Some magicians in the Philippines astound me with their technical skills.
I find so many talented Filipino magician, especially among the young generation. They can false shuffle cards. They can perform dazzling cuts that turn their decks of cards into acrobats. They can make coins cavort from hand to hand like skylarking fairies. The dexterity of these young Pinoy magicians can razzle-dazzle fellow performers, elicit admiration, and provoke applause.
I’m envious of them.
However, if you turn these young performers loose on lay audiences, they get nary a reaction.
What’s going on here?
Well, many things. First, there are lots of things NOT GOIN ON. That probably is the problem.
Many unseasoned performers spend inordinate time to acquire manipulative skills. Some even squandered their youth to perfect their sleights. Their single-minded goal seems to be to attain dexterity. In the process, they gloss over the need to acquire the more important ability—to entertain people with magic.
The reason is that they simply did not spend as much effort on learning how to be entertaining as they did on acquiring manipulative skills.
As a result, they seldom talk while performing. They are engrossed in their own manipulation sequence. Most don’t even throw their audience a glance.
Now, if you happen to keep retreating to your private world when performing, don’t worry. That’s part of being a beginning magician. In due time, you will develop the ability to make your performance engaging. You will learn how to break out from self-absorption.
To develop that ability, you must learn how to watch the audience watching you. Gather constant feedback from the spectators. Keep an eye on the people keeping an eye on you.
Here are some easy ways to do that:
1. Look people in the eye. Put down the deck of cards (or pause from manipulating or tinkering with your props). For once, take a huge effort to look spectators in the eye. Your eyes are the most powerful part of your body. They can direct, misdirect, call attention. They can control people, they can possess them. Use your eyes (gaze) to enlist the audience to your side.
2. Talk to them. Don’t talk to yourself (sometimes it’s called mumbling). Rather talk to the audience. When you do, don’t merely describe what you are doing. Tell them more—a story, a joke, an aside. Find interest in your trick, so you can tell your audience something interesting about it.
3. Interpret the meaning of their look. Wide eyes mean wonder and amazement. A smile means enjoyment. Laughter means they find your jokes funny. Applause means they like what they are witnessing. If that’s so, keep going. Serve them one more trick. You are doing fine.
On the other hand, a glazed look means incomprehension. Slow down and explain more what you are doing.
Eyes darting around means lack of interest. Reel people in with interesting patter.
A yawn indicates boredom. Put the cards back in the box and bid the audience adieu.
Silence (as in absence of laughter, applause) means you suck. Don’t kid yourself that you stunned your audience into silence. That your performance is so amazing you rendered people speechless and catatonic.
You are not praying the Holy Rosary. You are performing magic. Don’t go for silence. Go for laughter and applause.
Remember this. Laughter and applause are for magicians what medals and trophies are for athletes.