My personal rule-of-thumb is this: end the show at the point when the audience still wants more magic, not at the moment when they’re vomiting from too much of it.
The idea is to leave the audience wanting more, and not push people to the limit of their tolerance.
He must remember not to overstay his welcome. In today’s MTV era, people have a short attention span. If a magician aspires to entertain them until the final bow, he must work his magic before he overshoots that span.
To achieve this goal, he must not stuff his show with unlimited magic. A magic show is not about quantity. It is also, and more importantly, about quality.
Over the years, I have directed several full-evening magic shows in theaters. At the pre-production stage, I always determine first the length of the show. I believe that for a show to be entertaining from start to the end, it must be just long enough to be within people’s tolerance, endurance and attention span.
However, to my horror, this idea is light years ahead of the present time. When I present it to magicians, the usual reaction is incomprehension of the “huh?” level.
Most magicians are not even aware that people have an attention span. They think everybody loves magic as much as they do, and they want to serve them unlimited magic the way Mang Inasal serves unlimited rice.
Unlimited tolerance for magic is not the case for most audiences. For an audience of mostly lay people, a two-hour-long magic and illusion show is about right.
Some magicians, though, believe when it comes to magic, the sky is the limit.
In actuality, this is the brutal truth: if the show runs on an on, people will start leaving at the two-and-half-hour mark, if they sense the show is not yet winding down.
At the three-hour mark, there will be already many vacant chairs in the theater, where it was standing room only at the start of the program.
At the three-and-a-half hour point, there will be more vacant chairs than there are occupied.
At the four-hour mark, only magicians and magic enthusiasts remain in the audience.
After five hours of magic, only the performers, the production staff and the sponsors remain inside the theater.
Trust me, this is an accurate observation. Yet, astonishingly, many magicians don’t realize this.
I’m sad that my idea of working a magic show within the attention span of people is still light years ahead of most magic performers’ thinking.
In my next post, I will tell you my ideas of how long a close-up, family and theater shows should be.