Surely, one can find more than five ways to make his patter bland and uninteresting. Let’s just examine five this time, as I’m not in the mood for writing a long article today.
Way no. 1: Disregard the importance of patter.
Practice your sleights, movement, choreography till your heart’s content. Be wary of your angles. Determine in advance your “out” when you mess up your trick. But don’t give your patter the slightest thought.
Patter is mere talk. You talk every day. You have been talking all your life since you were a toddler.
So what’s the big deal with patter, then? Why sweat it out? All you need to do is just think on your feet and sparkling words will flow beautifully from your tongue.
Think that way, and your patter will suck big time—guaranteed!
Way no. 2: Don’t plan your lines.
Find no reason at all to build up your inventory of stock lines.
Drivers fill their gas tanks when they take an important trip. Airline pilots fill their planes with jet fuel before they fly, lest they crash. But magicians—the ones who pitifully grope for words while performing—go to a performance with empty tanks. No ready lines, no learned ripostes, no tucked-in-the-back-of-the-mind repartees.
Ever wonder why they crash even before they lift off the ground?
Way no. 3: Think you can wing it!
Think improvisation. Be convinced that thinking on one’s feet is a skill. Improv is artistry, right?
Right, but only because those who do improv acts are already skillful and experienced artists. They have been in the business for many years, performing from scripts. A performer who has reached a high level of experience and skills can do away with prepared scripts and still slay audiences.
A neophyte magician, lacking a seasoned performer’s experience, cannot do that, unless he is a genius or a precocious marvel endowed with an extraordinary gift of gab.
Think about it. Even experienced motivational speakers plan their speeches. Bro. Mike Vilarde, one of the most charismatic speakers in the country, has his notes. He already has a master plan of his talk before he even talks.
Most so-so magicians, of course, don’t have a clue what to say when breaking-in a new trick. Most resort to a literal patter like, “Now, I cut the deck (he says this while cutting the deck of cards), I shuffle it like so (and he shuffles the cards), and snap my fingers (he snaps his fingers), and the Queen of Diamonds is now on top of the deck (he shows the Queen of Diamonds on top of the deck).
Hmmm, literal patter…the most hypnotic part of a magic performance. It induces people to sleep.
Way no. 4: Don’t write a script of your act.
Yes, 99% of magicians don’t write a script of their act. Eugene Burger, Jamy Ian Swiss, Ken Webber and a few other notable thinkers of the art have been shouting about it for years on top of roofs, but their words have fallen on deaf ears.
Maybe 99% is an exaggeration. What I’m trying to say is that many magicians have been afflicted with hearing impediments when it comes to the Gospel of Scripting.
I’ve heard the Doubting Thomases say, “But scripting the patter will make the act look rehearsed.”
Well, the advantage of scripting is that you can make your act look (or sound) the way you want it to be. If you want to perform as an elegant performer, you can write a script filled with elegant language. If you want to perform as a street performer, you can adjust the choice of language accordingly. I know, because my script for close-up performances are studded with short, even choppy, sentences. The script is differently written from the script I use for more formal platform performances.
Way no. 5: Don’t practice your script.
This is where the non-advocates of scripting are right. Pre-written patter will sound stilted precisely because it has been pre-written.
While this may be a valid observation, the drawback is not beyond remedy. All the magician has to do is practice the script as zealously as he practices his sleights, so he can deliver effortlessly his lines.
Surely, Al Pacino’s words don’t sound stilted when he mouths his lines in The Godfather. They don’t seem stilted at all when he delivers them as another character in Scarface.
Of course, not many magicians have the acting and speech skills of Al Pacino. But if we approach our art as methodically as actors approach theirs, I’m sure we can find some marked improvements in our performances.
Watch Magic ‘To (The Next Level), September 8, 2007, 8 PM, Philamlife Theater, UN Avenue, Manila