If there is one thing missing from virtually all magicians acts on the planet, it is one simple thing; a theme. We are all aware of theme; we idolize the magicians we do BECAUSE of theme. The biggest stars in magic have a ‘hook’, a theme. They have developed their individual themes so completely that we identify them with their theme.
When I say Criss Angel, you think ‘Mindfreak’. Not only that, but you know exactly what to expect from Mindfreak; crazy outrageous illusions. When I say David Blaine, you think ‘Street Magic’, and you can immediately envision the spontaneous reactions on the street Blaine popularized. Darren Brown, ‘Psychological Illusion’, Penn & Teller, ‘BullSh!t!’, David Copperfield, ‘Grand Illusion’, and the list goes on. Look at any successful and well known performer, and you will see they have a theme; something they are known for.
Many of us secretly dream of achieving such lofty heights as the aforementioned performers, but few of us ever do. Not because there isn’t room at the top, because there is, but rather because we get caught up in the tricks, which are ultimately secondary to the theme. Far too many magicians simply throw their favourite tricks into a routine, and call it an act. A thoughtful few at least attempt to perform similar effects together, but they are similar only because of the items involved (Gypsy Thread to Thread to Saw, for example) Why are you doing what you are doing? What is the point? What is your message; what are you trying to tell your audience?
Having a solid, well defined theme helps you immensely as a performer. It helps you select, and indeed omit, material. There is nothing I hate more than watching a magician do a sponge ball routine, and then ‘get serious’, and proceed to perform a living and dead test. The two routines are so wildly unrelated that it is jarring and disassociating for the audience. It is hard to believe the guy that 5 minutes ago asked the spectator to hold out their ‘clean hand’, and then stuffed a grimy sponge clown nose into their fist, is about to make contact with ‘the other world’. It just doesn’t work.
It helps people describe you, and what you do to others more effectively. If you do a little bit of everything, then people will have a difficult time describing what you do. However, if you can attribute everything you do to a particular idea or concept (psychic powers, cutting edge science, wuffle dust, whatever), it is far easier for you, and your audiences, to describe you and your show to those that haven’t seen you perform.
‘He is psychic.’
‘He does card tricks.’
‘He does illusions based on alien technology.’
Whatever you do, make sure they know it, and can tell other people.
What is your theme? What do you do? How do you think people describe you and your performance? Speak up, speak out. All comments welcome. Let’s discuss.