Complacency is a live performer’s curse. It is the state of a magician’s mind when he thinks he is so familiar with his material he can do it in his sleep.
It’s magic on auto pilot. The performer goes through the motion like a robot does his tasks.
In the ordinary scheme of things, mastery is an excellent ability. When doing manual and intellectual tasks, they are indispensable. But when it comes to artistic endeavors, specially in live performing arts, it has its drawbacks.
Mastery of an artistic piece can lead to a rote performance that may lack emotional elements. It encumbers the performer’s ability to connect with his audience, hinders rapport and dampens people’s willingness to invest emotionally in his performance.
This must explain why it takes a great artist—one who has the skills and discipline— not to let complacency take over his act and robs it of its emotional oomph that elevates a so-so performance to a great performance.
When Kevin Jame’s Floating Rose trick was still in David Copperfield ‘s program, David did it 300 times a year. That’s once a day, or even twice a day on dates when there were matinée shows.
Do you think David got so bored doing the same trick over and over that he felt sick in his stomach every time he performed it?
He probably did. But did he show it? Nope.
Every time he did this piece, he did it with the same flair and elegance as the first time. He made the trick appear fresh even though he had done it several hundreds of times.
Many ordinary magicians, though, don’t have the same discipline as David Copperfield. Many lack the long-term commitment to a material of other stellar performing artists on live theater, say, Broadway.
Magicians tend to change their acts as fast as magic dealers issue catalogs of their new products. It is as if magicians fear getting bored with their current tricks, so they dump them in favor of new ones even before they have mastered what they are performing. The result is less than artistically commendable.
In a future post, I’ll share my thoughts on how often should magicians change their acts.