Magicians, do these 6 things now to be ready when events open up again.
In this article you will find advice on being ready to perform close-up magic again when the industry goes back to ‘normal’ (whatever that may be). Below are six things to do now to be ready to perform close-up magic again as soon as we are able. Are you ready to perform in a post lockdown world? When we start going back to parties and events is your close-up case ready?
Hopefully you are keeping well when you read this little blog. It was written in February 2021 when the UK is still in Lockdown due to Covid-19. Firstly a bit of context. Here in the UK the magic industry was first hit by Covid-19 restrictions back in March 2020. Nearly a year later our industry is still suffering but there might now be a light at the end of the tunnel
There is talk of schools going back in a month’s time and with that normality should start to blossom again. Some families are looking at booking holidays here in the UK this summer although holidays abroad are at an all time low. Weddings and events are starting to trickle in and the need for magicians will return. When it does it will probably appear quicker than we expected and might catch us off guard.
We as magicians need to be ready to perform close-up magic again. One day we will get an announcement from the Government saying the rules have changed and then in person events will start picking up. There are six things below which will help make sure we are ready for when this happens,
Personally I want to be performing magic again as soon as possible. In fact, ‘want’ is the wrong word, I need to be performing again as soon as possible. I can feel my sharp edge slipping, my hands and dialogue growing rusty. I can see my bank balance dripping away. I need to be out performing for my own mental wellbeing as much as anything else.
When the rules change and we can go out to close up gigs again I want to make sure that I have dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s and that the performance will be the best it can be.
With all of this in mind, how can we make sure we are ready to perform magic again as soon as the opportunity appears?
Here are six things you need to be doing now if you want to be performing as a magician again this year.
1. Grab a facemask / face shield.
2. Buy hand gel
3. Work out ‘safe’ routines.
4. Choose ‘safe’ props.
5. Keep up with social trends.
6. Practice practice practice.
1. Grab a facemask / face shield.
They are uncomfortable and awkward, but they are a part of life at the moment. As a working magician we need to be aware that bookers might want us to wear a mask. There’s no point kicking up a fuss about it – be prepared!
Get a nice branded mask, possibly one with your logo on so that your brand is in every photo which is taken of you, and be prepared to wear it. Fay Presto has a beautiful sparkly mask which draws attention to her as a performer as soon as she enters the room. Owen Strickland has a stylish one with his brand on so that everyone knows who he is and why here’s there (a bit like a wearing a nametag).
Practise in your mask so you know what it feels like to talk with. Consider getting an insert to give yourself more breath ability and ease of speaking. Practice wearing it for the full length of your gig at home. They are not nice to wear but we need to get used to it.
Face shields are cheaper and can pack flat so don’t take up much more space. One huge benefit with a face shield is that the audience can see you full face. However the audience can also see all your spit on the inside of the screen. We all send out little drops of moisture as we talk, especially while performing, these will gather on the inside of the face shield so after a while it will look like you have had your own personal rainstorm in there. Pack a spare face shield to swap out, or, even better, some wipes to keep it looking clean! If you don’t believe me on this one then you have never worn a face shield for a full day or worked with people who have!
It is also really important to have a conversation with the person who has booked you over email, or on the phone. Ask them beforehand if they would like you to wear a mask /shield and bring hand gel. Check if the guests will be wearing masks. If they say yes to either, then arrive at your gig prepared to follow those rules. If the booker says ‘no’ then still pack your facemask and hand gel. Do not leave them at home. You might arrive and find that the venue has different rules; all of a sudden you need a mask and you have forgotten it. Or maybe you get to the event and the guests are wearing masks even though there is no rule regarding it. Go prepared for the safest option. Pack everything and you can use them – leave it at home and it is useless!
Finally, do not get a face mask with air vents. Masks with air vents are seen by many as less effective and they are prone to starting the conversation about how safe they are. Grab a standard cloth face mask or face shield and you will avoid the awkward conversations from those individuals who are keen to get into a drawn-out debate, might have an axe to grind or have an agenda to promote. If asked why you are wearing a mask or shield place the responsibility on the person that booked you and explain that they have requested it and you are happy to help out. This response eliminates any debate or argument and makes you look helpful and accommodating.
2.Buy hand gel.
This is as much about giving the right impression as it is about staying safe. When you, as the magician, meet a group of people give yourself a squirt of antibacterial hand gel. Then place the little bottle down and offer it to everyone else. This shows your audience that your hands are clean at the start of your interaction and immediately puts the minds of anyone who was worried at rest. You might not feel the need to do this at every interaction but trust me, just do it. Make it a new habit. The audience will see you doing it and will remember you took that extra step to make sure they were kept safe.
Offer the hand gel to them as well, it’s just polite!
If you use hand gel some audience members might think it’s a bit over the top but they will understand and they won’t complain. However, if you don’t do it some audience members might think you are creating a risk bringing germs from group to group. These people will have more chance of complaining and a greater impact on your night. Make sure you are seen to be doing the right thing. Make a gag out of it if you can. Make sure they remember you for thinking of them first, being careful and cautious: it’s all about them!
But it is also all about you! If you are working regularly, like I was before the pandemic, you will be coming into contact with lots of people and some will be carrying the virus along with other germs. On occasions in the past when I have needed to use the restroom I would often see guests leave without washing their hands. This always surprised and disgusted me and made me try and avoid letting these particular people handle my props.
Now we don’t just have unhygienic toilet germs to deal with but Covid-19 as well; some people might even have a new trendy variant of it which is more transmissible or more dangerous. Protect yourself. Use hand gel. (These little bottles work great for carrying it around.)
Last, but by no means least, look at it from a booker’s perspective: wouldn’t you rather your entertainment were keeping everyone safe?
3. Work out ‘safe’ routines.
Look at your performance material and remove routines like card to mouth for now. Anything that involves bodily fluids, mouths etc, get them out of your set for the time being.
For me this means no card to mouth, no sponge balls from mouth, no mouth coils, and no card fan from mouth. Also get rid of vanishing elastic bands or pens up your nose. These routines give the impression that something is going in your mouth or up your nose. In the current climate this is not acceptable. Most of your audience won’t mind but some might. The person that booked you might object or might receive a complaint. At the moment it is not safe to share spit and snot. Don’t do it.
While writing this I find myself asking should we be doing these routines anyway? But that’s another conversation for another day. (My sponge ball from mouth routine gets huge laughs and I’m not ready to retire that from my family shows just yet!
Also consider learning routines where you don’t have to touch the spectator or have them touch a prop at all. Some people are not ready to be in close contact with a stranger yet. Respect this. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to be entertained, just don’t touch them or make them touch your stuff! If your audience turn around and say they don’t want to touch your props you need to be ready to keep the magic going in some other way – you won’t suddenly stop and walk off.
4. Choose ‘safe’ props
This goes hand in hand with safe routines. How can you make your props safe so that you are not transmitting bacteria all around the room? This will be especially important with events like weddings where there might be two opposite sides of a large extended family, potentially with older people, and people that are not normally connected in the same ‘bubbles’. As the performer you don’t want to be responsible for sharing one spectator’s germs with all the other people in the room.
Safer magic props would be things that are ‘single use’. Props that you give away (for example; Liquid Forks), or props that can easily be cleaned with an antibac wipe. For example silver dollars can be easily wiped between performances, plastic or wooden props would work well too. Sharpies can be wiped down between groups as well. If you are using cards try and bring a few more spare decks than you used to so that you can throw them away more regularly if they are being handled by the audience. Or you could get yourself a set of plastic cards (Like Steve Dela’s Night Flight Deck) and wipe them down and reuse them if you so wished.
Before going out to perform ask yourself how many times you would use a particular prop in a normal event. Is there a way you can clean it or replace between tables? Is there a way you can perform your favourite routines hands off rather than making everyone in the room handle the same things?
For me one of my favourite magic routines would be Stand Up Monte by Garrett Thomas. Previously I would perform this in the spectator’s hands and repeat it at every table. I don’t really want every table to be handling the same props anymore and I can’t wipe down the cards between tables. I also can’t bring lots of sets of monte cards with me. So the solution for this situation is simple; change it so it is performed using my top pocket or the table itself depending on group size. A simple change which helps stop the spread of germs.
5.Keep up with social trends
Something I used to pride myself on was that I was up to date with the latest trends and social happenings. I wasn’t necessarily taking part in them myself (I’ve never been a Snapchat or TikTok person for example) but I always knew enough about what was going on to be part of the conversations and make appropriate comments or quips.
This came from a mixture of research and speaking to so many people in all the events I attended. Over the last year I have attended no events and spoken only to a very small circle of friends who are not, to put it politely, down with the latest trends.
Before going back out and performing magic at social gathering again we need to realign ourselves with what people are currently into so we are ready to interact with their conversations.
In the first lockdown Netflix brought us Tiger King, and then more recently The Queen’s Gambit. Both of which were popular talking points in the wider community. People with a more geeky persuasion have probably been watching The Mandalorian or Wandavision.
Regarding social media trends TikTok is possibly more popular than ever so check that out to see what the latest trends are, and a new platform called Clubhouse is on the scene. Hopefully all of those things will be familiar to you but if not, then go and check them out.
6.Practice, practice, practice.
As mentioned earlier in this article I can feel myself growing rusty. Since the first lockdown I have spent less time at gigs and more time in the house. I have gone from performing many times a month and practising for hours to spending more time doing household chores and general everyday stuff. Practice should be the backbone of all that we do. Spend time this week practising your routines. Put on your face mask and get your new props ready and get practising as if you are there in person.
My basis for this article is from working as a music teacher since lockdown 1. I have been going back into schools and have interacted with several thousand students aged from 3 to 18 (in magic terms these would be the audience), hundreds of teachers, and 20 or so Headteachers (in magic terms these would be our bookers).
No two Headteachers / bookers are the same and (due to the lack of clear regulations from the government) they are all making it up as they go along. My job is to appear as well prepared as possible so I can deliver my sessions following their unique interpretation of the guidelines, ultimately, I’m there to make the booker happy.
When I arrive I am prepared with everything! This makes the booker happy and is another feather in my cap as a professional. I have seen other music teachers sent home because they are not prepared. Don’t be this person at your gig. Be prepared and then follow the rules they want you to follow.
Remember, it is not about if you like masks, if you agree with the rules or not, it is not about your political opinions or anything like that. Magicians are there to offer a service and entertain. Most of all we need to make our clients feel safe and valued.
Keep safe. Keep smiling.
Ian Brennan AIMC with Silver Star.