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"Everything I Don't Know" reflection

Last month, I debuted my new magic show, Everything I Don’t Know. What follows is a reflection about the show’s challenges, successes, and future.


Summary

Everything I Don’t Know was effectively my senior thesis. It was the culmination of four years in college and was the best performance of magic that I could give. The premise of the show is that during the college process, we’re often focused on what we’re going to do later at the expense of enjoying ourselves now. Within that “later,” also known as the college experience and job application process, there is quite a lot of vulnerability. We get rejected from colleges, we score poorly on the ACT. We experience friendships that don’t work and we discover parts of ourselves that we don’t like. The show is my reflection on dealing with those issues.

Challenges:


1. Rehearsal space: I rehearsed the show in my bedroom by pushing my desk against the wall. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but it also felt fitting that for a show about college, I rehearsed it in the most “college” way possible. Of course, this meant that I was more cramped than I would be on stage. However, that was so much better than the alternative–rehearsing on a big stage and performing in a small environment–because I knew I would have space for everything on the day of the show. Rehearsing in my bedroom was kind of like swinging a baseball bat with a donut before you go to bat–it’s harder, yes, but it ultimately makes it easier in the moment.


2. The pesky dry erase marker: During the show, I almost lost a dry erase marker, which was important to the ending of the show. This was a tiny snag that most people in the audience probably forgot, but I bring it up because it was also an important lesson: have a backup dry erase marker on stage.


I’m not going to beat myself up for misplacing a marker that I was able to find, but it’s important to remember that tiny details make an enormous impact, especially if the end of the show relies on drawing on a white board. Additionally, it’s a reminder that the best lessons come from actually performing, because it forces you to be aware of your environment while experiencing the pressure of an audience.


3. The sound booth: In any new environment, especially a high-tech theater, there will always be unanticipated challenges. In this case, the lighting technician couldn’t hear me due to technical difficulties, which meant that he would’ve missed light cues. (I must give credit to the light and sound technicians who were awesome, this wasn’t their fault).


Ultimately, I made the choice to leave the house lights on instead of betting on communicating clearly with the technician. This wasn’t ideal, but it provided me with the opportunity to make eye contact with my audience, giving me another way to connect with them.


4. Marketing: In addition to email, social media, and word of mouth advertising, I performed in 10+ classes and club meetings. Often, they were at weird times or in weird places. Additionally, these performances were time consuming and sometimes nerve-wracking. But it was my show–and you can't ask anyone else to advertise for you if you aren’t willing to do the work yourself.


The performances were always worth the effort, because magic shows are very hard to envision. In other words, telling people that there’s going to be a magic show is not the same as telling them to come see a movie. The public isn’t exposed to magic enough to have a clear picture in their heads of what they’re going to see.


That means that I’m better off performing for people than simply telling them about a magic show I’m doing. Obviously, not everyone I advertised to bought a ticket. But I noticed that these small performances increased my name recognition and gave me the chance to perform, which was a blast.

What went right?


1. Planning: I did my first full run-through three weeks before the show. That gave me a ton of time to tweak what wasn’t working, and get the routines down cold. I attribute this to planning rehearsal days and sticking to them no matter what.


2. Support: I’ve said it before—the more successful you are, the more people you have to thank. This show was no exception. My roommates checked people in. My friends helped sell tickets. My girlfriend helped make props. My opener, Will, helped set up the show. Had it not been for the selfless actions of those around me, the show wouldn’t have happened. Period. I’m incredibly grateful for everyone who pitched in.


3. Will Roberts: Will opened the show with ten minutes of outstanding comedy, and did a fantastic job priming the audience. Additionally, Will helped the show run smoothly all day. He set up, checked people in, and assisted me backstage with tons of tiny tasks. I am extremely grateful for Will, and you should give him a follow on Instagram to check out his comedy.


4. The show had purpose: A few people even teared up, which is the first time that’s happened during one of my shows. Any time something good but surprising happens (I wasn’t expecting people to cry), it’s helpful to reverse engineer it.


I’m pretty sure people teared up because I was also vulnerable. If the name of the show didn’t clue you in, I talked about a lot of uncertainty. Vulnerability is a very common technique in storytelling, but it’s seldom used in magic. I talked about this a lot last week, but here’s one more reason vulnerability works:


Teller (of Penn and Teller) says that most magicians act as god-figures, communicating that they can do anything (like mind reading with no effort or changing a card with just a snap of the fingers). But because of the supposed invincibility, you can’t connect with them. The ideal route, then, is to be a hero-figure–someone who expresses their own shortcomings and who you have to root for. I tried to tap into my own vulnerability to connect with the audience.


6. The theater: I lucked out, this theater was phenomenal. It was big enough to hold everything on stage. It was small enough to be intimate. The microphones, music, and visuals worked great. It was a joy to perform there.


Where I’m going

  1. More performances: On a practical note, this is version one of the show. My goal is to perform this dozens of times.

  2. Duo shows: I currently have six shows booked for this summer in Denver and New York City, each with a friend of mine. You can get tickets here.

  3. I mostly don’t know: Truthfully, I don’t know where I’m going. The first few days since classes ended have been really weird. For eighteen years in school, you move toward something. And when you graduate college, the sisyphean struggle of assignments and due dates goes away. I have a lot of projects I’m gearing up to work on, and I know that I’m going to settle into a routine. But this is also a period of transition, and I’ll enjoy not knowing where I’m going for as long as I can.


Looking to see a show this summer? You've got multiple opportunities in Denver and New York City. Check them out below:

June 18th @ 7 PM (NYC)

June 18th @ 8 PM (NYC)

July 8th @ 7:30 PM (Denver)

July 9th @ 7:00 PM (Denver)

....August 19th and 20th Denver dates coming soon!






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