Sunday morning is boxing class in the park. This morning, I put on my kit and then sat in the Divamobile watching the rain getting heavier. Hmmmm. “Well, the deadline for the Vanish article is yesterday so surely I should go sit on the sofa with a rug over my knees, Bongo’s head on my feet and get that done instead?” Obviously. So here I am. Soooooooooo cosy, I can see the rain out of the window and Bongo is making gentle snoring sounds. Not a ship in sight. Bliss.
I got back from a couple of months cruising last Saturday and have booked myself 6 weeks off. Nothing in the diary. Lots to do, nothing structured. When you are away from home a lot, everything tends to get frayed or broken, props, the act, yourself. So these 6 weeks are for repair, innovation and making everything lighter including me! I haven’t even unpacked the show yet but I have done a first week of bootcamp classes at 6.45am at the beach, taken the mountain bike out for it’s first spin of the year and have actually paid for an online 90 day new nutrition and weight lifting plan with www.thebodycoach.co.uk which will arrive soon. It’s time to combat the effects of luxury cruising with focus, optimism and desperation… (Desperation?? Determination?? Maybe it‘s somewhere between the two… )
I did say in one article that I would be happy to answer any questions. Kailin who is 14 from Tampa, Florida and performs magic with her family wrote asking the following questions.
She wrote, “My dad and I were discussing whether we should join a magic society or not. So, here’s my question; Is it beneficial to join a magic society/ organization if you want to continue in the magic profession?”
Well, that’s an easy question to answer. Definitely! I remember being so excited when I first visited The Magic Circle. I was almost flattened by the enthusiasm of some members who insisted on performing their favorite pieces of magic for me. I was fresh blood, had never seen any magic. I was in love with the place, thirsty to learn everything. Some of the best British performers, inventors and thinkers in magic were there; Ali Bongo, David Berglas, Paul Kieve, Michael Vincent, Brian Sibley, Pat Page. The library had every book I could desire, and different lecturers/performers every week so that I could see what I liked and what I didn’t.
A magic society is a place where people who love magic can talk about it endlessly, experiment, share tricks and experiences. Since magic is a secret art (or was before You Tube), we can’t discuss much about it with non-magicians without revealing the secrets which of course would defeat the point. It’s a place to find friends and to share the journey of being a magician at whatever level you practice. When I went to my first magic convention at Blackpool, I got there early and was sitting in the cafe watching as hundreds of rather shabby older men wearing grey or beige rain coats came in to register. I was so disappointed that I nearly went home then and there. No one was dressed flamboyantly. It was definitely not Showbiz. It was not what I had expected.
Now I know better, I know that these men are in disguise. Behind the rain coat and grey hair, is a man who has been in love with the art of magic for decades. He has passionately loved the 52 pasteboard’s and the skill and dedication they require to tease out their mysteries. He has fought his patient wife for the right to keep drawers of once bought and never used weird and wonderful gimmicks in the house or lost the battle (like our beloved Magic Circle ex-president Jack Delvin) and been relegated to the garage with his boxes… and more boxes… of shiny props and silk scarves. (Jack is allowed a heater for the winter months and is quite happy in his magic garage, please do not worry…)
These undercover magi, over the years, have sifted through centuries of magic evolution to find their own favorite tricks to bring laughter and wonder to their friends and families. The friendships that you see at their conventions have lasted five or six decades or even more.
I’ve now had magic friends for 20 years since it was 20 years ago this year that I first went to The Magic Circle. Most of my magic friends are pros and we have the common ground of scratching and sniffing out gigs, of performing in the weirdest of places, of finding partners who put up with our passion and dedication to magic and of weathering the ups and downs of the very particular and peculiar life that we enjoy once we are bitten by the bug.
So YES, find your magic society and enjoy!
“One thing I would like to do with my magic profession is to work on cruise ships. You work on cruise ships as a professional magician, and I wanted to know how to begin working on them, so I can plan for the future.”
My first reaction to this question from such a young performer is to advise that she gets as much varied experience as possible BEFORE going on the ships. I say this because you need to have a polished show ready to perform in perhaps a full 1000 seat theater. If your show isn’t ready on your first gig on a ship, it’s unlikely that you will re-booked again EVER on that whole line. A street performer once said to me, start by performing your show at least 100 times. That hit home and I remember taking my act everywhere, offering to play it wherever I could. I played it in the corner of people’s living rooms, in tiny theaters at poetry jams, in pub talent shows, anywhere and everywhere. I had a little chart on the wall with a hundred little boxes and I would tick off the box each time I performed, aiming to reach 100. On Jeff McBride’s advice, I made a teeny tiny theater out of my living room. I could squeeze in 14 people. Literally squeeze in! I was married at the time to a German juggler and we put on an evening’s program, half him, half me, sometimes with an invited variety act. (We paid them in cake.) We were living in a rather run down little town and we invited people from our street and their friends. They would have a drink in the kitchen and then I would appear in the very narrow corridor in full costume and invite them into the ‘theater’. There was probably 4 feet between me and them as I performed so it was brilliant training for angles.
Most of our audience had probably never even been to a theater and certainly never to a little living room theater. I remember getting completely terrified on the day of the show, so much so that I would have to go to bed with a stomach ache. But it was always great fun with a great feeling afterwards and of course priceless training. We put on at least 100 shows in that teeny tiny theater, we didn’t make a penny, but I did get essential ‘flying time’ in. And that I think is what’s so important before applying for cruise work. Your show needs to be bullet proof before you apply.
Another tip that I can pass on while you’re working in an act is to keep your overheads low and not to be too worried about your fee. I was once impressed by a street performing colleague who seemed to work everywhere even if she wasn’t going to be earning much. By working everywhere she was getting in hours and days of performing experience and she could do it because she didn’t have a car, she had a tiny cheap rented room, no kids and so was free from financial responsibilities. Usually you can only do this while you are young or simply very determined… and single!
“My final question for you right now is about the field in general. Is making a living in magic an attainable goal to have, or is it better to keep magic as a side job?”
I’ve just been following a thread on a magicians forum on Facebook about this same topic. There have been many replies and I think the majority consensus is that it’s very difficult to survive financially with magic as your only income. We see the top professionals doing very well but this is really only the very top layer of performers. To earn a standard wage is really hard work that takes not only talent but huge commitment and dedication. When I see colleague magicians working to provide for a family, they are working incredibly hard. Having some sort of side income certainly can make it a lot easier. It also means that you can be more determined about keeping your fee at a certain level rather than having to take any gig at any price simply because you really need the money.
When I started out while learning, I lived for about 8 years really strapped for cash, it wasn’t much fun. These days there are so many opportunities for doing different things to make money it’s a great idea to make the most of them. However, as magicians we teach that everything is possible. If anyone wants to make a mint as a magician of course it’s possible.
Hey, look at David Copperfield, he’s got his own island! Dynamo has made a fortune, so has David Blaine. And money isn’t everything. What’s more important is knowing what makes you happy and finding that. Follow your bliss. Right now, for me on this rainy Sunday afternoon, happiness is Bongo the dog snoring on my feet, Walkabout making the lunch from our fresh chickens’ eggs and this article is now in the bag!
From VANISH MAGIC MAGAZINE vanishmagazine.com