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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Penny for your thoughts » » Delicate position... (4 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Artemis17
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Hi everyone, I'd want to have your opinion on a particular question, mentalists in particular but magicians are concerned as well. This is not the usual debate over psychic/disclaimer, but so much more for me.

I've been performing close up mentalism (mostly, with a few stage shows here and there) professionally for over a year now with good results and very good reviews in my guestbook, which I attribute as well to my effects which are strong and involving as the politeness, tact and manner with which I open tables and groups, and I'm pretty proud of the reactions I get sometimes with good groups. I've been posing as a "mentalist" who can read thoughts, detect microexpressions, and manipulate people in certain ways to be able to predict their actions, and even though I'm aware of the many skills I seem to display, it never bothered neither me nor my spectators as it is part of the skillset of a mentalist for me and my spectators get it. I've chosen not to answer the question "illusion or reality" over the performances and I never quite understood why I did that until recently.

The truth is, I noticed something quite peculiar about the reality of being a magician/mentalist and what other people think about it when they hear that I am one. They think it helps me socialise, meet new people and so on as "being a magician is so cool", but in fact I'm alienating myself from my spectators in my performances, in displaying such skills as I do. It is believable, even though I don't "claim" anything psychic and the thing is, that people do believe it, and I'm finding myself in a position where people think I have certain abilities (which I most certainly don't have, but my persona does) and thus it creates a barrier between them and me, I stay the great mentalist, performer and entertainer, but they wouldn't think about being friends with my persona, which is again not me.

On the other side, if I chose to claim everything I do is an illusion, that is, mere tricks, it would trivialise mentalism and I don't want this either. So I'm stuck in a position which is professionally good, as my persona and effects are good and entertaining, but personally and socially for me more and more awkward not to say disturbing in professional performances as well as in casual performances with friends where I can't claim any particular skills because they know I don't possess them.

I chose to drift away from classic magic a few years ago because I wanted to perform stronger and more meaningful effects, and I do, but at the end it puts me in a rather delicate position... Any ideas, advice, opinions, experiences on that?
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IAIN
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Keep the two things separate...your friends are your friends, the gigs are the gigs...
Artemis17
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This is sane advice, but hard to apply... Once they know you are a magician or mentalist, they always want to see you perform something for them. I've been putting a lot of thought into it and I recently decided to separate the magic I do professionally, mentalism orientated, and the magic I do socially, rather in the direction of card magic than mentalism.
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IAIN
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Just go out as a regular human being, you don't have to perform socially if you don't want to...you don't have to be 'on' all the time...you are in control...
Adrien L.
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I'm not sure my case can apply to anybody but me, but anyway...

I started doing magic (mostly cards) and then I shifted towards mentalism, so my friends know me for my skills as a card magician. It makes it really hard do impress them by divining their card, since they KNOW I can somehow force it or peek it or even hide it in my wallet without them seeing.

So, what I did was "today we'll try something different... I won't be using any magic tricks, but instead try to use some psychological techniques, intuition - both mine and yours - and a fair amount of luck, and we'll see where it leads... we're among friends so if we fail it's all good, right?" then I would proceed to do the necessary work, and then I'd slow the heck down and take 2, 3 minutes to divine the card... first the color, then the suit, then spot/picture, even/odd, etc, etc... And I'd struggle A LOT... I'd act nervous and even sometimes miss the suit or the number by 1... This convinced my friends that I was genuinely using no card trickery... What happened next was everybody shouted "do me, do me!!!" so I guess it worked Smile

I did it again 2 or 3 times, and I failed completely (on purpose) with one guy, which added realism...

From that moment on, I convinced them I was doing it for real. The secret, I guess, is to slow things down much more than you would with strangers (although even with strangers I think going slow helps to sell your abilities)...

Does it makes sense?
Tom Cutts
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I'm pretty sure you are not alone in this issue. Probably the cause is not the powers, but the persona and character of the presentation. Take one look at Docc Hilford. Dominating physical stature which would normally alienate others. Strange mind powers which would normally alienate others. And yet because of who he is as a performer, everyone wants to be around him. He engages people on a personal level (respectfully) and is generally not about displaying some skills he has or ways he can manipulate people.

If you are connected to the persona you have developed, then take the good and bad with that and heed IAIN's advice. If you feel the need to engage your audiences socially beyond your performance, perhaps a change in performing persona is necessary.
Sensio
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Quote:
On Jul 15, 2016, Tom Cutts wrote:
I'm pretty sure you are not alone in this issue. Probably the cause is not the powers, but the persona and character of the presentation. Take one look at Docc Hilford. Dominating physical stature which would normally alienate others. Strange mind powers which would normally alienate others. And yet because of who he is as a performer, everyone wants to be around him. He engages people on a personal level (respectfully) and is generally not about displaying some skills he has or ways he can manipulate people.

If you are connected to the persona you have developed, then take the good and bad with that and heed IAIN's advice. If you feel the need to engage your audiences socially beyond your performance, perhaps a change in performing persona is necessary.


I can't agree more. It seems that you aren't feeling comfortable with yourself to start with. This builds up the already existent and normal guilt to levels that in turn stress you. Then you are not "friendly" anymore.
It will come to some equilibrium with time; and remember the saying "don't be too ambitious" (Marc Spelmann said this too and you bet he is far ahead of many of us in terms of experience and wisedom).
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WitchDocChris
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I would agree with what has been said.

First - separate the two. More and more the professionals I interact with do very little casual magic or performance. They perform for a living, or at least a significant portion of their income, they don't 'give it away' in most cases.

Personally the only time I really perform in casual settings is when I'm testing something out, or among a specific crowd which I know will particularly appreciate my set of skills.

Second - It sounds like maybe you need to develop the character more. In my little book, Boffo, I talk about how important it is to find the balance between that enhanced version of yourself (character) and your real life persona. Personally, I feel that the longer one performs as a persona (particularly mentalists and the like) the closer and closer the personality of both their character and themselves becomes. Eventually one finds a perfect balance where they basically are always in character - because that character has become them, and they have become the character.

I think maybe it would behoove you to examine your character and look for ways you could make the performance more genuine and more "You". Be it a change in the powers you claim, or a change in the style of material you perform, whatever. Character development is an every-evolving process and you say you've only been doing the mentalism for a year. I've been working on this character I perform for 4 years and I'm still constantly finding new things out about me/him. I suspect this will continue indefinitely.
Christopher
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Artemis17
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@IAIN, I've had struggles with that as well. When I meet new people, saying that I'm a magician when they ask what I do for a living will usually lead to them asking me to perform for them, which would lead to them being disappointed if I refuse. And I found that not speaking about being a magician just prevents me from speaking about a big part of my life. I've found that people don't understand that I can be a magician/mentalist and be off at certain times because performing is what I do for a living and even though I enjoy it there are times when I am just not in the mood.

@Adrien, it totally makes sense and I would have done pretty much the same thing if I had been you, but this is something that doesn't bother me much at the moment as most of the friends I've made in the past few years, since I've begun doing magic, live away because I moved 1000 km from most of them. But it is sound advice anyway, going slowly and failing on purpose does help!

@TomCutts, perhaps it is necessary indeed, but I haven't yet found in what way exactly. I do feel this need to engage socially with some audiences (of course it depends on the venue though) when I'm performing and when I'm going out and also perform though casually because being an independent magician/mentalist means not having any co-workers to hang out with nor many friends from work, so I do feel lonely at times and engaging socially at more casual venues seemed like a solution.

@Sensio, it isn't quite that. I am rather comfortable with my performing persona and it isn't to such levels that it stresses me, so I can stay friendly, tactful and engaging. But what you describe is to some lower extent what I feel, and I agree, only time will make this equilibrium closer.

@WitchDocChris, concerning your first advice, which rejoins IAIN's, I'd agree but as written in response to IAIN I have trouble applying it. How do these performers handle meeting new people then? I'd like having feedback on that. As for your second advice, I've read that before and I agree, the longer I'll be performing the closer my own personality and my performing persona will become, maybe I just need time to smooth everything out. I'll start again working on my character though to find more genuine and more "me" ways of performing; as you say character development is an every-evolving process and I do hope it will continue indefinitely, I'd become bored if it didn't!
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IAIN
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Hmmm...i mean, learning to say NO (maybe later) and with a smile is a good thing sometimes...you can talk about magic and who you love as a performer and what it lets you do, that is unique to you...it sounds like your work life bleeds too much into your social life and you feel obliged to please them when they ask... if you want them as friends, rather than as potential customers, then you can certainly say no with a smile, even promise to show them a little something next time you meet up... learning to say no is a valuable skill to have in all elements of our life I reckon...

you're allowed to say no to things, and you're allowed to put your own wants and needs as a priority too...
Artemis17
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I understand what you mean IAIN, I just have some trouble with it. I was as a teenager a timid guy and even though I evolved it will always stay a little bit there somehow. Magic is such a particular work line that it easily bleeds into one's social life, most magicians are hobbyists and not professionals, it's quite the reverse of being an accountant for example. I guess I just need some time and experience to learn to separate work life and social life.

This is sound advice though, and I'll keep that in mind next time I'll be in such a position, saying no is a valuable skill indeed, and most probably I don't use it enough in my life. Thanks!
Eeeeeeeet hop disparu !

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WitchDocChris
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Overcoming shyness is a common reason for starting magic. It also tends to lead to this situation, I think.

I was lucky in that by the time I got into magic (26 years old) I was already used to performing (Fire performance and circus by then). I was also already comfortable with my social skills so I didn't feel the need to use magic to overcome anything. I performed because I enjoyed doing it, and I didn't perform unless I wanted to.

Personally I've never had a problem with people insisting I perform something, or if they ask, refusing politely if I don't want to do anything. It may be that I tell people I'm a bizarre magician and hypnotist - so they are more curious about finding out what that means than seeing what I do.

I really do think it's just a matter of having the social skill to politely refuse, as others have stated.
Christopher
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E.E.
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Always, in the post-show, I enjoy hanging around with the audience... but when someone says to me "Read my mind" or "What am I thinking?" I always say "I only work onstage, sorry! Maybe come again next week and you might get your mind read."
People usually understand that... hopefully without coming up like a bitter.

It works the same in my social life... when I meet someone and I talk about what I do (because I love talking about what I do, and why wouldn' I? It's a BIG part of my life) and they want to "see something" I politically decline and tell them I only work onstage... and they can go see me whenever I'm currently working or they can book me with a "special discount" because they're special people to me.

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Philemon Vanderbeck
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Quote:
On Jul 16, 2016, E.E. wrote:
Always, in the post-show, I enjoy hanging around with the audience... but when someone says to me "Read my mind" or "What am I thinking?" I always say "I only work onstage, sorry! Maybe come again next week and you might get your mind read."
People usually understand that... hopefully without coming up like a bitter.


You can also use the excuse that you're exhausted after a show and are lucky to still be walking and talking.
Professor Philemon Vanderbeck
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John C
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Just tell them you are a professional Entertainer. Tell them you work corporate and private parties and hand them a card. After that say, You know, I really enjoy what I do.

And leave it at that.

J
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E.E.
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Quote:
On Jul 16, 2016, Philemon Vanderbeck wrote:

You can also use the excuse that you're exhausted after a show and are lucky to still be walking and talking.


Yes! good one.

Or you can say: "My mind it's really tired after the show, I need to charge my batteries! pour me a scotch on the rocks..." Smile
I shall see you on the other side.
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