Monday, September 19, 2011

Just Another Magic Monday: Stick To Your Strengths

.:Just Another Magic Monday: Stick To Your Strengths:.

This past weekend, I had an epic hosting gig that I'd write more about, but I was only supposed to do half the weekend initially. At the last minute, I ended up doing the whole thing, because I had to beg off a particular booking that from the get-go, I figured was just too good to be true.

It was a show I was going to do for a debut, except the organizer insisted that I do a levitation illusion involving the debutante. I quietly suggested other magicians who were actually illusionists, but he was persistent and wouldn't take "no" for an answer. I had no idea why, but he really wanted me to be the performer for that debut, and I managed to strike a compromise with him that would allow me to pull off what he wanted.

A contemporary of mine, JB Dela Cruz, also a skilled illusionist, offered to help me out with doing an illusion that fit their requirements, and we were all set to pull it off. We knew what we wanted to do and had everything lined up, but I never heard from the client again.

Looking back, I'm glad the show didn't push through, but I was more glad that I approached JB Dela Cruz to collaborate with him rather than allow myself to be in over my head if that show came to pass.

Most magicians have their specialties, and assuming they're worth hiring, they do these particular things very well. It takes a rare breed of magician to be capable of doing everything, but there are some luminaries in our industry like Lou Hilario who come pretty close.

As a performer, I've done several things over the years, and I've found what works for me and stuck to it. I'm known for comedy mentalism, with a touch of magic and escapology. Considering that my signature acts are metal bending, the Shanghai Shackles, and Lady and the Rope, I'm really the last person you would expect to do live animal acts, or full-scale illusions. That's actually the very reason why I don't do illusions anymore, since it clashes with my onstage persona, and worse, makes me look bush-league, because whatever illusion I have, any magician with deeper pockets would have a better version of. This gap in material doesn't exist when it's all about scripting, improvisation, and performance, which is more the purview of a comedy mentalist than a stage illusionist.

As such, while I probably can't saw a woman in half, I'm pretty confident I can hypnotize a theater with 500 people in it. It's the fact that I know where my strengths lie that I can market myself in a way that assures my client they are getting their money's worth. That I can handle myself well whether in a street or stage setting only proves that versatility comes with the performer's skillset more than it comes with his arsenal of magic items.

It's the best advice I can give an aspiring magician who wishes to make a pro career, honestly: choose your battles wisely, and don't get in over your head. I know it's tempting to take a gig that would pay you well for an hour's work, but if you can't deliver, that one-time windfall of cash would hurt you more in the long run because you can be sure it won't be happening again anytime soon.

Knowing what I know now, I'm just glad I found my niche sooner than later. The first show I ever had will forever remind me exactly how difficult it is to turn pro when you don't know what you are doing. I had a lucky break then, but if I ignored the signs from that first show, I know I would very well have never improved as a performer, which is really what every magician worth their salt should aspire for, right?

As a magician in the Philippines, what with the stiff competition all around us, the least you could do to rise beyond the rank and file contemporaries you have is to love your craft enough to stick to your strengths when everyone's watching, and to work on your weaknesses when nobody is.

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