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A Magician Prepares

May 11th 2013, 18:00


Joined: Apr 29th 2010, 15:37
Total Topics: 36
Total Posts: 53
Our friend Dennis wrote this piece for us just a few months before his passing.

A Magician Prepares
Dennis Loomis

Several years ago I decided to write a book sharing what I had learned over my 42 year career in magic. I became a professional in 1970 and I’m still going strong today. The majority of magic books focus on tricks, but doing tricks is only a small part of the job. I wanted to share what I had learned about getting ready to do a performance. The word “preparation” came to mind and I recalled the title of the Stanislavski book: “An Actor Prepares.” I decided to call my book “A Magician Prepares.” But progress was slow, perhaps because of my tendency to procrastinate. My friend Mike Close came to the rescue. He was about to become the new editor of MUM magazine, with his wife Lisa as Art Director. He asked how my book was coming and I confessed that progress was slow. He suggested that I write for MUM, and the monthly deadline might help. When I had written enough columns they could be collected into a book. I agreed. My first article appeared in January of 2009 and I’ve written 48; the last one will appear in the December 2012 issue. The next project is to put them together into a book with the title “A Magician Prepares.”

The term “preparation” covers a lot. You have to practice and rehearse your effects, of course. And mastering sleights takes a lot of time. Doing the moves proficiently is just the beginning. You must work on the routine, learn the patter and integrate misdirection, timing, and showmanship into each effect. Then you have to put the separate effects into an order which is both aesthetically pleasing as an act or show, and also is do-able. Reality can get in the way. For example, you may want to ditch a coin into your Topit but there’s already a coin in it, and the second coin may “talk.” Doing two illusions back to back may not be possible because of necessary costume changes.

If you are working in well equipped theatres you need to study lighting, stage movement, sound, and all of the associated theatrical skills. (My first article was about Microphone technique, just one small part of the job which you must “prepare” for.) You must understand theatrical lighting at least enough to tell the lighting people what you want or need. For a full evening show, you will have to design the lighting and prepare a cue sheet for the crew to work from.

You may have to hire and re-hire assistants because of the big turnover in this job, especially in the case of attractive young ladies.

We’ve only begun to list the kinds of preparations that professional magicians must do. If you plan to stage a full evening show, with several assistants, lots of big illusions, several vehicles, and so on, you will have to learn how to book the show in order to keep busy because you have ongoing expenses every week no matter how many shows you do. You might be well advised to have an MBA degree in order to run financial matters. You have to figure out how you are going to fill the theatres with patrons. You may want to acquire the equipment for concession sales, like Popcorn and Cotton Candy machines, drink dispensers, etc. You’ll need to arrange for the people that will man your concession stand. Just the process of moving the show down the road from town to town will require considerable expertise and “preparation.” And, as you do all of this, you are the “boss” of a small business and you must deal with your employees in a manner which is firm but compassionate and fair. During the time that I had the full evening show, Magic Capades on the road, this was not one of my strengths as Tim Wise can confirm.

You’ll have to deal with unexpected problems. We once arrived at a venue and no one was there. It was locked, and we couldn’t get in to set up… a nice full house was expected. We were to perform in a gym and found a basketball game in progress. The facility had been double-booked! I awoke one morning to find that the truck driver of the semi truck had disappeared. We had a show that day followed by a jump to another town. And once, my entire crew quit at the same time leaving me on my own with all of the vehicles and equipment.

These are big areas of study and they all require considerable preparation. And, I haven’t even mentioned the business end of the operation. It will probably keep you as busy as the “fun” stuff of preparing for and performing the shows.

Dennis Loomis