Act Development

I’ve been doing magic for a long time.

I started when at the age of eight my parents gave me a magic kit for Christmas.

I did my first paid gig, a birthday party, at the age of fourteen.

I’ve been a mentalist for twenty years and I am still developing my act.

I suspect I will be developing my act after I die, and people forget to tell me I’m dead.

I often envy those who were born in the vaudeville era simply because they had the opportunity to perform their act in front of a large paying audience not once but often several times a day.

It should come as no surprise that some of the best performers in history came out of vaudeville, Chaplin, Keaton, Stan and Ollie, not to mention Cardini, Houdini, Thurston, and Blackstone. They all started in vaudeville working two or three shows a day, moving from town to town, city to city, state to state.

If performing is in your soul, if it was what you were born to do, then the vaudeville circuit wasn’t work, it was opportunity the likes of which has never been seen before or since.

I wish I was performing three shows a day every day because I know how much impact that much stage time would have on my act and my act is everything.   

Act development requires time, attention, and practice.

It is a process of learning who you are as a person and as a performer and what parts of your stage persona are appealing to an audience and what parts aren’t.

Act development is the marriage of your dreams and hopes for our act and the dreams and hopes of your audience.

Without audience feedback there is no act.

I have been developing single routines as a small part of my act, for many years.

When I do perform, I try always to video record my performances.

As soon as possible after the show, I watch the video.

I take careful notes about audience reactions and my own observations.

Did something not work as I had imagined it would?

Was I surprised by an audience reaction or a serendipitous moment in the show?

What could I do to improve this or that?

Why didn’t the audience respond in this moment?

Just as it takes weeks often months to build a house, just as it takes years for a tree to grow, so it takes time to develop an act but not time alone in rehearsal.

Rehearsal is essential but rehearsal offers no feedback.

Rehearsal helps with blocking and line memorization, with transitions and staging, but it doesn’t give you the most important thing of all: audience response.

What is really needed for act development is performance time in front of real audiences that react authentically to your show.

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is.

In fact, it is the hardest work that I do, and I am a very hard-working person.

But it is my life’s work.

I create my act and in the process my act creates me.

Much love,