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Matt Graves
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Huntsville, Alabama (USA)
504 Posts

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I've always wondered, at what point do you go from the kind of stuff Michael Ammar or Paul Harris might do, you know, coin tricks, card tricks, cups and balls, maybe the linking rings and so on, to splitting a woman in half or doing a substitution trunk or maybe just making yourself disappear at the end of the show? I used to think it was a matter of experience, as you got better known as a magician, you would get to know other magicians or, well, just gradually learn these bigger things. But look at Michael Ammar and Paul Harris, Eugene Burger - they specialize only in closeup, what they started out doing. I don't mind sticking to simple sleight of hand for a closeup show, but if invited to perform onstage or just standing, say in a gymnasium or something, shouldn't you at least have _one_ "big" trick to finish off, or maybe even beef up the whole show to a larger scale? It doesn't seem like card and coin tricks would be very effective at all if you were hired to perform in a large room or onstage or in a gym, etc. You might not even get pity applause at the end of the act. At what point do you make the transition? How does it happen? I've scoured tons of magic books and all, and they don't tell much about illusions. The few methods I've found are very impractical, especially stuff using "black art". A lot of magical writers say that illusions are not worth the money and take too much rehearsal. Surely they could be simpified somehow - or maybe not. What do y'all think?
Michael Messing
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Inner circle
Knoxville, TN
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You don't necessarily need large illusions to do a good stage show. While I do perform illusions, many people are more impressed by Gene Anderson's Torn & Restored Newspaper! (It's probably one of the most talked about tricks in my show.)

I spent my first years in magic doing stage magic without illusions. I always wanted to do illusions but it seemed impractical. I bought three of them when I had a customer commit to using my show twice in a year. He did fund raising shows and always used illusionists. He wanted someone new and an agent convinced him that I could put together a good show. That was what got me started.

Some people start buying illusions and then try to find a place to perform them. I preferred having a need for illusions before buying them.

At this point, I have been a full-time pro for 17 years and I still do just as many one-man stage shows as I do two-person illusion shows. (Some clients don't have the budget. Other times, there isn't enough room.)

If you want to get your feet wet in illusions, you can purchase an audience participation effect. That can be a sword through neck, wrist chopper, guillotine or bow sawing illusion. This will give you a big trick without the need for hiring and rehearsing an assistant. (Believe me, finding and keeping a good assistant is very difficult. You have to work alot to pay an assistant enough to want to work for you full-time! They usually do this on the side and that means you can lose them pretty easily.)

I hope this is a little help. If you have some questions, feel free to contact me.

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I started off doing manipulations for about the first 5 years of my magic career. Then watching a fellow magician go through a multiplying billiard ball routine, I suddenly realised that the majority of the audience in the room wasn't paying any attention to the performer....and technically, he was good too!
It was then that I realised that the audience's expectations is what needs to be fulfiled...not our own personal goals and ambitions. As a hobby sure why not but once on stage, your audience comes first. They came to be entertained and you are there to entertain.

That being the 2 cents worth of background...the transition.

If you have the resources to purchase illusions and perform them well..then great. Unfortunately not all of us do.

I have found out that if you have material that you do that is visible and involves the audience actively, in an entertaining manner...then you are there. Now visibility need not be big. The Torn & restored newapaper mentioned is great. Even the 6 card repeat works as a great opener. I have done this for audences of up to 1000 pax. Get the audience's attention right up front and get them involved in what you are doing.
Other good examples - the Silk to Egg trick, the knife thru coat, Cut & restored rope, Gumball Machine and so on. Don't dismiss them just because these tricks get catagorised as Cabaret Magic. They work great on stage too. Good patter is essential as it is your personality that will help estabilish you as a performer.

Maybe if adopt this approach then a combination of various types of magic is the best - Open with an illusion...move into the visual patter stuff ( have a varied routine...plot out your act's high points, applause points..etc, and pace the audience out with a plan on finishing with the strongest material.) If you can do more than one illusion then maybe finish the show with the 2nd.

Once you have done this for a while you will begin to get a feel of what works and what doesn't. Acually you will begin to enjoy performing the shows better because you have the best of both worlds.

Once the moola starts rolling in, and you want to take on Copperfield, only then start investing in the 40ft trailer and custom built inventory of illusions. Smile

Hope this helps.


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Las Vegas
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Profile of cubreporter
All good advice above, but one of the most important things to consider is your personality. Who are you as a performer? Eugene has a commanding presence at the close up table. People specialize depending on their expertise. Weigh your strengths and weaknesses as a performer and then decide if stage is right for you.
All good luck!
I am whatever I am to you.
Bill Hegbli
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Eternal Order
Fort Wayne, Indiana
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Bill Smile Smile
Matt Graves
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Huntsville, Alabama (USA)
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What does "NO!!!!" mean, Bill? Just curious.

Yeah, the rest of you guys have some good advice. The truth is, I'd just like to do whatever show I get hired for. Some shows, I'm going to be standing up in front of a fair-sized crowd, like at a school show where they'd probably want to put me in a gym, or a church show where they might want me up front while people sit in the pews. I'd like to be able to adapt to all situations. Nate Leipzig did card tricks from the stage, but I'm sure that requires a special touch. I'll do whatever it takes.
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