Questioner: I'd like to begin at the end—since it is at the end or conclusion of a magic presentation that many magicians lose the impact that their magic might otherwise produce on their audiences. Do you agree?
Eugene: I agree. Without concrete ways to bring our individual magic effects to strong conclusions, our magical presentations will never produce the power that we might hope they will produce. And I agree with you when you say that this is where most magicians lose the power their magic might have.
Q: How do you approach the concluding lines in your own presentations?
E: Let's step back a moment and look at the big picture. Speaking for myself, I view each of the individual close-up magic effects in my own repertoire as if it were a short play, complete in itself. Consequently, the presentation I have created for each of these effects has much the same structure: there is a beginning, a middle and a conclusion. To create a show, I then arrange these short "plays" in some order and connect them with (hopefully interesting) segues.
Q: You evidently feel that there is value in viewing each of your magic effects as a short play.
E: Yes, I think that viewing the magic effects I perform in this way, as little plays, has been very important for my growth as a magician in several ways. First, it has helped me see that even close-up magic can be viewed theatrically. I'm not simply "doing tricks" or stunts. I am, rather, working to engage you in a short, theatrical close-up magic play -- a play in which I am the star and you and your friends are valued and respected supporting players in my close-up show.
Q: And the second thing you've learned?
E: Second, it has forced me to work to find a concrete opening and closing line for each piece. Without a strong opening line, I have lost an opportunity to begin building interest and setting the stage. Without a strong closing line, I fail to tie things up and, in most cases, to tell my audiences that it is time to applaud. And there is another, third, thing as well: viewing my close-up magic as short plays has helped me realize that every moment in a magic presentation must be interesting to the audience. I want there to be no uninteresting or unimportant moments in any of my magic plays or presentations. This is where many magical presentations fall apart.
E: Because many magical presentations are boring in the beginning and the middle—usually because of too much talking on the part of the performer—and then the magical payoff at the effect's conclusion is expected to make everything work, make the effect entertaining. Of course, it doesn't! If the presentation's opening and middle are boring, the effect's magical conclusion is not going to save the sinking ship.
Q: But it does save the "sinking ship," as you call it, sometimes, doesn't it?
E: I don't think so. Perhaps very rarely -- but so rarely that I don't think we can count on it. No, what we need to do is look at our presentations with a great deal of honesty, without self-deception, and ask ourselves if our scripts are entertaining from beginning to end -- or simply at the end.
Q: Our scripts?
E: Yes, I am presuming that we are working with a script for each of our effects.
Q: But that isn't how most close-up magicians do it, is it? Most don't work with literal scripts, do they?
E: I suppose you are correct. Most magicians do not work with memorised scripts and, as I see it, that explains why they lose much of the impact with their magic.
E: Let's be very simple here. Take something concrete like timing. Do you think that a performer's timing is important?
Q: Certainly. Timing can make or break a performance.
E: I agree, but how can we even speak of timing if you have nothing to time? If you give me a concrete sentence we can ask some fascinating questions about how to deliver it. What word in the sentence should be stressed? Is there to be a pause in the delivery of the sentence? If so, where shall the pause be? How long shall it last? You see, these are very important questions for a performer to ask, but they are meaningless questions if you are ad libbing your way through the effect in a different way each time you do it.
Q: What do you think is a good closing line?
E: First and fundamentally, it tells the audience the effect is finished. After that, it rather depends on what, as a performer, you are trying to accomplish. Do you want applause at the conclusion of the effect? If so, the final line, and the way it is delivered, should prompt that applause.
Q: That seems pretty simple.
E: Yes, but it is deceptively simple!
E: Because it is simple -- in words. It is simple to say all this but quite another thing to act on these ideas. If one were to act on these ideas, one would need to begin evaluating the magic that we already perform. We would need to begin putting concrete scripts together for each piece of magic we perform. We would need to take one effect we already perform and ask ourselves whether we have a strong opening line for this effect, whether the middle of the presentation is boring or entertaining and whether our final line brings the effect to a definite conclusion. And then, in performance, we must ask ourselves whether we respect our final line.
Q: Respect our final line?
E: It is not enough to have a great closing line on paper or in our heads if we don't respect that line in performance. We might have a terrific concluding line but if, because of nervousness or whatever, we continue babbling on after we deliver the final line, we have lost the final line's power. We have failed to trust our final line. So, by respecting or trusting our final line, I mean that after we deliver that line we allow silence -- or applause -- and stop talking. For many magicians, this does not seem easy to do in performance: they keep talking and thereby lose the power.
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