Archive for March, 2008

The Best Way to Remember your Lines

Have you ever gotten so nervous on stage that you forgot your lines? I have. Today, I’ll give you a rehearsal method  that can help you beat the problem for good. 


Hollywood sign

Hollywood Hike: In the mornings, I like to hike up the hill by my apartment to see our little sign (pictured above). Sound like a great way to learn a trick? Read on.


Get Physical

Every day, magicians and actors struggle to learn their lines. They sit on the couch, or stand by the mirror or pace a few feet in front of the television. I’ve heard people say, “I’ve got to get these lines crammed into my head.”

But the performance of magic isn’t intellectual in nature; it’s a physical act. As much as it may seem otherwise, magic isn’t accomplished with the mind. It’s performed with the body. Your lines must come automatically – as reflex. Don’t think about it. Just do it. 



Credit for my favorite memorization method goes to Lawrence Olivier (You didn’t know he was a card man?). He often performed Shakespeare – memorizing those plays  can be a beast. They have many many very precise words. And every single syllable matters.

When Olivier was preparing a role with a great deal of language, like Richard III (for my favorite film version click here ), he would go to a chalet in the mountains (technically alps). He would rehearse the lines every day as he hiked up the mountain.  Thanks to the hardcore hiking, every single line accompanied real physical movement.

This differs greatly from learning your lines as you pace in the kitchen. Olivier’s physical activity anchored every word to his body. In the same way a card master owns the classic pass, Olivier owned the play. The words lived in his muscle memory. They were a part of him. 

Your Turn

Next time you want to learn a presentation, try this. Go outside and perform the lines as you walk, preferably uphill. Make sure not to go so fast that you can’t breathe or speak. That would make rehearsal difficult. Feel free to experiment with gesture, variety and articulation as you go through the lines.  Play with different readings and see which one you like the best.

As you work, you’ll also make discoveries about the trick, and you may consider  redrafting your presentation. That’s part of the fun.  In the process, you’ll learn your material more effectively and with better retention. Your magic will improve.

And to hell with magic anyway. You’re outside!

Let me know

After you try this, let me know what you think in a comment. Or if you have any sneaky methods you use to learn YOUR material, share it with me!



Are you a card man? This will improve your show.

Posh Bangers

England: Home of the Posh Banger.

Where HAVE I been?

Thanks for asking. It’s been a super exciting start to the year. The last month brought England, a convention, a lecture tour, corporate events in Las Vegas, bar magic, and a week on the main stage at The Magic Castle. WHEW!

And it was great! I got to work in so many different ways for so many different types of crowds. It keeps you awake, thinking and growing. It gives you good stuff to blog about.

Real card magic is physical

No matter how many passes you can do, or how many coins you can palm, the most important magic tool you can learn to use is your own body. That’s one reason so many authors have written about the value of theatrical training for magicians.

Here are just a few of the incredibly valuable skills you’ll acquire if you choose to study our parent art form- the theatre.

Vocal Training

If your audience either can’t hear you or has problems understanding your words, even the most beautiful presentation will fail. Especially if you have some regional dialect people regularly comment on, talk to theatre professionals in your area and get their opinion.

Your native dialect isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You may perform as a river boat gambler and your voice may suit the role perfectly. But what if you live in a place where a truly authentic dialect can only be understood by your immediate family? Unfortunately, many strong dialects only confuse the audience. Be honest with yourself, and your magic will benefit.

A great book to help you explore this topic is here. Take a look at it and read the reviews. It changed my life, but it’s only for those who are ready to get serious.


Movement Training

I’ll say it again. The performance of magic is a physical activity performed primarily with your body. Whether you work on stage or as a walk-around entertainer, learning to use your body effectively will profoundly change your approach to magic as well as the results.

In fact, any work you do with your body, either at the gym or outside, can greatly aid your performance process. Look for a separate post on this topic later this week.

Acting Training

For all the talk since Houdin of magicians being ‘actors playing the parts of magicians’, the truth is, most of us spend our time learning how to honestly and accurately play the one role we will ever take. We strive to play ourselves, as accurately and honestly and compellingly as we can.

Basic acting training can really help you here. Don’t worry about the trappings – fancy accents and weird physicality helps advanced actors create vibrant, believable illusions. But you won’t need much of that to accomplish your immediate goal.

Focus on the truth of the moment on stage. Learn how to stand still under hot lights without worrying about ‘entertaining’ the audience. You’ll develop the ability, with help from your professor, to respond honestly and spontaneously to what the other characters give you to work with. Through this process, you’ll develop a taste for authenticity – a need to express yourself truthfully on stage. You’ll begin to truly understand why so many performers fail to grab your heart – and why others win you over immediately.

Once you really begin to learn these lessons, the audience will give you positive feedback – you’ll see the difference yourself, and fast. And it won’t be the private victory you celebrate when you master a long sought for sleight-of-hand technique. The entire audience will know how much you’ve improved.

Your turn: What do YOU think?

I’d love for you to send me some comments on this post. Perhaps you’ve had a class like this, and you want everyone to know how much it helped you. Perhaps you’ve thought about taking a class but didn’t go through with it. Why not?

Or maybe you really just want this blog to talk more about card tricks – I’d love to hear about that too. This blog is about how my experiences can help you become a better performing card man. Let me know if it’s working.

Thanks for reading!