Presentation, Effect Selection, and How to Practice with Allan Hagen
November 9th, 2017
allan hagen, magic, performance, presentation, storytelling
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We first came across Allan Hagen on Instagram, which has become a gold mine for finding new magical talent. Allan grew up in Norway which didn’t have much of a magic community. At 9 years of age he found a Norwegian language card magic book. After learning English he discovered magic websites in the early 2000’s and his learning took off.
Allan primarily works in card magic. He quickly came to understand that cards are just 52 pieces of paper and have to imbued with meaning by the people using them. He thinks of a deck of cards as being full of limitless possibility.
He says that young magicians should start out by learning from the masters. It would be foolish to ignore the classics. Work your way through Card College by Roberto Giobbi. There is enough knowledge there to last a lifetime. Eventually you will discover two or three pieces that resonate with you. That will then help you discover what your strengths are.
In order to make your magic resonate you have to make some decisions. What is the plot going to be? Are you going to connect the trick to something in your life? For example, a disappearing card trick could tie into a story of you returning home. Magic has to mean something and it can be transformative without being pretentious.
Allen believes that the magic shouldn’t detract from the performance but conversely, the performance shouldn’t detract from the magic. There has to be a balance. Some pieces can be very story heavy while others can be very magic heavy. Sometimes a great trick is just a great trick. But also the story itself can be a trick. Allen points to Derek DelGaudio’s blockbuster show on Broadway as being a great example of this. It’s not exactly a magic show but it is magical.
If you have an extremely strong calling or you feel compelled to create something Allan says you have to listen to that calling. No matter what you are doing, whether trying to appeal to the masses or a niche audience you have to be happy with what you are creating. Allan’s best piece advice for new performers is to be authentic on stage. Find commonalities with your audience and connect with them on a human level.
So how do you know what good magic is? Allan thinks it really is a matter of taste and is pretty subjective. Nevertheless, he has a few rules of thumb. Is the magic deceptive? That is to say does your trick fool the audience? If the audience isn’t talking about the trick the next day at breakfast the trick has failed. Make sure that your magic airtight. The other questions to ask yourself is whether your trick is entertaining or not. It takes practice and experience to know whether an audience is enjoying something or not. Allan knows that when he is working on new material it’s going to be terrible at first. Every piece takes a while to get the wrinkles ironed out.
Allan has a very specific idea about how to practice magic. Practice is a very original thing. You have to find a regimen that’s right for you. How you practice is as much as how much you practice. If you want to read about it you can check out his blog post here.
Allan likes to practice late at night with no distractions. He reads through everything to get an overview of how it should work – usually with cards in hand. He then refines the trick and tried to shape it to his own style. Finger placement and angles are usually worked out in this phase. Then he tried to improve the trick through repetition. Don’t do those sleights a thousand times in a row. That’s going to be counterproductive. You should cycle through multiple sleights rather than just one. Then you should let the sleight rest for a day. Let your mind catch-up with the trick. This is how you program your muscle memory. Then you have to rehearse the sleight, perform it and then refine it after each performance.
The better a magician gets, the more you will be able to more judiciously pick the kind of audience you want to perform for.
What do you want to tell the audience?
Magic, genuinely, has the power to change people’s live.
What do you want to ask the audience?
After, you perform for someone what would you want that person to remember about you a year later?
Allan Hagen has been working a two phase poker system.
He has a book called Serendipity about informal card magic.