Each week I present an informal magic class. This usually takes place on The Holland America Maasdam cruise ship where I’m currently performing. It’s where I met most of you! I call it “The Alexander Magic School,” but that’s just a tag line to draw people in. I should really call it, “All the New Secrets I Have Discovered About How To Perform Magic That Produces Gasps of Amazement!” I hope you are one of the lucky few who will be on the ship this week because there is nothing as thrilling as being in an environment filled with enthusiastic, optimistic, problem-solving-oriented people thinking about great magic! My class would be worth attending, even if it didn’t include any magic training. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? Let me explain: I know the world is chock-full of people categorized as “Negativity On Steroids,” so each of us need as much contact as we can get with people who are the polar opposite of that toxic mindset. Just being in the same room with these positive-thinking people causes the naysayers of this world to change their thinking, and get on with their dreams.
Sorry for that short digression, but I think a positive mindset is vital to our work as magicians. We are the weavers of dreams! Incidentally, I’m making arrangements to have this week’s class recorded on video, showing all the details of the tricks and the discussion. These videos will be your opportunity to get as close as possible to these enthusiastic, optimistic, magic-minded people involved in a discussion of all things magical with me. You’ll get a sales letter in the near future offering you a chance to buy the videos. I’ll let you have the entire package at a 50% discount.
My magic friends tell me that I shouldn’t tip the good stuff at these classes, but I often find that amateur magicians have better ideas on some of this stuff than do many of the top pros. I think this is because they are untainted and fearless. Usually, I start these presentations off with two very quick tricks to show what is possible. One is an impossible production of four silver dollars and the other is a color separation with black and red cards. I then pose three questions: “Was that Close-Up Magic?” ”What is Close-Up Magic?” and “Is there really such a thing as Close-Up Magic?” We then go on to have a short discussion of the sort of magic presented under close-up conditions.
When I first started doing magic, my naïve idea of close-up magic was the format usually seen at a one-day magic convention: four tables in the corners of a hall with a bunch of magicians crowded around them. I recently witnessed some of this at Magic Live in Las Vegas at The Orleans Hotel. It was not until I started performing magic in restaurants as a teenager that I realized this was not so. Picture the scene of presenting magic in a restaurant. Simple? Far from it…it is extremely demanding.
First, do you sit down or stand when performing? My preference is to stand whenever possible, as I am in much better control of the angles. However, there are times when you cannot do this and you have to work sitting. Do you present the same show sitting as you would if you were standing? If you do, have you practiced doing it sitting? The viewing angles are different. You have to alter the angle of holding things so that the audience can see the trick clearly. You also see a trick from a different angle and it feels slightly different when presenting it.
If you are entertaining a group of four businessmen do you present the same tricks as you would for four ladies or a family group? Perhaps the businessmen might require something with a little more depth and mystery, while for the ladies and family group the magic could be in a lighter vein. If there are some children in the group do you take notice of them, and perhaps give them a souvenir of your show? Sometimes there is a group of eight or ten people. You cannot do table magic here. Most likely it will be in your hands and you will be standing so that everyone can see you easily. The message might come from the chef via the management that there is a hold-up in the preparation of a meal for a certain table…“Please can you do some magic at that table to hold or fill the break?” The manager comes to you and asks you to give a little more attention to a certain table party. They are particular friends of his, and he wants them to go away with a good impression of his restaurant. Have you any specially-designed personalized tricks that will fit such an occasion?
These are just a few situations you can find yourself in when working magic in a restaurant. There are many more. Think of some of the other situations in which you find yourself; cocktail parties, television, private parties, sales meetings, trade shows, festivals, hospitality suites, etc.; each and every one will have its own particular problem, in the same way as the restaurant situation. If you don’t specialize in one sphere of work, how do you cope with all the situations that arise?
The answer, my friends, is up to you and how you progress through magic. Do we learn from our experiences? Do we accept advice from more experienced magicians? In my own situation I find the material I carry in my briefcase to be invaluable. I find that the tricks I have are now able to cope with almost every situation I come across. As Jeff McBride says, be a magician 24-7! Always be prepared, but never look prepared. In time you will develop an instant grasp of the situation and its requirements, and select the right tricks naturally out of habit.