"My Kingdom for a Card Trick" - Magic and Theater / by Bo Gerard

Magic is theater – whether you know it or not.  Whether you like it or not.  Whether you care or not!

At some point in history magicians took a wrong turn and got separated from theater.  150 years ago magic shows were theatrical shows; employing all of the training, craft and techniques that theater made such good use of;  such as story, lighting, use of the stage space, pacing, scripting, etc.  Both magic shows and dramatic works used the same theatrical devices and conventions.  Spoiler Alert:  magicians are not really magicians; they are actors playing the part of magicians. (Sorry performers who claim to have real powers.) 

So, since you are an actor it is your duty to develop the skills necessaryto help make you “stageworthy”, and not just the skills required for the tricks themselves.  The physical, vocal, and mental training an actor undertakes enables him to develop characters, storyline, staging, and a theatrical point of view.  (At this point some of you are probably thinking “this guy is crazy”.  Well I am, but I get paid good money to be.)  Training for the stage makes you strong, centered, and sensitive.  It develops your ability to interact with others, and it teaches you how to interpret the written word.  That’s right, you need to script your show, and constantly work on improving it, based on audience reaction - like a comedian, or a playwright, or a TV pitchman.

Nowadays, a young person’s first exposure to magic and other variety arts is not in a brick and mortar theater, but on the street – or more correctly a video of someone performing on the street, in front of a brick and mortar theater.  Young people naturally want to emulate these performances, because of the incredible (staged) reactions they see the performers getting from their “audiences”.  So the young magic enthusiast mimics the trick, without a clue as to what it takes to perform that trick in front of a “real” audience, e.g., live people, sitting in chairs, in the dark, facing you and expecting you to know what you are doing.   The jump from the informal “want to see a trick?” situation to performing magic on the stage is one heck of a Michael Jordan kind of jump!

Training for the stage is good for everyone and anyone, regardless of whether they intend to perform for a living or not.  What’s wrong with being stronger, more centered, more aware of your body, and more sensitive to others?  But, if you have the “itch” to perform “professionally”, I would highly recommend that you seek out some theatrical training.  Find where you can get some training in your area and dive in.  Say yes to everything: acting, building sets and props, or working backstage.  It will do you and your magic a world of good!