This week Ben Train fills in for Jonah and offers up some tips on what he is doing to overcome his fear of returning to the stage after so much time away.
Exciting, Scary, Times
These are exciting times. After a year and a half of being able to do nothing but virtual shows, the public spaces around us are opening up. With theatres reopening, Ben is about to return the stage, along with Jonah and friends, who are doing the show for 150 people.
For the past year and a half, he’s been in his house, working on ideas and playing with tricks that he wanted to eventually do. And now he gets to do them! But he’s also scared. It’s scary to do new material, it’s scary to hop up on stage because anything can happen, including tricks going wrong or worse. Or worse, the trick goes right but nobody gives a shit.
If you have been working on new material and you’re both excited to share it, but you’re also kind of nervous, Ben thought he would share some tips on what he did to work on the material that he is excited and scared to do.
Step One: Pick One Trick
The first step is pick some material you want to work on. We have almost unlimited access to material now with downloads and streaming and books and DVDs and everything. Find a book or a video or whatever source you want and narrow it down to three tricks and then pick one trick to focus on. If you really want to, you can do all three, but pick one trick to focus on and start by focusing on just the mechanical steps.
Step Two: Focus On The Mechanical
Don’t worry about the scripting, don’t worry about adding additional props or audience engagement, or what kickers you can put into it first, just get the minimal viable product, just the working mechanics of it, so you can start doing it without. If you rush ahead and start thinking about the presentation and you’re still awkward, you’re going to make the trick look no good. Spend some time working on the mechanics, getting a feel for the routine. Once you have the mechanics down, then you get to get to play with the scripts and the other stuff.
Step Three: Rehearsal
Rehearsal is different than practice because now you’re not focusing on the little details like stopping and going to analyze where your fingers are going. Now you’re going from start to finish using the script, going through the routine. If you can do that and feel comfortable and start to engage with the imaginary audience while you’re rehearsing, it will be a lot easier to go up on stage and do these because you’ve thought about how you’re going to talk to the audience and how you’re getting in and out of the routine.
Step Four: Perform
Once you’ve gone through all that, you’ve picked the material, you’ve gotten the mechanics down, then you’ve rehearsed the tricks, you’ll feel confident. And once you have that confidence, it’s a lot easier to go up on stage and do things. So go out there and perform the magic.
One last thought from Ben, and it’s something he heard in a talk a few years ago from a designer of one of his favorite games, Magic: The Gathering. He said, “Stop worrying about evoking a negative reaction and focus on evoking a strong reaction.“