Selecting Magic to Perform

Know well what leads you forward and what hold you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.
— The Buddha

Dear friends:
As I write today, Jeff McBride is mid-tour on a trip that took him to Kalamazoo, MI, Edmonton, Alberta, and Indianapolis. Next, he will fly to Perm, Russia, for what I believe is the first-ever magic convention there.

Jeff McBride in Perm, Russia

For this tour, Jeff tells me he is traveling with just two bags (checked luggage), performing four shows while on the road – 3 different versions of the show, and playing theaters ranging from under 100 seats to over 2,500, and lecturing three times. If you’ve ever tried packing a magic show that is going to run longer than 30 minutes (and you’re not a mentalist), you’ll know that just the ability to pack for a trip like this is real magic. This is something Jeff covers in his lectures, both on the road and at the Magic & Mystery School in Las Vegas, and may be one of the most valuable lessons any professional performer can learn.
Today we are blessed to have as our guest writer (well, he’s not really a guest…he is Dean of the Magic & Mystery School), the one and only Eugene Burger. Eugene is not only, for my money, the world’s best close-up entertainer in magic – he is also among the top lecturers and teachers. Our definition of true wisdom at the Magic & Mystery School is, “open your mind and listen to what Eugene has to say.” And so…open your mind, and read what he has written!


Eugene BurgerJUNE, 2011
Eugene Burger
A few years ago, purely as a personal experiment, I asked myself the following question: In order for a particular piece of magic to make it into my performing repertoire are there any criteria that must be met? What features must this particular piece of magic have – or not have – for it to be something that I would like to perform?
As I thought about it, several criteria did appear. I have noted eight criteria that must be met before I begin performing something professionally. Two years ago I shared these criteria with the teens at the Lance Burton Teen Weekend of the World Magic Seminar. And now I shall share them with you.
The first criteria that must be met before I add a piece of magic to my repertoire is that the magic effect must call to me. It must be a piece of magic that connects with me on some level so that I want to perform it. When I am performing material that gives me joy to perform, the audience “catches” my enthusiasm – just as they might catch chicken pox or any childhood disease. Enthusiasm communicates from the performer to the audience. The great 20th century master of this was certainly Doug Henning. I think that whether a piece of magic calls to me is the most important of the criteria because, if it does not call to me, there is no reason to add it to my repertoire.
The second criteria asks whether this piece of magic fits in my pockets. When I perform at a corporate party, I do not carry my little box; instead, I work completely out of my pockets. So, if this piece of magic I am considering, does not fit in my pockets, it does not make it into my repertoire.
The third criteria asks whether the effect under consideration requires any reset. The truth is that I have enough magic in my present repertoire that requires reset and I really do not need any more.
Fourth, to perform this effect do a need a table. Again, I have enough material that does require a table and I would rather not be burdened with more.
The fifth criterion asks if the plot of the effect is simple. There is so much magic that isn’t simple to follow and, as Vernon always said, magic is not confusion. I personally want simple, easy to follow and memorable plots.
Sixth, is the action of this effect up by my face? If I have any hope of appearing on television this is where the action is best. I am selling myself not my belt! I want myself – that is, my face — in the action. It’s simply better theater.
Seventh, if I add this piece of magic to my repertoire will I need to check luggage on flights? I am now in the enviable situation where I can go to Europe for a month, often with material to sell, without needing to check luggage. Frankly, I would rather not trust my magic props (or clothes for that matter!) with the airlines. And there is nothing better than getting off an airplane and, without stopping and waiting for luggage, to go directly to a taxi.
Eighth and finally, how many people can be in the audience for this effect? The fact is that I want a balance in my repertoire. I want material that is intimate and best performable for two or three people; but I also want material that I can perform for a thousand people. Before any effect enters my repertoire, I asks myself how many people can be in the audience.
These, then, are the criteria that I use when selecting material for my own repertoire. I am offering them for your reflection. I am certainly not suggesting that these criteria are perfect for you. No, on the contrary, they are but signposts on a path – the path to better magic.
Have you ever asked yourself how you go about adding material to your repertoire? If you do ask this question – if you ask it honestly – you might be surprised at the answer.

Thank you, Eugene!
Before we leave you today, an update on upcoming classes seems to be in order. Both the July and August classes are nearly full, with only one or two more spots available. Sign up and get your deposits in quickly if you want to attend either one of these – they are our last Extended Classes until next year, and there’s no better way I know of to immediately raise the level of your magic. The remaining classes of the year – Sisters of Mystery, Focus on Street Magic, Master Class for Mentalism and Magic & Meaning are all currently about half filled, and we expect them to completely fill at least a month or so before they are scheduled…so again…get your registrations in early.
Oh…and I should also mention that at the end of the month, you can catch Jeff performing and teaching both at Fantasma’s “Magic on Manhattan,” honoring John Calvert, and at the I.B.M. “Legends of Magic” annual convention in Dallas. They are both star-studded and promise to be fantastic events. If you’re attending either, be sure and say hello to Jeff!
Best wishes.
Tobias Beckwith


Comments are closed.