He said he had served many birthday parties and seen many magicians perform. His question: “Sir, bakit ang ibang magician tuloy-tuloy lang mag-magic at walang pakialam sa audience?” (“Sir, why do some magicians rush through their performance, seemingly oblivious of the audience?”)
It was not a trick question, but it took me a while to gather my thoughts before I came up with the following musing.
As magicians in the Philippines, we often become so engrossed in the details of the performance we sometimes forget we have an audience.
The waiter’s observation is spot on. I’ve watched other magicians mind so much their blocking, stage movement, choreography and sleight-of-hand that they space out. They become like zombies, seemingly unaware they have an audience to entertain.
Objects appear and disappear in their hands, changing colors and shapes. The magician then smiles, poses, and preens on stage after his miracles have happened, but he barely glances at his audience to check how they are doing.
Are the people watching the show comfortable or squirming in their seats? Are they enjoying the magic or getting bored watching it? Are they astonished by, impressed with or apathetic of the performance?
When performing on stage, we have the best view in the house of how the audience is appreciating the show. Despite the lights trained on us, we have visual and aural inputs of their reactions. Applause, laughter, and even stunned silence are all good indicators of a well-received performance.
Use this vantage point to gauge how the audience likes the show so far. If they are responding well, keep at it. If you don’t have them eating in the palm of your hands, level up.
We magicians will do well to develop a sensitivity to audience reactions, or the lack of it. With this sensitivity, we can adjust our performance level to suit the intensity, or weakness, of the audience’s response.