Should I Perform?

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Did you know there are time I will not share my magic? 

What kind of question is that? I'm writing this during The Holiday Season of giving, caring, and sharing... But seriously, there are some people and situations where I will not perform. Am I selfish? Yes. 

Yes and…

It is true, I’m human and fight selfish desires. I want, I feel, I need, and I consume. To confess, like a hedonist, I’m often too focused on my personal desires to entertain myself. 

But I’m also self-preserving. This choice to not always perform is beyond being selfish. It’s a more advanced level of being self-aware. It is just making smart choices.

There are times that magic is not appropriate. That might be during a special gathering.

For example: I’ve been asked to perform a trick at a funeral. Now to the person in the casket, would that be a disrespectful thing? You know, probably not. I mean, I hope people perform magic at my funeral and enjoy themselves. 

But the funeral was for a dear friend of mine and I was not able to be fully attentive to the situation. I turned down the opportunity because I was not in the right frame of mind. And more importantly, it was not the right time. It may have offended another grieving person in the room. I could not have possibly given a good performance and it could have been a terrible experience for anyone not amused!

Think about it, sometimes it is just not the right moment, not the right environment, or even the right time of day. There are plenty of reasons not to perform when requested. It’s okay to respond with conviction and say, “Not right now.”

When you find out someone is a painter, do you ask her to paint a picture right then?

When you find out someone is a singer, do you ask him to sing a song right then?

Or when you hear that someone is an architect, do you demand visuals of a small scale model of their latest high-rise building?

No, of course not. The magician, however, seems to create the highest levels of skepticism and that correlates to an immediate demand for proof of skills… Thus, often a challenge situation arrises. Magician vs. Spectator. The requesting spectator is a human being who is not too different from me. Sometimes he just loves being entertained. That's normal. But if he is demanding that you entertain him and the performance is on his terms, you are starting from a position of weakness. In my opinion, this is not the ideal starting point of a performance. It's running from a chase. Therefore, you are typically at the disadvantage from the start.

Don’t perform unless you, the performer, have control of the “rule book.” And you should be in control; otherwise, don’t enter that arena lest you find yourself defeated or bloodied by the critic who is  always lurking about somewhere. My “rule book” states that I choose when to perform and I perform on my terms.

I believe the World needs more magic and The Holidays are magical...but I also believe that magic doesn’t need to happen in every moment… because if it is common, it becomes more natural, less supernatural in appearance and looses it’s impact as “magic.”

If it feels right and someone asks, by all means, fry their brain with some magic! Share and don’t miss an opportunity. Never be afraid to own a moment that you have practiced hours and prepared for to impress others with your craft. This essay is not a cop-out. I’m not encouraging a lack of confidence. I’m just saying, you don’t have to prove anything in the wrong moment. If you attempt to validate your abilities in the improper situation, you may not achieve your desired results and could even damage your reputation.

Remember, a special moment can be amplified by waiting and creating suspense. In live theater the orchestra typically plays for five minutes before the actors take the stage. Many movies have long opening credits. Why? To settle the spectators' brains and tune them in to the act, building up anticipation for something amazing about to start! Giving a tease or a promise of a moment of amazement in the near future may turn you into a legend when it comes to pass.

Finally, I will add here that there are friends and family I will avoid performing for because they are the worst skeptics and they provide the worst kinds of responses, bullying for answers of "how?", and dishing out quips to even the best magic moments that would leave most people speechless. I have learned to stay away from the situation because I do not need to validate myself to them.

This can be the worst during The Holidays around family gatherings when you are asked to perform! If I perform during a holiday, unless its a small trick for a nephew, it's during a set time and only when I feel it's going to be a good fit for those present. I make a scheduled show just like at a paid house gig, where I have a stage in front of the fireplace and I hold the "rule book." The magic is on my terms.

I love performing, (for my family, too, because I love them all) but when the trick is over, if the response is going to be negative or depreciating, that doesn’t mentally prepare me for the next show... So I prepare in advance and set the terms.

The Holidays can be a great time for magic and sharing, but I have to ask, "Do you have a game plan before you share with your loved ones?" Take some time to visualize how you will handle the different situations before they arise. Your solutions may very well differ from mine, but I believe it's best to be ready, because The Holidays can be stressful and we should enjoy our performances.

Friends and family are a great audience if you're ready for them. Having a personal relationship with your audience can be an incredible gift, because you can anticipate exactly how they will respond and you can use that knowledge to make the impossible, THE IMPOSSIBLE!!

Is there a time, person, or place where you will not share magic? How do you pass up a moment and how do you prepare?

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1 comment

  • Dr. J.

    Excellent post and most appropriate, I think, for the holidays.

    We should always be able to perform magic at any given notice and with no preparation. We are magicians and magic is meant to be shared and experienced, even ‘felt’ by our audiences and participants.

    That said, we also owe it to our audiences to give them our best in the moment, and that is not always possible. Sometimes the biggest issue is knowing when and when not to perform, even for the 24/7 magician.

    This post sums up those points perfectly. Thanks, Jeff!

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