The Third Row and Beyond

When I was at a booking conference last month, one of the acts that I saw was a magician. He did a sponge ball routine where most of the action happened on the table top.

Sponge ball magic trick

What do you notice in the picture?

What I see is an audience that can’t see what’s happening. The back two rows are all leaning trying to see through gaps between the heads of people in the front two rows.

In theory, sponge balls can be done “high”, but in practice it’s a “low” effect. What I mean by that, is you can ask the person to hold the sponge balls at shoulder height, but in reality, that’s not a very natural position. They’re going to hold them at belly or waist height. That takes a lot of the visibility out of the trick.

How can you sponge balls play higher?

I have no idea, I don’t do the trick and when I used to, it was close up, not onstage. The challenge is when they open their hand and the balls are there, they will fall, and that makes if very difficult to the audience to know how many balls are there before they fall.

Another possible solution is to not do close up tricks onstage. I’ve been guilty of that, doing close up tricks that translate to a small parlor audience. The success the close up trick gives you for 20-30 people makes you think it will work for 75 or more, and it really doesn’t.

Watch other performers from the back of the audience and make note of what’s visible and what isn’t. It’ll really help you look at your own show and know what plays beyond the second row!


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