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Theodore Lawton
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I’m posting this here with the idea that it may help a fellow newcomer or that some with more experience can chime in and expand upon these ideas. I don’t want to come off as trying to sound too deep or all-knowing here, but these were some interesting thoughts I had following a gig last weekend.
I was thinking about nervousness the other night after the gig. I hadn’t performed in a particular setting in quite a while; this was a house party, and I was also doing some new material I’d been wanting to do for a long time so I was nervous before the gig.
I was running the evening’s events through my mind afterward and hit upon some ideas that lean toward the psychological and wanted to share them. I don’t often start a new thread giving suggestions like this, but here goes...

When I was nervous the other night I went in to the gig and began setting up and introducing myself, the normal routine. And I also told the people- in a lighthearted way and with a smile on my face- that I was nervous that night. Let me just repeat that- I told them I was really nervous.

Some important things happened in that moment.

1. I was TALKING WITH PURPOSE. That chit chat and small talk I was making was taking my mind off of my nervousness. This wasn’t mindless jibber jabber, but a conversation that I was controlling as the evening’s hired, professional entertainer. I was able to follow up my statement of being nervous with some lighthearted, valid, and not so valid, reasons why. One reason I gave was because the man who’s birthday party I was performing at was a magic hobbiest and I had been told by his daughter to, “Bring my best tricks!” While this wasn’t exactly a true source of my nerves, like any script it gave me something to talk about and find out where people stood. I unconsciously lobbed a ball into their court and got to see what they did with it. It was helping to set the scene and put me in a place of psychological audience management. I was taking a leadership role in engaging these people with polite small talk, but I was also directing the flow of what we were talking about. This purposefulness helped to direct my mind to being in charge and being a doer. I was now a person taking action in the smallest of ways by talking and that was guiding me toward leadership in the events to come in a short while- magical entertainment.

2. I ADMITTED MY NERVOUSNESS. This may sound trifling and unimportant, but stick with me for a minute here and listen to the psychology behind my thoughts. When we are nervous and getting ready to perform something- anything- singing, playing an instrument, doing a magic set; we are HIDING something. Or at the very least we are doing our best to hide something from other people. The fear that makes us nervous has power over us because we are trying to keep it a secret. Not only are we concerned with doing the trick right, but “never let them see you sweat,” to quote the popular ad. The moment I admitted my nervousness to the people I was trying to hide it from, it became FAR less of an issue because of two main reasons. 1. It was all out in the open now. It was no longer a burden I was trying to conceal. I could lay that down and move easier without the weight of trying to conceal it weighing me down. And 2. the way the people reacted. Which brings me to point three of the outline:

3. THE WAY THE PEOPLE REACTED. Smile People for the most part want you to succeed, especially when they are hiring you for an event. They want you to be a great entertainer so they can have fun that evening. Sure, you will run into jerks that want to see you crash and burn, but for the most part people want you to do well. When I admitted my nerves to this group of nice people they were immediately able to RELATE to how I felt; and therefore, to ME. Who hasn’t been nervous? And they unconsciously did what most people will do in their situation who are nice and want to see you do well: They began to try and put me at ease. People will say things like, “Oh don’t worry about it,” or, “We’re easy to fool.” You get the picture here; they will try and let you know that everything’s going to be okay. This is especially true if you’ve introduced yourself right off the bat as a likable person with a nice personality. They will welcome you as part of their social group because this is what humans do- the decent ones anyway.

So the gig went great. I did 90 minutes in these people’s dining room and no one got bored or even left to get a drink or use the restroom. They were bummed when it was over because time went by so fast. Part of this is skill and practice- doing the tricks right and being a PERFORMER... a MAGICIAN. But I also think part of the group acceptance involved in performing is just being real and maybe sometimes admitting your fears to people. Relax! Show them the real you! Don't let your desire to be great override the opportunity to connect with people. They will welcome you as a peer and you won’t have to carry the hidden burden of nervousness. As much! Smile

Then you can blow their minds with awesome magic and mentalism!

Just some thoughts. Maybe it’s old news or doesn’t apply to you. If you get something out of this then I achieved what I set out to do by sharing it with you all.

Theodore-

Smile
Mike Gilbert
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There's only room for one Master in his Kingdom, Theodore...and that's you my friend Smile Great job! Unknowingly played those folks like a fiddle...all while keeping your own nerves in check! :p
-Mike Gilbert Smile

"Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance."- Steven Pressfield
1KJ
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Theodore,

thanks for sharing. Good stuff!

What did they say when you said you were nervous because it was for an amateur magician who wanted to see your "best stuff"?

KJ
Theodore Lawton
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Great comments Mike! Smile

It was definitely UNKNOWINGLY, which is why I enjoyed the revelations I was having about it later. Thanks again for the comments and I'm glad I shared it. Somebody gets it!

Smile
Theodore Lawton
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1KJ- Oh something along the lines of, "Don't worry we're easy to fool." But he was VERY excited to have been surprised with a Magician and afterward when we were chatting for a bit he said that it was a pleasure to be ENTERTAINED by me because even if he knew a particular method he got to see a different and fun presentation. He said it was very obvious that I spent many hours practicing. Which I do. I love to practice. Nerd alert! Smile

Funny side note- One of the things he said he'd never seen before that blew his mind; something I do at every party that gets GASPS, was Crazy cube. Smile So it's kind of funny that he had never seen it as an amateur Magi and got to enjoy such a cheap simple trick. With good presentation this trick kills!
Mike Gilbert
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You're the man, Theodore!
-Mike Gilbert Smile

"Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance."- Steven Pressfield
Theodore Lawton
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Thanks Mike, and in all the excitement I forgot to thank you; 1KJ, for your kind words. So, thank you!

Smile
Shadowstalker
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I subscribed to this.
BTW if you admit you are nervous to hecklers won't they give you a hard time?
Smile

When a magician lets you notice something on your own, his lie becomes impenetrable.
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Mike Gilbert
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It's a possibility Shadowstalker, but there are two things to consider.
#1. You generally aren't going to know who the hecklers are until they start doing there job...some time during the show.
#2. Telling folks you are nervous may actually help hinder the hecklers from coming to work that day on account that everyone already knows, and they will be there pulling for you; thus most likely keeping said heckler at bay.

In the end I think a lot more good can come from telling them than bad.
-Mike Gilbert Smile

"Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance."- Steven Pressfield
Terrible Wizard
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Nice post. It'll be interesting to see what others say regarding it, especially being upfront about nerves - which kind of flies in the face of a lot of advice (thinking Maximum Entertainment and the magician as superman).
Mike Gilbert
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It's a delicate balance; Playing the part of a flawless superhero while you know you're simply a mere mortal...ah, the conflict intensifies.
-Mike Gilbert Smile

"Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance."- Steven Pressfield
Theodore Lawton
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Thanks for the kind comments.

I'm interested to hear others comments as well, Terrible Wizard. Was this possibly a one in a million situation that I just happened to "luck out" on in my unconscious assessment of people? Maybe, but I hope not.

I think you could open yourself up to abuse this way Shadowstalker, but again it probably depends in large part upon how you carry yourself, how professional you are, how GOOD of a Magician you really are, etc. Keep in mind that I used it as a conversation starter, I have performing experience and once I got into the flow of the show I was far from nervous. I remember once I told a friend I was showing a trick to that I was nervous and he said, "Good, you're supposed to be." Different situation, less mercy, but he was still pulling for me and as a fellow musician who performs regularly he knew that learning to deal with the jitters would be good for me.

I like to think the best of people and I think for the most part if you are open with them they will react favorably. If a trembling newbie is up front about being nervous, but performs those few tricks they know very well then I can see the "honest" approach actually helping them.

I like what Mike said about it being a delicate balance. The conflict is definitely intensifying!

Smile
Mike Gilbert
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Agreed. I think you could write it off as somewhat of a "happy mistake." You know how it could potentially work for you, so you use this information to your favor. It would be interesting to see how this theory progresses as you use it more...then you could observe the differences (if any) in the spectators' mannerisms.
-Mike Gilbert Smile

"Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance."- Steven Pressfield
Theodore Lawton
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I could also see where someone with less experience could say something like, "Boy I'm really nervous about doing this well for you. I'm fairly new at performing magic and really want you to be entertained by this cool mystery I'm about to share with you."

Then your chatting, starting to go into the effect, getting them to sympathize with you and beginning to feel relaxed all in a very short time and they are beginning to relate to you. Then you show them the magic and melt their face off. Or something equally cool sounding and worthy of ad copy. Smile


Oh snap! Smile
Mike Gilbert
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Absolutely! If they feel relaxed it will help you feel relaxed. You're taking them for the ride anyway...might as well jump in the car together!
-Mike Gilbert Smile

"Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance."- Steven Pressfield
Theodore Lawton
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So I gave this some more thought last night.

In the Tommy Wonder lecture posted on the Café recently he shared a torn and restored that ends in a somewhat funny manner that isn't very magical. He makes the point that this is a good thing because it makes you look more human in the eyes of the audience. Like, "Hey, I'm just like you and sometimes my methods aren't that magical."

Bill Malone uses his humor to bring himself down a notch or two in the eyes of his audience as well. Like when he patters about going to Walmart to buy a wig like this, and points to his own hair. Or when he does something like, "Now, it's time for a miracle!" and pretends to do a card spread on his arm that the audience can't even see. Using humor, he makes himself more relatable in the eyes of his audience by taking himself down a notch.

I believe offhandedly mentioning nervousness and being able to chuckle about it with your audience works the same way. You remove the cape of the magic superman and show a little bit of Clark Kent to the audience and this really puts them at ease and changes their frame of mind toward you.

And what is it we're saying when we tell someone we are nervous about performing for them? You are saying, "I care." I have put a lot of thought and work into this and want you to enjoy it, not just for the sake of sparing myself embarrassment, but I want you to enjoy yourself. If you aren't nervous, you don't care, as a general rule. There will be times that you aren't very nervous after you have done something many times, but then you are in a different frame of mind. You are experienced. You still care.

The audience can then reply in kind by saying, "Relax, it's okay, don't worry about it." Which is another way of them saying, "We care too." This is creating a bond. You are now in this together, working toward a goal of enjoyment as a social group that has a connection.

Maybe a lot of thought for a brief moment, but I believe it is worthy of consideration.

Smile
1KJ
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Excellent comments! I wouldn't put myself as a professional magician because I have a day job, but I do a few shows, and I probably enjoy watching magic as much or more than most laypeople even though I probably know how every single effect is done. As you said, it is in seeing the nuances of how others perform, how they structure their routines, how they make them their own. I always learn at least one thing from watching another magician.

I think that focusing on the entertainment value of magic as much as the magic itself goes a long way toward eliminating the nerves.

If you are ready and willing to entertain and you are a pretty decent technician, then most people will enjoy it.

Some people won't enjoy it no matter what you do, just don't focus on them.

KJ
1KJ
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BTW, if you don't mind, could you tell us a little bit about your presentation for crazy cube?

If you'd rather not, I understand.

KJ
Theodore Lawton
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I'd be more than happy to share 1KJ!

Well, most of the presentation is a serious lesson in acting. Smile

I might intro it as an experiment in mind reading. Sometimes I say, "And now for something a little scary," while pulling out the prop. This generates instant interest.

But, I have them examine the prop, the small cylinder, choose the number, turn my back, etc. I make sure they somehow quietly make sure that everyone knows the chosen number either by show of the die or fingers. I don't let them examine the second cylinder until I turn back around- almost as an afterthought, like I forgot- no chance of them putting the small one inside it until then!

I shake the small cylinder when I turn back around and tell them I just needed to check and make sure they put the die in there since some people want to play, "Mess with the Magician." Always gets a laugh and spectators feel free to make funny comments here as well.

I show the the top and the bottom of the closed cylinder again to "reinforce" that there's no way I could possibly see through the cylinder or lid. Smile Of course, this is when "you know what" happens. Then it goes into the larger cylinder.

Then, when it comes time for the real work, the serious mind reading experiment, I ask the one who chose the number to hold the prop with both of their hands closed around it, hiding it. I ask them to close their eyes. I ask them to keep them closed long enough for me to take at least one or two of their wallets- gets a laugh and puts them off guard.

Then the seriousness begins. I have them all close their eyes, maybe even hold hands or touch the person next to them. I replay the process we have gone through in a quiet, serious voice while asking them all to visualize it in their minds, to think about and concentrate on their number. I speak slowly and include dramatic pauses.

My actual script for the reveal goes something like this: "Think about what we've done... Concentrate on the number you chose... You've chosen a number on a die... My back was turned... You put it into a small cylinder that no one can possibly see through... It now rests inside another cylinder hidden in your hands... There's no way I can see the number.. There's no way I could possibly know the number... you chose........ is three. Smile -Or whatever it actually was.

I never fail, EVER, to hear women audibly GASP at this trick. It is awesome! Blows the men away to. This trick actually scares some people. LOTS of fun and mileage out of such a little thing.

Smile
Mike Gilbert
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I think you are spot on Theodore. More important than the routine you are presenting, or even being a good performer, is your likeability. If people think you are a pompous ass who is there to deceive and gloat, it's probably not gonna end very well for you. If they see that you are not only a real person, but a person they could see inviting to the next BBQ, you're golden regardless. Loving this thread, Sir. Great stuff!
-Mike Gilbert Smile

"Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance."- Steven Pressfield
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