Blending Your Magic Act: From Random to Routine
I have often wondered what would have happened if when I was first learning magic and mentalism, and buying every prop in the store, if someone would have said “you need to learn how to blend”. I was like every other student of magic; I just wanted every prop, gimmick and secret there was. I never stopped to think of putting the same kinds of effects together for a routine nor did I realize that what I was stringing together for a show was just effects, no real entertainment value at all.
I think most of us would agree that in the beginning, we did not learn how to blend effects into a routine, and make it entertainment at its best. Entertainment is what the audience wants and demands from performers. Most young, just starting out, magicians think they can buy an effect and throw into their act with no thought of why or how it fits. They do not even to stop think if their newly acquired effect is an opener, middle or a closer effect; most do not even learn how to properly perform it before showing or putting it in their act. So what is the answer for these novice magicians? It seems to be in the training they receive and the guidance from us old guys. It is time we stop saying, “go read a book and learn like we did” and help and guide these minds through the perils of entertaining. So, how do we do this? Easy, we show them how to blend and make routines, so their magic can shine and entertain people. After all, it will be a reflection of the true magic within them if they succeed.
What do we mean by a routine and blending. The most accepted definition of a routine is an act: a short theatrical performance that is part of a longer program, a section of a program that performs a particular task and makes up a piece of the entire act. Blending is to mix together different elements; combined or mixed together so that the constituent parts are indistinguishable. By blending we are talking about putting 2 or more like effects together and making a routine, i.e. magician walks out on to the stage, reaches into the air and produces a silk. He then ties a knot in the silk and blows the knot away. Finally, the magician changes the silk into a dove and thus ends a blending effect and makes a routine. This routine is much more entertaining than seeing the magician make a silk appear, then go into a card effect. There was neither rhyme nor reason for those two effects in succession. They did not make an entertaining routine and the audience probably would not be amused or be pleased with the results. The whole idea behind the show is to be entertaining for the audience and to cause wonder and marvel.
Let’s discuss the advantages of blending and setting a routine that has continuity and consistency. The first item is entertainment; what does blending have to do with entertainment?
Blending effects gives reasoning to the effects and helps sell them to the audience. It also creates a setting or a situation in which the audiences’ attention is grabbed and held through the series of like effects.
Blending is a bridge from one effect to another with grace and ease. Once you have blended several effects together, you have yourself a small routine. To move on to the next “routine”, you will need to blend into it by “patter” or talking to the audience. Maybe an explanation (partial) of what might be coming next and why. An example might be: you have just finished a coin routine where you have blended three coin effects, let’s say you made a coin appear, you changed it from a gold coin to a silver one and you ended making the coin penetrate a hankie, now you want to do a card routine. You might start by explaining the use of cards and coins in magic and how they were some of the first props used in magic. You can explain that while coins and cards have really changed over the years the still hold their magic properties and man’s fascination with them. Today we have many different colored cards and designs; we have many different facsimiles of faces on coins, but still they are all unique in style.
What better way to coast into another routine; that is how you can blend and the story helps sell the routine, which in turn makes it entertaining.
When you do not blend effects into routine your magic looks jerky, rushed, unorganized, not adequately entertaining, and just a lot of magic with no rhyme or reason to it. Audiences get bored quite easily and if you are not entertaining, you will lose them quickly. This reminds me of a great magician I once saw perform for an all-magic audience. He wanted to do something different and yet make a point to the crowd. He came out and did 7 magical effects, none having any common ground other than they were magic effects. After the act, he stood in front of us and signaled for applause; he got a very light sound of clapping, the host of the show was very surprised and rushed to the side of the magician and again signaled for applause, there was none. The host was now very upset and started to scold us for being a horrible audience; the magician now took the microphone from the host and proceeded to tell us why he did the act that way. He said that while we were given exactly what wanted (Magic), it did not make sense to us nor was it entertaining. The reason being was there was no entertaining value to what he did. His point was, you need to routine your act and blend from one routine to another.
I also saw another great magician do a routine for a magic group and he called it 30 tricks in less than two (2) minutes. While this was not blended or a routine in the true sense of the word, it was one of the most humorous, entertaining and well thought out act I have seen. He started by pulling a brown sandwich bag out of his suitcase and popped it, feathers went everywhere, he bellowed loudly “vanishing bird trick”! Next, he pulled out three (3) linked rings and said “linking rings”, he then took his wand and hit them making a ringing sound, he shouted “symphony of the rings”!
He entertained us like this for one (1) minute and fifty-five (55) seconds, he ended by showing us a placard with a picture of a beautiful, scantly clothed woman; he through it up into the air and proudly exclaimed “floating lady trick”. Now while there was not a single instance of blending, just random magical effects, he had a specialized audience. Because we all were some form or another magicians, we knew what each effect was and its name.
After the show, the magician gave us a brief lecture on entertaining and knowing whom your audience is. He also told us what you could do for an audience and get away with and still be entertaining. I found it quite interesting that he mentioned “blending, entertaining, and routines” and how they all fit together.
The blending of magic effects creates a wondrous routine and a mystifying show for the audience. Blending gives reason and credence to your act. It also helps make your act imaginable and believable in the eyes of the audience. All of these together make your act entertaining and that is the ultimate goal of a performer.
The Mental Institution™