and such flow requires availability. However, ours is a craft with a unique need for secrecy. Revealing how a master guitarist strings and strums his guitar wont ruin his performances. Not so with magic, as we all know.

However, only people who are actually interested in performing will buy and watch these easy to master videos and DVDs. So it seems to me that the real issue isnt so much one of exposure but of easy availability. To criticize such availability begins to sound strident, even petulant, like saying, in my day I had to walk to and from school, three miles, uphill both ways. Possibly true, but so what? Its progress. And if such progress creates more amateurs who, in turn, create more awareness and appreciation for real professionals, then that is a good thing.

By the way, if David Alexander wants to work for free as a graphic designer, he should feel free to do so. Steven Spielberg worked for free at first, running the studios errands, doing odd jobs and anything else theyd let him do, just to gain experience and learn his craft. Heres a business secret: a free employee would never get an existing employee fired; even if he were truly and clearly better at the job, the company would cheerfully take the two-for-one free gift and run with it.

Likewise, an amateur couldnt steal work from a seasoned professional like David Alexander, because the seasoned professional should be truly and obviously superior. If not, either the professional should improve or the amateur should charge more. Or maybe, just maybe, the markets changed and the professional should charge less (current salaries of working professionals suggest this is NOT the case).

Anyone whos worked in this craft knows that experience is the best teacher. As a part-timer, I cant and dont compete with full-time workers who have less technical skill than I do. Its not simply because they are real professionals. Its because they perform so much more often that their presence and persona are, as a result, that much more commanding than my own. They are in the zone all the time. They are obviously superior to the average layperson, as well as to me. (Im ignoring, for the sake of argument, the hacks who are truly bad and dont ever improve.)

Thats why a real professional should never fear inundation by amateurs, and should, in fact, be grateful for free publicity that can result. Its also why real amateurs should perform as much as possible, because experience is our best teacher.
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Postby Larry Horowitz » 10/26/04 02:39 PM

I will not get into the discussion of amatuer vs professional, adifferent topic for a different day.

Gradock,

Reread your first post. You certainly gave the impression that you were relativly new to performing. The questions you asked are certainly the questions of one with no walk-around experience.

Now comes a response for your situation.

What is your level of employment at the company? Are you a lowly peon, middle managment or upper managment?

You say that this is your second year performing for the company. I assume that your previous experiece was a more formal presentation, you were introduced, you took center stage and everyone sat, watched and enjoyed. Walk-around IS dfferent. The host will not have directed your audience to silence, you will to take command of the situation, not have it handed to you. You will need to manage your audience in ways that are not necccesary from a stage. How will you respomd to the co-worker that talks or asks questions at the table? If you are not upper managment, how will you respond when the boss says, "let me see your other hand".

You will be faced with the sudden realization that the working surfaces you are used to are not available. The table is cluttered or wet. The hand of the spectator you want is holding a drink. The drunk is pissed off that your are showing off for his wife. Surprise, welcome to walk-around.

Walk around places you in a no win situation. It is new territory, so there are bound to be some mistakes. You impressed your co-workers last year,(that's why they asked you again), you cannot beat that. You can only do less.

You address the question of taking risk. Sure, but at the right time and place and in the right manner. Don't take on this job formally. Take some stuff with you and do a little for your friends at the party. Make it short and sweet. Let them know it is an experiment in new wonders and you trust them enough to want them to see it first. Trust me, just doing it in this way you will learn some of the difficulties you would face trying to do walk-around all evening.
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Postby Brian Marks » 10/26/04 03:11 PM

1.Avocat hit my point on the head. People truly interested in hiring a magician will pay for a professional. And likewise a professional magician will market himself to such people.

2. David, if Jon Stenson says your an expert, than Ill take his word at it. Jon Stenson is no slouch himself. No need to waste bandwidth with your resume.

3.Over the years I have attended dozens of major conventions, weddings, bar mitzvahs, sales meetings, parties of all types and 1000s of restaurants. None of them considered hiring a magician. On 2 occasions in my adult life, were magicians hired to perform at an event. NYU hired magicinas Joe Devlin, Belinda Sinclair and an amateur to work a graduation party. I was in the graduating class. The 2nd was at 1 exhibit at 1 convention of the 30 or so industry conventions(ad specialty conventions) I have been to.

4. Hacks are in every profession you could possibly think of. You mentioned my profession of graphic arts. The graphic artist industry contains more fraud percentage wise than magic does. Colleges render more incompentant artisits on an annual basis. Barnes and Noble Universtiy produces more competant artist than legitimate schools This doesnt matter because the artist jobs are being outsourced to India. Billions of dollars year is lost on the ripping off of graphic programs. The magic world cant hold a candle. My suggestion about hacks is if they are affecting you career, maybee you need to work on your sales and marketing skills.
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Postby Guest » 10/26/04 05:05 PM

Good Evening one and all,

I don't get to check this forum until I get home for work. I have some things I'd like to say;

To David Alexander

You have a great biography Mr. Alexander and I am duely impressed. I have several books here at home but I have not spent thousands of dollars on books and materials. I have what I can afford, (and what I can borrow from my friends who are professionals and who do get paid). I am trying to think outside the box by posting my message here. I have no problems telling you that I will continue to take gigs as they come along, but know this sir, I would NEVER knowingly put someone out of work. I did recommend someone for this event. The people in charge of it wanted me because I have done the occasional trick around the office. I was encouraged by a seasoned professional who is working right now as I type this letter and who just last week did 9 shows. It was he that I recommended, but again they wanted me. My employers have hired professional entertainers in the past, here are the results of that experiment;

Year One

A Hypnotist Everyone agreed he was great but alas he charged too much. Personally had I been asked I would have paid to see him, that's right, paid to see him. I feel you can learn a great deal by watching others preform. That does not mean steal their work, it means learn from their delivery and the reaction the audience has to them.

Year Two

Two walk-around performers that I know are very gifted and capable performers were hired to work an event held by my employers. I was present that night. I waited for two hours to have them preform for me but never saw either of them. I wasn't alone in that. This was one of two chief complaints that rose to the surface a month or so after their show. I did get to meet them, both are great magicians and I hope I have the opportunity to see them perform. (Yes I would pay to see them as well)

I know the people in charge of these things and I can tell you that the chances of these three ever being hired by my employers again are very slim.

Please understand that I am not being glib when I say that I would not mind your entry into the graphics world in the slightest. I would love to see some of your work, I am an artist, its what I do for a living. I don't have a BFA, but I do have a knack for creating work that is pleasing to the eye and that is how I pay my bills.

Before that I worked as a C.N.A. and took care of some very special people. I routinely performed for them and they appreciated my work, both as their care giver and their friend. This is not a good job to make friends in, they tend to move on very rapidly.

In one of only two jobs I ever got paid for I performed for a very sick little boy, and though I insisted that I do it for free the mother shoved a $20 bill in my hand and gave me kiss on the cheek. It happened just that way and I tell you now that kiss is worth more than all the money I have ever spent or will ever earn in my lifetime.

Finally, I do value your opinion. It is both informed and passionate but it is your opinion (and I did ask you for it), but I am going forward with this performance.

To Avocat

I admire your posts. Like George Olson I was a lurker for sometime before deciding to make a post. I thank you for your encouragement. I too feel that experience is the best teacher. Despite everything else I, nor anyone I know, goes out to willingly make a spectical of themselves by giving a poor performance. I have been heckled, blown tricks and still managed to have fun with my audience. After the show I even invited the heckler to attend our magic club. Why? Because he taught me a great deal about myself. That even in the face of such a brutal assault I was able to keep some dignity and entertain. When I say brutal, I mean brutal, he was after all, a teen ager! ;)

To Larry Horowitz

Thank you for your encouragement and you are right, though unintentional, my post was misleading.

Your comments were well received.

Finally to one and all:

I understand and accept constructive criticism. I expect it, I don't even mind flames. I truly feel that if you took the time to write it down then it must be important to you. I may not agree with it (and I'll let you know if I don't) but I will read it and in so doing learn from your posts. Learning is why I am here.

Thanks again for all the responses,

Dave
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Postby David Alexander » 10/28/04 03:36 PM

To Gradock/Dave

My intent was not to flame and if you took it that way, I apologize. It was blunt and direct and thats how I am sometimesand, as you can tell, this is a particularly sensitive subject to me.

With that said, I cannot accept you calling yourself a semi-professional as you did in your response, and then later tell us that youve only done two paid gigs, one of them you consider as paid because the mother of the child shoved a $20 tip on you. Sorry, Dave, that isnt a paid gig. Thats a nice lady showing her appreciation for your kindness, nothing more.

Re: previous entertainment hired by your company - In your own words, the hypnotist delivered a good show, but he was too expensive. That is a subjective judgment and has no bearing on his professionalism.

You claim to have sat for two hours waiting for the strolling magicians to come and entertain you, a situation that does not reflect well on themunless they were put in an untenable position by your company, the details of which were not supplied by you. Did they not know how many people were going to be present? Did they know and inform your company that for a crowd that size there would have to be more magicians to cover everyone in the time allotted? You dont supply enough information for me to form an opinion about them at all.

As I fully expected, you will continue to accept gigs but will never, as you describe it, knowingly put someone out of workknowingly being the operant word here. Your actions will, of course, cause people to lose gigs, you admit to that when you recommended someone and they preferred you. Of course, given what youre chargingyoure good enough for freeand thats good enough for them. It is very hard to compete against Free even when there is a huge difference.

Further, you fail to realize that friends and family are courteous. If youre bad, or just not particularly good, no one will tell you, but they will talk about it amongst themselves.

Youre not doing yourself a favor by trying to perform untried material of a kind of magic that you have no experience with in front of friends and co-workers. It is a recipe for disaster. Truly, George Jean Nathan was right when he observed that The confidence of amateurs is the envy of professionals.

To Avocat -

Part of the problem in discussing things on a forum like this is the use of pseudonyms. I have no idea who you are except that you list yourself as an attorney in Honolulu. In lawyerly fashion, you address some of my points and erect straw men to make your own.

You make the claim, Ive worked the corporate & tradeshow magic/mentalism arena as both entertainer and client, and while theres no conclusive way to prove or disprove it, I cannot agree that an in-house amateur deprives work from a real professional.

Corporate and trade show work was not what we were discussing here. It was club date, casual work, a far different market.

As you advance later in your post the idea that experience is the best teacher, I would observe that if you had sufficient experience in the club date/casual market by far the largest employer of magicians - you would already know a truism told to me over 40 years ago by Bill Chaudet, then one of the busiest club date performers in Southern California. Bill said, If they hire a bad comedian, a bad singer, or a bad musician, theyll hire another, but if they hire a bad magician, theyll think that magic doesnt work for their group and they wont hire another. That observation by Bill is as true today as it was 40 years ago, perhaps truer because there are more bad "semi-pro" part-time magicians working today.

You state that Hiring decisions are not made by tides of amateurs. They are made by clients, and clients who pay serious money to hire real professionals most assuredly do know the difference between an amateur and a professional entertainer. Of course youre arguing something I didnt bring up, but since you didin some instances, in some markets, yes, youre correct, but in the club date and casual market, often the answer is no.

If there is a situation where the buyer or booker of talent can compare one performer with the other, as in an audition for a professionally produced show, or for a high end corporate gig, the experienced pro has it all over the amateur because the booker usually (but not always) knows the difference between the two and makes his decision accordingly. (I am aware of one amateur who wrote a book, turned pro, and was hired to work a tradeshow almost immediately without the slightest professional credentials or experience working a tradeshow crowd, so not all tradeshow bookers know the difference.)

However, more to the point, if you worked the club date market enough, youd know that what Bill told me all those years ago was a fact of life because there are so many hacks who learn nothing from experience, but do endlessly promote themselves as magicians while supporting themselves with other work. Their skill is not as a performer, but as a marketer. They dont need to charge what a full-time working pro does, because this is playa hobby that makes them money. Amateurs and professionals perform for very different reasons - the amateur performs for his own needs while the professional performs to satisfy the needs of his audience, which is the major reason why most amateur never perform with the success of a "true professional."

Most importantly, far too often, buyers of casual entertainment are not experienced or sophisticated in dealing with purchasing entertainment, dont have a clue what a professional entertainer charges - needs to charge to make a decent living - and, again, far too often, base their decision-making on fee.

That the difference between what I do and what they do is obvious in the actual performing, but few private party gigs are acquired by live audition and even a poor performer can, with judicious editing of video tape, appear far better than he is. Too often people rely on awards won at amateur magic conventions as an indication of quality. To some in the public they carry the erroneous implication of quality, when magic convention contests are judged by completely different criteria than the needs of real life performing. For judging quality of entertainment, they are worthless.

By the way, I did not suggest, as you would have us believe, that my working for free as a graphic designer would get anyone fired. I used it as an example to prompt Gradock into thinking how he might feel if the tables were turned and someone wanted to do his job for free. From your responses, you both missed my point.

I know of one amateur who has the most gorgeous four color brochures and photos that would make you think he is a successful working pro when the truth is he is one of the worst magicians it is possible to imagine. He gets bookings because of his promotional material and low price but cannot possibly deliver a fraction of what his material promises. It is a long time before the clubs that hire him bring in another magician.

There is one semi-pro in the Pacific Northwest who low balls his competition to get the booking and then, if he gets a gig at a better price, he takes it and simply fails to show up for his first commitment. You would think the word would get around, but amazingly enough, he works steadily. Barnum, at least in his case, was right.

Now, add to the mix the erroneous idea in the publics mind that we all do magic when there is a huge gulf between the amateur and the professional.

Further, you fail to grasp the economics of the situation..that for far too many casual buyers of entertainment managers of restaurants to use restaurant magic as an example a body doing magic is a body doing magic. One restaurant I frequented had a young guy working for well over a year. He was snotty, overbearing and generally something of a jerk, thinking he was hot stuff for the $12.50 an hour he was being paid, but he had the gig because he was willing to take the pittance they were paying. Technically, he was adequatebut where it counted, in the personality, he was the pits. Management didnt care. He was a body filling up the space.

The criteria for hiring were not quality of work, charm, presentation, or entertainment. It was his willingness to accept what they were paying. Nothing else. He finally left and was replaced by a much more personable performer, but management saw little difference because he was another body doing magic and was willing to accept what the restaurant was willing to pay.

Ive talked to party planners who wanted to hire a half-dozen strolling magicians and the ONLY criteria was if the performers were willing to accept the price offered. Quality, experience, none of that really meant anything because the booker was only interested in bodies who would show up and do the work for the fee they were willing to paya fee that was tripled or quadrupled when billing the client. In Southern California there is no shortage of semi-pros who are willing to take the pay offered because they have other sources of income.

Further, you state, If not, either the professional should improve or the amateur should charge more. Or maybe, just maybe, the markets changed and the professional should charge less (current salaries of working professionals suggest this is NOT the case).

Absent the few superstars, current prices for working pros in Vegas and other venues is down, not up from what it was years ago because of the abundance of performers willing to work for less. Just this morning I received an email from an old friend, someone well known to amateur and professional magicians all over the world. While I wont identify him I will quote a portion of what he wrote re: prices for hospitality room work -

In the 1980s up to about '93 I was getting $1,000 a day and $1,500 plus on the road for several different companies for their rooms. Then the meeting planers moved in, the little girls with the clip boards who knew nothing about show business or entertainment, who told me that they were going to get me $200 for the night. I told them to go to hell.

And finally, this - if they are true amateurs, they shouldnt be charging more, they shouldnt be charging at all. When you take money for a performance, your responsibilities change, but few amateurs and part-timers seem to understand that.
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Postby Guest » 10/28/04 04:23 PM

Good Evening David,

I would like to discuss this issue with you off forum, please feel free to email me at home. I feel you are sincere in your convictions and I would like to assure you that I am doing this for two reasons:

1) I want to become a professional, it has been my goal for sometime but I know many pros who will work for free to try out material. I really don't know any other way to learn then to just go out there and put myself on the line, to qoute a famous guru "Just Do It" (Nike) ;) . Further, If I do not do this I can honestly tell you that no one will. If no one is going to do it then why not me? Why let the oppurtunity slip away to gain some valuable expeirence? As for them not paying to hire a pro if you will take the time to write me I will tell you more about my employer and you will understand.

2) To a man, everyone of my pro friends have encouraged me to do this.

Now as far as the strolling magicians go I truely wanted to see them and cannot tell you how disappointed I was that I did not even get a glimpse of them that night. I cannot speculate as to why, that would be wrong of me but I can tell you when I got to meet them (not too long after the event in question)it was really great and they are very gifted.

Let me close by saying that I may have misunderstood the tone of your first response, responding in a rude fashion of my own. You have my apologies for that David, it will not happen again.

Have a great evening and I look forward to hearing from you and reading your future posts,

Dave :cool:
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Postby Brian Marks » 10/28/04 04:59 PM

David

Dont worry, this is good discussion. Seems more heated than actually is because were on the internet.

Instead of arguring let me ask some questions and make points for you to comment on.

- Entry level magicians are not going to start out with a good # of gigs that pay enough live on. How would you suggest someone start the process of becoming a full time pro?

- How does someone know they are ready to perform for money? Magic clubs don't provide a good place to try out tricks since we spend time trying to fool magicians instead of easy commercial routines for laypeople. Family and friends have little interest in being guinea pigs. They are not interested in my entertaining them the way a real audience might be. I produce a weekly show for this purpose.

- with the creation of computers and dvd's, more magicinas are being mass produced and more are looking to be professionals. Even of all of them are qualified, can market for magic increase to fit them all or will prices drop?
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Postby David Alexander » 10/28/04 08:01 PM

OK...I'll try...give me a day or so and I'll write up something.
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Postby David Alexander » 10/28/04 11:23 PM

To begin with, it is enormously difficult to be a professional because of a number of factors: the investment of time and money, the wide-ranging education in the Craft that you must have, the study and self-analysis that is an absolute necessity

If you want to be a pro, you must learn to think like a pro and that, first and foremost, means leaving the ideas and attitudes of the amateur behind. Its like being a professional graphic artist, which you both are, as opposed to being an amateur artist. As a professional, you may enjoy the process of what youre doing, but youre not doing it for yourself. When youre creating art for yourself you can do anything you want because you have only yourself to satisfy. When youre hired to do a job, your goal is to satisfy your clients needs, not yours. It is the same with performingwhat you need and want out of performing as an amateur must be secondary to what your audience wants.and what they want is to be entertained, not watch someone entertain themselves.

For some amateurs, magic is a sort of therapy -- I can do something you cant therefore I compensate some real or perceived personality defect by being better than others. No audience wants to pay someone to perform therapy. So you have to like yourself to begin with and genuinely like people.or learn to fake it exceptionally well. As George Burns said, When you can fake sincerity, youve got it made.

Reading magic history is more important than books on sleight of hand. Knowing your craft means knowing its history.who did what, when. What was their approach to magic? How did they present themselves and their work? There are many lessons to be learned from the old pros.

New is not necessarily better and new is something constantly pursued by amateurs. Many of the things I do are nearly a hundred years old. They still work because good routines are timeless. All that is necessary is to adjust timing to modern audiences. So knowing theatrical magic history (not amateur magic history of who created what variant sleight) is an important asset.

A magic act grows organically. It is a long process and cannot be rushed or compressed. There are no short cuts. You must crawl before you can walk. You should determine what market you want to work because each market has different demands and requires different skill sets. Just because someone works well at a table for four people does not automatically mean they can walk on a stage and entertain an audience of 1,000 people. (Far too many close-up guys have that fantasy.)

Do you want to create a unique novelty act that will work in reviews? That requires tremendous originality and a lot of money and time invested in building the act. Think Marvyn Roy and Mr. Electric. No one copied Marvs act because he was there first and, frankly, no one wanted to spend the money and work that hard. Marvyn was a workhorse of a performer and loved every minute of it, even the fifth show at Radio City Music Hall when he was dead tired. I watched him do the Crown Prince act in San Francisco in 1964. He played full out for FOUR PEOPLE in a theater that sat 1,000. Thats a pro putting his audiences needs ahead of his own.

If you want to do comedy magic, you must identify the different skills that style requires and work towards developing them. Timing is the most difficult of all skills to develop.

School shows can be a rough but rewarding grind. Several grand old masters of magic spent nearly their entire careers working school shows and were successful at what they did. Childrens birthday parties, often foolishly derided by American amateurs, can be a rich source of experience and income - see Silly Billy and Ralph the Great as two guys who are doing well in the high end of this market. When amateurs knock childrens magicians they fail to understand that across the country more people see birthday party magicians every weekend that all of the shows in Vegas and Atlantic City combined.

What does a professional do to entertain? Primarily, a professional is a performer who entertains by the interaction of his personality with his audience, presenting material in which he has a high degree of confidence. It takes time and a lot of effort to create and sustain a successful stage persona. My pal Docc Hilford always recommends two books: Our Magic by Maskelyne and Devant and The Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski's. To those I would add: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Those three books will run about $30, cheap for what lessons you will learn.

I see myself in a service businessthe service is entertainment. To accomplish the goal of providing quality entertainment, I have a repertoire of honed and perfected magic routines that I know work, and I know why they work. I have at least an hour of A stand-up material, although my normal club date act is about 40 minutes. The material is modular, so I can cut if I have to. I dont make routines shorter; I just eliminate tricks because I know how long each routine runs.

I have about 45 minutes of time-tested close-up material, all I need at the moment or probably ever for strolling gigs. Some of it Ive been doing for 40 years, like the Balls and Net and a couple of card tricks Jay Ose taught me when I was a kid.

You must know your material absolutely cold. That means working on something, often for years, certainly hundreds of hours before you ever show it to an audience. You must not have to think about what comes next. It should just happen. Then you do dozens and dozens of presentations until you extract the maximum amount of entertainment from it. Amateurs are constantly working on new material. As a hobby that takes them away from the every day, thats fine. As a pro you dont have that luxury. Your material must work all the time. If it doesnt, then no matter how much you love it, out it goes.

Getting experience I got a lot through the SAM when I was a kid, doing shows at hospitals, a girls prison (several times), and like that. I did kids birthday parties for money when I was in high school and, for a time, I was Kedso the Clown for Keds Shoes. For a high school kid in the early 60s making $100 a day it was fantastic.

Fortunately, I hung around with pros rather than with amateurs. I knew how to keep my place. I knew then that as an amateur I was not on the same level with those guys. I kept quiet, was respectful, had good manners, never showed them a trick, asked questions at the right time and listened. They invited me into their homes, and I soaked it up like a sponge. More than tricks, which are a dime a dozen, from these pros I learned the right attitude about how to conduct myself as a professional, how to deliver the goods when paid to do so.

Brian asks - Entry level magicians are not going to start out with a good # of gigs that pay enough live on. How would you suggest someone start the process of becoming a full time pro?

Of course you have to support yourself by other means while youre learning your craft. Primarily, you work every free show you can, without stepping on the toes of local pros, taking work away from them. Undercutting a local pro is not a good way to start a career.

Find a mentor you can trust to tell you the truth about what you are doing. Tape your shows and have him critique you. Take a public speaking course and/or an acting class at a local college. DO NOT have the director try and direct your act. Most know next to nothing about how to stage a magic act, but from an acting class you can learn how to comport yourself on stage. Frakson taught me how to walk on a stage (more important that you realize) and he taught Jack Benny how to walk on a stage, too. Find a video of John Calvert walking on a stage. Thats a lesson in itself.

If youre going to do a talking act, then every word should be written out in advance, studied, memorized, and then delivered as though you just thought of the words that moment. Every time you perform you should remember that while youve done the act 500 times, the audience has never seen you once. Confidence in your ability to perform comes out of knowing your material and your props. There is NO substitute for that. When you have the routine down so that you dont need to think about what youre doing, then you can concentrate on the presentation and tweaking it so it fits exactly the audience youre in front of, making the minor necessary adjustments. In time, that will be automatic, too.

OK, thats enough for now. Any questions?
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Postby Jacky Kahan » 10/29/04 12:42 AM

First of all, thank you all for this topic, it's mostly interesting! Especially Mr. Alexander, i find your contributions really excellent!

Avocat said :
Its progress. And if such progress creates more amateurs who, in turn, create more awareness and appreciation for real professionals, then that is a good thing.
There is NO awareness, most people (potential audience) you meet for the first time, will tell you they never met a magician before. Most people have NO reference point to compare... so, if they see a "bad" act, will think that ALL the magicians are bad... conclusion : they will not hire magicians in the future.

Many agencies do not work with magicians anymore because too many bad experiences, meaning that lots of magicians pretend being professional while not at all!


jacky
www.magicbooks.be
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Postby David Alexander » 10/29/04 09:31 AM

Jacky, thanks for the compliment.

Sadly, what you say is true. And with agents who still work with "magicians," too often they hire on price only. I used to get calls from a couple of different agents who would begin by asking, "Are you available on such and such a date?"

When I told them I was, they'd say, "Save it for me, I have a date that pays," and they'd name a figure. If I agreed, they tell me to "pencil it in."

What the agent didn't say was that he was calling the next guy on his list, saying the same thing, only dropping the price by $10. He would continue to do this until he found someone who said yes to the lowest price he could find. It would not be unusual for a client to be paying several hundred dollars for an act that was paid $100, or less. And, of course, they never call you back to cancel the date you're holding.

Unfortunately, this meant that very often the client would be paying a professional fee and getting a hack "semi-pro" who was being paid a fraction of what the agent was charging. I never worked for those people because I wanted to be paid a fee that reflected by skill and experience. I told them all to "lose my number."

As per the quote in my last posting, "meeting/party planners" have taken the place, or in some cases simply augmented, greedy agents.

Now it is not unusual to find a client paying for an act through a party planner AND an agent, which leaves little enough for the performer at the end of the road.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 10/30/04 12:28 AM

Gradock Lowe:

I'm not going to address the subject of your getting the gig, how much you are being paid, any of that stuff.

But I do have a recommendation, and it's this: I don't recommend you start working on a trick now with the goal of performing it an important event in just two months.

I don't think that's long enough. I don't think it's long enough to: choose a trick, learn it, study different variations, pick a handling, develop a presentation, write a script, practice the handling, rehearse the script, and give it enough performances to bring it to a level where you can perform it without paying any attention to the method/handling, leaving all your attention available for your performance. I think this is especially if you're not a professional performer, as I am not. It's just not possible to get enough break-in performances.

I would recommend that you take your oldest (i.e. in your repertoire the longest) and most reliable tricks -- the ones which you can perform with absolutely no fear of failure whatsoever. Put them together into a pleasing order. Develop an overall presentation that ties them together.

I generally find that this produces the best results. I say this as a fellow non-professional magician, although if the truth be told, I have a good idea that this is what professionals do as well.

Just a suggestion from someone who's been in your exact situation more than once.
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Postby Guest » 10/30/04 08:55 AM

I'd just like to thank Mr. Alexander for his posts. To a young student of magic, they are both meaningful, and helpful.

I do not agree with everything he says with regards to other magicians causing a professional to lose gigs, or the way the public's perception of magic can be permanently soured, etc. I must admit, however, that this may be due to a youthful arrogance which leads me to believe that no amount of anything on the part of others is capable of staying me from the course which I wish to go...rather than much basis in reality.

Also, I've been lucky enough to avoid places like L.A. and Vegas, I imagine that as quanity goes up, it is increasingly harder to distinguish oneself from the rest, at least when facing a client with financial issues, and who has not yet seen you perform.

Thanks anyways, this sort of thing always validates my desicion to spend some time on the internet, interacting with the magic community in the only way I can...because it's good information.
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Postby Pete Biro » 10/30/04 09:22 AM

This is a great thread, but what's it doing in the "mentalism" section? I just stumbled onto it, why not move it to close-up? :confused:
Stay tooned.
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Postby Guest » 10/30/04 11:40 AM

Good Afternoon David and everyone else,

Great Post, I will take your advice and run with it. I didn't want to go into the books I have read but I would like to add one to your list of three. Actually an author not a book. I have found Uta Hagen to be very useful reading. Sources was the first of her books that I read, I also think that 'Building a Character' by Constantine Stanislavski and Elizabeth Hapgood is an excellent resource for building a stage personae, (in this I refer to world around us all at the 'stage'). OOPs, guess that is two books eh? Ah well now I have gone and done it in haven't I? Very well then, here are a couple of more, (authors that is), Ted Annamen, love his work. Dunniger, especially his autobiography. Ted Lessely, good stuff here. I truly enjoyed a very old book which was on magic history, I believe it was 'The Complete Illustrated History of Magic. ( The exact title escapes me right now and since I am not at home I can't just get up and go read the title) I did enjoy 'The Mentalist's Handbook' by Mr. Kaye. I would also like to say that I believe the Tarbell course to be essential any anyone's attempt to become a professional mage. I have read many more books but I still do not consider myself well read judging by the volumes of material out there in magazines, books and internet sites. So I will continue to study even though I know this will make me a life long student of the art. So I suppose I am off to find a mentor here in Columbus who can put up with me, (I am not an easy person to be around at times and while I like to think of myself as humble that is as truthful as the insane believing themselves to be sane :p , I am a nice person or am just being humble again? ;) )
Have a great Halloween,

Dave
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Postby Brian Marks » 10/30/04 12:21 PM

couple of things, semantics really.

My idea of entry level magican is like a lawyer who passed the bar but has no experince. A magician with some performing experience but no professional experience. A magician who has a few east to master Michael Ammar's act was not what I was refering to. Good Post anyway

I have trouble with magic clubs as a place of finding experience performing. They dont react the sameway wasy as non-magicians. If I am trying out new comedy material for my stand up comedy act, the worst audience are other stand up comics. You should only perform it for magi just to make sure your angles are covered and the sleights done properly.

Once you have the technical aspects of a trick down cold, you need to test it out on real people. I dont consider your family to be real people. My family are bunch of life size cut outs but thats just me. You need people who are willing to be entertained for several minutes. For close up I go meet some new people in packed bar. For platform effects I go to open mikes which usually take place in a bar. I have even self produced shows which occured in a bar.

I took two years of Meisner Technique classes. Higly recommended if you can do something like this. This technique is based on the of Sanford Meisner who came from group theater. Group Theater was higly influence by Stanislavski which David mentioned earlier. You should always look for a qualified acting teacher. Similiar to magic, there are few who can actually teach acting but many who do.
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Postby David Alexander » 10/31/04 11:10 AM

Brian,

If you read my advice as performing FOR magic clubs, perhaps I was unclear. Active clubs often do shows in a variety of charity venues that do not threaten professional gigs. When I was a kid Assembly 22 of the SAM in LA did the Ventura School for Girls once a year. I did every show there for several years. They also did veterans hospital shows and the like. I did them, too. Those are the shows to work...not audiences of amateur magicians.

You're right, magic club audiences don't react like "norms" and one of the things I suggested was not to concern yourself with the opinions of amateur magicians if your goal is to be a pro. Amateurs have different criteria for judging a magic act that have no use in professional entertainment.

Working bars is a tough way to learn, but Malini worked bars in the old days, busking for money. Once you can work bars with noisy drunks, you can probably work anywhere...adjusting your timing and manners where appropriate.

To Stuart Hooper - Glad to know that what I say is helpful. However, it is not "the public's" souring on magic as entertainment, but individual buyers of entertainment who've been burned by a hack magician who has not applied due dilligence to building his act. That, a cheap fees, cost the real working professional plenty.

Pete McCabe gives good advice and uses the important word, "reliable." When you are a professional, you are being paid to present reliable entertainment...you are hired because you are, supposedly, a known quantity. You can tweak a presentation here and there as experience teaches and opportunity presents, but you cannot experiment on the paying public with an act or a show. That's not what they're paying you for.

Pete is also right on the time frame. Don't think you can play with something for a month or two and then put it in your act.

I have a friend who bought a very rare prop years ago, spending several thousand dollars for it. He really wanted to add it to his act, but he was a consumate professional and worked on it for a year before trying it out. A couple of shows taught him that what he thought was a good presenteation wasn't quite right, so he took it out.

He then spent nearly another $1,000 getting a bit of knowledge from a retired pro, another six to eight months of rehearsal, and then, and only then, was the trick ready for his act. It still required polishing, but the effect had the quality he wanted, it went over and his time and money were rewarded.

That's the kind of committment a professional applies to his craft.
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Postby David Alexander » 10/31/04 11:15 AM

Of course, I cannot stress the value of a qualified mentor. I would not have had the career I've had, a fraction of the knowledge I possess, or what I call a true professional attitude were it not for Frakson, with whom I studied for seven years.

He took me, honed and polished me, and gave me a huge leg up on having the skills to walk on a stage, smile, and win the audience over in those few seconds.

The great problem with a professional-quality act is that there are so many things to consider and know. The knowledge does not come cheaply or easily and it takes enormous amounts of time and study to pull it all together. Because of that, I would say that a qualified mentor is almost a necessity.
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Postby brownbeauty » 10/31/04 11:35 AM

Hi David,
About that mentoring, are you ready to help me on the pickpocketing act yet? :)

Regards,

Rudy
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Postby David Alexander » 10/31/04 01:32 PM

Cute, Rudy, but 1) you've never offered a price for lessons; and 2) as I've said before, I'm not ready to needlessly create competition in a market I'm still working.

Talk to me in ten or fifteen years.
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