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A stage name is something every magician has at least one. It usually has meaning, but few people know what it is. Nor do they care. The sound and the spelling, and its potentials for creating business, seem to concern the performer more.
Taking a stage name used to be a trivial activity. When people still lived in caves, Ugh the Great just called his friend magician Agh, the next magician, Egh, the next Ogh, the next Igh, and so on, until he ran out of grunts to name his magician friends by.
Today, choosing a stage name has become as tricky business as making a silk handkerchief vanish using a thumb tip. A good choice of stage name can help magicians achieve top-of-the mind status and pay him handsome dividends in terms of more gigs. On the other hand, a bad choice will burden his career, by relegating him to obscurity.
With thousands of names available to choose from (not counting the names one can invent for himself), there is really no excuse for choosing an ill-conceived stage name. Yet magicians do—-on a regular basis.
Here are a few things to remember when selecting (or inventing) a stage name:
Stage Names Should Be Attractive and Memorable. Your stage name should be easy to pronounce, read, spell and hear. The idea is to make it easy for the public, among whom are your prospective clients, to recall your name. You wouldn’t want them to watch your show and then go home remembering the tricks but forgetting your name.
If you think your real name is unattractive, dull, unintentionally amusing—say, Bergwattilagmechovachenes—it’s time to take a stage name.
Stage Names Evoke Emotions. By its sound or meaning, stage names unavoidably evoke emotions, images, or stereotypes. Unless you just invented it, a stage name has a meaning, which you can discover by tracing its etymology. Knowing the meaning of a stage name allows you to determine its suitability for commercial purpose.
For example, if you are a 16-year old magician who takes the stage name Professor Bill, people will expect to see a performer somewhere in his 40’s, not in his teen years. A lady magician named Elizabeth will unavoidably create an image of a performer with queenly or royal demeanor. If you are mentalist who can tell people’s thoughts, don’t call yourself William Tell, as this name evokes a bow-and-arrow-carrying performer instead of a mind-reading wonder.
Stage Names Tell what the Performer is like. Name choices of clown magicians usually indicate the character they play. Bozo or Bubba gets their laughs from acting like, well, a bozo or a “bobo”. So if you are doing elegant magic (doves from nowhere, manipulations, etc.), don’t choose a name like Ho-ho the Magi.
Stage Names Tell us the Culture and Geographic Origin of the Performer. By their spelling and sound, names are often descriptive of their geographic origin. Professor Kim and the Amazing Lee are not difficult to trace to Korea , so are Kawasaki the Great and Master Honda to Japan.
“LaToya” and the like usually originate from black culture. It seems that imaginative performers want to standout by taking unusual stage names—or ordinary names with different spelling. This trait of giving oneself unique stage names is not a monopoly of the black culture, but it seems black artists are more successful in coming up with really memorable names.
Names tell us the Performer’s State of Mind or Passion. Magicians sometimes unwittingly reveal their interests, lack of creativity or humorless temperament by the stage names they take. I dread the day that a magician out there will take the stage name “Droid” or CP3O.
Names indicate influences. Most celebrities influence performers on their choice of stage ’s names. Not surprisingly, a great number of magic performers today have other successful and popular magicians as their namesakes.
Thus in the magic community, one can observe the proliferation of name appendages such as “The Great”, “The Amazing”, “Master”, and “Professor”. Or “ini” as in Leodini. It is, of course, an obvious influence of Houdini, which in turn was influenced by French magician Robert Houdin.
Naming oneself after celebrities is far from being a modern-day practice. It dates back to early centuries, long before the advent of television, movies and entertainment media. The Catholic Church used to refuse baptism if the parents didn’t name their child after a saint or a pope. Today, magicians should avoid asking priests for suggestions of stage names, least they baptized them The Amazing St. Benedict, which I think will confuse the public.
Tomorrow, I will write about the “don’ts” of choosing a stage name.