Sneaking into a Show with Shimada!

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.

shimada magician

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!

Early Bird Gets the Sound Check

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!


Get With the Times…

Ugh, so the idea of “cultural appropriation” in magic has popped up recently in a social media group for magicians. Personally I’m against people using props that depict things they don’t know about. A good example is the classic magic production boxes that have a Chinese character on them. At the very least, know what it actually says.

Yes, there is an artistic choice there use them and not know what they say. However your artistic choice says something about you.

Luckily those boxes and wearing Asian robes have mostly fallen out of fashion for younger performers. Right now it’s the older performers who are the ones that are (still) doing it. I try not to judge the past by modern standards, but if you are in modern times still doing things that may have been acceptable in the past, you need to get with the times.

Someone like Ian Adair who I respect as a creator still sells his Fu Ling Yu trick:

Ian adair fu ling yu

That style of imagery doesn’t belong in a modern magic show. I also understand he lives in a different country and what may be acceptable there may be different from where I live. I also understand he probably had a ton of these made 20+ years ago and doesn’t want to throw them away. I wish he would realize that sometimes you have to let go of the past, that trick really can’t be a good seller anymore.


Color Changing Silk Gimmicks…

A couple of days ago a friend of mine sent me a video of the Infection color Changing Silk effect. I’m familiar with the instant color changes which I think are usually more suited to a manipulation act than the “poke and pull” style with a dye tube.

A long time ago when Norm Nielsen sold a color changing hank where you pulled it through your hand and the silk’s color changed. I always thought that would be a great first or last phase of a dye tube color changing silk routine.

I think Norm’s version would be a good beginning and Infection would be a better ending. I’m not sure if using both in the same routine would be better than using just one? Also there’s a lot that would need to be figured out, like how you’re going to transition from one gimmick to the other and ditches so you end semi/totally clean.

It’s an idea…and I don’t know why, but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone use one of the pull through gimmicks AND the push and pull gimmicks in the same routine. Maybe I’ll get one and give it a try….

Spoon and Fork Transposition

Every now and then I end up with a trick that I like, but it doesn’t have a place in the show. These tricks end up in the preshow section of my show until I either come up with a routine for them, or give up on trying to figure out a way to fit them in show. The spoon and fork transposition is something that’s a great trick, but stayed in the preshow part of the show for years.

I finally fleshed out the routine a little bit, so it was more than a quick trick. It’ s a two phase routine, with an ending. Recently I tried it at a virtual magic open mic and it went well:

One thing I didn’t think about was the “hips gag”, I don’t think it played virtually. One of the problems was I was sitting, which I really should have realized before I started. Sometimes little things slip, that end up being a much larger problem that you’d think they would be. At least I now know for future gigs!


Bad Shows…

One thing I can’t stand are magicians who say they always “kill” at their shows. I’m sure there are people that do crush is from the audience’s perspective all the time, but did they honestly and artistically think they did their best every show?

I’ve done shows where at the end I get a standing ovation, and think to myself, “really, that show wasn’t that good”. I’m not saying the audience is wrong to show their appreciation, I’m saying the performer should honestly look at each show. Could you as a performer have done better?

Personally I learn more about doing bad shows that I do from crushing it. You learn or try to learn why things that normally work didn’t. Was it you, was it the audience, was it the situation or a combination of all of them? Then you need to figure out how to make it not happen again, or at least reduce the risk or amount of reasons why the show was bad.

I’m not saying you should go out and do bad show intentionally as a learning tool…but you can learn things by going to an open mic at taking drastic risks with your show. Sometimes something you think would turn off an audience connects…sometimes it doesn’t.

Take some risks…it’s art, not brain surgery.

Trying Take Out…

One of the cool things about virtual performing is that if you have something you want to try, there are a ton of opportunities to do it…and you don’t need to leave you house! Yesterday I popped into Kevin Peel’s Open Mic Magic Show on Zoom. The nice thing about this show is that it’s UK based, so showtime is noon in Seattle!

I was looking to try out the Take Out Production Box for an audience, here’s the first attempt at doing the trick:

I think it works, I do need to do some writing to come up with something to say, or some jokes. For a video I like the “travel hack” premise, however for a live show, I think it may need some more meat. I could be wrong…


Taking “Take Out” Further…

I frequently say that creating magic is just problem solving. Lately I’ve been writing about using a chinese take out box as a production box. Logistically, I have the hiding of the load and the showing of the box empty figured out.

The challenge is when is “good enough” good enough?

Right now the production from the box works with a box that’s plain white on both sides. I want to have a box that’s plain white on the inside and on the outside it will have the a red Asian looking logo of some sort. That’s the thing that really establishes it as a Chinese Take Out Box from a distance.

I just ordered a bunch of take out boxes and I’m going to play with a couple ideas for being able to show one side plain and the other side with a logo. We’ll see how it goes…


Take Out Ideas…

With the Chinese Take Out Production Box, I probably should explore some ideas beyond my initial idea for a routine. While the original idea is good, maybe there’s a better idea.

  • Vanish: Item goes into the box and you open the box flat for the vanish.
  • Mentalism Reveal: Someone thinks of a object and then you make it appear from the box.
  • Multiple Mentalism Reveal: Produce first thought of item from the box, then show the box empty and then produce the second item.
  • Item and Price Reveal: Something thinks of a menu item and price. You open the box to reveal the price inside (also showing the box empty). You close the box and then produce the item.
  • Time Travel: You remove something from the box, and open the box flat to show it empty. It vanishes and reappears in the box.
  • Transformation: Something goes into the box (like hard dry noodles) and they come out as cooked noodles

There’s some ideas, I kinda like the idea of a transformation, maybe ingredients go in and out comes a finished food? Anyway, I’m glad I dug a little bit deeper than just my initial idea.


Chinese Take Out Production…

Yesterday I wrote about an idea of using a chinese take out box as a production box. I went out and bought some poster board and made a box using the real one as a template. It was pretty easy to make the box, and luckily it all worked out on the first try:

I won’t use cards as the production item as they don’t make sense coming out of the box. I think I’ll use chinese food like noodles, or possibly and oyster and then noodles.

I think this is superior to many production boxes that are on the magic market because it’s something that people actually see everyday. Also as a prop, it’s much easier to relate to than a mirror box!