.:Just Another Magic Monday: Magic In (Non-Magic) Conventions:.
After a successful stint of doing magic and even impromptu hosting at this year’s Cosmania in SMX, I realized that I have ended up in a very strange niche that I don’t see most of my other contemporary Philippine magicians doing at the moment, and that’s being a (geek) convention magician. Or mentalist. Or escapologist. Whichever works, really.
I think it’s a very different challenge altogether for a magician, particularly when they’re not too cognizant of the fact that they’re far from the reason people went to the convention in the first place. You are not the main attraction, and as such, you might find the audience significantly less on your side than they normally are when you are considered one of the main attractions.
The thing is, it’s often a humbling experience when that happens. One of my first experiences as a performer was the mortifying tepidness I was received with when I did my bit four years ago in Toycon. Here was an unknown doing mentalism immediately after the cosplay event, and, needless to say, the audience didn’t care at all. I mean, the main event was the cosplay. Everything else is secondary compared to that, and it would’ve been a soul-crushing moment for any other performer to have to face such a huge audience giving you nothing but blank stares and infrequent smatterings of polite applause.
Sure, over time, with the right combination of hosting, street magic tours, and onstage performances, I no longer have that problem connecting with audiences in your average cosplay convention, but what if, let’s say, I found myself in the trade convention circles, knowing what I know now, what can I do to assure myself of a better experience as a performer than the first time I hit the stage? Well, I have a few ideas, really.
1. Make it clear what you’re about to do the minute they see you.
This goes hand in hand with the kind of routines you choose, your performance style, your scripting, and even your introduction. The minute you are there for the public to see, do not assume they already know who you are, much less exactly what it is that you do. Even in the standup comedy circles, I’ve seen plenty of good comedians bomb solely because people didn’t realize the guy onstage was telling jokes. It’s good to let the people know what to expect.
2. Don’t be a snob: connect with your audience!
This actually should be common sense to the magicians by now, yet I see so many novice performers just going through the motions of their tricks without establishing any rapport with their audience. Precisely because you’re not the main event, you can’t expect to be disconnected from your audiences and still establish your cred as a performer. It just won’t work. You need to connect with them more, whether by chatting them up, or by working in more spectators into your act. The more people who could tell other people about your awesome performance, the more likely your name recognition would grow.
3. You can do intricately drawn-out, engaging, and memorable magic. Pick two of the three then move on.
Let’s face it: even if you’re an exceptional performer, people didn’t come to see you in an anime convention. They came for the cosplayers. With that in mind, yes, you can do an intricate and drawn-out performance, but it will come at the cost of being engaging because of the alienation these performances tend to create with the audience. But that can be memorable, at least.
It’s the same with engaging magic: because you engage your audience so much, you will be memorable, too. But don’t expect to put on a sleight of hand clinic while trying to build a lasting connection with your audience. Focus on routines that are as sleight-free as possible, or have scripts that are so easy for the audience to understand that you can focus on the patter or presentation more than the actual mechanics of the routines.
I’m certain there are more tips, but hey, these ideas have worked for me over the years. I’d be happy to share any more if they come to mind, but at this point, it’s best for you to simply understand the difference between being booked as a magician at a party, and being booked as one in a non-magic convention. It’s rather commonsensical to everyone else out there, I’m sure, but in the Philippines, considering how rare it is, I guess I’m in a position to help out with my range of experience.