One of the things about doing virtual magic shows is that I think the audience has no idea of what is going on behind the scenes. Here’s what people see of the set of my virtual show:
Then there’s what’s really going on just below the camera’s view:
Normally my set up is what’s just below my working tabletop, however the show from a couple days ago I had to over prepare as I was told I wouldn’t be able to interact with the audience.
It’s crazy how quickly we all had to learn and figure out these virtual shows. Early on in March or April 2020 people were still trying to do their stage shows (unaltered) on Zoom and I think pretty much everyone has figured out there’s a better way to do it!
Well, it all turned out alright! Yesterday I had a virtual magic show for a group where initially I was told I wouldn’t be able to see or hear the audience and couldn’t use the chat function for the show…but they wanted and interactive show.
I was prepared to treat the show like a live, prerecorded virtual show. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the show started that I was able to do some limited video/audio interaction with the kids!
I went into the show thinking of the old saying, “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst”.
Being willing to take on a challenge helps me grow as a performer. Next time I’m offered a show with conditions like what I was told for this one, I’ll be more prepared as I’ve already thought about it and done a lot of the work!
Today’s show is going to be a stressful show. It’s a virtual show that’s for a group that wants and interactive show…but I won’t be able to see or hear the audience and chat won’t be enabled on Zoom. When I was talking to the booker, I clarified that they want an interactive show, but I can’t interact with the people in the audience and they confirmed that was the situation.
There are essentially two options at this point:
Decline the gig
Take the money and do it
I decided to take the show as a challenge to see what I could come up with. I’m treating this show like a live prerecorded virtual show. What I mean by that is it’s the content I would put into a prerecorded virtual show, however I’m doing it live. This opens up some possibilities, like I could roll dice for a random number or spin a wheel to get a random item. While those methods of selection aren’t as strong as having someone from the audience select the item, it gives me options that aren’t there with a prerecorded virtual show.
I have one trick that’s a “touch the screen” style of trick which is a custom version of Interactive that I made that uses Bigfoot sightings. I do have some tricks where the audience has a job at home, but what they do doesn’t really affect me or the outcome of the trick. One of these is the shellgame, which is good because they can play along at home by picking the shells. I’m using my Russian Shell Game for the show as it’s got a fun ending.
I had a blast at the KAX conference that just ended yesterday. Lot’s of great info was shared and it was great to be a presenter and be able to share with other performers!
This event was a virtual event and I know a lot of people prefer in person conventions, there are some advantages to them being online. The first is you can get other things done while you are attending the convention. This week I’m packing up and getting ready to move, so while I was watching lectures I was also boxing things up. It’s also a lot cheaper to attend, as you don’t have hotel and I could eat my breakfast during the conference!
I was also able to do some shows during the convention, so I was able to earn money during it, where if I had to travel to it, I’d just be spending money the whole week. Virtual conventions will never replace (I hope) in person conventions, they do have their advantages!
We’re getting ready to move and I found this picture of me with Shimada! It made remember the fun adventure that let to me hanging out with him.
Way back in the mid 1990’s I went to Vegas for the first time. I was a teenager and went to the Desert Magic Seminar by myself. One of the shows that I wanted to see was Lance Burton‘s show at the Hacienda. I walked over there from the Tropicana and was turned away at the box office because the show was sold out.
As I was walking away, legendary magician Shimada was walking in with a big group of people, who were all Asian. Just as they all went into the showroom, and Peter Reveen (who I think was Lance’s manager) stopped me and asked why I was leaving. I was totally confused, and he told me I should go in with Shimada’s group to get seated. He then brought me into the showroom and seated me with Shimada and his group!
Lance Burton’s show was amazing and it was a lot of fun to watch a legendary show with a legendary magician!
Yesterday I posted a dollar bill trick where the dollar was used to produce a tiny bible. The “bible” was one I made was just some paper that was stapled together, covered with duct tape and wrote on it in white pen (These pens are also handy for marking cards!).
The homemade bible is fine for a test run, but the first thing the people I’ve shown this to did was flip through it. That tells me it needs to be a real bible or at least pass the flip test. There are certain things where having the object people want to touch be real and not something that pretends to be real makes the trick stronger. There’s a sense of disappointment if someone realizes that the oranges you use in cups and balls aren’t real. It doesn’t make the trick any less amazing, but it takes them out of the magic headspace there were in. With that in mind I went out and hunted down a tiny bible!
Sometimes it’s the little things that add a lot to the trick. Having it be a real bible makes it more than a sight gag…not much more, but it does elevate the trick!
I’ve had an idea in my head for a while to do something with the “In God We Trust” on the back of a dollar bill. I went out and made a bill that doesn’t have it, normally it’s printed just above the giant ONE on the back of a dollar bill.
This one turned out great and it’s got a nice texture and doesn’t feel altered. The next thing was to figure out what to do with it, here’s what I came up with:
Ideally I want to borrow their dollar bill, call attention to a lot of the “hidden” things on a bill, and also call attention to the “in god we trust”. Then I’d do some sort of trick with one of the parts of the bill and during that trick I’d switch the bill for the one that didn’t have “in god we trust” and I’d do the bible production.
The next challenge is going to be figuring out what the first phase would be…
One of the biggest tips that I’ve learned about performing is being early to the gig. This is even more important when you are working with other acts in a stage show. Your “tech rehearsal” is soo much easier when you’re not the last person.
When you’re the first one to do their tech, you get the crew’s full attention and your full time slot. As more performers show up, the tech rehearsal always ends up running long and if you’re the last person to do tech, you will probably get an incomplete or rushed tech run through.
The tech needs for my show is pretty simple and when I’m on variety shows the producers like to have me tech last because my needs are simple. I suggest to have me first, to get me out of the way, and since I probably won’t use my full time slot, they’ll get ahead early on, instead of being behind schedule right out of the gate.
Even in situations where I have a later scheduled tech time, I try to show up first and try to be ready to do the tech rehearsal first. That allows me to slip in if an act isn’t ready to go at the start of their time.
Here’s a good example, recently I was in a show and the other act I was sharing the stage with was a band. The event had both of our tech times at the same time. I was there an hour before the shared tech time. I loaded in, got my show set up ran my tech and was done before the shared tech time. The band showed up at the beginning of the tech time. Oh, I should mention the tech time was an hour before showtime, so with doors 15 mins before showtime, the shared tech time was really only 45 mins. By the time the band had loaded in and set up their gear, it was 10 mins to showtime, meaning they were already 5 mins behind schedule. They ended up getting no sound check, and their show suffered.
I realize it’s not always possible to show up early, or get your tech done earlier than your scheduled time and that’s just how life is. For me, getting there early ensures that my show gets what it needs or at least it gives me a good reason for them to hold the doors while I finish my tech!
The Moisture Festival is joined over Zoom by the amazing comic daredevil David Aiken a.k.a the Checkerboard guy. David is a unique talent that has traveled the globe with his show and shares with us some amazing stories of his travels.
He also tells us about the origins of the checkerboard theme in his show, his love of unusual cars and we gain some unique insights on why someone would gravitate towards becoming a professional juggler. We also learn about David’s new passion of brewing beer and his goal of opening a nano brewery on Vancouver Island. It was great to catch up with one of the funniest and kindest people in the performing world. You are going to love it.