One trick I’ve always liked is the drawing duplication trick. Basically the trick is that someone draws a picture that you don’t see, then you draw a picture and they match. The main problem with a drawing duplication is that if the audience thinks you see the picture, then you’re done. The problem with the method is that you have to see the picture.
I was driving the other day and came up with an idea for doing a drawing duplication. This version would not require me to see the drawing. In fact the drawing would be a prediction, so whether or not I see the drawing doesn’t really matter. I think the trick is stronger if I never see the drawing.
Basically what I’m doing is using a method for the classic magic plot “object in impossible location” to load a prediction. I made quick version last night and showed it to another performer and they liked it. It’s still got a little ways to go, and I’ll write more about it once I do it a couple of times.
Quite often I’ll be performing at an event with other acts. We’re all booked at the same venue, quite often we’re all doing separate things. A couple weeks ago there was a ton of great entertainers at a fair I was performing at. I decided to get everyone together and put on a variety show!
This was a real “fly by the seat of our pants” kinda show, but it was a ton of fun for the performers and the audience!
After doing this, I’m amazed that more fairs don’t have a variety show, or split bill show. It’s great for an audience to watch, and it’s something different. It also breaks up the “monotony” of doing your show three times a day. If you work with other acts, I highly recommend putting together a variety show!
Recently I was performing at a county fair where my act was the only paid act on a stage, the rest were unpaid acts. There were only three out of about 15 acts that were on that stage that cared about keeping the stage on schedule. One was a rock band, one was a hip hop group and the third was me. The other dozen acts were going to play their set lists regardless of when the started, or how unrealistic their set list was to fit within their scheduled time.
Of all of the acts, I was the only one that was on the stage more than once. I was on the stage three times a day, in between each band. I don’t think they realized how much it impacts every other act. If the first act ends at second acts start time, that means the second act starts late due to stage turn over time. At this point it’s not a huge deal. If the second act then starts late and plays their full set they will run into the third acts start time. Now we’ve got a problem because people looking for the third act will see the second act and assume the schedule they are looking at is wrong. The third act has now been robbed of their base audience who was looking for them.
The first two acts being selfish have hurt the third act, and potentially every other acts on that stage. That’s why sticking to your end time is very important when you are working on a shared stage with a published schedule. Sticking to a schedule is also a good habit to get into. Let’s say you are working a union house, and you run over your scheduled stop time because the show started late, it could cost you hundreds, or thousands in overtime to the stage crew.
When you are performing on a scheduled stage with other acts, sticking to your end time is very important! It’s a good habit to get into early on in your career.
The last week I’ve been performing my version of cards across in my preshow. My version is different from most stage versions as it’s just me onstage, I don’t have people hold the cards. There are seven red cards and ten blue cards. The two piles switch place, so the seven red cards turn into ten blue cards and the ten blue cards turn into seven red cards.
The end of the trick always gets applause. The reason for that I think is that the audience gets to catch up with the trick. I have to count the two piles and that let’s the audience’s brains catch up. When the second pile of cards is being counted, the audience is up to speed as they know what to expect, and have fully processed the trick, and are ready to applaud!
This is the opposite of problem I’m having with the silk through coat hanger. The first time it goes through, it’s very fast and unexpected. It’s great to watch the audiences faces when I do it, they react, but are clearly momentarily stunned as they process what they’ve just seen. After the first penetration, I have to stand there and wait for what feels like an eternity onstage.
This maybe one of those tricks where initially it doesn’t get a reaction and I just have to deal with that.
Yesterday on the stage that I’m performing on at a county fair there was no sound tech. This is fine for me, as I reasonably understand how to turn on a PA and use a sound board. It’s really not hard, since I’m not singing to get my voice to sound right. When I first got into performing and encountered sound boards, I asked the tech to show me the basics. I learned what all the knobs do, I barely understand how to use them, however I can get my show up and running (usually) without a sound tech.
On the stage I was performing on there was a dance school right after my show. I finished my show and unplugged my cords and put them with my stuff. The leader of the dance group freaked out, she didn’t know what to do for her audio. She was very unprepared. She asked for my help, and I asked her if she had brought a cord? She said she didn’t know she needed one, and I told her I didn’t know I needed one either.
Here’s the kick in the butt, she didn’t even have the right connector to get her iphone to connect to the standard 3.5mm cord!!! Even if there was a cord, she couldn’t have plugged her phone into the sound board.
I really wanted to pull her aside, but she was mid-meltdown and tell this is a teachable moment. Instead of freaking out, she should get her dancers and tell them the problem and it being a result of her not being prepared for the worst. As a performer that’s a good skill to have. If you have a prop or piece of gear that’s easily lost, have two of them. If there’s an essential cord or adapter that the venue should have, but cost less than $10 and easily fits in your bag, you should have one!
For under $50 she could have a mic, mic cord, and a cord to plug her iPhone in. She really should have a dedicated iPhone for the show, and her personal phone should be a back up. After seeing how she reacted at how unprepared SHE was, I wouldn’t let my kid go to her dance school.
Recently I watched a juggler perform at a county fair and as far as I could tell he never looked at the audience during the entire show. I get that to be a juggler you need to look at the props you are juggling, or manipulating, however the audience should still see your eyes at some point.
Eye contact is very important to connect to an audience. Have you ever talked to someone that doesn’t look at you? It’s strange. When you don’t look at the audience, it’s like you are ignoring them. No one likes to be ignored, especially a mobile audience like one at a fair.
It also makes the audience feel like they are being talked at, not talked to. I go through spurts of when I fell like I’m talking at the audience. It’s because for whatever reason internally I’m rushing to get to the next joke. Lately, I’ve been doing a good job of holding back on the joke, sometimes it won’t happen because I’m letting the audience decide where I’m going…but you need that connection with them to happen, and it all starts with eye contact.
Recently I as asked to do a show as a favor for a booker, which was an show at a volunteer event. Doing this was no big deal, and something I’m more than willing to do. However when I’m doing something for free, I’m much more of a stickler for the performing conditions than when I’m being paid.
This particular gig was in a huge echoy space. The echo by itself wasn’t a big deal, however it was more than just that. The venue’s sound system was a super old school one where the speakers were in the ceiling of a very high ceiling. I couldn’t hear myself when I talked into their mic and stood in the audience. I need to be able to be heard, they told me it’d be OK. I told them that it was unacceptable.
When you’re being paid for a gig, you want it the best it can be. Usually people who pay for things are much more likely to give it what it needs to be successful. The people who aren’t invested in your show, aren’t invested in it succeeding. Personally I have no problem walking away from a free gig if I feel that me or my show isn’t being treated right.
This week I’m at another fair and doing three stage shows a day. This is a good chance to work on new stuff. I’m going to be putting some more time into my silk and coat hanger routine this week. I’ve been working on the technical end of the trick, now it’s time to work more on the routine.
Here’s the routine as of about a month ago:
Since that video was recorded, it’s changed a little bit. I’ve added a phase to the routine, and a couple of jokes. My goal is for this to end up being about 3 minutes.
I’ve got a choice, do I do jokes in between every magic phase, or front load it with jokes and then have the back half be magic. I think it needs jokes between each phase. I’ll play with it both ways this week…
Earlier today I did my final library show of the summer. This year I’m performing a lot more in a different market, so only did about a dozen libraries. I’ve got couple of things that I learned about a few of the new magic tricks that I did in the show this summer.
First I learned how to do the Gypsy Thread trick for kids. I had to do some focus group work to figure out why the trick was falling flat. It’s one of those tricks that’s almost too good. The kids thought it was “magnet string” and it just turned back into one piece automatically. To solve this I had a kid hold the string, and it didn’t restore initially. Then later it turned back into one piece.
The second thing I learned is that the big fish production is OK by itself. However if you add the production of a smaller fish before it, the big fish production plays much better!!!
I think a lot of people don’t learn from their library shows. It’s a short term run, and that’s it. Personally I try to have one or two tricks that I can use outside of that themed show, and I’ve got two great ones!
It drives me nuts when people say they “aren’t creative like me” or that ” not everyone can create new tricks”. That’s total BS, it’s not that they aren’t creative, it’s that they aren’t motivated to be creative. Just like learning a sleight of hand move it simply takes practice.
The easiest way to start your creative thinking is to read a description of a magic trick and figure out a method. Don’t watch a demo video as what you see can affect what you do. Watching a demo could make try to make you recreate that specific the method, this isn’t what you want to do.
Coming up with your own methods is a good starting point for learning to be creative.
The key to being creative is actually putting energy into it. Sure some ideas pop out of nowhere, some are the result of specific work. I used to set aside 30-45 mins every morning to try to come up with ideas (magic tricks / jokes / etc). The key is to do it everyday, I do it in the morning because if I do it then, it will get done. Be aware that 95% of these ideas will be junk, but you are mining for the 5% that’s good.