Don't tell me how to live my life!
I'm known to be and consider myself a pretty calm person. It takes quite a lot to get me riled up and angry, hostile or defensive. The story that I'm about to share with you would make someone think otherwise. I share this story because one, in hindsight it's a little funny, two I learned something from this experience and finally, I think it addresses a global/cultural problem. The problem is trust, we are losing it for each other very fast.
Working as a magician for two decades has birthed in me a very precise way of working. I feel that after this much time of doing something a person is somewhat of an expert at that thing. I am in no way saying that there is no room for learning, in fact, the older I get the more I try to learn.
There are a few ways that I present a magical experience. The two most popular are on a stage in front of a group of people and another is strolling through a crowd doing intimate close up magic. This story will focus on something that happened during a show where I was asked to do strolling magic.
In a strolling environment, I first like to walk the room and eavesdrop a little. I want to know the energy of the room and what's on the people's mind. This will help me cater my material to the group. I come in prepared with multiple things and then use what I need to get the job done. I can also know who's talking business and who will want some entertainment just by walking the room first. It's the worst feeling to walk up to a group that is in the middle of a business chat and the magician comes up to do some tricks. Rejection to enter the group is indefinite. That's a blow to the ego and will make it harder to approach the next set of people. It's like asking someone out on a date and they say no. You may be slightly apprehensive to ask the next person. The first 3-5 minutes is crucial for me to get a good start.
It is also very important to me that people are not eating dinner or plated food, little starters and veggie plates are fine but a full on dinner will be interrupted by my presence. Imaging sitting and eating, enjoying your meal and a person comes up to say, "What's your name?", "Pick a card!" or "Hi I'm the magician." It's a little awkward. From the magician's point of view, I don't want my cards, suit, other props or my hands to be soiled with a person dinner. So the rule of thumb is DO NOT PERFORM WHILE THEY ARE EATING. This was a lesson I learned from other magicians growing up as a young magician doing magic table side at restaurants in Portland, Oregon. Every time I ignored the rule because a family insisted I perform anyway I was victim to soiled cards, rope, spilled drinks, spaghetti sauce on my hands or suit. None of it was on purpose of course, but it's just the nature of food to get everywhere when you're distracted by watching an excellent and handsome magician.
Now you can understand why I have a certain way of working, to ensure the experience is stellar for me and those watching and interacting with me. Knowing all this will allow you to understand what is to follow.
Recently I had a run in with an entertainment coordinator. I was invited to perform at a major corporations dinner party. The scenario was strolling magic as I mentioned. Generally, these sessions are 1 to 3 hours long. In the three hours situations, there are hundreds sometimes thousands of people to stroll through with multiple entertainers. There will be breaks in between as well. Another thing I learned over the years, take breaks. There is no need to be out in a crowd for 3hrs straight.
This particular event only had about 50 people, they were the big wigs of the company. I was slotted for a 3 hour period to do 30minutes before dinner and another 30 minutes after dinner.
Strolling with a smaller group during a cocktail hour becomes a little more difficult as they tend to gather around the minute they know I'm doing magic. I do a set and half the room or sometimes the entire room sees me and that's the end of that. Sometimes I can do a second round of magic with some backup material. This event was no exception. People had just arrived and were mingling, eating from the veggie tray and drinking. I posted up at a high top table and begin working with a deck of card, and before I knew it there was a group of about 15 people around me. One of them... the boss man, perfect. After 30 minutes of mind-blowing magic and even having a spontaneous moment of speaking my native language (German) with one of the guests, they were about to be seated for dinner in the next room. All of it went off without a hitch and I magically disappeared from the room to take a break and waited for the dinner to conclude.
As I'm waiting in my holding area, one of the event managers comes in after about 25 minutes and says, the client loved me and wants to have me back in the room now. My first thought is Hell yeah, also my first mistake. I should have asked some questions.
I'm about to enter the room when the event coordinator, (not the manager) says that I need to work a specific table first. This entire time I'm under the impression they have already finished dinner. My mistake for assuming, again I should have asked the important question. So I walk into the room and find that everyone is still eating. I'm an extremely interactive performer, especially when I get into a groove. I glance at the table that I'm supposed to go to first. All but one person is still eating, and plates are half full. I take a moment to assess the situation. Why this table first? Why have they sent me in while the people are still eating? I'm supposed to be in after dinner. I look at the other tables to maybe see an opening there... all eating.
I decided to go out of the room to talk to the coordinator. This conversation is a reenactment, these are not the exact words, but really close to how it went down.
Me: Hey, that far table by the door is the one I'm supposed to go to first?
Me: They are all eating...
Her: That's okay.
Me: Well, actually it's not. It's awkward to interrupt someone eating to ask them to pick a card. Plus I don't want to get my stuff soiled with food.
I could feel the tension building between us. This was about to go horribly wrong. And It did as soon as she replied with this snarky remark.
Her: Just go to someone who's not eating.
At this point I paused... I was astounded at this person's condescending tone. I felt under attack and disrespected. She acted as if I didn't know what I was talking about or know how to do my job. My expertise and experience were not known or even taken into account. The next mistake was about come out of my mouth.
Me: I know how to do my job. (Defensive tone included.)
Boom. Tension turned to an explosion of hostile energy. I could tell she did not like my response.
Her: The client wants it!
Me: Well it's gonna be awkward.
I left her jaw down in the hall as I walked back into the room. I composed myself and interrupted dinner at the table, sat down with them and began. As expected it was difficult to connect with people as they were still focusing on finishing their food. It got better as they finished up.
I worked all five of the 10 top tables and rocked that night. Honestly one of my best shows. I say this because I was digging the vibe of the people. Every routine hit hard and I could do no wrong. I did what I do best. Once I finished everyone was happy with the experience.
I exited the room and met up with the event manager and told her that from my point of view it went very well. I looked over to the coordinator to apologize for the tension earlier but she turned her back on me. That's a pro move. As the manager walked me back to the green room, I had a talk with her about the situation, which she was not there to witness. She confirmed that the coordinator was upset. I told her that I would apologize. She told me it should be fine as the client that has been difficult all day is happy and that's what matters.
So, why am I tell you this story? I think that sometimes we forget that people who have been doing something for a long time usually tend to have a sense of knowing or have an understanding of that thing. An employee of an entertainment company should understand entertainment and the different aspects of it. I would never tell the CEO of a company that I was asked to perform for how to do his or her job. I assume since they've paid thousands of dollars for this event that they know what they're doing when it comes to their business.
I have no idea how long this woman (coordinator) has been in entertainment or if she understands that no matter what the client says, WE ARE THE EXPERTS. "Our magician Kardenni WILL NOT COME OUT during dinner, here are the reasons why..." We know best in the field of entertainment. My lack of knowledge of how the client and the coordinator have been interacting also put me in a lack of empathy for her. I was unaware the client had been a handful already throughout the day.
I'm also sure the coordinator didn't know anything about me or my process, nor did she even care. She has more important things to do. For me, the problem was how she handled my concern by belittling me with an obvious comment in a rude and condescending tone.
In hindsight, I was probably a bit arrogant and ego driven. In the future, I will be handling this differently by making it very clear to the managers, coordinators, and client of my working process and the conditions that allow me to flourish and make us all look great. I will trust them to do the best they can and hope in turn they will trust me to do what I do best, connection and creating magic moments.
This has been a true adventure of Orlando magician Kardenni, thanks for reading. Remember to comment, like and share.
***FYI the photo in this article is not from the event I mentioned. The good people of the Westchase Foundation who put on Tampa Bay Woman of the year have been great to me in the past 6 years.