Category Archives: Alexander Great’s Sorcerer’s Saturday

Fearless

Many of you Alexandrites have asked me about stage fright and how to overcome it.  It’s a good question and you might be surprised how common pre-performance nerves actually are.

Nervousness or stage fright as it’s sometimes called can get the better of us if we allow it to, causing us to forget our patter, be distracted by other thoughts, or lose confidence.  We all know the signs: heart pounding, hands trembling, knees knocking, voice wavering.  I hate being nervous for a theatrical reason.  To me the audience is like a pack of animals, and like animals they have a heightened sense of awareness, a kind of mob instinct.  As science has shown us, if we are nervous we emanate a different smell.  I think an audience is aware of your fear.  Instinctively, they start to worry for you, and as such your entertainment level is lessened.

Actually I used to be quite nervous when I started.  When I was part of the junior magicians program at The Magic Castle we used to have a thing called workshops, where we would present our latest trick to the audience.  I was showing a new card trick to the group that I had practiced a few times, but not enough.  As I began shuffling the cards, to my horror, my hands began shaking so badly everyone noticed.  As the years passed and I worked my way through doing magic in restaurants, I noticed that whenever I slowed my breathing rate down, I gave a steady relaxed performance.  This isn’t to say that my performance wasn’t dynamic.  It was.  But I was in control. Continue reading

Simply Speaking

I’m no chef, but I’ve worked enough events to know that the most fragile element at a live event is THE FOOD!  It’s also the easiest thing to screw up. This is because food is so temperamental.  It has to be served exactly right.  If you doubt this, just watch any episode of Top Chef. It can be overwhelming. So you can cook. Everyone you cook for confirms your food is fantastic, and you might even save a little money by doing it yourself. Great. You might figure that you’re ready to cater the event and utilize your best dishes for the task. In all but a few cases, this ends up being a huge mistake. Large menus lack focus. When you try and offer EVERYTHING to your guests, they become confused.  What’s worse, they’ll take more time choosing their food than enjoying the event.

Catering the event yourself, or worse, choosing the wrong caterer, can be stressful.  Like most other things on this list, planning well in advance is the key.  Below are ten tips to use to ensure you’ve hired the right caterer and to make the meals at your next event work: Continue reading

The Future

Many of you Alexandrites have asked me about what the future of magic will look like, how technology will fit into it, and how we should adapt our magic to match it. Friend and fellow magician Paul Gertner wrote what I think addresses your concerns appropriately in an article called “Creating A Future.”  It is reprinted here with his permission and well-worth a careful read… Continue reading

Protect Yourself

If you don’t have a contract, you have no insurance that the vendor will show up and deliver the goods.  Just one vendor failing to perform the agreed function at the specified time can throw the whole event into a downward spiral.   Securing the contract with your vendors is a good idea for you, for your client and for the vendor.  While your event should go as planned, remember Murphy’s Law.  You don’t want any unpleasant surprises leading up to, or on, the day of the event.  Grill your vendors with a few questions before you sign a contract with them.

How much time will they need to set up? While you’ve established the date and time of your event, you may not have discussed what time the vendor needs to arrive to set up.  Once that time is determined, you’ll need to clear it with the venue and make certain that they’ll have access to the venue’s event coordinator during that time, in case they have any questions or problems.  It’s likely you will be busy during this set-up time, so it’s important that someone at the venue is available to them. Continue reading

ORIGINAL SMIDG-INAL

I received an email about the subject of originality in magic and thought we’d discuss it a little.  The question he sent was, “Just what is originality?”  After all, none of us invented the Origami, Zig-Zag or the Thin Model Sawing In Half.  Taking it further, we didn’t invent double lifts, the pass, or even card tricks!  Isn’t it impossible for anyone to be really original?

This is a great question, and please allow me to get very “Our Magic” in my answer.  First there are darn few “High Artists” in our craft.  See my blog on False Art.  Look at the upper level, Angel, Penn & Teller, Copperfield, Cabanaro, Blaine, and Brown, to make a short list.  Can you think of a more dissimilar group of people?  Each of these people have highly defined “characters,” and we as an audience know exactly what to expect from them.  Give each one of them the same trick, and you KNOW it’s going to look different in each of their hands.

Still, most of us will never reach those heights.  I know I never will.  So it’s a “natural artist” for me.  But the question remains, how can I be “original” with the same moves everyone has, and I didn’t invent? Continue reading

Tell The World

Let’s say your client is having an event and he tells you that he’s “told everybody at the office about it.”  You’d be surprised how often clients think that this is enough!  When attendance looks bleak, I’ll often ask them what they expected to happen.  What about invitations, flyers and a landing page with links, I ask?  In her book 101 Ways To Promote Yourself, Raleigh Pinskey says, “Without promotion, something terrible happens –NOTHING!”

When social media was limited to MySpace, back in the day, traditional event planners would say, “I don’t have the resources to support social media.”  Then and now, this area of event planning costs very little.  In fact, it’s often free!  The only thing it will cost you is an investment of time.  Starting early can really help.  Why not think strategically, re-inventing yourself while earning the respect of your client?  You can do that by mailing post cards, but it’s cheaper and faster with Twitter.  Depending on the event, you may wish to build up excitement beforehand.  Having appropriate signage – such as a large poster on an easel, a photograph with a bio, or even a promotional video playing on a television for people to see as they arrive – are excellent ways to build buzz.  Your guests should look forward to the exciting program you have planned.  But a “white label” website put up online by you for your client is a better way.  There are a lot of places online to promote an event.  There are networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.  You might get coverage in the online version of your local newspaper.  Maybe a local blogger will write a post about the events.  Put a video promoting the event up on YouTube.  In every case there will come a point at the end of the article, post, video, or tweet where someone will want to learn more about the event.  Where do they go for that? Continue reading

Coin Magic

I recently attended my third 4F Magic Convention in Batavia, NY.  I spent some time with coin magician Michael Vincent of England.  He is simply amazing and extremely knowledgeable about coins.  I bought his 4 DVD set Rhapsodies In Silver And Other Mysteries.  He makes some great points about being our mentor and wanting us to work through things and figure things out. Vincent refers to this set of DVDs (all three Volumes – 10 DVDs) as a mentoring series to take a person up through the ranks and teach them how to be a magicians (the way magic used to be taught pre-pants-on-the-ground generation). I LOVE this. He seems to assume that we already have a certain level of knowledge and that (in Disk one of this volume in particular) the performance of the show is just to show us how to do a show and that we should already know the secrets to Linking Rings, Hanging Coins, etc.  As for the performance itself, barring a couple of awkward moments, it was a beautiful performance, and one that you can truly learn from even if you don’t know the secrets.

I myself, have quite a collection of coins.  Silver, gold and copper fill my collection.  I do magic with the Morgans.  I also like to use Kennedy half dollars.  Some of you have asked me if coin magic is difficult.  I can tell you that it’s certainly more difficult than card magic.  The reason for this is that cards are malleable and coins are more rigid.  The hand must conform to the coin unlike the card that conforms to the hand.  But before we go any further, I want to recommend a great book called New & Modern Coin Magic by JB Bobo, a thorough treatise on Coin Magic that you should go out and get your hands on right now.  I thought it might be interesting to give a brief history on coin magic.  You may find this fascinating, and perhaps seldom discussed. Continue reading

Introspection

Today we deal with Event Blunder #16 of my top 25 biggest event blunders.  It’s one that many professionals overlook:  Not Inspecting The Venue.  The late W. Clement Stone said, “Don’t expect what you don’t inspect.”  Things often appear very different in real life than they do on paper.  You say you’re in touch with your vendors. Good!  But you may as well know right now that if you have not seen the venue with your own eyes, you could be in for a nasty surprise come event day, and by that time it’s too late to do anything about it.  All you can do is watch in horror as your event goes by the wayside!

To avoid this, inspect the venue!

Whether it’s a corporate awards dinner, seminar, conference, birthday party, or wedding reception, selecting the venue for the event is going to take a lot of research on your part.  Don’t simply locate an available space.  Instead carefully consider a location that can provide everything you will need to make your client’s event EXACTLY what he or she wants.  Whether hosting a small conference or an elegant gala, searching for the right venue for your event can be a stressful and drawn out process, so have a list of questions prepared when you check out each venue for your client. Whenever Elena and I do our illusion show at an event we always tell the client, “The more info you give us the better your event will be.”  We ask lots of questions, and you should too.  A good venue will have answers for you, or be able to find them out for you.  You can also check sites like Yelp to give you an idea of how others have enjoyed or not enjoyed their experience there. Continue reading

Critical Thinking

As many of you embark on your own magical journey and begin performing your magic, there will come a thing called CRITICISM.  Some will come from friends, from other magicians and even family members.  This can be very discouraging, especially if magic is a new hobby or profession.  No one likes to be criticized.  It hurts.  Given our wishes, we would probably want showers of praise all of the time (I know I would).  Of course this isn’t realistic and the way you handle criticism deserves some consideration.  My problem comes when I really want to impress a fellow magician or friend with something I’ve been working on.  What I want is praise and instead I get constructive criticism.  Why don’t I feel elated?  That’s because the benefit comes much later.  David Copperfield, this century’s greatest conjurer, is said to have begged for criticism in his early days.  If you didn’t offer it, he’d come out and get it from you.  He’d ask, “What didn’t you like?”

I once saw a professional theater and TV director being interviewed by a group of kids.  One of them asked the director about his view of criticism, and her response demonstrated a real understanding of the subject.  She said that when you are in show business you WILL receive criticism.  She went on to say that there are two forms of criticism: constructive and destructive.  If the criticism is constructive you should consider it carefully.  If it is destructive, you should ignore it completely.  If the criticism is constructive, do not say, “How dare they!  What do they know?”   You don’t know what they know.  They just might be right!  Ask yourself if their suggestion (constructive criticism is always a suggestion) applies to you, to what you want to do,  to what you want to be.  Do you think it will improve your performance?  Be very honest with yourself. Continue reading

Check It Out

It’s simple:  smart people double check their work!  Have you ever finished writing something, thinking it was fine, only to double check it and be surprised at how many mistakes you actually made?  Double checking is a habit of mind.  It’s a technique that can be learned, and if you’re going to be successful with something as fragile as producing live events you’d better start doing it.

What’s one element that will certainly embarrass you if you don’t double check it?  Spelling.  Think about all the places where misspelling will get you in trouble: invitations, name tags, table cards, programs and the attendance list.  People get offended when their name or company name is spelled wrong.  They also have no tolerance for being placed at a table that doesn’t have enough seats.  Once I was at an event and was given a table card. When I went to the table, the name on the table was spelled differently than the place card.  I wondered if it was a typo or if there was another table.  I asked the host and she told me it was a typo.  When I went to sit down, someone told me he was sitting there.  I quickly realized there weren’t enough seats at the table, and I was upset.  Make sure your guests walk away from the event with a smile instead of a frown. Continue reading