Lately, I've been receiving requests about how to improve performing across various venues. While each mentalism performance venue has different pro's and con's, there are some universal constants. These constants are those that are directly controlled by the performer. If acted upon, these tips will improve any performance, regardless if it be stage, parlor, or walk-around.
Tip #1 Vary Your Pitch, Volume, & Speed
So why do many performers sound monotone and mechanical? Mostly, because they haven't developed a true comfort performing. Others because they are nervous and are afraid they will forget their lines so they want to get it over with. The performers that fall into this category have the tendency to also speak at a fast pace. Monotone, robotic, and fast is not a good combination. So slow down your words. Not only will it help your audience understand any complex dialogue, it also allows for the inclusion of speed to grab attention. Vary the pitch of your voice, this keeps people engaged. Unless your a hypnotist and putting people under, fluctuate the pitch and loudness of your voice. This helps people to understand certain emotions as well as gravity of the situation. Both keep people engaged.
Tip #2 Learn Your Lines without actions
Learn your lines without blocking and movements. Learn your movements without words. This will free you from the danger of associating behaviors with words. When working with an audience, you can't entirely control the response or reaction. By freeing mechanics from words, it allows you to react to what happens on the fly without ruining key movements or thematic dialogue.
Tip #3 Practice With Music
Borrow music that matches your desired mood from great composers to use in practicing your routines. By using music as you practice the blocking and "stage business," you develop a rhythm and pacing as you move through your performance. Having this rhythm allows for a fluidity of motion in your routine and the end effect is that it appears natural. Note: the music is only played and used during rehearsal or until the rhythm/timing becomes your movement.
Tip #4 Don't Try to be Funny
Mentalists are not comedians. So don't try to be. It shows! Humor should come organically, because forced humor is never funny. Let the funnies flow from the natural byplay that occurs between you, the people involved, and your audience. Not only does it sound better and more natural than a scripted line, it will fit the situation.
Tip #5 Learn How To Improvise
Something always goes wrong. Knowing how to improvise helps you to get back on track if for some reason or another your effect is derailed. It allows you to restore the rhythm, from Tip #3, back to the effect. Improv is essentially playing to the players involved in the scene. And there is always someone offstage influencing the people on the stage. So use improvisation to gain control and correct problem people through dialogue and blocking.