Friends and Family

Dear Friends:

This month, we get to hear from our Dean, Eugene Burger.

It is December, a month of holidays and time spent with friends and families. And it is also a time when we are asked — or wish — to perform some magic for them. I have definite thoughts about these shows. They are not always easy; in fact sometimes they can be very difficult! My essay is drawn from a new book I am presently completing, which I hope will be published in 2017. The current title of the book is, Teaching Magic: Personal Reflections for Students and Teachers.

One of the grim facts of life that students of magic — especially amateur students — must recognize, is that friends and family are usually the most difficult audiences on the planet! There are exceptions, of course. If your friends and family are exceptions to this “rule,” be grateful, because you are truly blessed. For most of us, the reverse is true: while strangers can be easy audiences, friends and family can be the most difficult.

Why is this true? One reason is that friends and family feel they can interrupt us during our performances. Another reason is that sometimes they don’t want us to be the center of attention because they want to be the center of everyone’s attention.

Is there anything that can be done about this? Honestly, I am not sure that there is. At the same time, I have had some success by approaching the problem directly in the following way. After I perform my first effect (as Jeff McBride would say, “Magic First, then talk”) I say…

“You know, we can watch a performance of theatrical magic in one of two ways. The first way is with an analytical frame of mind, trying to figure out how the magic is accomplished. This is the way many people watch a magic show. Another way to experience magic is to watch it through the eyes of a child, a child who appreciates the experience of wonder. If I were given the choice, I would hope that tonight you would experience my magic in the second way, as a child appreciating the wonder in the world. Later, of course, on your way home, you might want to get analytical and try to figure it all out. Then you can be my guest. But for now, let’s relax and enjoy the magic!”

Feel free to use or adapt this little introductory speech for your own performances. Does it always work? Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does work, I find that I am having a more enjoyable time performing for my friends and family.


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