Part Two of Two
(In pursuit of her dream of becoming a great performer of magic, she decided to enter magic competitions because they deadlines forced her to practice; she held no thought of actually winning, In reality, Romany swept the board of awards. In this article, she tells the back story of the bumpy adventures behind the prizes. This article, part one of two, blends several of Romany’s prior publications in Vanish. This article, part two of two, blends several of Romany’s prior publications in Vanish.)
Since a goal is a dream with a deadline, what greater deadline could you ask for than entering a magic competition. What could be more motivating that performing your act in front of a whole theater full of your friends and colleagues? Of course, it’s also absolutely terrifying. This terror is why I entered The Magic Circle Stage competition in 2006. I had no ambition of actually winning; rather motivation was simply to be scared enough that I would actually do some work and finally get an act together. I needed to be terrified into practicing.
Warning! What I’m going to describe to you is not the way to go about things. Two months before the date of the competition, I booked a week at the Magic Castle and a private session with Jeff McBride in Las Vegas. A week at the Castle to do 20 shows in the main Palace theater would have been a very good idea IF my act had been ready. However, due to my championship procrastination abilities, my act was not ready by the time I got to the Castle. In my defense, at that time, I was renting just one room in a house and the only place to rehearse was the little space between my bed and the window with a giant mirror balanced on my bed and a video camera stuck in the doorway. I was trying out new ideas such as changing a Sitta silk into a black plain silk with real diamond jewelry on it, which I clipped onto my ears via magnets. It was all very experimental in an “This will never work in a billion years” experimental sense.It was super chunky and clunky to say the least. In fact, let’s face it, it was crap.
Time evaporated faster than weird milk in the magic milk jug and I never got to the point of video practice before leaving for the Castle. When I did get there, I truly realized why video practice is so important. As you all probably know, if you’ve only practiced in the mirror, you will be depending on the mirror to find whatever it is you’re producing. Use video feedback is the only way to see if you’re flashing, closing your eyes during a switch, or flapping your arms about in an odd way.
Luckily (and rather strangely), the audience at the Castle thought I was doing everything wrong on purpose and apparently found it hilarious. Every show was an adventure. If I could manufacture such a level of cack-handed magic every night, I could have a brilliant brand new act. I spent every day all day working out the many kinks and after 20 shows at the Castle, I hotfooted it to Vegas to show Jeff the video. The really good thing about McBride is that he doesn’t pull his punches. After watching the film, he asked, “Did no one tell you that you can see that you have stuff already in the Sitta silk? I had asked every magician that said hello after the show if they had any notes for me. Not one had pointed this out. They probably didn’t want to hurt my feelings.
After entering the Magic Circle Stage Competition and the IBM Stage Competition, I felt I was ready for the big time: The 2011 Las Vegas World Seminar. I had always been a huge fan of Siegfried and Roy, Masters of the Impossible and the biggest headliners in Las Vegas at that time. I felt that if I could just meet them, maybe, just maybe, some of their magical mastery would rub off on me. Call me a dreamer but I believe in magic! I do. But how could I meet them in person? I thought if I entered their stage competition they would probably come and say hello no matter how good or bad I was. I applied and, amazingly, was accepted.
I practiced. I affirmed. I biked and lifted weights and didn’t eat so many donuts. Everything was going well. However, two weeks before the competition, I got a brief email from the organizer letting me know that due to new fire regulations, no pyro of any type was allowed in the theater without a license. Not a lighter, not a teeny bit of flash paper, nothing. Apart from my favorite flash string to diamonds, I had intended to perform a five minute routine with fire. “We quite understand if you want to pull out,” the organizers said, but I had bought my ticket and my main motivation anyway was shake a little stardust from Siegfried and Roy.
In order to pull the extra five minutes out of the bag, my only option was to put in my standard comedy Coins Across bit with two volunteers. Risky for a competition. Not strong magic. In fact, it was the first trick I ever learned. I had no choice.
Stepping out onto the big stage in the New Orleans hotel in front of 1000 magicians including Siegfried and Roy, Lance Burton, Marvin Roy, Silvan, Hans Klok and many, many other heroes was both terrifying and very exciting. The silent act bit went fine and then I picked two men from the crowd to be my volunteers. They were meant to follow me, cavorting like Vegas mountain goats onto the stage to the sound of ‘There’s no business like show business’ and one guy was doing just fine. However, the other fell on the steps and by the time he got to the stage, he collapsed on all fours gasping for air. Something was obviously very wrong and about eight guys jumped up to see if he was ok. Silence hushed the auditorium as this guy fought for breath. The rest of the audience holding their breaths too. I didn’t give a damn about the act or the competition anymore; I was stood on stage thinking, “Great, I’ve come to Vegas and now I’ve killed my volunteer.”
After what seemed like forever, he slowly got to his feet, breathing heavily. Still in character, I said sternly, “Well, you’ve caused a lot of trouble! However, I will give you a choice I don’t usually give to my volunteers. Do you want to return to your seat or do you want to stay?” He gasped, “I’ll stay!”. A big cheer went up and the rest of the act was comedy gold.
And the moral of this story? Keep Believing! You never know how things are going to turn out and even if you’re not the best at something, even if what you desire seems impossible, magic has a way of bringing it to you. After all, what are we magicians for if we don’t believe in magic?
Magic competitions are a great way to sharpen your skills in a definite time frame…and I’ll tell you one final thing…. They’re never dull.
[Editorial note: Romany won The Magic Circle Stage Magician of the Year (2006), IBM Stage Trophy (2008), Las Vegas World Seminar 1st Prize Golden Lion (2011), and Vitoria Magialdia First Prize (2011)]