Magic Monday – Anecdote Edition

For this edition of Magic Monday, I have a story and a question. Two weeks ago I had my first public show ever. It was at “The Q” in Worcester, a very cool little place on Chandler St. To be clear, I’ve done shows in the past for QCC, Worcester First Baptist, Worcester Interfaith, etc, but in those cases, it was a private group hiring me to come to an event or other function. This was the first time that anyone could just “walk in” to my show as a total stranger.

Sadly, the weather was miserable, sleet, freezing rain and snow all piled up to make the roads nasty and dangerous, so we didn’t get the turn out I had hoped for. Which is a good thing in general. I’m not quite at the level where people should be risking their lives to see me perform. Amazingly, even with the lethal weather, I still had a great crew come out (about 20 paying customers, yay!) so I guess I had a quality audience rather than quantity. In any event, we had a decent time, I hope, and I just want to take a second to thank everyone who came out to see me. As someone much better than me once said “Thank you all for being so wonderful” (It helps if you imagine it in a Liverpudlian accent…

Getting to the point, something happened that night that threw me off kilter for the rest of the show. It wasn’t a big thing, and I never imagined that it could make a difference, but it did, and that’s what I want to talk about.

I wasn’t introduced. Saying it like that makes me see sort of vain, I know. It’s not important to me ego-wise, but there was something about it that messed with me just enough to get me nervous and stumbling over my words. I was up on the little stage at the coffee shop, absent-mindedly fiddling with my meager props when I noticed that the room had quieted down and everyone was looking at me expectantly. It was a very casual environment, and looking back, I don’t know why I expected an introduction. I’d also like to make it very clear that this isn’t a criticism of my host. Emilie and her staff were fantastic and beyond accommodating. It was just a very strange little burp in the evening’s events. So I took it upon myself to turn, face the audience and start my spiel. It was certainly awkward, and I felt a nervousness I haven’t felt in awhile.

I guess I’ve always relied on the introduction as a signal to get my game face on, so to speak. The way I typically deal with stage fright and jitters is to completely ignore the fact that I’m about to stand up and speak/act/perform whatever, until I’m on stage and someone tells me that it’s time to do my schtick. Then I perform, ignoring the butterflies, because I’m on stage, it’s too late to turn back, and I’ve got a job to do. Afterwards, all that pent up nervous energy goes berserk and either I start acting out, talking non-stop, or obsessing over the show. It may not be the healthiest way to do it, but it’s worked for me so far. (I’d just like to take this moment to apologize to my friends and especially my wife, who have had to deal with post-show Scott)

It’s like the intro is just the kick start I rely on to get fired up and do the show. But since it didn’t happen this time, I wasn’t really in my performing headspace when I started the my own intro and the first few effects. I even got feedback that supported my subjective experience. A few people told me that at the beginning I seemed nervous and unsure of myself. I even heard one person say that they didn’t understand what the first trick was all about, or even what happened. This is unacceptable for a magician, and I want to make sure this never happens again.

So, my question is two-fold. If you are a performer of any kind (public speaker, actor, musician, poet, magician, performance artist, etc) then:
1) Do you understand where I’m coming from and do you find yourself relying on the introduction to mentally get started, or is it just me?

2) If not (or if so) How do you get yourself in the performing zone when there is no direct introduction? Do you have a preshow habit or ritual? Is the introduction completely extraneous for you?

I’d love to hear from you, I’ve gotta get this nailed down before my next show. 😉

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3 Comments

Filed under Magic, Magic Monday, Performing Arts

3 responses to “Magic Monday – Anecdote Edition

  1. Eric

    transitions are very much a part of timing and, as they say, timing is everything. i don’t see it as an ego thing, either — it’s about providing flow to the audience so they have a sense of what’s going on. introductions are a way to transition one act to the next, so it makes perfect sense that you’d be off a bit – there was no transition.

    if i’m being introduced before i speak i rarely listen to the introduction – i’m instead either praying (in a preaching scenario) or focusing on connecting with the audience in the first few seconds. no intro, means that the connection has to happen sooner. i try to connect first, speak second. nerves throw that plan out the window, so i try to ask before i speak if i’m being introduced and by whom.

  2. Jim

    In my line of business, there’s usually a team of a sales rep and technical expert that show up to put on a show at a prospect’s location. If the sales rep does nothing else, he calls the meeting to order and focuses / prepares the audience for what they are about to see. It might be very informal, but it’s still there. As the technical guy, I appreciate the introduction. But it’s worthwhile to note that nobody is introducing the sales guy. He has to draw everybody’s attention to him, pronounce some sort of pleasantry (“Thank you all for coming”), and possibly provide some more information:
    – Why we are there
    – Our understanding of their business
    – What they are about to see
    – Who is going to show it to them
    Obviously this is different from a magic show, but there is some common ground. If you expect this situation to happen again, you’ll need to write an introduction that accomplishes the same audience-attention-focusing-and-orienting that the sales rep does when he kicks off a demonstration sales call.
    If I were you, I would also avoid being on stage until it is time for the show. Hanging out with audience members is fine, but when you appear on stage (or anything changes on-stage), that marks the beginning of the show and then you are expected to kick it off. Start with a pleasantry 🙂

  3. mike

    every performer has needs. if an intro is what you require to get the juices flowing, then that is what you need. I like Eric’s use of the word transition. you would to get a few minutes into your show before realizing that half the audience is elsewhere.
    I’m lucky because i’m not the front man in my band so all the intro work is done for me. but our singer usually starts out with something like “hi, we’re the Excuses and i hope we don’t suck. 1,2,3,4…….”
    i also agree with the piont of staying off the stage until go time. people get bored with watching you fiddle with stuff and then when you try to actualy do something, they may not even notice what you have done. if you ever need an intro and i am present at show, don’t hesitate to ask me , i’ll do it.

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