Writing for the Performance

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One of the key elements for my writing process years ago was to unlock how one writes for a performance. It is different to write a text that is going to be read than a text that is going to be performed. Especially if the person that will perform the text is you. Independent of your level or knowledge in magic, this is almost a parallel process that can be learned independently and that, depending on what you want to achieve with your magic, can be really helpful.

First, it’s important that you know yourself. That you understand who your character onstage is and, even more importantly, how it is perceived by the audience. You can only learn that by doing shows and performances, even if at first they are informal and slightly chaotic. The more you do something, the more you understand that there are some traits of your personality that, in a performance setting, stand out and are key elements for the success of your performance. Identifying these is the first of many steps that will help you.

The other key step in this whole process is to understand editing. Editing is, in itself, a science. Understanding how information can be communicated in the most concise way, without losing any layer or color, is important for the author and is one of the most powerful weapons your magic creation can have as an assistant. Also, bear in mind that, while doing this, you will eventually understand that all the links between one sentence and the next sentence should be thought of so that the audience doesn’t get lost in your train of thought. If that happens, it’s easy to blame it on “too much editing,” but in reality it was just “bad editing.” Editing does not lose any intention or link. In fact, editing makes it clearer.  

And then, the third key element for me was to understand that the way I express thoughts naturally is something to factor in while writing. I don’t want to have the cleanest possible script if, when I deliver it, it sounds fake. I prefer things to be imperfect but real. Sometimes, I record myself saying the main ideas and then edit that text which came out more naturally. This way, I make sure I don’t lose the spontaneity, but, by using it as a first draft, I write and edit on top of it. Other times, especially if I need a more formal way of speaking, I work the other way around: first I write, then I start to say the sentences out loud and change them to fit my delivery style.

All these ideas, as simple as they may look, for me were turning points in the way I approach a script of a show or of my repertoire. They allow me to best express the thoughts and ideas I have for each piece, show, or performance without being locked into the words, freeing me to actually perform them. And this is what a performer needs: to write for him or her and write for the action, not for scripts to be read in silence by someone else. So, before you start to write, ask yourself: who are you and how do others see you? Those answers will be your starting point and the guiding light for your performance.   

Helder Guimaraes