While we Filipino magicians (and countless magic performers around the world) may be enamored with our skills as entertainers, we need to develop an astute ability to know when to close our show.
Know when to stop. Don’t be like an Energizer battery that goes on and on and on…
In this MTV nurtured generation, audience’s attention span has become shorter by the year. Haven’t you noticed it? The more successful TV programs, sitcoms and soap operas now run only for 30 minutes?
I’ve read somewhere—and validated this piece of trivia in my performances—that in our modern world, people can remain focused for only about 30 minutes. This is kinda short compared to not so long ago when moviegoers would watch the more-than-three hour movie The Ten Commandments and would watch it again without ordering another box of pop corn.
Today’s short attention span is even more valid among children. Children younger than 5-years old may watch a magic show for about 30 minutes. But alas, even if the performer is good and capable of holding their interest, some of the kids would begin to look for ice cream at around the 30-minute mark.
You need to vanish the Statue of Liberty to keep them glued on their seats!
Most Filipino birthday Moms, though, don’t know about the oddity of attention spans. How could they, when they don’t throw parties every week. That’s why here in Manila (or in Cavite where I’m based) you will get requests for a one-hour show, instead of the more manageable 30- or 45-minute program. Pinoy mothers—and I believe the same thing is true of mothers in other parts of the world—think that they get more bang for their buck when the magician performs a long program.
In truth, a long show is not necessarily a better show. Once the audience has been whipped up into a frenzy, prolonging the program even though the performer has no more routines to top what he has earlier performed, will merely dampen energy instead of allowing the show to close on a high note. In such cases, the performer might as well have taken his final bow at the highest point of the show instead of allowing it to close with a whimper.
When to stop the performance is a tricky matter that has confounded magicians over the years. Apart from staging a good act, we Filipino magicians have to satisfy the needs of the client (who often think that a long show constitutes a better return on investment). As artists we know when to stop, but as service provider we cannot (or in some instances, must not) exercise our artistic option to close the show earlier than what the client wants.
In one of his seminal books (I forgot which one), my favorite magic author Henry Hay writes that a performer must leave his audience wanting more.
This seems to be an easy enough guideline to follow, but in the real world, a Pinoy magician usually loses his sense of time. The best way to gauge when to close a performance is to develop a sensitivity to audience reactions. When the laughter and applause are waning or harder to elicit, the performer probably has performed two or three tricks over the limit.
In more formal banquet shows, or even in birthday party shows where the program is more structured, the magician may have to perform a program according to a rehearsed sequence. Though artistically superfluous, the program lasts long enough to satisfy the client’s needs.
On the other hand, in a table-hopping or walk-around magic, the performer has more leeway in terms of the length of the show per table or for each group of guests. A good rule-of-thumb is to stop the show while the audience still wants to see more. If on the second trick the audience already demonstrates eagerness to see more tricks, then that can be the time to show them one more. After that, close the show even though you only have shown them three tricks.
In a nutshell: Don’t overload your audience with magic. Quit while you are still ahead.
I should have written that in the second paragraph. But I love roundabout writing, that’s why I tucked that piece of advice in the second to the last paragraph of this article.
Stay magical and happy performing.