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Magic buffs, called magicians, learn, practice and perform tricks and routines which appear to be magic. They specialize in the art of illusion by doing tricks with playing cards, coins, ropes, animals, people, fire and constraints, to name a few.

Whether it's by making a rabbit appear from a hat or guessing the chosen card from a full deck, the goal of magicians is to entertain. It's all tricks and illusions -- however magicians should be more geared toward entertainment rather than actually "tricking" people. An illusion is rather dull unless you entertain people also.

Magic is the art of making people believe they're seeing the unbelievable. It's a way to entertain and astound through sleight of hand.

"Magic is the sense of wonder created by believing in something which is impossible. It can be invoked by a good magic performance or an overactive imagination," says Michigan's Paul Neilson.

Unfortunately, magicians can't count on an audience with overactive imaginations most of the time, so a practiced magic performance is important. Good magicians practice their magic routines again and again, because in the world of magic, split-second timing and a seemingly relaxed magician are everything.

"The worst part is when my timing is off, because then people actually see how the trick is done. For example, the audience knows the dove doesn't suddenly appear, but rather it's pulled from your jacket because you didn't distract them long enough," says David Smith, a magic buff in Indiana.

People involved in this recreation may perform for friends and family at parties, they may "busk" (perform on city streets) for tips, volunteer at children's hospitals, or even do some paid performances on stage, at nightclubs or restaurants, or on television.

"It's a really useful skill, because you can take it anywhere. I've won my meals at restaurants by doing magic tricks. I bet my waiter the cost of dinner I could guess the card he picked, and I did. Before we knew it, the whole restaurant was standing around my table watching me do tricks," says Lana Trimble, a magic buff in Nottingham, England.

Entertaining an audience, whether it's a small group of friends or a large audience in a theatre, takes more than successfully completing the mechanics of the trick. People who do magic say the best magicians are the ones with stage presence.

"A magician should look like she really believes she is creating magic. If she acts like she's pulling one over on the audience, then they're just going to feel tricked, not entertained," says Trimble.

"A good magician can make even the easiest tricks look like miracles," says Neilson. "If you can't entertain the audience, you're not going to be able to distract them long enough to pull off the trick."

Experienced magic buffs also caution that even the most entertaining magician can't distract an audience forever, so agility and a quick mind are important.

"You do have to be pretty quick and, of course, it helps if you remember the trick! There's nothing worse than being halfway through a performance and realizing you've forgotten how to wrap it up," says Smith.

Getting Started

The cost of getting into the hocus-pocus business is relatively cheap. What is the going rate on disappearing rabbits these days? Seriously, though, experts say you don't need much to get started.

"A deck of cards and a couple of books will get anyone started. After you've got these there's is just the cost of going to magic shows, where they explain how tricks are done," says Smith.

Most magic books cost anywhere from $9 to $35 and you can pick up a deck of cards for $2 to $5 at most stores. Other than that, unless you're planning to saw people in half, experts say you can probably find all the props you need (ropes, coins, marbles, pencils) for a magic act in your own home. Incidentally, experts suggest not sawing anyone in half as your debut performance!

Magicians are a hard group to pin down -- after all, they're masters of illusion -- so it's difficult to figure out just how many of these tricky folks are out there. However, magicians do have a knack for popping up like rabbits. The Society of American Magicians alone has 30,000 members!

A number of serious magic buffs have found employment related to their hobby. Some have turned their passion for performing into a living and have started a business of hiring themselves out for live performances. These performances may take place on the stage, on television programs, at nightclubs or restaurants, and at parties or festivals.

Other magicians may find employment working at magic shops. Most of these stores hire people who can perform the tricks and entice customers into trying new magic equipment.

Unfortunately, no one can wave a magic wand and make you a good magician. Polishing the art of illusion takes lots of research and practice.

"If you want to be a magician, you have to be prepared to practice, practice, practice," says Smith.

While reading and a few gadgets are a good way to get started, experts say one-on-one instruction is probably the quickest road to success for budding magicians.

"I became serious when I ran into a professional magician who tutored me and showed me the way to find out what I needed to know. I believe this is the best way to learn," says Neilson.

To find a tutor, Neilson recommends looking at trick and joke shops for advertisements for magicians or contacting a magic organization near you.


International Brotherhood of Magicians


An independent magazine for magicians

The Society of American Magicians
Old meets new on this home page of the oldest magical society in the world

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