Material Selection For Virtual Shows
By Joshua Jay - Saturday, February 20, 2021
The most exciting part of performing virtually for me is that we’re tiptoeing into new territory. For once, no magician can actually claim to be an undisputed expert in the field, because the “field” is about nine months old. We’re all figuring this out on the fly.
In many ways that’s liberating, to me anyway. I don’t feel as much pressure to fulfill a particular expectation because I don’t believe most audiences have an expectation for what a magic show is supposed to be like online.
Everyone’s first instinct, it seems, is the obvious one: to engage every spectator in every trick. I think anyone’s first realization is to make use of the glaring opportunity to do magic that starts on our side of the screen but ends on each spectator’s side. Doing magic in a spectator’s hands, remotely, just seems like the only play.
I’m not convinced. I’m sure it’s partially just my own personal tastes, but I’m pretty bored by procedural magic. And even when the viewers don’t know exactly how they ended up dealing to the same card or pointing to the same finger on their hand, I observe that they sense it’s mathematical. That is, they may not know how it’s done, but they know an automatic method is plausible.
There will always be a certain segment of an audience who adores this follow-along sort of magic, and these people may be endlessly engaged by tricks of this nature. I’m just not one of those people, and so I find this sort of magic hard to relate to.
Instead, I’ve gone a different route. I’ve decided to look at virtual magic shows as a way to dig deeper, and get extra personal in the shows. I look at this as a chance for an audience to peer into a magician’s physical home life, and thus get a sense of their creative home-life. It’s not obvious to laypeople what magicians do when they’re doing magic. Do we create our own material? How do we rehearse? Where do we practice? How do we practice? And this can lead to other personal topics, like who our favorite magicians are, or what happens when a magic trick goes wrong. These questions feel largely out of place to me on a public stage, but they feel quite natural when I’m seated in my home, surrounded by my possessions, doing some of my favorite tricks.
A valid criticism of someone watching How Magicians Think, my virtual program, would be that I don’t harness the full potential of using spectators in interactive tricks. But where my show lacks those sorts of follow-along procedural moments, it has a healthy amount of real, in-the-moment conversation between the viewers and me. And I find that this helps us achieve something together that we all strive for in live shows: authenticity.
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