“Presenting - The Right and Wrong Ways”

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Zac Eckstein, Jul 11, 2010.

  1. #1 Zac Eckstein, Jul 11, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 12, 2011
    This is a revision of my "Road Map for Magic" metaphor. This time I wrote a clear essay on what I mean. Check it out. Any thoughts?

    “Presenting - The Right and Wrong Ways”

    Now for a little bit about presentation. You style is completely up to you. There are so many variables anyone can argue on presentation because it all depends on you personally and your character. I feel I have some general tips and ideas that will likely help you, but not hurt you no matter how you perform. I will get into these things now.

    Firstly, take your time. The biggest and most common mistakes magicians make isn’t with screwing up a move, its performing way to fast! I am certainly no angel when it comes to this, but I try to catch myself if I’m going to fast. There are ways to help you slow down though. One thing you can do is not script you’re entire set from A-Z, and that’s it. When you do that you do a couple of bad things. One thing is you become so routine oriented, by doing the same crap over and over again, time after time, and you and your character become so mediocre. You become such a bland performer, and it will look to your audiences that you have done this exact same “act” a million times instead of giving them a “show” with a little bit of heart and uniqueness. What you need to have in an ideal world is 75% of each trick in your act scripted, and 25% of each trick something improvised. What do I mean by improvised? I mean listening to your crowd. If they say something, talk to them. If they ask you something, answer them. Don’t ignore your crowd! They love you and you love them, remember that. The second negative thing that comes from a really fast performance is your audience has no time to enjoy your show. There minds are trying to keep up with what’s happening and they can’t. Maybe you have seen and done your routine a million times, but they haven’t. What if you went to the movies and you paid for your ticket and pop corn, sat in your seat ready for the movie to pop up, and it was speeded up 10x’s faster than normal. The producers, actors, and directors know what’s happening, but you don’t because you’ve never seen the movie before. It’s the same concept with your show. Again your audience hasn’t seen this before so you want to be at a normal speed.

    Second thing you need to know is that you shouldn’t be going to slow either. It is rarer to see this happening, but it happens none the less. You might not be going slow at all, you are simply creating the illusion that you are because of a couple of factors. One is poor scripting. If you don’t have any script, you are rambling on through the duration of your show. You’ll have a lot more ummm’s and uhhh’s in your performance. Those are time stalers. They are something you say when you are scrambling what to say next. Which pauses time for your audience each time you say one of those. Again, let’s say you are about to watch a movie. You get ready and it starts playing. Your buddy has the remote and keeps pausing it every 8 seconds, and each time he pauses it, he pauses it for 2 seconds every time. I’ll do the math. An average show goes between an hour to an hour and 20 minuets. Minimum you will waste 15 minuets of the people’s time. That is one quarter of your show minimum! I am not even counting the time it takes your spectator to get up to the stage and back. If you want to count that, say bye bye to another 5 minuets. Maximum you will waste 18 minuets. If you count you spectator coming up and down from the stage, that’s another 5 minuets.

    Don’t get off subject either. That’s just a stupid mistake that happens by bantering with the crowd too much. Keep to your script with a touch or two of interaction. Find a happy medium with that and you’ll be fine.

    One worse thing about going slow is you will most likely run into a heckler. Rambling on, messing around, fidgeting, and all that bad stuff makes you look stupid and weak, which is a perfect storm to brew a heckler. The audience gets bored and restless, so they start to talk and lose interest and that’s when you get heckled. Watch out for that.
  2. Invaluable advice. I'm as guilty of this as the next man. Thanks for pointing it out.
  3. z magic for president!!

    i mean...

    good post, that should help alot of people if they actually listen.
    including me.

    me and my friend talk so fast when were not performing, we have to really concentrate on slowing down.
  4. Thanks! That's what it takes sometimes. Some it's naturally steady presenting, some it takes conscious thought to prevent speed.
  5. Actually, there are some things that transcend style. Usually, people who say "well, that's just my style" are avoiding critically thinking about how they perform.

    I agree that people should take their time in performing. I disagree with you suggestion that scripting causes people not to take their time. The main reason people rush through their performances is nervousness. The best way to overcome that nervousness is to practice your sleights and rehearse your performance including your patter (which should be scripted).

    This is where you are wrong. You need to script your entire performance, including what would seem like improvised lines tot he audience. Scripting doesn't make your performance mediocre. Performing a script in a mediocre manner makes your performance mediocre. As a magician, you have to present your patter in a way that makes it interesting, even if you've heard it 100 times. You have to view your performance through the spectator's eyes (and ears). Perform it as if it is the first time you've ever done it and as if you are the best magician they have ever seen.

    Unfortunately, the parts you don't script will come off as sportscasting - they do this, I do that and look what happens. Why will it come off like that? Because that is what you are thinking about as you perform. What is bad about sportscasting? Well, its just not as entertaining as well thought out patter and it focuses the audience on the method rather than the magic.

    Also, if you stop your performance to answer a question from the crowd (and presumably break character), who is in control -- you or them? That is the type of activity that encourages hecklers.

    Three words: script, rehearse, repeat. If you only script 75% of your performance, it is likely that the remaining 25% is going to be ummm's and uhhh's

    OK, now you are providing the argument for NOT interacting with the crowd. Besides finding a "happy medium", I would suggest that you script the interaction with the crowd. For example, when you choose a spectator, ask them their name and where they are from. Again, this keeps you in control of your performance because you are interacting with the audience on your own terms.

    Actually, true hecklers aren't people who get bored and restless. True hecklers are people who are challenging your control of the audience. You have the audience's attention, they want it and will do whatever it takes to get it.
  6. RealityOne,

    Your first paragraph - Not necessarily. I am not talking about style. Style is something you have, not your character. Your character is different from you in my opinion.

    Your second paragraph - I agree about nervousness make you speed through. Eventually if you say your script a million times your gonna blow past a 25% uniqueness buffer of not necessarily unscripted material.

    Your third paragraph - You do have to script your entire performance, you're right. I just believe I like to have fun and have that sense of surprise with the crowd without having something I said a thousand times gloss over it. It keeps you on your toes, you won't get bored, you'll have more fun that way and so will your audience. It will also keep you from becoming dull because there is something different every night. If you have good speaking skills, you won't find yourself saying um or uh. The best training ground for all of that along with scripting, improvising and having fun is on the street doing street magic. You can utilize a lot of the same speaking skills and things of that nature and bring it to the stage with you. Stopping your performance would be considered off topic. Your audience joins in for a moment when you say something to them. You don't break character because you say what your character would say, or at least that's what you're supposed to do. I am not saying talk to them constantly, just once in a while. Usually the audience communicates by laughing booing cheering or clapping. Those each show and emotion, and you can respond to it. Not like "Hey how did you do that?", then you pretend like you can't hear them.

    Your fourth paragraph - Again, not if you know how to speak.

    Your fifth paragraph - Interact with your crowd, just don't get off topic. If they laugh at you getting hurt and you say that wasn't very nice. You are interacting with the crowd while not getting off subject. You can script interaction with the crowd. I personally think if you leave some unscripted interaction, it's easier not to become mediocre. I also think life is a lot more fun that way. I am not a scrooge while performing, just do something different, say something different, relax a bit. Again, I think it's a lot more fun that way.

    Your sixth paragraph - Hecklers have more room to breath when they get bored, so they heckle to mix things up. I am not arguing your definition of a heckler. I know who and what they are. I just posed a scenario where they can breed.

    - Zac
  7. Zac:

    Last summer I saw Kalin and Jinger perform. For one effect, they selected a an older bald gentlemen from the audience. Jinger was flirting with him and at one point she rubs her hand seductively across his head. That got quite a reaction from the audience. During another effect, Mark Kalin asked a child volunteer who brought her to the show. The volunteer said "my grandma and grandpa." Mark gave her a show poster and told her "tell your grandpa that this is a magic poster, if you hang it up over your bed a $5 bill will appear under your pillow tomorrow morning." Again, the audience reacted wonderfully.

    Both of those interactions were fully scripted, but seemed spontaneous and genuine.

    Magic, like theater, is a performance art. That means you have to say your "lines" as if they are spontaneous. In a way it is like public speaking where the best speeches are not read from a script, but rehearsed until they are impromptu (i.e. presented to seem as if it is a natural conversation). If you are a good performer, you can say the same line 100 times and it will seem like you just thought of it on the fly.

    Also, there is no reason that your script cannot change. In fact, you should always be revising your script based on what worked and what didn't. Practice, rehearse, perform, revise.

    When scripting a routine, you need to know when and how the audience will react and plan that into the script. You need to think of a variety of "one-liners" that you could use if the opportunity presents. Yes, you should script your "improvised" comments. And guess what, that makes you seem like you come up with these witty things to say off the cuff (a trait that most people cannot do consistently).

    You need to script what will seem like "unscripted interaction" to the audience. You can have a variety of lines to say depending on the circumstances. Let's say I'm doing a kids show and ask someone to take a card and then some kid yells out "I know that trick." I have scripted various options. First, I can ignore him (especially if he has been yelling out at other times in the show and is just looking for attention). I can make eye contact and say, "so have I, but everyone else hasn't so let's keep it our secret" or I can say "now I recognize you, you were at that bar the other night when I was performing weren't you?" or "there are a million different card tricks and I have to pick the one that you know."

    If the opportunity arises, you can go a little bit off your script. If you have a great comment in response to what the audience says, you have the choice to say that comment. The beauty of being fully scripted is you don't have the pressure of thinking what you have to say on the fly -- but you do have the option to say something that you think of.

    I don't think what you and I are saying is that far apart. I just don't want people reading your posts and thinking "I shouldn't script because that makes my performance mediocre." If you script your performances in the right way (by scripting out what seems like "unscripted interaction") it will be anything but mediocre.
  8. I don't feel the need to engage with either Zac or RealityOne's posts in great detail - I probably tend to say too much anyway, but I do think you guys are having a valuable conversation. More or less, I want to agree with RealityOne's points about scripting.

    Firstly, I want to mention that there is a grave misconception amongst the general populace about improvisation - namely, that improvisation occurs on the spot. This is not at all true! Almost all good improvisers (see, for example, Wayne Brady, and the cast of Whose Line is it Anyway?) do so on the basis of a framework. In other words, they have a structure for each improvisation. If you watch numerous episodes you will quickly see patterns. Improvisation does not appear out of nowhere - it is founded on a structure - a script! - which is then used to create unique situations. The same is applicable for magic. "Winging it" is a surefire way to spiral into spectacular oblivion.

    In actual fact, as I've hinted above - I think that scripting your act in detail is conducive to interaction with spectators! Zac is not wrong when he mentions that this is necessary. But just because you have everything scripted, doesn't mean there's no room to deviate from the script! On the contrary, there is greater room for deviation, because you know all the important scripting points. It's like singing - sometimes, it's acceptable to deviate from the melody, and use trills, and so forth - but you MUST know when to return to the melody! If you know your script, and everything is scripted, you know where the potential for interaction is - and when something comes up unexpectedly, you can better engage with the audience and then refocus - and when you interact, you can do so without worrying about your performance because scripting has helped you to internalise your performance that much more.

    Finally, I want to mention that if your routine is sounding dull, change the script, change the routine, or change hobbies. Repetition is an unavoidable part of professional performance.

    RealityOne's final post sums up what has been said quite nicely, I think.
  9. I completely agree with everything you just said and RealityOne's last paragraph. Although I never said not to script, in fact, I said it was necessary. I really liked what praetoritevong said. I think you explained it the way I was thinking about it. I just couldn't get my message clear.

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