Lately, I had an epiphany. I noticed that beginning magicians in the Philippines performing parlor or stage magic always perform their acts to music. Meaning, in pantomime.
However, as they mature and become seasoned performers, they switch modes. They talk while performing. They become “patter” magicians, usually by preference, as if they stumbled upon the great benefits of “talking” magic.
Now, I can understand why novice magicians in the Philippines naturally lean toward “silent acts.” Most magic performances in the country, when performed as talking acts, are in English, which is not the native language of Filipinos. While English is widely spoken in the country, it is still a second language to most. Speaking in English while performing magic is, therefore, just too difficult for most neophyte magicians to pull off.
Adding patter to a performance is difficult enough. Make the patter in English, and it becomes an unreasonable requirement for most beginning magicians.
However, for the magician who wants to improve his skills and to widen his commercial reach (the English-speaking folks in the country are the ones who have expendable income to hire magicians), then learning to perform “patter” magic is one skill that can pay handsomely.
Here is a basic point to remember when adding patter to a performance:
Patter introduces the plot of the trick, it moves it forward, it adds comedy, drama, and suspense to the performance, and it resolves the conflicts within the plot of the trick. In short, the magician’s patter is the underlying thread that holds together the parts of the performance and presents it in an entertaining way.
For this reason, a magician is well-advised to prepare in advance his patter. He can practice his sleights, movement, choreography till his heart’s content, but if he has not pre-determined the lines he is going to say during the performance and not practice his script, he will grope for the right and entertaining words to say. Worse, he will blank out and fall silent during crucial moments of his routine.
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?
The big deal is that, if you are like most human beings, thinking on your feet to make sparkling words flow beautifully from your tongue can be the most difficult, if not impossible, thing to do.
Stop! You need to be gutsy to perform good magic but not so gutsy that you don’t prepare well your patter.
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