Empty Venue vs Full Venue…

A couple of nights ago I went to a Seattle Mariners baseball game. It was interesting as there was virtually no one there. In the state that I live in they can have vaccinated sections as well as pod seating. I sat in the vaccinated section, which was pretty empty…the whole ballpark was pretty empty.

What was really interesting was the things that they played to get the crowd pumped up. All the little graphics with sound effects fell flat on the crowd. Whoever plays the sounds was playing them like it was a bigger crowd. I don’t know if they have incentive to mess around with other techniques, especially when our state opens up in less than two weeks.

Performers know that you really need to work a small, spread out crowd differently than a packed house.

Here’s what worked: The interactive things on the jumbotron, we have a hydroplane race where the crowd cheers for a color, and they do a shellgame with baseball hats and a baseball.

Seeing that I would have tried doing some facts or trivia about the batter, then rolling the reaction into a sound/graphic that pumped up the crowd. I don’t know if it would have worked, but it would probably have done at least as well as what they were doing.

Get To It…

When I was hosting the stage at a fair last week, I noticed a thing that separated the more professional bands from the ones that were probably more hobby bands. Before I tell you what it was, let me describe the scenario. We had an attraction near the stage that was active during our change over time, and when the attraction ended, I introduced the next band. the goal was to get people to leaving the attraction to come to our stage. During the band set up I would tell the band what the plan was, and as soon as I introduced them they should start.

The reality was that the majority of the bands would say they were ready to go and when I introduced them, they weren’t, or for whatever reason didn’t immediately start. This really confused me as to why they wouldn’t start. I would have about a 30 second intro of hyping the crowd and their intro. Then most bands would do the little “band huddle” or tune their instruments and sometimes it was a couple of minutes before they started playing. At that point they had lost all of the crowd walking by that was leaving the attraction.

What does that mean for a magic show? Be ready to start when introduced. It may mean walking from the wings, or whatever, but be ready to start your show. Don’t waste time by fiddling with props when you are introduced. Get to it. That doesn’t mean you need a flash opener, what I mean is that you need to start your show.

Trying to Support…

Last week I while I was in the Bay Area, I went up to San Francisco with a bunch of other acts that were performing at a fair. We walked by a Houdini’s Magic Shop and one of my friends asked if I could help him find a good bar trick. I knew exactly what would be good for him.

When we got in the guy working the counter never looked up at us. He was doing trick for someone at the counter and despite us standing right there he never even glanced at us. He was soo focused on one person he lost out on a sale.

I ran a magic shop for a long time when I was a younger and the thing is whenever anyone walks in you greet them. You don’t need to do anything fancy, or stop in the middle of a demo. A simple “hi” really goes a long way.

Is the lack of the $20 sale going to hurt the shop in a high tourist area?

Probably not.

Over time it does add up, and pausing between demos to sell me something wouldn’t affect the sale he was working on with the customer in front of him.

Formal Practice…

Thinking back on visiting The Magic Garage last week, it’s a really cool resource for magicians in the Bay Area. In addition to a hang out, there’s a theater in the garage.

While I was there we helped a magician workshop a routine. It’s great to be able to work on your show in a theater setting. Practicing in your living room works, but doing it in a more formal setting changes your mindset. That shift puts you more into work mode.

Table Top View…

In my show I primarily work out of the little bin on the top of my table. It allows me access to my props without having to reach squat to reach down into a case that’s on the floor. It also lets me look into the case and see everything quickly and easily. This is what my table top looks like at the beginning of the show:

As some of the larger props get used they get moved to the trunk on the floor. This is a fairly efficient way for me, as a one man act to manage my props.

Many years ago, I used to work out of my show case that was on the floor. When I was younger I didn’t mind squatting down and grabbing props. As I’ve gotten older, I don’t like to do that, also, ducking behind a case visually doesn’t look good onstage.

The Moisture Festival Podcast – Mike Caveney

The Moisture Festival podcast is joined by Magician and raconteur Mike Caveney for an over the phone chat. Mike tells us some amazing stories from his 40+ years in show business.

We discuss how he got into magic, how he married a fellow magician, how hard it is to go on the road with a chicken and how after 50 years of research he is finally releasing a book on the history of sawing a woman in half. Lots of great stories, laughs with a fantastic performer and magician. 

Back in Time…

One thing in magic is that people get hung up on is who created what and that if they thought of it without outside influence, then no one else could have possibly had the same thought.

My Russian Shell Game routine was inspired by a magazine column that Gary Oulette wrote. His ending used stacks of cups as the final loads to a cups and balls routine. In the article he “reserved all manufacturing rights“, I’m assuming he did this thinking no one had thought of the idea before.

Recently I was looking for something else and came across Cups and Cups and Cups and balls by Geoffrey Robinson

It’s the exact same idea as Gary’s, but it Gary never had a set made. Geoffrey did and it appears he had to do some problem solving. If you notice the small holes in the top, they are there (I’m assuming) to keep them from sticking together from the suction created if they are too tightly nested.

At the end of the day, you can’t assume you are the first person to have an idea!

The Magic Garage!

Over the last few years I’ve heard about The Magic Garage in San Francisco. Last night I got to pop in and check it out! It was a very cool place, and a ton of fun!

The amount of magicians that came in and out while I was there was really amazing. Will, whose garage it is said “it’s not a magic club, but a magic community” and that’s really what it is, a community!

There was a nice blend of BSing and jamming, it was the perfect mix. I’m looking forward to my next time visit!

Don’t Do It…

One of the things that I hate as a reason for why people do certain magic tricks is that “it’s a classic for a reason” or “just because you know it doesn’t mean the audience has seen it before“. To me these are lame reasons to justify doing a magic trick.

I’m performing at a fair right now and the vendor at the back of the audience where I’m working has a magic coloring book that he’s using to entertain the kids of the people he’s trying to sell insurance to. He’s a nice guy and he’s using it for a solid reason. However if that was a trick I did in my show, no matter how great my routine was, if someone had been to his booth, my routine wouldn’t play as well.

This is one of the reasons why I try to do more unique tricks, so I don’t have to deal with situations like there…or being in variety shows because someone is doing something similar and that forces me to cut duplicate material.

Still Figuring it out…

This week is challenging with performing outdoors in a noisy environment for people who are far from the stage and masked. I can’t hear them, or if someone says something I can’t tell who is saying it. I can also have no one on stage. I’ve been working on no contact material for a while, but the not being able to hear people is really throwing me for a loop.

I’ve been leaning heavily on jokes to add length to my show. The nice thing is that they require no props and that I can do and tell them without needed to hear anyone. It’s almost like telling jokes on a zoom show…but you can’t see people laughing.

I’m remembering reading in Wise Guy, Harry Anderson‘s book about performing band breaks at concerts and not being able to use the audience onstage. That’s where he developed his mismash card, and the monarch monte.

I’ve got a couple more days of stage shows before I shift back to doing just roving. It’s fun trying to figure out how to work these shows…hopefully I won’t have to deal with this ever again.