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Yes, Virginia… magic and wonder do exist
by Brian Richards
When you are about to start a children’s performance, what goes through your head? As you look into that sea of tiny little faces, what is your focus? Do you seek out the troublemakers, like the kid in the STARTER jacket, who always says, “I’ve seen that trick before.” Or the older girl in the back who can’t wait to say, “I know how you did that!” Oh, and don’t forget that tiny tot in the front row, sure to say, “You’re not really a magician.” Or maybe your focus is on the future, after you have tucked your paycheck safely in your pocket.
This chapter is about…FOCUS! Specifically, your focus when performing magic for children. If your focus is along the lines of the above paragraph, I hope to shift your focus significantly. Let’s take a moment to reflect on focus throughout 3 crucial periods within the creative process. Namely, before the show, during the show and after the show.
Before the show
Unfortunately, prior to the show we have to deal with an overwhelming bias in the magic community, one that I am not proud of. The bias is this, a children’s performance isn’t the “big time”. Magicians who work for children are on a lower level than magicians who work for adults. Too often a childrens’ performance is viewed as a necessary evil to pay the bills. I don’t agree with this attitude at all. It is time to shift our focus and acknowledge the joy and responsibility in entertaining children. Before the show, focus on this… think back to when you were a child and what it felt like the first time you experienced the wonder and delight of a magical performance. Focus on the fact that you have taken on the enormous task of instilling this wonder and delight into the heart of each child in your audience. If you truly accept this as your focus, the phrase, “It’s just a kid’s show” becomes misleading and downright ridiculous. It takes a lot of work, time and commitment to touch children with a true sense of wonder. It would be truly arrogant, indeed, to suggest that it’s any less important than that trade show coming up for IBM.
During the show
Focus on the audience, look into the eyes of the children you are entertaining. Play with the children, be outrageous, be silly but most of all focus on having fun. Too often, a performer’s focus is on the negative comments a child makes, or the performing conditions that may be less than desirable. I have even heard some performers utter that they are above the performance. I doubt anyone with this attitude can focus on pushing the wonder buttons of a child. The secret of focus during any show, whether it be children or adults, is a sincere love of what you are doing. I’m not condemning those who don’t enjoy performing for children; I’m simply saying, don’t do these shows if you don’t enjoy them. Children are not stupid, they can detect when a performer values the money over them.
After the show
Your focus should be on having shared a very, very special gift! This focus should inject a quality of importance in what you have done. A well thought out and rehearsed magical performance is more than creating a sense of wonder, it is actually instilling a belief that anything, ANYTHING is possible! I truly hope that if you view entertaining children as a “necessary evil”, you will start appreciating the look of wonder in the eyes of your audience. If you don’t take this responsibility seriously you will sap some of the wonder from those bright young eyes. Loss of wonder to a child, is loss of hope for all of us.
Yes, Virginia… magic and wonder do exist as long as there are magicians who care.