It’s been a while since I’ve performed a show at a retirement community. I just did one and they’ve been trying to get me in for a couple of years and our schedules finally lined up and then COVID happened. As restrictions in my state have been fluctuating, we’ve been trying to schedule and it finally happened!
When I did the show, there still was one COVID compliance thing I had to do, and that was wear a mask the whole show. That makes doing the show very challenging, but I managed to make my way through it. I always forget how much facial expression I use until I make the face and realized no one can see it under the mask!
June has been a month of learning how to do the show within remaining COVID restrictions and I’m hoping that with the west coast basically being reopened by the end of the month, I won’t need to use these skills I’ve been building anymore!
Recently I was jamming with some magicians, and the one tip I want to give younger magicians is that they shouldn’t “hog the jam“. What I mean by that it is to share the time by passing it along, not just showing off the whole time. When you’re younger, I think it’s hard to pass it along if you’re getting positive feedback. However that’s what builds a jam is the sharing.
For me the fun thing about jamming is the sharing and seeing what other people are doing, or working on, not the showing off. I think the difference is that I have regular audiences to get my showing off fix, where not everyone does. People who don’t get a chance to show off their stuff often need a place, I get that, but honestly they don’t need to hog the jam, spread it out!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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!