A Fundamental Secret

“Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that many people enter into a relationship in order to get something: they’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.”

-Anthony Robbins

Dear friends:

Our guest columnist this month is our good friend and the Associate Dean of the Magic & Mystery School, Dr. Larry Hass. I know you’ll enjoy what follows!

Larry Hass 

From Lawrence Hass, Ph.D.
Associate Dean

A Fundamental Secret 

In my early years as a performer, I would focus on these kinds of things before a show:
—Are my props set?
—Are my pockets loaded?
—How full is the House?
—Are my hands and voice warmed up?
—Is the “mic” going to work?
—What can I do about these “butterflies”?

Obviously, they are all important. But somewhere along the line I woke up to the fact that there was something much better to focus on backstage. I realized a deep truth about performing that I want to share with you this month:

The fundamental business of every magic show is relationship building.
I can’t think of a better topic for this February Museletter. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, this is a time when we focus attention on the relationships in our lives. The classic image on the Rider-Smith Two of Cups expresses the spirit of the season: contact, mutual recognition, health (the caduceus), and heart (notice the shapes at the top of the caduceus and between the cups).

These four qualities are essential in our personal relationships, but what I woke up to many years ago was that some version of them are required for our audience relationships. With these qualities in mind, here are the kinds of questions I now ask myself before a show.
Contact: How will I greet the audience? Will I remember to look people in the eyes? Will I include the entire audience with my gaze? Will I smile and convey that I am delighted to be with them? Of course, more dramatic or theatrical openings are often desirable, but in any show (unlike an act) there will be a time and a place for contact. What will be the quality of my contact, whenever it happens?

Mutual Recognition:
Will I really see and engage individuals in the audience or only perceive a wall of faces? Am I trapped in stock lines that feel inauthentic? Will I let others “shine”, or will it all be about me all the time? Do I think of the encounter as a contest or battle of wits, for applause, for control? Will I recognize what this particular audience as a whole is giving me so I can “dial things up or down” as needed?

Is the show I am planning to deliver an enriching one? Will the audience members leave feeling charged, inspired, touched, thoughtful, astonished? Or will they be relatively bored, disaffected, underwhelmed? Would the producer hire me again? Would other people in the audience feel like they want to share me with their family, friends, clients, customers, co-workers, or attendees? As I have learned from Eugene Burger, “Work must make work.” If my shows aren’t generating more shows, there might be something unhealthy going on.

Where is the heart in my show? So much magic and mentalism focuses on intellect: “give me a number,” “think of a card,” “remember the conditions,” “follow the procedure,” “consider this idea.” That’s fine, but laypeople go to art and pay for art because it activates deep feelings and allows for their exploration. So which piece or pieces in my show perform this function? Also, will I have the courage to share my heart as I create and perform, or will I hide it?

In short, what I realized years ago was that there won’t be much of a magic show at all unless I work consciously before the show, and once I take the stage to create and build an excellent relationship with the people who are there. That’s the bedrock condition, the fundamental “business” that allows everything else to flow: applause, astonishment, delight . . . and further performing opportunities!

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