Bedrock: Inner Game

Next week I will be posting a step-by-step process I go through to acclimate people to the more immersive style of magic performance that I sometimes write up here.

But before I talk about getting your audience in the right mindset for that, I want to further explain my mindset regarding why long-form, immersive effects are good to have in the arsenal of the amateur magician.

Some people will write me and say, "I don't think I could get my friends to watch a trick that went on for 15 minutes, much less an hour or something." The sad truth about this is that at least one of the following things are true. 1) Your friends are a bunch of bummers and you should make new friends. 2) What you're doing is not interesting or fun. If it was, they would not want it to be over so quickly.

I should say, I rarely find someone who doesn't enjoy the more elaborate style of presentation. I don't only perform for vivacious young women. I perform for gruff old guys and no-nonsense business types, and they're into it too. It's very rare for me to find someone who isn't willing to join in on the experience as long as it's something legitimately interesting.

One thing to keep in mind about longer, immersive presentations is this: Magic tricks are not jokes. A 15 minute-long joke is 14:55 of dull set-up, and then hopefully a good punchline. A 15 minute trick should be 14:55 of interesting concepts, intrigue, mystery, new experiences, anticipation, unsettling questions, excursions, mini-adventures, absorbing rituals... and then an impossible climax which either amplifies everything that came before or puts some kind of twist on it. 

I'm not suggesting you ever drag out a trick just for the hell of it. In fact, if you can't front-load a trick with something worthwhile, then I suggest getting rid of the presentation altogether and just hitting them with the climax (that's what the Distracted Artist style is all about). 

Traditional, magician-centric, performances are so limiting because even the most needy, ego-centric person has a hard time justifying spending 10 or 20 minutes talking about their special powers. When all you have to offer is the climax of the trick, then it goes without saying that you'll just want to just get on with it, and so does your audience.

Think of a headline prediction. If the story is, "I have the powers of precognition and I predicted the headline," then of course the spectator's reaction is going to be, "Okay, just get to the part where you open the fucking envelope."

But if you shift the power to someone (or something) else and add some mystery to the premise you can give people a much richer and more resonant experience. Rest In Pieces, is essentially that. It's a headline prediction that happens in slow motion. It takes 90 minutes and in the half dozen times I've performed it, there is never a moment where people are trying to rush through it. There's certainly an anticipation that builds for the climax, but never an exasperation with the process to get there. 

And while I truly believe this provides a vastly better experience for the spectators, it's also a pragmatic approach for the amateur performer as well. Immersive presentations allow you to wring multiple different performances and experiences out of similar effects, which is important when your audience pool is small. Remember, everything you perform will be experienced through the filter of your presentation. If your presentation focuses on you and your power, then you start lumping different effects into the same experience for the spectator. Every prediction effect is the same experience. Every effect where cards change is the same experience. Every effect where something floats is the same experience.

When your audience is your social circle, you don't want to make disparate effects feel the same, or you're giving them a limited handful of experiences. It's like if you worked in a butcher shop and whatever meat you brought home to cook for your friends and family, you ground up and made hamburgers with. That's what people are doing with magic. We have 1000s of tricks at our disposal, and the quirks of the different props and methods allow us to create numerous different experiences. Yet, what we end up doing most often is putting zero seconds of thought into and then saying, "I know... I'll pretend to do it with the power of my mind!" That's just more hamburger.

As I mentioned up top, next week I'll talk outer-game and the process I use to ease people into the type of performance where they take a more active role without it feeling weird or awkward.