For many amateur and professional magicians, the pandemic has been the longest break from performing live magic shows with a live audience. Many of us have adapted to perform on the virtual stage via ZOOM.
But performing for a live audience is very different from a virtual audience.
Now with the return of live magic shows and the busiest holiday season around the corner here's a list of important performance advice for magicians who are getting back into the swing of live shows and real audiences.
This is a topic we recently chatted about in detail on Magicians Talking Magic Podcast.
6 Essential Tips for Magicians Returning to Live Magic Shows
1. Timing! How to re-adjust your timing for a live audience.
As performers, we rely on unique skillsets to connect, entertain, communicate, and dazzle our audiences. Professional magicians listen to their audience, read the room, and spontaneously react-- all while executing sleights and secret moves.
Virtual shows are a completely different beast-- timing is different.
For starters, your audience is typically muted, and most of the two-way communication vanishes. Virtual magic shows are still interactive, but without searching for volunteers and applause. All of these factors impact your timing.
Here are a few other tips for adjusting your timing and getting back into the swing of live magic shows
Slow down, soak it in, enjoy it.
Continue writing new jokes and material
If you’ve been doing virtual shows for over a year now - you’ve just been talking to people; not with people.
2. Invest in the routines you already perform
Thinking about adding new material? Is now the best time? For your first few live performances, we recommend you stick to the material you already know and are comfortable performing.
It takes a lot to “sell” a magic trick - Performing a new magic trick will never be the same as a routine you've been presenting for years.
Is the story you’re telling actually good? - Now is a good time to look at these routines in detail. Can you tweek, cut or edit the storytelling?
Rewrite the script again - writing out your script is a great way to drill it into your brain! Take the time and re-write your script.
Explore the method - can it be simplified or made more devious?
3. Be Prepared: Anything can and will happen
Anything can happen on stage. There's lots of variability with live performances, which is part of the enjoyment for many magicians. But some unexpected surprises increase stress.
Being prepared is the real secret.
Returning to the stage your skills as a magician and entertainer might be a little rusty. This "stage rust" will take a few performances to wear off. Being able to cope, interact and reduce errors all boils down to how prepared you are.
Working for a live audience is the reason we all became magicians! Some of the best jokes, lines and moments in our shows have been influenced by our audience. So keep an open mind and be prepared.
We all think and imagine how the show will go, but we only have so much control. Successful magicians have to be agile and go with the flow.
And that's where preparedness comes into play.
Spend at least a full week going over your routines again and bringing them back into muscle memory. You don't want to go onstage and focus entirely on building a strong connection and rapport with your audience.
4. Rehearsal: How to Prepare Before the Show
Amateur and professional magicians must rehearse their tricks, but it's essential to also rehearse your full show. Rehearsing the right way can really accelerate your growth in magic and help polish new and old routines quicker.
How should magicians rehearse their magic? Here are a few important tips.
Write out your script - Writing out your lines and script is essential. This includes writing out your transitions lines. Keep your script up-to-date.
Have your script easily accessible on your phone-- Having your script gives you a huge advantage to re-read throughout the days leading up to your show. Waiting in a line or queue? Pull out your phone and review your script. Drill that script into your head!
Be prepared to trim and chop-- cut as many words as you can and learn to script concisely
Say your lines out loud-- It's never the same in your head, you have to say these lines out loud and be prepared to edit and change your lines. As your comfort levels grow, you'll discover new lines and ideas.
If you are using music, rehearse with music. Muscle memory and music hits take time but can help keep pacing
Run through your routines with props and without props - this helps make sure you have the routines down solid and a full understanding of each routine's timing.
Rehearse at different times of day (morning, afternoon and evening) - I always rehearse at different times of the day. I run a new routine first thing in the morning, literally holding my coffee in my hand and pressing play on the music. Then in the afternoon and late evening. If you find yourself getting anxious or nervous, rehearse! That state of mind will more closely resemble how you'll feel on show day. Rehearsing under different emotional states will help accelerate your growth!
Muscle memory is essential - You don't want to be on stage worry about your ability to execute the moves AND work with the audience.
Full costume practice-- Practicing your set in full costume is important for pocket and prop management. The whole point is to eliminate surprises that pop up during show day. The best way to do that is to duplicate those situations as much as possible during rehearsal and practice.
5. Showtime! What Magicians Should do on Show Day
Hopefully, all your preparation and hard work will make show day a breeze! I think you'll be surprised at how familiar it feels to return to the stage and a live audience.
Here are a few tips to help you do your best on show day!
Focus on Rapport with Your Audience - Your rapport with the audience is more important than your magic tricks. The tricks are important, after all, they are coming to see a magic show, but your rapport with the audience takes precedent. It's much easier to dazzle people who like and trust you.
New Material Sucks - You can’t fully predict how a routine will land until it’s been performed. When presenting a new routine take your time and get through the first performance. It will take several shows to work in a new routine and a lifetime to polish that routine!
Where should you add new material to your show? - What's the best place to add new material to your setlist? After you’ve established rapport with your audience.
6. COVID Best Practices for Magicians
The pandemic has added a new layer of concern when working with volunteers. Here are a few reminders to consider for your upcoming live magic show
Have a mask in your pocket - follow the rules of your region or country and always respect the wishes of your client or audience.
Put hand sanitizer and wipes at the front of the stage - your audience and volunteers may or may not use the hand sanitizer but they recognize you are prepared.
Be thoughtful and respectful about audience concerns
Do we think virtual magic shows here to stay? Absolutely, Yes!
We still highly suggest you develop a virtual friendly magic show and offer these services to your website. If you need a little help adding new routines we prepared a list of 30+ virtual friendly magic tricks that professional magicians can easily add to their virtual shows and livestream events. Get the PDF here.