Jonah is joined by Francis Menotti this week to discuss virtual performances, working as a duo, and methods to improve your creativity. Francis is a performer, consultant, and half of the magic duo: Couple of Magicians.
When he received a magic kit for his fifth Christmas, Francis was quick to embrace the deviousness of magic as a way of making the impossible possible. His interest continued throughout elementary and high school, where he began to perform at birthdays. By the time he was attending college at Penn State (where he started the first magic club with friend Ran’D Shine), he began to see that magic was the path for him. Knowing he wanted to make a living doing magic, Francis moved to Philly.
If you’ve seen Francis perform, you probably immediately noticed he has a unique approach to performing magic (you don’t have to look much further than his Fool Us performance). A lot of his ideas and acts have come from this idea of forced creativity – limiting your resources and setting guidelines to drive and focus your creativity on one task. From games to understanding what he’s looking for in an effect, Francis has developed different systems to help him improve his own creative process.
During the episode, Francis proposes two games that will help you develop your toolset and give the books you own the time they deserve. The first game is a “follow the leader” style game where players try to repeat the actions of the moderator; if you can’t do a move, you now have the task of figuring out how to. The second game involves using a random number generator to select a book and effect/essay that you then need to read and understand.
Becoming a Duo Act
Alongside being a solo performer, Francis performs in a duo act with his wife, Lindsey Noel. The process to create their duo show has been a fun but challenging one. Francis has been forced to approach aspects of performing differently which has been a beneficial creative experience for him. He’s had to rework the way he thinks about blocking and interacting with the audience on stage, knowing that he has a partner to share the time with.
When the two talk about ideas, the answer isn’t ever simply no. The answer is “there’s a way of doing that idea, but you have to remember the time and budget constraints.” It’s not just new ideas they’re creating for the act though. Francis has taken pieces he’s done for years and incorporated Lindsey in them as an equal performer in the routine.
When the self-isolation period began, Francis and his wife immediately began working on a virtual show, recognizing that this wasn’t going to be a short hiatus. The past few weeks have been about trial and error to determine what does and doesn’t work. While they have had success, there have been some learning moments along the way.
Francis highlights that right now people are tuning in to watch people do things live for a chance to connect. They’re not looking for high production value currently, but he believes that’s beginning to shift as more people move into performing virtual shows. And, now that people are aware that shows can be done online, the request for virtual performances isn’t going to go away. This is why, as an entertainment industry, we need to figure out how to make it not bad.
What do you like about modern magic? What don’t you like?
He enjoys that magicians are taking more time to figure out performance ideas.
He isn’t a fan of the cliquishness of magic.
Keep moving forward and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.