More Thoughts on practice

Discuss the views of your favorite Genii columnists.

Postby Glenn Bishop » 09/09/04 10:05 AM

I have been asked what does it take to be able to become a successful performing magician. Most of this group may see things differently or have their own ways of doing things. But this is how I feel about what is needed to become a successful performing magician...

It has been often said in magic books the secret of how to be a success in magic is to- Practice, Practice, Practice.

This is the way I look at Practice Practice Practice... I see it as three different areas in magic that a magician needs to do in order to become successful.

FIRST THEY... Practice a magic routine over and over again when they learn it and then add it to their show.

AND THEN THEY MUST... Practice the same routine in front of people as they perform the routine in a live show. This is a very important and often missed form of practice. Because as they perform the routine over and over again in front of people they will learn new bits of business and lines and how to make the magic effect more entertaining....

NOW THEY CAN... BUILD UP A PRACTICE... Like a Doctor or a Lawyer using mailings and advertising and build a successful mailing list of happy clients. They can make money (and maybe a living) off this wonderful art that is indeed magic...

I hope this helps...
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Postby Jacky Kahan » 09/14/04 12:53 AM

BUILD UP A PRACTICE... Like a Doctor or a Lawyer using mailings and advertising and build a successful mailing list of happy clients.
This is funny, because these are the only two (to my knowledge)professions that may NOT advertise in Belgium (Europe?) !

Regarding the question :

I have been asked what does it take to be able to become a successful performing magician
I believe it's First the Personallity of the Magician, then the presentation and only then the skill... But of course, the more you practise the better you get.... but practice with live audience as much as possible.

jacky
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Postby Rick Schulz » 09/14/04 06:54 AM

A quote from Our Magic: "Never present in public any performance which has not been most perfectly rehearsed - first in detail, and finally as a whole... take everything in detail first of all and gradually combine the perfected details unitl the whole is gone through, precisely as it will be performed in public. To proceed in any other manner is bound to incur waste of time at the moment, and imperfection (possibly serious) in the ultimate result." True of a single trick, true of an entire act. And written nearly 100 years ago.
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Postby Glenn Bishop » 09/15/04 07:21 PM

Well what do I know I have only owned a magic business and performing shows for about 30 years. And I am a second generation magician who had a father that did magic as a profession and performed in the best show business of his day.

My Father used to say the difference between most magicians and a professional magician was 200 shows...

If you would like to know more about us check out www.mrhypnotist.org

And Practice - Practice - Practice!
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Postby Guest » 09/17/04 07:55 PM

To answer the question, you must define what "successful" means to you.

By most standards, Dai Vernon was amazingly successful. But he was not very successful commercially. That was, apparently, not particularly important to him. And that's fine.

But most think of "professional" magicians as those that make a living at it. And "successful professional magicians" make a very good living at it. While "practice" is quite important, it's misleading because most young magicians equate "practice" with working on sleight of hand. There have been some very successful professional magicians that did almost no sleight of hand. McDonald Birch comes to mind. He was a very successful performer and business man. No doubt that he rehearsed his performances, but he spend zero time on "moves."

I'm not telling you which kind of success to go after. Just pointing out that you need to keep in mind that doing a great Zarrow Shuffle or double lift is pretty much unrelated to how many shows you can get and how much money you can command.

Dennis Loomis
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Postby Glenn Bishop » 09/19/04 10:21 AM

Originally posted by Dennis Loomis:


By most standards, Dai Vernon was amazingly successful. But he was not very successful commercially.

Dennis Loomis
Dai Vernon WAS very successful commercially... He performed in night clubs like the Kit Kat Klub, Miss Frances Rockefeller King booked Dai Vernon at private parties in New York and other events.

He performed his Harlequin act in the Rainbow Room of the Rockefeller Center. He even was booked by Billy Rose in the ningt club - casino de paris...

And there is more. I would say by these venues and others - Dai Vernon was commercially successful!
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Postby Q. Kumber » 09/19/04 10:38 AM

Only having seen Vernon perform twice, once the Rings and the other the Ambitious Card - both on TV, both superbly well and both (surprisingly to me) very funny, I would offer the opinion that had Vernon pursued a professional career he would have been at the top of his profession.

My suspicion is he had very little interest in performing commercially and when he did it was in the 1930s.
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Postby Guest » 09/23/04 11:57 PM

A talented amateur will practice until the task can be performed correctly. A professional will practise until it can't be done wrong.
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Postby David Alexander » 09/24/04 10:08 AM

If practice alone were the key to success in magic, then the technicians so revered by amateurs would be show business legends. They aren't.

Vernon's booking at the Rainbow Grill was announced in The Jinx by Annemann who promised a review. It never appeared and Vernon's booking with the "famous Harlequin Act" wasn't more than two weeks long, perhaps less. I do not believe he performed it again and Annemann never reviewed it.

Vernon's bookings by Frances King were primarily as a silhouette artist, but he would, occasionally, be booked as "silhouette artist and card tricks." I've seen a number of booking slips from Miss King and that's how Vernon was booked.

The most important ingredient for success as an entertainer using magic as a vehicle is a likeable and engaging stage persona. Without that, all the perfect technique in the world isn't worth a damn.
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Postby Q. Kumber » 09/24/04 12:08 PM

David,
I've tried to email you to thank you for what you sent but twice it bounced back as undeliverable.
Many thanks,
Quentin
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Postby David Alexander » 09/25/04 10:53 AM

Quentin,

You're more than welcome. I think my ISP has solved the problem.

For people looking for an example of a performer described in my last paragraph above, please see performances by Quentin. He walks on stage, smiles, says hello, and the audience likes him. That single facility is far more valuable that mere perfection in any bit of sleight of hand.
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Postby Glenn Bishop » 09/30/04 08:44 PM

Originally posted by David Alexander:
If practice alone were the key to success in magic, then the technicians so revered by amateurs would be show business legends. They aren't.

The most important ingredient for success as an entertainer using magic as a vehicle is a likeable and engaging stage persona. Without that, all the perfect technique in the world isn't worth a damn.
Thank you very much for this info on Dai Vernon. I am a big fan of Dai Vernon. I am also a fan of Jay Ose. On another thread you mention that you had magic lessons from Jay Ose. When you have time can you write out about what kind of man he was. How he worked? What he did?

My Father (The late Billy Bishop) knew him from the old days and he said that Jay showed him the flip flop shuffle and in the hands face up and face down mixing sort of like triumph.

Thank you...
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Postby Guest » 09/30/04 09:11 PM

Originally posted by David Alexander:
If practice alone were the key to success in magic, then the technicians so revered by amateurs would be show business legends. They aren't.
You're right. But then again, no one currently in magic is a show business legend, with the exceptions of Seigfried and Roy and David Copperfield, who aren't admired for their artistic merits but rather are ridiculed for their campness and grudgingly respected for their financial success.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 09/30/04 11:00 PM

I'm not a professional performing magician, so take this as you will.

But I do see a lot of magicians. And the ones who are successful all have one thing in common: They are all very good performers.

So when you practice, practice, practice, make sure you practice the right things. Vocal production. Movement. Presence. Projection. Your script.

And, as David Alexander points out, your likability, which is more important than all the rest put together.

I've mentioned this to a couple of other magicians and they all laugh, as though you can't practice your likability. I can only assume that they have never read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, which I believe is the single most important book any aspiring performer will ever read.
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Postby David Alexander » 10/01/04 08:41 PM

Originally posted by Buster Brown:
[You're right. But then again, no one currently in magic is a show business legend, with the exceptions of Seigfried and Roy and David Copperfield, who aren't admired for their artistic merits but rather are ridiculed for their campness and grudgingly respected for their financial success. [/QB]
Not quite true. Copperfield is a major theatrical attraction, out grossing Madonna on at least one tour a few years ago.

I believe Blackstone Sr still holds a box office record at the Biltmore Bowl...John Calvert is well-respected in certain areas of show business...Faust did extremely well in several tours of Japan and the Far East...Dante still holds the record for the longest run of a pure magic show on Broadway.

S & R, well, they could easily quote Liberace when he was criticized for his campiness and over the top outfits, "I laugh all the way to the bank."
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Postby David Alexander » 10/01/04 08:43 PM

Originally posted by Pete McCabe:
So when you practice, practice, practice, make sure you practice the right things. Vocal production. Movement. Presence. Projection. Your script.

And, as David Alexander points out, your likability, which is more important than all the rest put together.

I've mentioned this to a couple of other magicians and they all laugh, as though you can't practice your likability. I can only assume that they have never read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, which I believe is the single most important book any aspiring performer will ever read.
Pete is right on the money. One of Dale Carnegie's main examples is Howard Thurston, who did quite well for himself as a major theatrical attraction.
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Postby David Alexander » 10/01/04 08:51 PM

Glenn,

I was introduced to Jay by the father of a friend, a non-magician who knew Jay from "other places."

I used the introduction to get some lessons and found my time well spent. Jay Ose was a gentleman of the first order. Much of the original success of the early Magic Castle can be laid at Jay's feet. Yes, he did the slop shuffle about as well as it could be done, a fascinating strike second deal, a marvelous Card on Seat that was a terrific presentation. You could hear people shouting with surprise when the woman stood up to find she'd been sitting on her selected card.

One of the things Jay taught me was the Classic Pass and several tricks with it. I still have them in my repetoire 45 years later because they're good, entertaining tricks.

Jay's presentation was undestated. When Vernon came out, many people thought he was eclipsed, but as far as I was concerned, Jay was the better person and better entertainer of lay people. The amateurs flocked around Vernon, but the lay people were entertained by Jay. My only regret is I couldn't spend more time with him.
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Postby Glenn Bishop » 10/01/04 10:15 PM

Thank you David very much for the info on Jay Ose. My Dad liked him a lot and he would tell me about different magicians like Jay and Roland Hamblen...

Thanks again...
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Postby Brian Marks » 10/04/04 12:30 AM

The idea that you should focus on entertainment first and the method is secondary misses the point. If you just entertaining, your doing 50% of the work. Being a magician assumes youve done your homework in terms of methods. Its like being a stand up comic who doesn't want to write material. You need to be good at both the technical aspect and the performing aspect. Look at Ricky Jay, Max Maven, Eugene Burger, Paul Gertner the list goes on. They are all good performers but none of these guys are slabs on method. I just came from a Max Maven lecture. His quote was "Method is not insignificant to magic."
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Postby Temperance » 10/04/04 06:19 AM

Looks like you need to practice your tabled false shuffles and cuts some more mister Bishop.

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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/04/04 08:05 AM

Originally posted by Brian Marks:
The idea that you should focus on entertainment first and the method is secondary misses the point. If you just entertaining, your doing 50% of the work. Being a magician assumes youve done your homework in terms of methods. Its like being a stand up comic who doesn't want to write material. You need to be good at both the technical aspect and the performing aspect. ...
What do you suggest as a means of finding a balance?

There seems to be quite a bit of magic where the performer is playing to the props.
Mundus vult decipi
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Postby Glenn Bishop » 10/04/04 01:19 PM

Originally posted by Euan:
Looks like you need to practice your tabled false shuffles and cuts some more mister Bishop.

Euan
I am happy with what I do... And my audience seems to like it...
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Postby Guest » 10/04/04 02:20 PM

Practice is only 10% -- and not even the first 10%.

A pro researches, then purchaces, the re-writes then practices material.

M Pete
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Postby Brian Marks » 10/05/04 07:42 PM

That is a problem Jonathan. I have 2 solutions for it. 1 is performing in front of an audience as often as possible. The other is acting classes.
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Postby David Alexander » 10/06/04 02:49 PM

Brian Marks writes:
The idea that you should focus on entertainment first and the method is secondary misses the point. If you just entertaining, your doing 50% of the work. Being a magician assumes youve done your homework in terms of methods. Its like being a stand up comic who doesn't want to write material. You need to be good at both the technical aspect and the performing aspect. Look at Ricky Jay, Max Maven, Eugene Burger, Paul Gertner the list goes on. They are all good performers but none of these guys are slabs on method. I just came from a Max Maven lecture. His quote was "Method is not insignificant to magic."

No,entertainment is the point. If you are a hired entertainer using the medium of magic, your job and your focus should be on entertainment because thats what youre hired to produce. If youre performing magic, by definition, you should be fooling people, but simply fooling people is not entertainment.that is just the presentation of a series of puzzles or a demonstration of what a prop will do. (If youre a hobbyist, then it doesnt matter if the audience is entertained or not, because the performer is not being paid, and is working, too often, to entertain himself.)

Entertainment happens when you combine theatricality, comedy (perhaps), the principle of Novelty into Surprise, and a host of other performing devices, none the least in importance being a pleasing and ingratiating personality. Mere technical proficiency means nothing to the lay audience that does not know the difference between the methods used in Henry Christs Aces and a Svengali Deck.

As for the idea about comics writing their own material - there have been hundreds of successful comics and comedic actors who did not write their own material. Bob Hope had ten writers on staff to make him funny. The Marx Bros had George S. Kaufman and other writers for a huge amount of their material, both on Broadway and on film. Lucille Ball had Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, and Bob Carroll, Jr. to thank for her detailed comedic material in all the seasons of I Love Lucy.

In magic, method is the least important ingredient in a presentation because the method is, presumably, never seen by the audience. Method should be efficient and well thought out, and as fool proof as it is possible to make it, but it just isnt nearly as important as amateurs think or that the people who endlessly sell you new methods would have you believe.
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Postby Brian Marks » 10/06/04 11:12 PM

Entertainment is the product of a competant magican. The ability to perform effects as if they were second nature allows the performer to focus on the audience.Than the magician can build a relationship with his audience. Magicans who fail in their competance in technique often do bad comedy magic claiming entertainment as their focus. I can not stand bad comedy or bad magic.

As for the comedy. I am a stand up comic and a producer. Lets get started.

I find it interesting that that the comedians you bring up all had their starts in vaudville. Most of my heros came well WW II. One could tour in vaudville with a 5 minute derivative act for many years. The most successful vaudvillians got on to radio and movies. Radio of course changed everything. Mass media made originality a premium which meant comedians after WW II had to write their own material. Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin, a.k.a my heros. And yes Woody Allen was a stand up comic before he was famous director/comedy actor.

I should also mention that Lucile Ball and the Marx Brothers wern't stand up comics. They are comic actors and due to the demands of a completely different format than stand up comics, required writers.
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Postby Steve Vaught » 10/29/04 08:56 AM

I have really enjoyed reading this thread! I am a magician. I support my family by my magic business. I fight with MYSELF over this topic many times!! My time is very limited. So, do I go practice that new move, read the Genii forum, or get on the phone and make that contact? I think this is a good discussion for many reasons. It shows to a younger crowd, it is NOT about learning ALL the moves. "IF" you want to make money PERFORMING magic...you have a "product" to sell. So, you should understand that YOU are the product! Business skills are highly important in ANYTHING you sell. I believe some of the comments made already are the hard facts about the "business" of magic. Some magician friends that I know are amazed about the shows that I am getting. I see it in their eyes, their thinking, how is he gettting THAT show. The hard facts is that it falls back on knowing how to "sell a product"...ughhhhhh...David Blaine... O.K. I wont go there.

Have a Happy Halloween!!!
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Postby Mark Collier » 10/29/04 02:58 PM

I think so much of this debate revolves around the definitions you choose for yourself. There is no doubt a person could be thouroughly entertaining without good magic or any magic for that matter. It is also possible an extremely skilled technician in magic could be a poor performer.

At what point do you consider yourself or another person a magician? Tabled faros or a rabbit from the hat or a strait jacket escape don't automatically qualify.

Technique versus performing/entertaining skills becomes purely subjective to each of us. It is subjective to the audience as well. We each have our personal likes and tastes. Some would argue that illusions are real magic....or mentalism etc. Others would argue that only sleight of hand qualifies. Still others would argue that it doesn't matter what method you use if you can create a magical experience in the mind of the spectator.

If you are a professional magician it is imperative that you also be an entertainer. I personally feel that if you call or bill yourself as a magician, you owe it to magic as an art form to be quite knowlegeable and have considerable technique. But you also owe it to your audience to do more than fool them.

Its hard to compare Eugene Burger to Martin Nash or Billy McComb to Amos Levkovitch. They are all magicians but the 'definition fits all' just don't apply. Thank God we aren't all the same.

It is a good discusion because we each need to find the definitions that work for us.
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Postby magicbar » 11/24/04 11:09 AM

As with many threads on this and other boards the discussion frays and sometimes re-braids itself. After reading up until this spot I will jump in with these thoughts that I have read and maybe thought of myself (although don't quote me):

- The difference between a professional and an amateur is "an amateur performs a different (show) to the same audience and a professional performs the same (show) to different audiences." Exchange the word show for trick, material or whatever...

- Vernon was successful but as Bruce Cervon and others that knew him indicate he was unusual and really quite the hedonist. His stage shows were not commercially successful, his close-up was (private shows), his interaction with other magicians made him legendary and really only wanted to be credited with never having worked. Read about him yourself and you make the call...

- There is a difference between practice and rehearsal. Practice can range in description but a performer never becomes professional quality without rehearsal which encompasses all the other elements of the show besides the mechanics of the trick.

- True, many magic enthusiasts think practice is working a move and learning a routine. The practice that many including Vernon, Malini, Chanin, Skinner really many others was to 'live the life' - are you a full-time or part-time magician (practitioner)? Some people are just magical by nature. You don't always have to be doing tricks but in one way or another, people must recognize you as a magician/being magical. That means personal conduct, appearance and/or general aura. YOu will always be focusing on moves and material but how do you go through your daily life?

- As far as being a successful magician is concerned..do you have an idea or a plan for your interest in magic? If you achieve it, then you are successful! It makes no difference if you wish to travel the world, pay your bills, learn something new or learn something old. Any accomplishment, if planned or desired, will make you a success.
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Postby Guest » 11/29/04 02:51 PM

Thought I'd add another spin on this thread. It's a little essay ("On Being an Amateur") that I've written for a book of magical thoughts and presentations that, hopefully, see the light of day in the near future ("Pre-Script-ion Magic - "Making Ill-usions Better"). Hope it hits home for many of you.

On Being an Amateur

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm an Amateur. When did that word develop such a derogatory connotation? I know I'm not a bad person, and I think I'm a pretty good magician. I'm actually a doctor on the side. Well, at least I'm a professional in one arena… But I don't perform at nightclubs, on cruise ships, or in Las Vegas. My venue is my life.

When I'm at work, after I'm done with the medical stuff, I'll ask my patients whether they'd like to see something fun. Most often they do. I think it adds a wonderful, humanizing touch to the visit. When I'm making rounds in the hospital, if I have time, I'll show some of the nurses or housekeeping staff one of the dozen effects I carry around with me all the time. Ditto with my friends, drug reps, etc., etc.

I'm an Amateur. Do I practice diligently? You bet. Do I read voraciously? Absolutely. Do I present my magic in the most polished, entertaining and engaging way I can? I couldn't have it any other way. But, “Does anyone pay you?” Well, once I made twenty dollars doing a birthday party when I was fourteen.

The origin of the word “amateur” comes from the French noun, “amator,” meaning “lover.” And its primary definition has always been, “one who engages in a pursuit for the pure pleasure of doing it.”

Wouldn't it be a wonderful Magical world if we could all remember when we once were?... And, maybe, still are?

I'm an Amateur, and I'm proud.
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