How to practice "being casual"?

Discussion in 'Magic Forum' started by davidsalata, Jun 20, 2019.

  1. Hi folks,

    Does anyone have advice or practice exercises for how to be casual? When the instructions to a trick advise you to be casual, what does that mean? I know in principle -- don't make a big deal about a move, don't act self-conscious about it, don't draw attention to it through words or body language -- but that's all theory. The first principle of being casual is probably to practice your sleights so well that you can do them, without thinking and with utter confidence, while talking or doing something else. That in itself is pretty daunting. During the three years or so that I've been studying magic I've practiced a double lift, the Hunter shuffle, etc., many, many times, and I'm still not nearly as consistent as I'd like to be. Another principle would be to be relaxed -- but I'm nervous by nature, and I don't know how well I fake calm!

    Can anyone suggests exercises in casualness? I'm thinking of the sort of thing that Al Schneider suggests (in his work on false transfers, for instance), but perhaps not specifically directed toward one technique. Just some sequences of moves to practice that would make it easier to be casual when doing secret moves. A bit like practicing scales in music, I suppose.

    Thanks to everyone for whatever ideas they might have.
  2. There's only so much you can achieve by practicing by yourself. You have to perform. the more experience you have in an actual performance setting the more relaxed you're going to feel and the better you'll do. There really isn't a substitute for experience.
    thematthoward and DionT like this.
  3. Is this the same post from The Cafe?

    I think some good advice was given in that thread and it has certainly caused me to think about how to break it down more.

    I think the biggest thing is being extremely familiar with your material, which is where a lot of casual performers falter.

    When you're thinking about your next line, or your next move, you can't relax and it won't seem casual. It will be noticeable that you're struggling to remember what to do next.

    So the first step is to practice the physical sleights until they become second nature. One should be able to perform any sleight as easily as picking up a fork, and with as much concern as is devoted to such activities. The quippy way I describe this is, "You should be bored with doing these moves."

    Once you've got the component moves down properly, start practicing them in sequence, doing only the mechanical method of the trick. Do that until you likewise get bored doing it. It should provide zero challenge to execute, and ideally there should occasionally be times when you're not sure you've even executed everything until you check.

    Once you've gotten the trick down, practice it within the routine you're working on, if the trick isn't the whole routine. And again, do it until it's boring.

    Now you've got practicing more or less done. Time to rehearse!

    Write the script if you haven't already. Perform the trick, while reciting the script, until you don't have to reference any of the lines from writing. Then start performing it, with the script said out loud, as if you were performing it for real people.

    And I bet you know how long I think you should do that, don't you? That's right - until it's so easy and requires so little thought that you are bored with it.

    Being that intimately familiar with the material will mean you never have to devote thought to it, and you can focus on presenting yourself.

    As for specifics regarding posture, hand position, etc. Study yourself when you're not doing anything. It's a weird thing to say/do, but do it anyway. Notice the ways your hands rest, the way you stand when talking to people, the kinds of gestures you use, words you tend to emphasize. Maybe you'll realize there's some adjustments you can make for better theatrical impact, but generally you need to figure out how you behave when you're not performing, and try to work those behaviors into your performance's blocking.

    Example - I talk with my hands. I make specific gestures when making certain types of statements. I have ways of moving my head and gaze when trying to emphasize points or create funny moments. These are things I try to remember to put into my scripts to make them feel natural.

    One thing I had to work on - I tend to shift my weight back and forth constantly. This isn't due to nerves, it's because my knees are messed up. If I don't keep moving my knees will hurt like mad after only a few minutes. But the audience doesn't know this, and every single person who has critiqued my performances has mentioned it. So I got some heavy duty knee braces and started rehearsing delivering my lines while standing still. This changed how I gesture and put more emphasis on my gaze and facial expressions but gives me more authority on stage. I also figured out how to work stage movements into the blocking that allow me to keep my knees moving without seeming nervous.
  4. @ChristopherT's post is pure gold.

    The only thing I can add is to avoid "don't" in your thinking.

    The only way you "don't" do something is to affirmatively "do" something. So think in terms of what you should do. So, for "don't act self-conscious" think "do talk to the person and make eye contact." Also, work on what is called a silent script -- what you say to yourself when performing. So if you are doing a double lift, you say to the spectator, "If this worked, the card you are thinking of is on the top of the deck" and then you think, "I'm going to turn over the top card so she can see" instead of "now I'm doing a double-lift, I hope she really doesn't catch me."
    JoshL8 likes this.
  5. Oh yes, excellent points.
  6. I think it was Penn who said that you need to have as much flight time as possible, which means you need to be performing as much as you possibly can (while trying not to be annoying to siblings and parents, of course XD). So do that as well. I'm not saying that it will help you with your problem of nerves, but it might make you understand your problem better.

    What is it about nerves?
    When do you get nervous?
    When executing a sleight? When something goes a bit different than planned? After executing a sleight, wondering if people saw it? I think you should narrow down your problem, make it specific, and then work towards solving it. It does help.

    Just, don't be guilty of doing things. Don't feel guilty because you're palming. Don't feel guilty before, while and after doing a top change. Don't feel guilty while doing a French Drop.

    Other than that, I think the other replies here have been pretty helpful, so I need not repeat that :) .
  7. Experience with help with being casual over time. The more you are comfortable with something the more relaxed you will be (less tense). Some moves are popular because they are doable without tension (see Aaron Fishers Gravity Half Pass). As far as advice I can give beyond more experience : Breathing out when you perform a sleight was a point I’ve read somewhere before.
  8. Another thing is that you can practise the art of casual improv *without magic*. Toastmasters does a fantastic exercise (best thing in Toastmaster really) called table get a random topic and with no pause to think you speak on it for 2 minutes to your club. That is sooo good for getting comfortable talking on your feet to an audience. It's really helpful if that element of performing is a non-issue.
  9. I would highly suggest getting erdinase x Madison video series if you can get a hold of it. He talks a lot about getting so comfortable you can look like you are doing things sloppy, this helps get people to let their guards down until the moment that you blow their mind. I almost always try to drop a few cards during an over hand shuffle and people laugh and almost write you off and then when the trick ends they are that much more amazed.

    honestly - Go watch Chris Prat do his trick on YouTube. Basic trick but that is the epitome of casual. Everything is just calm and jokey and then when the magic moment hits watch Jennifer Lawrence.. jaw drops great performance so study
    Kholan likes this.
  10. ^ thanks for the tip, that Pratt performance was killer. It takes some guts to pretend to screw up that badly on national telly!
  11. And what do you do for your second trick? The audience knows you you were trolling them by pretending to be sloppy the first time... how will they react the second time? My guess is the audience will think "you were doing something sneaky the first time and covered it up by being sloppy... I'm going to pay closer attention this time so you don't make a fool of me." Yep, you've made it more likely that your audience will focus more on what you are doing and trying to figure out the method. Probably won't work more than once unless you are Lennart Green and the sloppiness is ingrained in your character. Its really just a crutch.

    The real key is that you don't want the audience to notice anything about your handling of cards or other props. You don't want to be doing the 25 faces of Sybill, one handed cuts and packet juggling (which give the impression of skill) and you don't want to appear to be inept handling cards by dropping them. You want the audience to perceive your skill level to be the same as anyone who has ever played cards. Convey the message, "there is nothing to see here." That allows you to focus the audience on things other than your handling through your presentation.

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