The Magic of Magic 2012

Melbourne Magic Festival 2012

The Magic of Magic 2012

Click image to buy tickets to The Magic of Magic 2012

Melbourne Magic 2012 Festival starts in July. This show, The Magic of Magic will be performed daily for 6 days. great for the whole family.

I’ve now given out 5,000 post cards promoting this show, so if you want tickets better get in quick!

 

What do you do for a living?

I often stick around after a magic show and chat with the hosts and guests. The most frequently asked question is: “How long have you been doing magic for?”

While it is tempting to give the smart alec answer “10 years. -Since I was 2!” I don’t (always).

I get to hear lots of old stories about magic/or balloons.

The other question I get asked a lot is “So, what is your real job?”

Well, surprise, surprise, magic is my real job.

That doesn’t mean I don’t dabble in a few other earners, like my diamond review website and the occasional ebay listing.

I also help my wife with some aspects of her doula service business.

But magic is my main job.

If you choose magic as your job you have to make a choice on how you are going to define your market, how you are going to reach them, and how you are going to handle out of the ordinary requests. I’ve been approached with the occasional proposal which I have learned is best to turn down. These usually involve dressing in a bizzarre costume or rewriting my show to instert a theme (without appropriate compensation).

On the overall I found the best advice given to me by other pro’s was to stick to a niche market. It is a little difficult to stick to and I will sometimes allow myself to go outside of my comfort zone, however, by now I know what I am good at and don’t try to take on too many projects that eat up heaps of time and leave me with little.

So I am sticking to birthday parties, barmitzvahs, christenings, corporate functions, trade shows, weddings, in-store promotions, schools, festivals and fetes. Still, I sometimes accept hen’s nights, huck’s nights, and other miscellaneous events.

Tom Stevens performing magic at wedding dinner

Wedding Entertainment – Close up Magic

Tom Stevens performing magic at wedding dinner

 

This gig was at the botanical gardens in Cranbourne. I thought I would get there 30 minutes early as usual so I could get a feel of the layout, audience and find the best place to set up.

 

The host had sent detailed directions to everyone so they’d know exactly how to get there, however I looked up the address myself which this time proved to be a mistake. I went to 1000 Ballarto rd Cranbourne, which is the listed address of the botanical gardens, however the entrance for the function centre is on the other side of the park, perhaps a 20 minute drive!

That extra half hour I tought I had shrunk very quickly to only 5 minutes. When I strolled into the function centre I greeted the groom, and he asked me the usual question if it was easy to find the place. Not wanting to trouble him with extraneous details I cheerily thanked him for the excellent directions. He said he’d just copied and pasted it from the function centre’s website. I stayed an extra 40 minutes, I think out of guilt that I wasn’t as early as I had meant to be.

 

Tom Stevens performing a card trick at Micham Magic

It’s a wrap

Wrapping up the year with a magic show at Mitcham Magic.

Line up included Tom Stevens, Kamal Bushan, Glenn “The Magicman” Hamilton, Alex DelaRambelje, Nick Morton.

 

Tom Stevens performing a card trick at Micham Magic

Tom Stevens performing at Micham Magic

Playing guitar

Guitar playing is something I find very enjoyable and particularly like the fact that guitar music can communicate a sense of easy going gentility which I belive is an essential quality for coping with the stresses of our modern life style.

This piece I composed, “Imagination” is easy going Jazz/Rock fusion with a funky beat.

This is me performing at the Variety Collective, 313 Sydney Road, Brunswick (Brunswick Green)

A Magic Show about Road Safety

Themed magic shows can be challenging to construct. The props you have available either on hand or which are available for purchase have to be combined within the theme without ending up being used in an unwieldy context. In short, it has to be entertaining.

I was very fortunate to be able to benefit from the experience of top notch kids entertainer Chris McMillan who has been performing the Road Safety Magic Show for 13 years, and has perfected all the routines to bring out some excellent learning points which VicRoads encourages all day care and kindergartens to provide.

Chris has now retired from full time performing and has handed over the Road Safety Magic Show to me.

I have now performed the Road Safety Magic Show several times and am very pleased with the results. Initially I was concerned that I would run through the material too fast and not fill the entire, so I added a trick which has me using a big tricycle, and a balloon to teach the children about a very important lesson in road safety: Always walking or standing where drivers can see you. I asked for some feedback from the care-givers who have seen my show, and specifically about my addition. They were very impressed with how clear it was and how I approached a potentially frightening subject with care, caution and sensitivity, with the emphasis on the positive things children are to do. From my experience I know that for good results we don’t yell at kids to “STOP RUNNING” but rather encourage them to “WALK, WALK, WALK” if we really want them to cooperate with an imperative.

I am extremely pleased that I am able to contribute to the early education of children with this topic. A friend of ours had a horrible loss in a school car park (before we knew them). When  hearing about it I could only imagine the nightmarish horror that experience would have been.

This is a crucial topic that is so important in early education. The challenge I suppose is that it has to be presented delicately so as not to instill fear, but rather educate the children to be aware, and have the confidence to do the things that keep them safe.

Click here to book the Road Safety Magic Show

Adaptability, Integrity, and Reliability

I received an email from a young magician looking to be my apprentice.

from his email:

I am contacting you as an aspiring sleight of hand artist/stand up comic. 

My enquiry is to ask if you have worked with an apprentice in the past or if you have an option to do so?
Regards, -------

My reply included the following:

Dear —–,  If you are interested in learning how to be a magician as a trade I can give you the opportunity to learn about all that is involved.
a 40 to 80 hour working week involves 25% gigs, 70% marketing and business, and 5% skill building/creativity. “

Thank you for your prompt reply. As it has only been a hobby rather than a vocation, I can admit that I  only put in the 10-15 hours a week on average but most of that is  research and perfecting tricks.

I gotta say, 10 to 15 hours a week is an excellent amount of time to use for research and perfecting tricks. It’s an important part of being a magician, though it is only part of the skill-set needed if it is to be pursued far enough to become professional and worth hiring.

As I was driving my kids to school this morning I asked them if they could list three things that should be on the top of the list if you are going to be a professional magician.

I ended up being the one to come up with the list, since the afore mentioned email exchange had got me thinking about what is crucial in this business.

A I R . I made this into a little acronym to help my kids remember it. I now think of Mike Myers in the Love Guru when I come up with acronyms.

Adaptability, Integrity, and Reliability

I initially had it in a different order, but it didn’t quite fit my lofty ideals ( I R A )

Adaptability. As an entertainer there will inevitably be requests from potential clients to perform for an audience which you may not have imagined you would be performing for. If you are adaptable, you will be sensitive to the need of the client and work out the best way to fulfill the need. However this has to be balanced with integrity.

Integrity comes into play when you see that you have limitations and do not over-promise, and say you can do something you can not do. This can be difficult when you really are desperate for work, however, you will only besmirch your reputation by not delivering the goods after promising that you can do it.

Reliability comes into focus here as both integrity and adaptability will be enhanced by your reliability. Being on time, always is so vital to your own attitude toward your own work. Arriving late at a gig makes you drop several stars on the clients rating of your performance, without even seeing anything you do. This is not the same as when someone has low expectations and then they are pleasantly surprised by what they see. It’s more a case of them seeing you as incapable to start out with and everything you do after that is just lucky.

I was very impressed that after my little dissertation in the car, on the way to school this morning, my  8 year old daughter remembered what the three things were.

A I R

Fighting Stage Fright

As I was finishing packing up after a performance last week I was asked by one of the newer members of the Australian Institute of Magic whether I get nervous before starting a performance.

I told him I don’t.

He looked a little surprised by my answer. I talked a bit about what works for me. I’ve actually only learnt some of these excellent and effective techniques in the past year.

I know that panic attacks are dreadful and I used to get them. Often the only thing that saved me from being totally overcome with stage fright before a show was that I was too busy being concerned that everything was in place and all my props were ready so I would forget about how nervous I was.

I stumbled on a method of allowing fear to subside which didn’t mention stage fright specifically, but it works.

The exact same technique can be applied to pretty much anything that’s related to the emotions or causes panic, dread, fear, insomnia, worry, and other emotional stress.

In my case when I suffered panic it was often brought on by thinking about overdue bills. I would get intense feelings in my chest and throat area. The worst was when I would start worrying before going to bed.

Panic can be so debilitating, and it gave me a lot of restless nights. I didn’t like admitting I had insomnia because I always thought insomnia was ridiculous. I mean c’mon. Insomnia! Just sleep it off. You’ll get better. It’s not so simple when it’s happening.

I remember just two years ago always being tired, and that affected every area of my life and work. I tried hard not to let it show, so I may have gotten away with it somewhat.

I am so glad I no longer have those panic attacks as I have found a way to deal with that horrible dread. I can now recognise the early stages of panic and immediately put myself into the right frame of mind. It seems to be something I can do automatically now.

I came across different courses that take you through a step by step process showing you how to bring those kind of emotions under control.

Though some authors make big claims, such as the course showing the way to achieving abundance, and reaching your life’s dreams and goals and such, I targeted my expectations to the area of dealing with panic and stress. The results have been very good. If I also achieve the other claims then that’s a bonus on top of my expectations.

I’ve used three such courses and I can say that I like them all. There is a free on too which I haven’t tried. And that is the Dhamma.org 10 day meditation retreat. The courses I can tell you about can be gone through with a set of CD’s and maybe an accompanying workbook, or as one course calls it, a Playbook, which is cute. You’ll be surprised how placing a positive spin on everything in your life can start making everything easier to deal with.

Even though I thought I had already heard a lot of the best advice available on dealing with worry, I was still curious enough to see if maybe someone had a novel approach.

Stumbling on these various courses was a result of a little exploring and willingness to discover something new.

What got me interested initially was pure and simple curiosity. I wanted to know what formulas people have come up with for dealing with life’s challenges. And it didn’t hurt that some of them claimed to open up your life to abundance. But I am going to recommend these courses as an excellent tool for learning how to deal with stress and that includes stage fright.

As I was taking a walk in the park today with my wife we were talking about how the fear of embarrassment can be greater than the fear of death, and yet we know that the latter is inevitable. It kind of seems illogical that fear of failure often rates so much higher. But emotions are not logical. The intense feelings of dread can be so difficult to deal with. I have been so pleased to find out that those feelings can be changed. They can be under our control. And this is the best thing I got out of the following courses.

I guess when fear of failure and fear of death are compared like that we can see that perhaps being willing to spend a little effort on dealing with the fear of failure makes sense.

These may seem like more than adequate for dealing with a seemingly abstract issue like stage fright.

I believe they are extremely effective for the sole reason that they are not dealing directly with stage fright.

Yes you read that right. And this is why: by going through any of the following courses you gain a skill for life: understanding and managing emotions. And by not focusing on stage fright you can slowly let stage fright ease its way to the periphery, that is the edge of your awareness, and drop out of your experience.

The Courses

the following two are based on the work of physicist Lester Levinson.

The Sedona Method

Don’t ask me why it’s called the Sedona Method, but it’s a memorable name. So, points for good branding.

I applied the processes set out in this CD set to tackling challenges and big hurdles that were in the way, with good results. Because this CD set is quite extensive I also benefited in other areas such as anger management, time management, and general contentment. These aren’t even the main things featured on the advertisement for the Sedona Method. I’m sure everyone differs a little in how they benefit from something. This one is made by Hale Dwoskin who was one of Lester Levinson’s students. He does a fantastic job of wording the course in a way that gives you confidence in how easy and do-able it is.

The Release Technique

This course really struck a chord with me. I like Larry Crane’s down to earth approach. He just jumps right into the exercises without too much explaining, which worked for me. At first I was getting a little annoyed at hearing the same 30 seconds of musical intro on every half hour section. The course is about how to deal with stuff that annoys you, and soon I found that it didn’t annoy me anymore, and if I was fast-forwarding the music, it was no longer done out of frustration but because I was eager to get to the content. Larry Crane’s personal story is also quite interesting and how he ended up continuing the work of Lester Levinson and making The Release Technique available to the world.

Houdini

The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero
The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero
My favourite quote: (paraphrased from memory) “If anyone wishes to take up what I do let him begin by bending over backwards and picking up a pin with his teeth. That was my first trick. — Harry Houdini”

It is a shame that this book wasn’t read by the makers of the last Houdini movie “Death Defying Acts”. I was the secretary of the Australian Society of Magicians when “Death Defying Acts” was in production and received a call from the movie’s research team to see if I would act as their consultant. I declined because I knew I didn’t have enough knowledge about Houdini at the time. I referred them to another magician who has been in the business many many years, but I don’t think they got very far in setting up a meeting. Either way I find it strange that the makers of a movie would not try a little harder to get their facts straight. That kind of research should have been a lot earlier in the game.

The book The Secret Life of Houdini (pub. 2006) is one of the best researched books on Houdini, if not the best. The authors scanned and converted to searchable text all the available news articles, and they were also able to get their hands on Houdini’s personal letters of which there were thousands and thousands. This book is so well researched and the authors’ Larry Ratso Sloman and William Kalush detective work in piecing together the story of Houdini’s projects and motives make for a very satisfying read. But it is not surprising to hear that this book has raised controversy. To me, this is the mark of courage on the part of the authors, who wrote it all down in spite of the possibility of having some people disagree. I find their conclusions very logical and the whole book an absolute masterpiece.

Houdini’s life, though cut short at the age of 52, was truly a life filled with adventure and drama.

I suspect if Houdini’s life was made into an accurate biographical movie it would include too many events that would end up being dismissed by viewers as fictitious, ridiculous, not possible to have happened, not in one person’s lifetime.

This book is a must read for every magician.

Get it now with Free Shipping from Fishpond.com: The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero

click here to get tickets to Tip Top Tom's show SIMPLY MAGIC

MMF Quiz Answers

These are the answers to the quiz questions printed on the “Simply Magic” promotional marketing card.

  1. TRUE: Tom’s rabbit’s name is “Trixie”. Some people may remember “Twinkles” from a few years ago, but the bunny he has now is named “Trixie”.
  2. TRUE: Tom has made over 85,000 balloon animals in the last 10 years. Several years ago Tom was promoting his balloon twisting skills widely and was working up to 30 hours a week making balloon animals at a variety of places: birthdays, store openings, product launches, etc. He clocked up over 7000 hours of balloon twisting since 2001. Some shapes can be made in less than half a minute, and Tom rarely it take more than 4 minutes to create a balloon sculpture. The maximum amount of balloon animals Tom has made in one hour is 160, but on average Tom makes 50 balloons per hour. Using this estimate Tom has made closer to 350,000 balloons over the last 10 years.
  3. TRUE: Tom speaks English, French, some Italian, some Romanian, some German, and a few words of Russian. English was spoken at home as a child, while living in France, Italy and Germany. Tom did 2 years of volunteer work in Romania 1991 to 1993 and learned to speak Romanian during that time. He also spent 1996 in Ukraine, also as a volunteer worker, where he picked up some Russian which was still widely used there at the time, though Ukrainian was regaining a foothold.
  4. TRUE: Tom’s grandfather was a magician in Chicago. Richard James Stevens or “Jim” as he was known was very good at card tricks other magic tricks. He’d been into magic since his childhood, though never made it his profession (he was a lawyer).
  5. TRUE: Tom was born in Germany. Yes, West Germany, as it was known then. He’s not fluent in German, but still speaks a little and can put on a convincing German accent.
  6. TRUE: Tom spent 5 years of his childhood in France. Briefly in 1980, then 1981 to 1985. And again briefly in 1986.
  7. TRUE: Tom spent 8 months learning and working on a trick The Cups and Balls which became his favourite trick, and for which he won an award in 2007. This was the August 2007 “Magic to Music” competition at the Australian Society of Magicians.
  8. TRUE: Tom has performed his magic show at over 1000 parties. As of April 2011 it was over 1,200 magic shows.

click here to get tickets to Tip Top Tom's show SIMPLY MAGIC