Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Case for Competition, Part 2

Another type of competition that I think is very useful for growth as a magician is through magic contests.  In these contests, you create an act or routine that fits the criteria of the contest then enter the competition with the hopes of winning the approval of a panel of judges.  This is an excellent process.  If you choose to enter a competition you know that you will be up in front of your peers.  That alone is a very compelling reason to enter.  More than likely you will work hard to represent yourself well.  You will also have a deadline.  Having a hard deadline that cannot be changed is also an excellent way to push yourself to produce.  The best thing that most magicians can gain from this type of competition is not a first, second or third place.  Oh no.  The best thing that most magicians can gain from competing in a magic contest is the growth that comes with setting a deadline, working hard on your material and then getting useful feedback that you can apply to your act or routine.  Again, it really is an act of growth.  I have seen numerous decent magicians turn into really good magicians through the process of competing in magic contests.  That is what we as magicians and entertainers should strive for in our magic.  We should strive to grow as creators and performers.  
When I was actively competing I was forced to use all of my creativity, my routining and my performing skills in order to have a shot at my end goal, which was to win.   What I gained in the process of competing was so much more valuable than winning a place or a prize.  I forced myself out of my comfort zone.  I forced myself to take chances on my magic.  As I got feedback from different judges and other magicians who offered up their thoughts I got some fantastic ideas that I wouldn’t have come up with by myself.  My act evolved and so did I.  The act of competing helped me grow as a magician.
Finally, we should compete against ourselves.  I have the tendency to hold myself up to some relatively high standards.  That can be both really great and very difficult at the same time.  I used to hate watching video of myself.  Now, I know that a lot of people hate watching video of themselves too, but my reason for not enjoying watching myself was because I felt like I was watching someone that could be so much better. 
There were times when I watched video of myself that I felt embarrassed by what I saw.  I knew I was so much better than what I was seeing on that TV screen.  Seeing what I saw, and feeling the way I felt about what I saw forced me to continue pushing myself to grow as an entertainer.  Over time and through constant work I was able to get to a point where I am now proud to watch the performer that I have become.  Sometimes, I actually think I’m pretty good.
The truth of the matter is that in today’s magic world, many times, the act of creating or selecting material, routining and performing is an act that is done by the same person…you.  Consider pushing your limits through friendly competition with your peers and with yourself.  I think you’ll find yourself a better magician because of it!
Until next time...Make An Impact!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Case for Competition, Part 1

I want to explore the idea of competition in order to foster growth as a magician.  While I do fully expect to explore magic competitions as part of this discussion, that wasn’t my initial intent.  My initial thought was that magicians have no competition.  Stick with me for a minute while I explain myself.  I realized that when I was acting and studying acting full time as a student that I was constantly being challenged by other actors.  I was certainly challenged by my own interest in growth but, and maybe more importantly, I was being challenged by and was competing with every other actor who was interested in being cast for the same roles that I wanted.  I knew that every time I auditioned for a role, I was competing for that role with other actors who were just as good, if not better than I was.  Because I was in competition with other actors who also were well trained and wanted the role just as badly as I did, I learned how to fail.  And as I failed in obtaining every role I wanted, it spurred me on to continue seeking out training, workshops, and classes to help me grow.  That is a very difficult, yet wonderful process.  It’s a process that allows driven actors to continue working to become the best they can possibly be.
Magicians don’t have a process like this.  Let’s not complicate things here.  The reality is, that becoming a magician is really as simple as learning a few tricks.  Consider this…once you know a few tricks and share them with your friends and family they will start looking at you as a magician whether you want them to or not.  The bar is not set very high.  The last time I checked, you didn’t have to audition against other would be magicians for the role of a magician.  Once you learn the tricks…you’re in.  That’s both a good thing and a bad thing.  For those of us out there that want to be thought of as someone with special knowledge and skills, but don’t really want to make a living at it, it’s great that you can learn a few things and share them with family and friends.  However, for those of us that have aspirations to become a paid amateur, a part-time or a full-time performer, perhaps we should think twice before we buy a few tricks at the magic shop and go out and perform them without any thought.
As I think about the auditioning process that actors go through, it makes me wish that there was something that would force each and every one of us to hold ourselves to a higher standard.  It was this thought that made me think of the times when I have worked hand in hand with other like-minded performers.   For several years, I performed in shows with friends who were also very fine entertainers.  Knowing that I would be sharing the bill with these other performers forced me to hold myself to a very high standard.  I didn’t want to go onstage after someone who had just had a great set and bring the show energy down.  Likewise, I didn’t want to have someone go onstage after me and completely overshadow what I had just done.  I knew that the other performers would do their very best to be excellent and I wanted to be excellent as well.  It was this type of friendly competition that really forced me to up my game.
To be continued...

Until next time...Make An Impact!