How To Be An Interesting Performer

The answer is a single line and it’s the final one of this blog.

I wrote earlier this week on Facebook that ‘The only way to be a great magician, is to love something else as much as you love magic. Trying to create a magic routine without watching movies, listening to music, reading books or having life experiences is like trying to bake a cake without ingredients’.

I believe this statement to be wholeheartedly true, but I’d like to expand on it a little bit.
I think that people will enjoy your cake more if they know what the ingredients are and why you chose them.

Before I stretch this metaphor beyond it’s means I’ll transfer to a more relevant analogy. After almost every movie I see, I immediately search it’s wikipedia entry. I want to read about how it was made and who worked on it. I’m into movies in a big way and frequently, I’ll go see movies because they have the same cinematographer as another movie I’ve enjoyed. I’ll also do this with directors and other key contributors to a movie. Most people are familiar with this process but they do it with the actors rather than the people behind the camera. I do that too, but there’s an extra layer waiting for you if you really become a movie geek. The people behind the camera are like the actors you don’t get to see.

Knowing who worked on a movie before I see it informs the way I watch it and subsequently changes the way, and how much I enjoy it. If I know a film maker is famous for certain techniques, I’m likely to spot them by either their inclusion or absence when I see their movies. I question why they used or didn’t use them and I evaluate movies artistically partly based on those decisions.

The point is that intention is everything.

Here’s an example from art.

LDAC-Frame24Min-288°(raster).tif

If you saw the above picture on a wall with the title card underneath reading ‘Eclipse, by Jimmy – Aged 6’, you’d be forgiven for walking by and paying it no thought.
If however, you saw the title card read ‘The Enormity Of The Human Soul, Damien Hirst’, you’d be more likely to stop and think about it for a second.

Why? Well, it’s because six year old Jimmy has no backstory. He has no prior work to draw on and you’re more likely to attribute his artistic endeavour as a whim on the day he was asked to do it. You may or may not be wrong.
With Damien Hirst, there’s a back story. You know he’s likely to have considered the canvas, the type of paint, the texture, which brushes, the name of the piece and many of the other essential elements that go into creating great art. You know that the piece was created with purpose. Intention is everything.

A story can be made infinitely more interesting because of who the story teller is and what they bring to the piece. So, decide who you are and try to communicate that to your audience. Either through your show title, the poster you use, your publicity images, what you wear, your biography in the programme, the way you’re introduced, the stories that you tell on stage or eventually one day, the body of work you hopefully become known for. Most of all, make sure that your view point is worth listening to and informed by lots of external cultural input.

In short, if you want to be an interesting performer, start by being an interesting person.

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