By Scott Wells
Have you ever approached someone to entertain him or her with magic only to be told that they were not interested in seeing your tricks? Is it your style, your manner of approaching them, your timing, your appearance, or perhaps the unwilling volunteer him/herself? It could be any of these things or a combination of them. It could even be something unrelated to you that is beyond your control.
You can control several of these things; however, some factors are controlled by the emotions and previous experiences of the spectators. For example, they may have religious reasons for not wanting to watch you. They may be engaged in a deep personal or business conversation. Perhaps the unwilling spectator is having a bad day and just wants to be left alone. Or they have had a great day and they want to share it with someone rather than taking the time to watch your performance just now. They may ask you to come back again later, so remember to return to these guests as they have requested. Be conscientious of those you plan to approach and try to quickly ascertain if they would be amenable to watching your performance.
You will come across people who just don’t like magic and feel threatened by your very presence. Asking them to select a card may be a mistake unless you plan to restore the card that they are about to tear up! Perhaps they have had a bad experience watching/helping another magician and they never want to see another magic trick for the rest of their lives. I am reminded of Pearl S. Buck who was asked by a magician if she would like to see a card trick. She said no, then he proceeded to show her 37 card tricks.
We can’t always work at the Magic Castle, the Magic Island or one of the few other places where Magic is the main form of entertainment, where people intentionally go to see magic. Most of our performances are given in more ordinary venues like restaurants, picnics, cocktail parties, corporate banquets, Christmas parties, etc. where someone who likes magic books us. But not all of the employees or guests may share that same feeling. Not everyone in attendance cares to see a magic show. I have had some people leave after dinner before I began my stage show. They had no idea what they were about to miss nor did they probably care until the next day when everyone talked about it at the office. When approaching people to show them some close-up magic, remember that they are reluctant volunteers at best. They don’t want to be fooled or to be made a fool.
They may see someone approaching them who is dressed a little different, someone whom they don’t know, someone who is obviously not the host. They are unsure how to react so they pretend that they don’t see you. You are the outsider, the intruder into their sphere of familiarity.
Timing is important not only in your magic but also in your approach. You must treat them kindly and not force yourself on them. Wait for the right opportunity, a time when there is a break in the conversation when they look at you and acknowledge your presence. This is your time to introduce yourself and try to get on their side. Remember that you are trying to get on their side, not trying to get them to come over to your side. You need to engage them in light conversation before trying to put a sponge ball into their hand. They need to know you and to know that you are not threatening but rather, you are a friend that is there to show them a good time for a few moments. People like to be entertained by friends. It’s also harder to say no to a friend.
If you have tried this approach and you are still rejected, then shake it off and go on to the next table or group. Even professional athletes learn early on that you can’t carry one bad play over into the next or you will dwell on that bad experience and cause you to louse up again. Concentrate on the positive and forget about the previous rejection. Every good magician gets rejected occasionally for reasons usually beyond his control. If you have done everything else right, your approach and your appearance is perfect, and they still don’t want to see any magic, then just remember that it is not your problem but rather their loss. Go find someone who is ready to be entertained and to have a good time.