Don’t Practice and Be a Star

 

Practice Before a Mirror

There are two schools of thought when it comes to practicing for a show ? no matter how formal or informal.  Some would say, a magician should practice until she satisfies herself, then perform the effect or routine for trusted friends and family, and then she should use the criticism these audiences provide to perfect the routine for a true public presentation.

 

Tony Spain published an article last week on our sister website, The Magic Wire espousing the opposite theory.  In his essay, ?No Practice for Dogs or Magicians,? Mr. Spain suggests the following:

 

?Greta Weitz, the long-distance runner, never warmed-up for a race.  She believed just as dogs do not do stretching exercises before they run, runners did not need to stretch either.  A runner?s stretching is the equivalent of a magician?s practicing.  In my experience, I have come to believe Ms. Weitz was right and that her gold-medal winning approach to running applied to performing magic.

 

?When you practice beyond simply exploring the trick?s secret or method, you start to form ridges in your brain that make every show the same; and every show uniformly boring.  Learn how the trick works and plunge in to your performance.  Unless you have the adrenaline rush of an actual show, you will never find your edge as a performer.  You?ll leave your best race behind.? 

 

Let?s assume there is some rational tie between a dog chasing a cat, a top-conditioned athlete, a magician with a new trick and a new audience.  Let?s assume also that Mr. Spain has any credibility with the magic community after his recent production of DVDs.  (Not to belabor the point but it still amazed us that Mr. Spain would think he could get away with his ten DVD set in which he republished Michael Ammar, Daryl and Nate Kranzo?s videos adding only his ?helpful introduction? to each clip. We are glad he outraged the Magic community with this stunt and that he is…

 

Practice Before a Mirror

There are two schools of thought when it comes to practicing for a show ? no matter how formal or informal.  Some would say, a magician should practice until she satisfies herself, then perform the effect or routine for trusted friends and family, and then she should use the criticism these audiences provide to perfect the routine for a true public presentation.

 

Tony Spain published an article last week on our sister website, The Magic Wire espousing the opposite theory.  In his essay, ?No Practice for Dogs or Magicians,? Mr. Spain suggests the following:

 

?Greta Weitz, the long-distance runner, never warmed-up for a race.  She believed just as dogs do not do stretching exercises before they run, runners did not need to stretch either.  A runner?s stretching is the equivalent of a magician?s practicing.  In my experience, I have come to believe Ms. Weitz was right and that her gold-medal winning approach to running applied to performing magic.

 

?When you practice beyond simply exploring the trick?s secret or method, you start to form ridges in your brain that make every show the same; and every show uniformly boring.  Learn how the trick works and plunge in to your performance.  Unless you have the adrenaline rush of an actual show, you will never find your edge as a performer.  You?ll leave your best race behind.? 

 

Let?s assume there is some rational tie between a dog chasing a cat, a top-conditioned athlete, a magician with a new trick and a new audience.  Let?s assume also that Mr. Spain has any credibility with the magic community after his recent production of DVDs.  (Not to belabor the point but it still amazed us that Mr. Spain would think he could get away with his ten DVD set in which he republished Michael Ammar, Daryl and Nate Kranzo?s videos adding only his ?helpful introduction? to each clip. We are glad he outraged the Magic community with this stunt and that he is apparently the subject of civil suits from the three masters he robbed.) 

 

Given all of these presumptions, we turn to the dubious instruction this dubious magician teaches.  Robin Williams, the king of the impromptu show, rehearses his presentation with the obsession of an anal-retentive freak.  He says he believes in being spontaneous; but within a framework that gives the audience and the performer the assurance of entertainment.  How often have you seen a magic shop demonstrator perform the newest trick in store so terribly that you disregarded the effect almost immediately?  Perhaps you later saw the same effect performed by someone practiced in her performance causing you to wonder whether it could be the same effect. 

 

Mr. Spain wrote, ?My best shows have been when I have ?thrown together? tricks and essentially made up the routine as I went along.  I do a trick, see what the audience thinks, look in my suit case for another trick, and again check out their reaction.  If you?re interested in being in synch with your audience, nothing beats this approach.  You may practice an act so well that you never vary in any aspect of your presentation but your audience may find your presentation is boring!  If you can?t change according to your audience?s needs, you will bore them the same way each time ? assuming you are ever invited back.?

 

Recall that Mr. Spain was also the one who said magicians should say things like, ?Here I have an ordinary glass? or ?This is a normal coloring book? or ?I am showing you an ungimmicked newspaper that I will tear up and restore.?  We disagreed with this approach and said so.  He disagreed with us and said so.  So there. 

 

There is no reason to come to a show without a clue as to which tricks you will do until you ?read? your audience.  In fact, for our money Mr. Spain?s do-a-trick-and-then-pick-out-another method is exactly opposite how a good magician should perform.  But if you take this routining philosophy and match it with not practicing the individual tricks, you won?t be on the edge; you?ll be on skid row. 

 

The final straw for us was his misquoting and abuse of Robert-Houdin.  The French Father of Magic is often quoted as saying, ?a magician is an actor playing the role of a magician.?  Mr. Spain claimed his translation of the French rendered the quote, ?a magician is an action figure posing according to the audience?s whim.?  There is nothing to suggest this translation.  He has once again, manipulated reality to back-up his fantasy. 

 

It is instructive to note Mr. Spain has virtually no requests for repeat bookings.  He attributes this to the fact that ?I give the audience literally everything I have and they know it.  They respect it and do not want me to repeat the unrepeatable.?  Nice try.  We believe it is because his audiences are repulsed by his poorly prepared show and that they had to pay in advance to see the mish-mash of tricks. 

 

You can make-up your own decision on this issue but we have a hunch you will allow Mr. Spain to be the lone practitioner of the Greta Weitz approach to magic. 

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