Dear Jerxy: I need some motivation. I like reading your presentations and thoughts on performance and I'd like to adopt some of those elements in order to change up my style but I'm a little uncomfortable doing so. I don't know if the people I perform for would be interested in something more involved. (It can be a challenge to keep their attention for even a quick trick at times.) Is there a way to find more accepting audiences? Are there certain people you use a more standard presentation for if you think they'd prefer that? If so, how do you identify the people who would be up for something in your style as opposed to those who wouldn't?
Stuck in A Rut
Dear SIAR: Yes, there are some people who I perform for in a very cut and dried manner with very little engagement or theatrics. Those people are called "other magicians." Those are the only people I know of who want to just get to the trick.
With everyone else my rule is to perform the most fun and engaging presentation I can for an effect given the situation.
A lot of people question a more interactive style of performance because they've performed magic for a long time and they recognize that audiences often just aren't into it. And so they think asking people to invest more into their performance is crazy. If people are barely into it when all they need to do is sit back and watch it happen, isn't asking them to join in and play along going to be some kind of torture for them?
That has not been my experience.
An engaging presentation that requires the spectator to be more involved doesn't exacerbate their annoyance or disinterest. In fact it's the antidote to it.
I don't think you need to find new audiences. I think you can win over the people you currently perform for by changing up how you perform.
I used to perform magic in a pretty standard way. A way that I would now consider kind of dull and self-serving. And, like a lot of you, I found that about a third of the people I performed for liked magic, a third didn't, and a third were somewhere in the middle.
But as my style has evolved, it now feels like almost everyone I perform for likes it on some level. And that's because, whenever possible, these things are not about me. They're about their involvement, so these tricks become experiences.
What do people do when they go on vacation? They see new things and do new things and experience new things. This is how they reward themselves after a year of hard work. People crave new experiences.
Ah, no, no, no, Andy. That's where you're wrong. I know a bunch of people who would rather just chill out and watch something.
Yes. But those people want to watch Netflix, not deal with whatever you're trying to show them in any manner. Do you really want to make your material as unchallenging and unobtrusive as possible just so you can show it to people who have no real desire to see it in the first place?
Here's the thing, you can't let the people who are least interested in what you're doing, define how you do it.
(That's a life rule, not just a magic rule.)
If you concentrate on creating interesting experiences (not demonstrations of your brilliance) you'll have no problem finding an audience, because interesting experiences are universally appealing, even if they require more "work" for the audience than a typical magic performance.
To think your spectator won't put effort into a more engrossing magical experience because they haven't expressed much interest in your traditional presentations (that don't require them to contribute much) is like thinking, "I don't believe this person would be interested in a night of passionate lovemaking because they haven't shown much enthusiasm in watching me masturbate on my webcam."