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Bill Guinee

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Reply with quote  #1 

(Warning: Long and Wordy)

One of the things that I learned years ago when I worked doing magic across the bar at the New York Lounge was the importance of teaching spectators how to be an audience for magic. I hold that the most important job for the magician is to somehow (without saying it) convince his audience in the first few seconds that this is entertainment and not a contest, that it is actually enjoyable to be fooled by the magician, and that it being fooled does not cast aspersions on your own intellect. I felt that I had learned to do this well and that it was the most important lesson I had learned as a magician.

Recently, since I have come back to magic, I have not had very many audiences available. I hope to get a gig soon in a restaurant and once again be able to perfect a few tricks before multiple audiences, but in the meantime, I am a true amateur. As I have been working on learning and relearning material, my main test audience has been my wife, Sue.

When I first got back into magic, I loved doing tricks for Sue. She frequently expressed open-mouthed wonder and amazement. When people asked her if she knew how I did the tricks she would tell them that she didn't even want to know. And she was telling the truth. Perhaps with some arrogance, I thought that my presentation skills had something to do with this attitude of hers. After quite a bit of practice, I would try tricks out on Sue to get a sense of where I needed to work more: on timing or script or even the smoothness of sleights before performing before the public. Although I was able to get that kind of feedback, her appreciation also gave me confidence.

In the last month that seems to have all changed. For example, I have been working on a routine including Twisting the Aces followed by Card Warp. It has occurred to me that the theme of cards flipping over in the two tricks works well together. So, I have worked quite hard on both of these effects, including a lot of metronome work on my Elmsley and Hammond counts. Recently, I premiered the Card Warp effect for Sue. Throughout the routine, she was burning my hands. When it was over, her only comment was "hmm, I don't know how you did that." Today I tried out the Twisting effect. During the trick, Sue erroneously announced that I was using 5 cards, and then grabbed them out of my hand and spread them (at a bad moment).

Somehow, I seem to have destroyed her as an audience member. Or perhaps that is arrogance on my part. But, although I am practicing a lot and I think getting better, I am feeling worse and worse about my magic. My test audience seems to be obsessed with figuring out how I am doing the work and not being entertained. I feel like I am no longer doing the most important thing I learned when I was a professional. 

Now I had left magic before I got married, and only recently returned to it, so perhaps this is a common (though seldom discussed) problem. But, I would be interested in any feedback that any of you have for me. I hate to have to give up on performing for my wife, my test audience, but the experience is becoming worse every time.  What have your experiences been?

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Gerald Deutsch

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Reply with quote  #2 

Somehow, I seem to have destroyed her as an audience member. Or perhaps that is arrogance on my part.


Perhaps you should try Perverse Magic which has you as confused as the audience.
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Rudy Tinoco

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Reply with quote  #3 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Guinee

(Warning: Long and Wordy)

One of the things that I learned years ago when I worked doing magic across the bar at the New York Lounge was the importance of teaching spectators how to be an audience for magic. I hold that the most important job for the magician is to somehow (without saying it) convince his audience in the first few seconds that this is entertainment and not a contest, that it is actually enjoyable to be fooled by the magician, and that it being fooled does not cast aspersions on your own intellect. I felt that I had learned to do this well and that it was the most important lesson I had learned as a magician.

Recently, since I have come back to magic, I have not had very many audiences available. I hope to get a gig soon in a restaurant and once again be able to perfect a few tricks before multiple audiences, but in the meantime, I am a true amateur. As I have been working on learning and relearning material, my main test audience has been my wife, Sue.

When I first got back into magic, I loved doing tricks for Sue. She frequently expressed open-mouthed wonder and amazement. When people asked her if she knew how I did the tricks she would tell them that she didn't even want to know. And she was telling the truth. Perhaps with some arrogance, I thought that my presentation skills had something to do with this attitude of hers. After quite a bit of practice, I would try tricks out on Sue to get a sense of where I needed to work more: on timing or script or even the smoothness of sleights before performing before the public. Although I was able to get that kind of feedback, her appreciation also gave me confidence.

In the last month that seems to have all changed. For example, I have been working on a routine including Twisting the Aces followed by Card Warp. It has occurred to me that the theme of cards flipping over in the two tricks works well together. So, I have worked quite hard on both of these effects, including a lot of metronome work on my Elmsley and Hammond counts. Recently, I premiered the Card Warp effect for Sue. Throughout the routine, she was burning my hands. When it was over, her only comment was "hmm, I don't know how you did that." Today I tried out the Twisting effect. During the trick, Sue erroneously announced that I was using 5 cards, and then grabbed them out of my hand and spread them (at a bad moment).

Somehow, I seem to have destroyed her as an audience member. Or perhaps that is arrogance on my part. But, although I am practicing a lot and I think getting better, I am feeling worse and worse about my magic. My test audience seems to be obsessed with figuring out how I am doing the work and not being entertained. I feel like I am no longer doing the most important thing I learned when I was a professional. 

Now I had left magic before I got married, and only recently returned to it, so perhaps this is a common (though seldom discussed) problem. But, I would be interested in any feedback that any of you have for me. I hate to have to give up on performing for my wife, my test audience, but the experience is becoming worse every time.  What have your experiences been?



Hi Bill,

I think that all of us (who are married or have a significant other) have used them as a trusted friend who we can test our new material on. My wife has become an excellent critic/judge/encourager. She gives me honest feed back that I've come to value and trust.

She knows me and can tell when I'm doing a trick or routine that doesn't suit my performing style. I love that!

I believe that your wife can be this for you too. In my opinion, your "problem" can be remedied by some basic communication (a lot of us guys suck at this).

How would she respond if you simply said, "Babe, can we talk about something that's been bugging me? I've really taken an interest in magic again and I'm very excited about it. But I could sure use your help. As I seek to become a better magicians, I need someone who can be an honest and constructive critic. I feel like you used to be that person for me, but lately I've been feeling like it's more of an annoyance to you. Is that true?"

Then you wait to see how she responds. If she says, "It's not an annoyance. I love it when you show me what you're working on."

That would allow you to explain to her how you've been feeling. "Well, when you grab the cards out of my hands, I FEEL (always say "feel' and never say, "you make me feel") like you're overly critical (or whatever it is that you're actually feeling).

Anyway, I'm sorry if I sound like I'm an armchair marriage counselor. It's just that, in my experience, so many of our issues, frustrations, and challenges could be resolved by simply having an honest and heartfelt conversation.

Good luck!

Rudy


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chris w

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Reply with quote  #4 
I was afraid this might happen, so I never married anyone.

(Seriously though, this is a fascinating topic and I'll be interested to see how people have worked this with their spouses and significant others.)
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MagicTK

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Reply with quote  #5 
I purposely do not test or perform magic for my wife.  However, she does see me when I perform for our friends when they come over to the house or occasionally when we are out somewhere.  Recently I had performed some things for a few friends, and later, she said she had never seen those routines before.  So, I know I've done what I set out to do.   She does know about a few of the things that I sell though, mostly because I showed her because they were too cool not to.
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Bill Guinee

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Reply with quote  #6 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rudy Tinoco




Anyway, I'm sorry if I sound like I'm an armchair marriage counselor. It's just that, in my experience, so many of our issues, frustrations, and challenges could be resolved by simply having an honest and heartfelt conversation.


7

Actually, Rudy, you sound like a very good marriage counselor. I appreciate the wisdom that you have brought to my query. Thanks for the help.
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Bill Guinee

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Reply with quote  #7 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MagicTK
I purposely do not test or perform magic for my wife.  However, she does see me when I perform for our friends when they come over to the house or occasionally when we are out somewhere.  Recently I had performed some things for a few friends, and later, she said she had never seen those routines before.  So, I know I've done what I set out to do.   She does know about a few of the things that I sell though, mostly because I showed her because they were too cool not to.


Thanks for this response. It may be a direction that I need to go. I do, at this point, need to be finding others that I can perform for, even though this will take some work given my personal circumstances. Thanks.
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Wayne T

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Reply with quote  #8 
Perhaps an overly simple analysis on my part. You need to improve your role play! [rofl]

Probably by watching you practice she has gained some understanding of the mechanics of the tricks you do (e.g. deceptive counts, gaff/duplicate cards, misdirection etc.) so as you do them and new material for her she feels more compelled to try and "catch you out" and explain the trick rather than watching from an real audience members' perspective.

I wonder if you included her by explaining how your tricks are done and that you need her to critique your performance more from a perspective of patter, flow, style. etc. That way she will not be trying to figure it out and explain it (she will already understand that) but to give you feedback as to how well your overall presentation comes across and if anything needs to be addressed.

Maybe you can even find a trick or 2 that you can include her in so in the right circumstances (she visits the restaurant you are working at or doing something for friends) you pull that out and work as a team.  

Wayne


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Bmat

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Reply with quote  #9 
I really don't use my wife to 'test' stuff out on.  I love my wife very much. I only show her any of my effects once I feel they are at performance level.  And I try very hard not to overload her with magic.  I've seen this over and over again.  Magicians tend to get obsessed and forget there is an entire world out there.  

Something else to think about.  Does your wife have any passions or hobbies?  And how do you react to those.  Do you get involved? Do you compliment her on her 'works in progress'?  Or even just stuff around the house.  It is not fair to ask for feedback and not give any in return.  

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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #10 
Are there any women on this forum that could comment on showing magic to her husband? I'm not trying to make some political point here. I'm really curious as to whether a woman's experience showing tricks to a man is different from the more common - man shows wife magic.

My wife is a magician and so am I. So there's a symmetrical relationship. Most magicians don't have spouses who are magicians.

Mike
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MagickDon

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Reply with quote  #11 
My wife is the first person that I show an effect to, before anyone else. I can always depend on her frank comments. She is an artist and I do the same for her when she asks me for how I like one of her pieces.  
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Bob Farmer

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Reply with quote  #12 
My wife patiently views each trick but I don't prolong the agony. 
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #13 
"Honey - can I show you a new trick??"      "Sure - after you get the dishes done...."

Mike
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Wayne T

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Reply with quote  #14 
Or how about the always popular (and possibly paradigm shifting), "Pull my finger."?
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #15 
I think my wife has ruined me. My wife is a great test audience. She loves magic and willingly encourages my passion to pursue it. I told her once that I hated that she had to see everything in its developmental stages. She said she loved it. She loved both seeing it develop, and then watching me perform it later for others. If she spots a weakness, she lets me know.

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Bill Guinee

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Reply with quote  #16 
Thanks, guys. I really appreciate the honest feedback. You have given me a number of ideas to consider/try out. One thing that I have realized since I wrote the original post, was that I have become overly dependent on my wife for feedback on tricks. I forced myself to go out shakily and perform the same tricks for a number of acquaintences and the tricks just killed. The depression that I had experienced after they did so poorly for Sue immediately lifted. I was able to identify some moments in the tricks that I want to improve and work on. However, I realized that I shouldn't let my evaluations of myself as a magician depend on the reactions of any one person (even my wife) and especially on a few occasions. So, that leaves me more with the issue of how to find audiences for early performances of tricks, but I will search for that in the forums or perhaps post another question. Thanks again for all of your help.
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JustChico

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Reply with quote  #17 

I have a similar situation and also a different perspective.

Similar Situation - We just got back from taking the kids at church to a state youth convention. John Michael Hinton was there (you may have seen him on this season of Fool Us...it's still waiting for me on the ol DVR LOL). He was great. The problem? My wife would look at me and say, "You know how to do that, don't you?" but it was more of a kind of, "You're in 'the club' and I'm not" context. Of course, my answer was always "Yep." Now, I know, I know...it's not good to lie to your wife period...let alone at a youth convention for church. But, I said it jokingly, so, I'm sure God understands. [wink] When we got back home, she brought up his finale (book test with the page inside a sealed FedEx envelope...nice!) and said, "I know how he did that. It was already in there, wasn't it?" Stupid me should have just let her roll with it and went with my stock "Yep" but, no, I had to be stupid and say, "Well, how did he tear the page out of the book after the girl had seen it?" Then she was back to, "Well, crap, I DON'T know how he did it." I feel like I have let her down as a magician AND a husband because I shattered her illusion of "knowing" and also have taken her from enjoying magic to trying to figure it out. She tells me that she has always tried to figure out how magic was done her entire life, so, I don't feel AS bad. But, I still think I need to try and "lead her back" to being a muggle.

As for the different perspective, the Controller at work is up my chain of command. Her brother is also a magician (performer AND shop owner). So, she said that when they were growing up, she always liked it when he would show her tricks. The thing is, she said that she liked trying to figure out how he did them.

 

So, based on both of these situations, I think that there's just something intrinsic to being curious humans in us all that forces us to try and make sense of something that just doesn't match up with reality (whether it's actual reality or our perceived reality). Getting back to my first example, after saying "Yep," about 3 times, I made it a point to say, "Ya know, I really don't know how he did that. But, when I'm watching magic, even though I am kind of always searching for a method, the vast majority of my attention is on enjoying the performance and being entertained."

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luigimar

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Reply with quote  #18 
When my parents were alive, I showed most of my tricks to my Mom because she liked watching magic and she enjoyed it. My dad didn't like being fooled and when I showed him something, at the end he would try to grab the cards or whatever I used to fool him to see what the trick was. I stopped showing him my effects. One of my sisters is like my father so I don't show her a lot of effects either. My wife doesn't care much about magic so I don't show her many tricks either, but when I do show her something, I usually fool her and she smiles and laughs. My children see me practice and when I show them something, about 50% of the time I get caught or at least they have a hint of how I did it... 

So I guess from all the people I just mentioned, my children could be the ones getting "ruined" by my performances. When they see a magician on TV, their first question is "You know how he did it, right?" or something along those lines. Sometimes they have a theory and they tell me about it or they want me to tell them the secret. I usually try to keep them in the dark and not tell them all of the secret. I, throughout the years, have gotten them a magic kit and they have fun with it but with school and all, they don't have much time to practice and perform. I ask them to focus on school and magic comes later. I hope this spring break we can have some fun doing magic...

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JustChico

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Reply with quote  #19 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rudy Tinoco

Anyway, I'm sorry if I sound like I'm an armchair marriage counselor. It's just that, in my experience, so many of our issues, frustrations, and challenges could be resolved by simply having an honest and heartfelt conversation.



Isn't marriage counselor all part of the pastor gig? If anything, you should have plenty of credibility in that department
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