5 Points on Being Natural while Performing Magic
I recently listened to Elliot Terral's interview with David Williamson while riding my bicycle to and from work (it's a long ride to work, but worth it).
David Williamson sits down with Elliott to discuss his humble beginnings in Ohio, the blue-collar showbusiness path he was drawn to, his thoughts on scripting and being present in the room, and how he transformed from the shy, quiet kid into the outrageous powerhouse that steals the show.
That's the synopsis to this episode of the Magical Thinking podcast (a series that Elliot ran together with Art of Magic for a while).
There were a couple of ideas that David talked about during the podcast which really struck a chord with me and which I felt would be good to share with others (those of you who are not going to invest the 2 hours and a half listening to the whole episode).
As my memory of what was said in the podcast is not fresh as an avocado, expect David's words to be Bizzified by yours truly.
1. Not everything that you practice and plan will work in front of a crowd. One time, when performing at an open mic, David was performing "The Professor's Nightmare" rope trick. He asked a spectator to tie a knot in the rope. After talking with the crowd, he turns back and discovers that the spectator had tied a noose Knot (the same know used for hanging people). David got honestly angry and annoyed. “Who ties a noose knot on stage?!” So annoyed that he just couldn't hide his anger, so it started showing on his face. The crowd loved it - and oh, did they laugh.
"Never did I think that a noose knot would make people laugh. [...] So I planted a guy each time to come and tie a noose knot when I was performing. The crowd loved it every time."
2. Upon being shown an original trick, the performer asked David what his opinion was of it. "If you keep performing this effect, in 15 years from now it'll be a completely different trick." is what David told him. I think this is something to contemplate about.
3. David was table-hopping (performing magic from table to table at a restaurant) at a point in his career. He had 1 hour and a half to perform for 300 tables. By the 5th table, he would already start changing things inside his routine. What he would say, how he would deliver a certain trick. "You'd realise that people weren't reacting to what you planned, so you changed it." By the end of the night the routine with which he had begun with had changed and evolved completely.
I felt something similar happen when I was performing at the East-European Comic Con. I had to perform and sell products for 10 hours straight and I could see under my eyes how fast the things I would say and do changed and adapted based on people’s positive reactions.
4. There’s this moment during one of David’s performances that really talks about how some spectators might perceive our magic. Here’s a snippet from the podcast.
“I have a spectator select a card. Lose it in the deck. They then shuffle the cards and hand the deck back to me. "You think I can find your card?" I ask him. Upon which the spectator confidently says, "Yes." I couldn't understand why. "I would actually be more amazed if you COULDN'T find my card." the spectator adds.
If a spectator sees us acting so cocky during a performance, he understands that we're always in full control. This strips our act of its power.
After having one of these experiences, David realised the power of "The Magician in Trouble" concept. This can be used as part of your character, of course, with you pretending like you're in trouble. If a spectator shuffles a bit too much, pretend like you're in trouble and have to perform another effect. When they select a card, act as if another one should've been selected. And it slowly escalates to the point where you retire the deck. "You know what, let's just do a rope trick."
What's beautiful about this concept is that you can use it when you're ACTUALLY in trouble. If a force doesn't work, pretend like you're in trouble. If you lose their selection, pretend like you're in trouble.”
5. A thing which David said which I loved was telling a spectator that saw the secret behind one of your tricks, "You and I have to sign a non-disclosure agreement at the end of this show." . I felt this could be turned into a small funny moment during the show (if you take it one step further).
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That's it for today's post. Be sure to check Magical Thinking's podcast if you want to listen to the whole thing yourself (or want to browse through other podcasts).
Did you like this week's podcast summary episode? If you did, let us know in the comment section below and we'll do another one :) !