I AM THE MOON – thoughts from Bo by Bo Gerard

Eclipse-Bo.jpg

"ONE MUST OBSCURE THE LIGHT, SO THAT ONE CAN TRULY SEE IT." - Mendaxicus

Unlike Carly Simon’s vain lover, I am not flying my Leerjet to Nova Scotia to view the total eclipse of the sun.  Instead I will be in Guthrie, Kentucky, wearing goofy-looking cardboard “Eclipse Glasses” (ISO Approved, of course).  Why I am in Guthrie is too long a story for this blog, but I will be “within the path of totality”, and will see one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights. (If it's not overcast.)

Thinking about the eclipse has made me realize something interesting.  I used to think that being a performer on the stage was like being the sun.  I was the star, and the audience was viewing my awesome brightness.  But maybe being a performer is more like the eclipse.  Maybe I’m not the star.  Maybe I’m the moon, moving in front of the star; enabling the audience to see it in a new and special way.  The star is that communal experience, that we only experience in live performances or a house of worship.  This communal experience can shape our lives and inspire us in so many ways.  The performer is not the source of the light, but the lens through which the audience can appreciate and experience the light.

In my best moments on stage, I have truly felt that I was merely a conduit of some sort.  A channel for something amazing and funny to move through me to fill the audiences’ hearts and minds with wonder and happiness.

Pretty heady stuff!  But, that’s what a total eclipse can do to your mind.  (P.S. – a little tidbit for those who actually read this to the end – today is my 64th birthday!)

ACTUALIZATION – “The condition of being in full force, or operation.” by Bo Gerard

There’s a remarkable moment when the demonstration of a “TRICK” can suddenly be transformed into an “ACT”.

You’ve rehearsed the mechanics of the effect, come up with some suitable patter, and you have performed the effect(s) long enough to know their strengths and limitations in different situations.  And then it happens.  Something about the effect connects with your performing persona; the one you’ve worked so hard to develop over the years.  And BAM! - it’s no longer just a demonstration of a trick – it’s an ACT.

Now, I see nothing at all wrong with ably demonstrating an effect, with style and skill.  Many wonderful magicians are wowing audiences all over the country by doing just that.  But, to me there’s nothing like the feeling you get when your stage persona and a certain trick, or tricks, connect in a way as to transcend both – making it something so unique and personal that though it might be copied, it could never be duplicated.  Let’s call that moment an ACTualization!

Actualizations can happen for unknown, even mystical, reasons.  The magic muse might be shining on you that particular day.   Sometimes it happens because of something an audience member said or did.  Sometimes it happens because you have a sudden moment of genius.  Well, as Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."   It takes a lot of nurturing and attention to the way you are connecting with your audience, to lay the ground work for this miracle to happen.  You have to be constantly on the lookout for the situation, the audience, or whatever, to INSPIRE you.

Sometimes ACTualizations occur because of a sticky situation, like an audience member wanting to examine the pen that you just stuck through his $20 bill.  Sometimes they happen after you come back to performing a trick that you had retired for a few months, and you get a new look at it.  If you are observant and in the moment enough, you might be lucky to collect enough of these ACTualizations, and combine them to create an ACT that is no longer a demonstration, or a duplication, but one that is undeniably YOU!

MAGIC STOLE MY VOICE - thoughts from Bo by Bo Gerard

Well, it wasn’t actually the art of Magic - but more the delivery of the art that did it.  Let me explain.

40 years ago, I was singing in progressive rock bands.  Then I was a singer/dancer, doing musical theater in New York City.  Once I transitioned into the world of magic, my first trick (Ladies and Gentlemen) was to make my voice go POOF!

In the early 80’s my magic career took off, and though I was gaining bookings and income, I was losing something dear to me - MY SINGING VOICE.  I didn’t lose all of it, but enough to cut my vocal range in half.  And it was a direct result of all the corporate strolling gigs I was doing, in ballrooms filled with the now ubiquitous deafeningly loud music.

The work was so steady (and lucrative) that I Iet my voice take the hit.  I would often come home from these gigs with almost no speaking voice.  Now, I have to admit that some of the damage was due to my relentless energy as a performer, both physical and vocal.  I simply don’t know how to give less than 100% when I am performing.  I would even damage my voice during stage shows, since I regularly performed without the aid of an onstage monitor.  I couldn’t hear how loud my own voice was in these large hotel ballrooms.

So, I had pretty much written off my singing voice by the end of the 90’s.  But, one day things started to change.  Gretchen and I have been writing and performing theatrical shows for school and family audiences since the day we met, but in the early 2000’s we wrote and performed a show that required me to sing a few lines.  Some mornings, after an evening strolling gig, my voice was so strained I could hardly sing the notes.

So, I vowed to make a change in the way I used my voice at gigs.  If the music was over a certain volume at the gig, I would simply revert back to the days where I performed magic as a mime, only no white face this time.  It worked great and my voice recovered enough so I could get through the years we performed that particular show.  I also added a monitor to my sound set up for stage shows.  More set up, but definitely worth it.

The payoff is that in my vocal range has been returning to its former glory.  Gretchen and I have put original songs into all of our shows since 2012.  It is so great to be singing again!!!  I will now regale you with my rendition of Devo's smash 80's hit, "Whip it"!

Magicians vs Zombies – thoughts from Bo by Bo Gerard

It is undeniably true – live audiences are getting less responsive and are becoming harder to actually engage.

I am referring to seated audiences at a show, not close-up audiences in a strolling situation.  In the TV-World of canned applause and advantageous cut-away shots, modern audiences appear to be having the times of their lives watching performers on stage.  But in the trenches, where laughter and applause are not “digitally enhanced”, the reaction we are getting from our audiences has changed.  Today’s audience specializes in interacting with a screen – phones, tablets, and giant home flat screens.  By the time they have reached the age of ten, they are owned by these screens.  These screens ask nothing of us in the way of physical response, so we are becoming a generation of non-responders.  Slow moving and blank-faced - taking it all in, but giving out very little in return.  Just like Zombies, only there’s cheese doodles dripping from our mouths instead of blood.

Kids under 10 still have some ability to spontaneously react to the magical and the humorous, but it’s tough to get older kids and adults to break out of their screen-mentality and really live in the theatrical moment.  And these competition shows don’t help either.  Audiences now see themselves as the “judges” of the entertainment they are watching, and this only alienates them further.

Based on audience statements made to me after my shows, it's clear that they are truly enjoying themselves, but during the show many of them have severe "Screen Face".  So, what do we highly energetic, interactive performers do?  Do we adjust our show so that we ask nothing back from the audience in the way of spontaneous, or even polite, response?  Do we amend our show so that it includes some actual screen time for the audience?  Or do we plow ahead with our old-fashioned methods of engagement, and wait for the Zombie Apocalypse to subside?

MAGIC REWARDS PROGRAM - News from Bo by Bo Gerard

Normally, a rewards program’s function is to reward loyalty to customers who repeatedly use your product or services; giving customers advanced access to new products, special sales coupons or free merchandise.  However, I have now created the “Bo Gerard Rewards Program”, and I am giving the rewards to the person who deserves it the most – ME!!!

I have been leaving my sweat and heart out on the boards for 40 years, and I have earned a lot of frequent performer miles.  It’s time I started using those miles.  From this day hence, unless my economic situation changes dramatically, I will no longer:

1) Perform outdoors in the dreaded Texas summer heat.  How hot is it in Texas in the summertime?  Once, while I was performing for an event in the Infomart’s parking lot (outdoors - in August), the glue that held the soles of my shoes to the uppers melted and both of my shoes came apart in a gooey mess.

2)  I will no longer book gigs that experience tells me will definitely be trouble.  Goodbye 3-year-old birthday parties!  Goodbye strolling gigs in a Cash Advance storefront!  Goodbye gigs that are really just thinly veiled comedy telegrams!  And goodbye to doing trade shows dressed as Abe Lincoln!

3)  I will no longer audition for anything.  Period!  I will gladly take a meeting with a client and discuss why I am the right guy for the job, but I will not do a private show - in someone’s office -  for two people.  That has never gotten anyone a job anyway.

4)  As a newly joined member of “Bookaholics Anonymous”, I will refrain from over-zealously booking three shows in one day, in three different locations, with just enough time to get to each gig.

5) I will no longer perform for anyone after midnight.  No High School lockdowns, no late-night house parties, and no strolling gigs in loud, dark, nightclubs at boutique hotels.  I guarantee you, nothing good happens at 2 am at someone’s backyard pool party.

My rewards Program does have some Black-Out Dates, so I will happily continue to perform at all of the other gigs we variety performers find ourselves booked into.  Bookaholics Anonymous notwithstanding, I still truly enjoy making people laugh and gasp at my antics.

THE RATIONALIZATION OF BUSY - Thoughts from Bo by Bo Gerard

I’m sure you’ve all seen the Facebook memes shouting, "STOP THE GLORIFICATION OF BUSY", and maybe you've even read one of the many articles and blogs written on the subject.  They all make good points, however they all fail to mention the ONE POSITIVE ASPECT of being “too busy” – it’s the perfect excuse for not doing things you don’t really want to do.  Things like responding to certain emails and voicemails, attending certain gatherings, or getting to those items that always seem to stay at the bottom of your “To Do” list.

The negative aspects of being too busy, like anxiety, migraines and sexual disorders, are well documented.  But that’s the world we live in—you’re driven to do more than feels comfortable.  Tim Kreider wrote, in an article for the New York Times back in 2012 entitled “The ‘Busy’ Trap”, that "perhaps many of us over-schedule ourselves in order to feel more important, or to avoid being alone with our thoughts."

More and more lately, when I ask someone “How are you doing”, the first word that comes out of their mouth is “BUSY.” (Usually preceded by a big, overly dramatic sigh.)  As if to warn me that I shouldn’t ask them to do anything with or for me right now.  They are pre-emptively busy.  Nicely played!

So, what’s wrong with being too busy?  Nothing!  When you’re TOO BUSY everyone lets you slide when you don’t RSVP or come to their birthday party, or if you back out of things at the last moment.  Anyway, they can get someone else to fill in for you as a groomsman, or help them move “some things” in to their storage unit.  As much as you would “like to help”, you’re just slammed!  You’re a busy person!  You’ve got a lot on your plate!!!

Man may not be a rational animal, but he certainly is a RATIONALIZING animal,

MAGICIANS MAKE MAGICAL MEMORIES – LITERALLY! by Bo Gerard

The crazy thing about memory is that, in the end, there is no single “way that something happened”; there is only the “way that you remember what happened!”

Memory is so subjective that two people, standing side by side, witnessing the same thing, can have completely different memories of what they just witnessed.  For those of you who have been married for some time, you probably experience this phenomena on a daily basis. (“I didn’t say I didn’t want to go!  I simply asked If I had to go!”)  Your memory can be affected by your mood, the environment, the time of day, or your level of interest.  To be honest, Memory Foam is more reliable than the human brain.

And when it comes time to recall a memory and re-tell it to others, a plethora of things can affect the content of story.  The teller’s vocabulary, the makeup of the audience, or even how much the teller likes to improve or embellish the story.  In private circles, I am known as the great embellisher.  I am constantly re-writing history to make “true” stories more entertaining.

Magicians have learned to use this quirky quality of how people remember things to their advantage.  For instance, in this close-up card routine that I perform, while the spectator is shuffling the cards just before the big reveal, I recount the actions that have already taken place.  The thing is, I LIE!!!  The lies are subtle, but most definitely not true.  But, it always works.  Everybody remembers the trick exactly the way I described it.  Not only have I manipulated the memory of my audience, but I have also planted a more homogenous memory of the trick in the minds of all who were watching.

And though your audience’s memory of your show is likely to be influenced by a variety of factors, it is also affected by time.  I have had people come up to me at a walk-around gig and regale me with the story of an amazing trick I did for them two years ago, at another function.  They tell of a trick that is not only utterly impossible to do under walk-around conditions, but a trick I have never done anywhere – at all.  I was confused by this at first, but I now believe that they are recalling not what I did, but how I made them feel.  Subjective memory aside, they will always remember how you make them feel.

DEMENTIA AND HOW TO ACHIEVE IT! by Bo Gerard

Being a variety performer is the worst thing you could do, if you are trying to achieve dementia.

First of all, you are ALWAYS LEARNING – new tricks, new routines, new marketing techniques.  Your brain doesn’t get a moments peace.

And performing is a physically challenging endeavor; not to mention set up and strike of our shows and AV.  A working performer has no problem getting REGULAR EXERCISE.

As performers, we have to look our best, and fit into our costumes.  Therefore, a HEALTHY WEIGHT must be maintained, by whatever means possible. (healthy diet, exercise, gastric bypass)

I don’t know a single variety performer who SMOKES.  Try blowing a 260 balloon up after smoking a pack of butts.  And long hours performing, with no opportunity to smoke, is another deterrent.

ALCOHOL impairs verbal and physical skill.  And most clients do not allow performers to belly up to the bar at a gig anyway.  (What you do after the show is your own business.)

Performing is a natural BLOOD PRESSURE regulator.  After performing a few thousand gigs, we seen and done it all.  it takes a lot to get a variety performers blood pressure up.  We are cool under fire.

Being a variety performer is truly an adventure – every day.  And ADVENTURE FIGHTS DEMENTIA!