- Annette Dawm
Making Magic Happen with Keith Brown
Keith Brown has been a magician since he was 13 years old. He never had a “Plan B” because it wasn’t necessary. According to Keith, “Opportunity after opportunity kept coming my way and I kept saying yes. I knew that I loved doing magic more than anything and that this is where my life was heading. I knew I had to go with the flow and see where this would take me…. Sure, I worked a couple other jobs when I was younger or when I was in my slow season but I always saw these jobs as temporary or opportunities to get my foot in the door somewhere else—a way to expand my network.”
Several years later, Brown’s networking skills have paid off and have taken him around the world with his magic show. This summer, Keith will complete his fourth consecutive North American tour. He knew that it was meant to be when he was unable to answer the question, “If you weren’t doing magic, what would you do?” After he thought about it, Keith realized that “magic was working and a passion of mine, so why would I consider another option? I was too busy succeeding and envisioning my success that I never contemplated failure.” Despite his success, he is still asked “what else” he does for money on a regular basis and gets the impression that other people think his profession is “nerdiest thing ever”. Luckily, there are just as many people – if not more—who believe in magic and support what Keith does for a living:
“I think people believe in magic because it opens the door to creativity, infinite possibility and imagination. Magic delves into mystery and the unknown. It sparks your imagination and makes you ask 'what if?’. Magic pushes the boundaries of what is humanly possible. Also, it’s fun! And let’s be honest, who didn’t want magical powers growing up? You have the ability to solve any problem and bring anything into fruition. The real secret is believing that you’re already capable of such things because we all are walking miracles capable of incredible things,” he speculated.
Keith’s event calendar is usually full during the winter for private events and during the summer to incorporate his annual tour. “From mid-November to early January, everyone is having their private or corporate holiday or staff appreciation events. Event planners and social committees are looking for something different that will engage, be memorable and spice things up. [In 2016], I had the opportunity to perform for companies located in Winnipeg, Toronto and Los Angeles. These shows can be in banquet halls, convention centres, corporate offices or even at private homes. During the summer I take my show on tour and perform for the public. A single tour can be anywhere from 30-60 shows…. These shows typically tend to be in more traditional theatre spaces. Some of my favourites have been The Orlando Shakespeare Center, The Revue Stage in Vancouver and The Sanderson Centre in Brantford”.
In terms of teaching himself new tricks, Keith uses a variety of learning strategies, but he prefers actual magic books the best: “I think that the real secrets are in the books. Some of them are harder to find. You have to put in the effort and actually read them. If you ever want to do a trick no one else is doing, read a book, especially an old book. Most magic books tend to have an effect description. This gives you an idea of what it should look like in the audience’s mind before diving into the instructions.… Books offer more opportunity for individuality because of how it engages your imagination. [Yet,] as much as I love learning new tricks, I prefer spending my time on making my material more engaging or accessible. I would rather polish and refine the diamonds that are already in my collection than sift through the dirt.” In the future, Keith said he would like to write his own instructional book for magicians.
Since his instructional book hasn’t come to fruition so far, there have been times when Keith has been surprised to see portions of his act played out by someone else. Although many people would be disheartened, Brown has learned to take the high road and to stay true to himself: “Sometimes I feel cheated when someone copies a joke, a line or an entire presentation that I have been fine-tuning in front of audiences for years. They didn’t have to put in the effort to earn that pay off. They weren’t there to experience the evolution and know why it works. However, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Starting out, you have to imitate your idols. I did this all the time when I was younger. However, as you grow more and more, you start finding your own voice. To me that’s what going to set yourself apart from the others. It’ll be your voice that no one can copy. I am more interested in doing a trick in a way no one else does it. I want my voice to be so authentic that if anyone were to copy it, the audience wouldn’t hear their voice, but mine.”
Keith referred to the Magic Industry as “the people business” because success can be based on personal interactions and not just by putting on a phenomenal show. As Keith said, “No one wants to work with someone difficult, even if they’re a genius.” Some of his most valued experiences involve others with whom he has created “a genuine and strong connection” and he can never choose one memory as his favourite: “I could say performing at a Stanley Cup Party before I could even drive a car. I could say being flown to Las Vegas to perform at a poker tournament and speak at a conference. I could say doing a TEDx Talk in my twenties, or I could say the little boy in Orlando who comes to my show every year with his grandma and who has photos of me on his wall. All of these are moments that are very memorable and meaningful to me.”
Keith Brown’s advice for other magicians is simple: “Just do it. Find a way. If you really love it and this is really what you want to do, then you will make it happen. You’ll find a restaurant, you’ll rent a theatre, you’ll put yourself out there. You need to take the chance, take that leap of faith and just do it. If it doesn’t work out then at least you tried.”
For more information please visit absolutemagic.ca.
Photo courtesy of Keith Brown.