Close up vs. Stage Magic

Stage magic has a long rich past that goes back even beyond Vaudeville where it hit its peak. The Vaudeville performer genuinely challenged his audiences with amazing feats that were sometimes performed within arm’s length spectators. Mixed with that was some humor of course and the beautiful assistant who was there more to distract audiences than to entice them or aid the magician. During the 1940s and early 1950s something changed the course of magic forever – TV emerged. With it some of the excitement of live magic, performed on stage or in intimate settings was lost. Yes, TV has made stars out of some of my colleagues but it has also, in a sense, made people more skeptical of magic and what magicians do. We all know, for example, that TV has its own effects that are called “magic.” Close-up magic captures some of the wonder and awe of those early stage performances except with some profound differences.

The Differences

Close up magic is magic performed without a net so to speak. There is no assistance, no lights and huge props to help out the magician. Apart from that, the other differences between stage magic and close up magic are these.

  • Close up magicians create their own environment in which to perform: Lighting, music, etc., all greatly aid and enhance a stage magician’s performance. Close up and street magicians must create their own atmosphere and mood wherever we go. We have no control over the environment which makes what we do all the more challenging.
  • Misdirection is more challenging for a close up performer: Stage magicians can count on many things to misdirect the audience while he/she is performing his/her trick. This includes, as we mentioned earlier, assistants, lighting, music, etc. Close up magicians, since we are by definition closer to their audiences, must use tactics like eye contact, crossing gazes and positioning to misdirect.
  • Close up magicians engage their audience much more often than stage magicians: While a stage magician does occasionally recruit participants to his/her act from the studio audience, close up magicians do this all the time. Close up magic is therefore much more spontaneous and exciting as one never knows – often even the magician – what will happen and how the public will react.

Of course, none of this is to downplay the brilliance of stage magic and its rich history both before and after the advent of TV. Some of the best magicians in NYC perform on stage. However, close up magicians in NYC take the venerable art of magic to a whole new level of excitement for audiences and challenge for magicians like myself.


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