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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Respecting Magic...a question and a rant. » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Burt Yaroch
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The question:

Is it disrespectful to make your audience beg for a performance?


The rant:

This was intended to be my closing comments to the Unpaid Impromptu debate. But as I was typing I found that I was addressing a very specific opinion in that debate, that being the “I’ll perform if you beg” mentality. I must confess that was why I initially started that thread, when I heard Pat Page quoted as saying this (and now add Leipzig to the list).

But so many other great perspectives were discussed I didn’t want to steer the conversation away (any more than I already had) from all of these good points (ie. the right time and place, not stealing the spotlight) so I put it here under a new topic, in its entirety.

After some careful consideration I have decided to bow out of this discussion as I feel my opinions on this matter are a bit too zealous for a public forum. I would like to say one thing, however, before I excuse myself.

These comments are not directed at the left wing magical extremists (but please feel free to gnash your teeth and stomp about). Rather they are for the younger magi whom, sadly, are likely the only ones to hear.

I’m sure you have been told time and again, as a performer of magic you have a responsibility to your fellow magicians to uphold the art and to present magic, at all times, in it’s best light. As you strive to do so, never forget that the magic isn’t in your hands, and it certainly isn’t in you (IMO). The magic is in your spectators. What they see and hear and feel is magic (so it is you, yes, but more so their perception of you). Without them you’re just some guy who spends way too much time in front of a mirror.

As sometimes happens when persons are elevated to places of higher status, magic may become about “me” and “I” and “how much”. Egos may outgrow even stature as persons forget exactly where they came from and who put them on their pedestal to begin with. Some may feel these are the rewards of a professional and they are now due.

However, professionalism, in all vocations, goes well beyond technical proficiency and the accolades of your peers. True, it is about being respected but to a much greater degree, it is about respecting others. Respect is not something you are imparted because of rank or status. Respect is always independent of these things.

Respect is something you earn.

Respect is something you receive because you have given it to others. It is comprised of how others perceive your character, your actions and intentions. And make no mistake, if somewhere along your ascension into professional magic you develop the notion that you only perform impromptu if begged to do so (the precept alone reeks of narcissism) you have just lost the respect of every person in that room. You have degraded the person or persons among the others who thought the most highly of you, and you have made any performance you subsequently give all the less magical. This bigotry is not professionalism no matter how you dress it up or attempt to justify it. It is egoism, plain and simple. It is disrespect for your audience, for your fellow magicians, and for magic. And your actions in that room on that day will have done more damage to the art of magic than any rookie could do in a lifetime of prematurely executed double lifts. He is just the new guy performing bad magic. You are the supposed professional performing bad-mannered magic. Look in the mirror you love so much and tell me which turns more people off to our art.

So my advice to the younger magicians is to begin your quest to become a professional with an ever-growing respect for your audience, impromptu or otherwise. Treat them always with dignity for they are magic. Respect magic, and magic will respect you.

That’s all I got. What say you?
Yakworld.
Jeb Sherrill
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Yak,
This serves me right for not entering the impromptu section often enough because I would have like to get in on this discussion. I will not defend the so-called Professional idea of not showing magic until begged, but I will give my perspective.

I have never liked the attitude that if you're a pro, then you only have to perform when paid. I find it downright snobbish, but I from another angle I have found myself doing a similar thing before. I think it goes without saying that if asked at a party to do a few tricks, that you don't have to do a half hour show (I'm sure most would agree with that easily enough). Nevertheless I have seen pros who don't even seem to want to pull out a t-tip and do a little trick for the kids. I've seen situations where this appears to be a snobbish gesture from one who didn't want to "perform" unless paid, but I've also seen something else.

Here's my little story:
As some of you know, I've just gotten back into magic after about a five-year leave from it. I was in and out of magic my whole life and then for about three years or so, I completely immersed myself in it. I cannot explain how deeply I immersed myself, but let's just say I knew stuff about magic my mentors had never heard of. I lived it, I breathed it, I bathed in it every night. I hardly had time to perform for all my practice and study. By day, I worked in a magic shop with no traffic (right, in other words like most magic shops) and spent the whole day reading all the books there. Well, to make a long story short, after about three years I'd burnt myself out. In a few short years I'd become what some people took a lifetime to become (unfortunately this is how I do a lot of things), I'd become a completely fried magician. I left. I stopped going to the clubs. The magic shop I worked at was already closed. I put away all my equipment. A kid would ask to see a trick and I'd cringe. Every so often I'd pull out a deck of cards and thumb through them, but still I couldn't show people tricks. I'm back now after a good, long sabbatical, but I'm still a little fried under the skin. I gladly perform magic now, but there's still a little twitch in my fingers.

The point of all this is that I can see where a person that performed magic all the time, every night for years, would start to get burnt out. I can see where one might not want to show people any tricks because they just couldn't stand pulling out that deck of cards. They'd still do it for money, but sure, magic has probably lost its "magic" for some. Now this is a very different attitude than not performing for free just because you're not getting paid, but the end result would be the same. It's a sad result. It's sad anytime we forget what magic is really about and begin looking at it as that weight around our necks. Heavens, we forget it's even amazing and it leads many to the way we perform, leads us to try and fool people instead of amaze them. When magicians get to that point though, I just feel sorry them, especially having been there myself. The magic can be lost very easily if we aren't careful.

Anyway, just a little story and a few thoughts.

Sable
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I don't believe in reincarnation, but I may have in another life.
Tom Cutts
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Since you choose to bring it to this forum Yak...

It has been agreed that there are circumstances under which performing would be inappropriate. Given that, I find it wrong that you would deny each professional his right to decide what is the appropriate setting for his magic.

We can agree, as well, that making them beg for dramatic affect is probably very poor indeed.

There is a vast difference between a gracious declination and making them beg.
Peter Marucci
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Making the audience beg is about as tacky as you can get!
It is insulting to the audience and arrogant of the performer; what it is really saying is: "I am far better than what you deserve, so you'll have to grovel for it."
This approach usually backfires anyway; the audience, after being made to jump through hoops, does not want to see some guy do the 21 card trick.
And probably nothing that he can do will live up to the promise that all that begging created.
In short, behave like a civilized person and you'll be okay.
cheers,
Peter Marucci
Dennis Michael
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It might work for Don Rinkles, but everyone else. Don't tell them how good you think you are, they will let you know.

On the other hand, I've been known to say in my kids act, (my closing number) that I have one more trick left to perform but I know you want to get back to class so you really don't want me to do that last trick Do Ya?

What a reply I get. And the last trick, well it should be a good one with the kids, which leaves them with a laughter, and a memorable moment of joy.
Smile
Dennis Michael
Burt Yaroch
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Quote:
On 2002-02-11 02:37, Tom Cutts wrote:
Since you choose to bring it to this forum Yak...

It has been agreed that there are circumstances under which performing would be inappropriate. Given that, I find it wrong that you would deny each professional his right to decide what is the appropriate setting for his magic.



Given that, no. I can't deny the pros their right to decide. I think where our opinions diverge is probably how we define "inappropriate circumstances". Or perhaps not, we haven't got that specific yet have we?

Quote:
We can agree, as well, that making them beg for dramatic affect is probably very poor indeed.


I concur. Woohooooo!

:bigdance:
Yakworld.
Joe M. Turner
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I think it's a gross misstatement of the position to suggest that magicians who want to hold out on free social performances actually want audience members to beg and plead and grovel. The idea is simply to refrain from performing unless or until you sense the anticipation reaching such a climax that you stand out from the crowd as not just some tricky guy who will do something if asked, but so that the experience is special and memorable.

There is a difference between "yeah, this guy had a pack of cards out so we asked him to show us something and he did" and "there was this guy there who somebody knew was a professional magician -- he wasn't going to do anything but we finally talked him into it and it was a bloody miracle!"

It is the difference between those two perceptions that some pros recognize, and many pros prefer to go for the second as it is a stronger and yes, more marketable perception.

Don't perform until they beg is a short way of putting it, but nobody actually expects the audience to grovel. The idea is to "play hard to get" so that they enjoy and remember the experience more.

I would rather be known as "hard to get" than "hard to get rid of."
...
Regards,
Joe M. Turner
[email]jmt@turnermagic.com[/email]
www.turnermagic.com
Burt Yaroch
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"Was it Leipzig who said never perform on the first request? Always wait to be begged... "

Those are your words Joe. (Well, your post quoting Leipzig.) I don't think I misstated anything and it was you who suggested it.

So your position is that if you have the audience's "anticipation reach a climax" it will transform a simple card trick into a bloody miracle?

Even if I did agree with that, what was the price you paid for your miracle? (I've still got the "beg" word in my head right now so if your anticipatory climax is going off in another direction please let me know.)(Actually I'll stop here so you can explain how you whip up this climax without demeaning anyone, if you would. Smile )
Yakworld.
Joe M. Turner
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I understand. It was a poor attempt at paraphrase on my part -- I will attempt to find the exact quote. My point is that even if "beg" was the exact word used, I hardly think that the context suggests that people are actually on their hands and knees "begging." I wasn't intending for that extremely drastic interpretation of the word to be the one people picked up on. My mistake. It may be as simple as "Always make them ask at least twice." Again, I'll try to find the quote. What I was attempting to illustrate is that Leipzig was in the camp of *not* performing too easily or too quickly in a social situation with laypeople.

Ah... the quote I was remembering was this:

-----
Leipzig had two rules which all magicians should heed-- "If their attention palls in the slightest, change tricks quickly," and more important: "Don't ever perform unless coaxed." Leipzig realized that people may ask to see a trick out of politeness, but would not press the point unless genuinely interested.

Dai Vernon's Tribute to Nate Leipzig; Lewis Ganson

-----

I readily admit that "coaxed" is not "begged" except in the weakest interpretation of "to beg." That term is used a lot in conversation to indicate "coaxing" though -- I begged her to tell me something -- or even less strongly as in "I beg your pardon." The word as I intended it was in the weaker sense.

There is a continuum here, yakandjak. One one end are those who wantonly foist their magic on anyone, unasked, and oblivious to the actual wishes of the spectators. On the other end are those who will not perform anything, anytime, anywhere, for any reason, for anyone.

In between those two extremes are those who will perform casually if they detect (rightly or wrongly) even a glimmering hint of interest by a spectator, and those who prefer to keep most or all of their performances exclusive to their paid and more controlled situations. I think it's wrong to criticize the people in the latter camp because they are not so quick to perform as those in the first group. There is, in my opinion, much more damage done to the image of magicians by "foisters" than by those who restrain themselves to only performing when and if the requests have grown beyond the casual into the practically insistent.

The only practical answer is that it's up to the magician to decide what the cost/benefit of performing is going to be in that situation, and make their decision.

As for whipping up more anticipation without demeaning anybody, that has to do with a combination of showmanship and politeness that you have to mix up yourself. I certainly can't explain a recipe here to apply to every situation. Sometimes you can just start to beg off (there's that word again) with something like, "Oh, I can't believe you really want to see that old thing" or "It's very flattering of you to ask... but I wouldn't make you sit through that just to humor me..."

Best regards!
...
Regards,
Joe M. Turner
[email]jmt@turnermagic.com[/email]
www.turnermagic.com
Burt Yaroch
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Hey Joe. Thanks for taking the time and effort for such a lucid reply. (Oh man, I hope no one interprets this comment as sarchastic. I didn't have any other posts in mind when I wrote this but the connection popped into my head as I was re-reading this.)

As I said, my rant began with comments made by Pat Page. I did ask for and recieve clarification of his quote to ensure I wasn't taking his comments out of context. It was then that I latched onto this possibly extreem interpretation of the word "beg". I found this interpretation wouldn't be very constructive in the thread from which I quoted you initially Joe, which is why I moved it here. I hope an understanding of my perspective will illuminate the reasons for my curtness.

If it didn't: the reason I get so spooled up about topics such as this is I aspire to be a working pro. I think people have a certain image of a professional magician which is created largely by the pros that they encounter. I, myself, have a very small pool of professional magic knowledge (read few pro friends). So when two well known pros start to pee in my pool (read discolor my concept of the professional magician) I take offense. Thinking there my then be moreof these magi putting this "beg" principle into practice (my extreem interpretation of it) I am left with two options:

A. To put away all the cards and coins as I don't want to be associated with that type of person, magician or otherwise (this is the crummy option).

or

2. I can kick the bushes (which is what I did) and see how many of these magicians come scurrying out. Then step on them. In addition I had hoped to educate the younger magi that this is some distorted sort of egoism which is why I originally posted this in the New To Magic forum. (Steve thought it would be better served here and that's great too.) Eradicate the infestation from within.

But as I have recieved nothing but agreement here (even from Tom Smile ) I am left to conclude that my penchant for shooting first and asking questions later has once again led me to empty my clip for no reason.

But MAN that was fun.
:comply:
Yakworld.
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