Street magic is a genre of magic that has been around for centuries. In the 1400's, artist Hieronymus Bosch performed street magic for passers-by using sleight of hand to awe his audience. More recently, artists such as David Blaine and Criss Angel have made street magic an integral part of pulp culture.
History of Street Magic
Street magic seems to have started with busking, centuries ago. Busking is the act of performing outdoors in hopes of a gratuity from on-lookers. At one time magicians would travel like merchants and mountebanks, using assistants to bark for them, gathering crowds to watch their magic. As years past, street performers have continued to perform magic in subway stations, on street corners, in parks, and at festivals. They, like street magicians, seek crowded areas where they are most likely to draw an audience for their street magic.
Traditional Street Performance
The street magic seen at festivals or in parks is an example of traditional street performance. The magician sets up a stage of sorts and invites people to gather around. Once an audience has formed, he performs a series of magic tricks, using decks of cards, perhaps, or magic cups and balls. The general magic used is sleight of hand and card magic. Once the show is over, it is expected that the magician will receive some form of payment for his performance. Over the years, street magic has become known as vehicle for gambling and hustling.
A more modern form of street magic is known as guerilla magic. In this genre, the magician, with seeming spontaneity, will approach a few unsuspecting people and perform some form of magic for or to them. It has the appearance of being random and unplanned, giving it a sense of genuineness. It is debated whether this form of magic is truly random, or if the magician is using a "plant" for the sake of amazing the people around them, not the subjects themselves.
Keys to Successful Street Magic
Street magic is different from a stage show for a couple of reasons. First, the audience is very close, watching the magician's hands, as opposed to sitting in seats a distance from the performance. Second, the environment is less controlled. The weather, street activity, and reception from the audience will directly affect the performance. The street performance must be able to rely heavily on the pace of his performance and his ability to distract and lead his audience. With practice, these skills will lead to a successful performer of street magic.