One trick that I’m doing in the school assembly is based on Jim Steinmeyer’s Apples and Oranges routine in his book Conjuring. Jim’s trick is the Piano Card Trick, but using apples and oranges, which makes it play on stage. Essentially the trick is an orange disappears from one side of the stage and reappears on the other.
I took Jim’s idea and rewrote the script and changed the props so that it works for the show I was doing. In the first few weeks of doing the show, I felt like the kids holding the nets of fruit were really only there as human props and I needed to give them opportunities to shine. I started by asking them some questions, then giving one of them a line and creating an impossible challenge for the other kid. This made the routine soo much more engaging that it was before.
Also I should add that the trick is good! When the orange ends up on the other side of the stage, the teachers seem more amazed than the kids! That’s an important point about this show and all kids shows, the magic needs to be good. There were (and still are) soo many magic tricks that from an effect standpoint aren’t good that are marketed to children’s performers. This is part of what creates the stereotype that kids magic is cheesy. If you up your game with good tricks, it’s helps take you out of that cheesy magician box.
When I was putting together my tennis ball routine for this school assembly tour, I started using Sponge Tennis Balls by Daba Magic. I like these more than the Alan Wong Sponge Tennis Balls as the Daba ones pop open much faster.
After using them for 2-3 shows a day on this tour, I found one thing that I don’t like about the Daba Sponge Tennis Balls. The white line on them is tape or something like that, where on all the other sponge tennis balls I’ve tried, they are painted on. After about a week the tape lines started getting loose, and this week they started falling off.
Here’s what the lines should look like:
And here’s what they looked like this week:
Honestly, I wasn’t surprised that this would happen to them. I didn’t think that tape was good way to make the lines. I went to the store and bought some paint and redid the lines:
It only took a few minutes to paint the lines onto the sponge tennis balls, and this should hold up for a lot longer than the tape lines.
For this tour I started using my Media Star remote control that runs my music with the magnet ankle switch. Early on I realized that it was running about 2 shows before it stopped reliably working. Changing batteries every couple of shows solved the problem, but is annoying and I have a feeling that’s not how it’s supposed to work.
In the show I use the ankle (magnet reed switch) in a few spots to make the music play seamlessly, however there’s one spot where I need it as I can’t use my hands. I have someone from the audience playing sound effects from a fake music remote, and I need to trigger them when they push the button. With the ankle switch giving me problems, I needed to think of a way to make the gag work.
I defaulted to the mentalist’s old friend, Dual Reality! I put three different colored dots on my remote control.
I simply say “push the blue dot” or “push the red dot”, which implies to the audience that there are different buttons, when in reality it’s all the same button. I’ve done this for one day (2 shows) and it’s working out well and is a great, simple solution to the problem of the ankle switch not behaving properly.
In my spare time I help out with a variety arts festival and I’m updating their website with bio’s for performers. I’m amazed at how many performers don’t have a simple one paragraph bio.
Back when I was on vacation in Oct/Nov part of our trip was on a cruise ship and in one of the production shows they had bios of the different performers in the show on the screens before the show. These were simply one paragraph bio’s with a head shot of the performer.
These don’t need to be much and are used much more often than you’d think. A bio is different than a the short/long description of your magic show, as they may both be used at the same time in the same program.
A bio is a little more about you and less about the show. It’s simply a quick background on YOU.
Magician Bio Sample
Johnny The Magician began practicing magic when a magician performed at his sister’s 8th birthday. Ever since that day he’s been amazing friends and family with sleight of hand tricks and in the last 20 years he’s come a long way! In addition to being a graduate of the Chevez Course in Manual Dexterity he was also “stunt hands” creating magic with a credit cards in a national commercial for Visa. In his spare time Johnny is an avid boating enthusiast having sailed on every ocean on the planet!
There’s really not much to it, just list some interesting thing about you, some accomplishments and maybe something about a hobby you have. Having a short bio ready to send out to bookers or already available on your website makes you life and their life much easier!
Yesterday was the end of the third week on the road performing my new school assembly show. This week I was really focusing on getting more out of the people who help me onstage in the show and letting them “shine” more.
One bit in the show where I draw a picture of a kid. I have the kid face the audience and do different emotions. I was using and older kid in the 3rd to 6th grade range and they weren’t really doing much interesting. My reasoning for an older kid was they are standing on stage by themself, so I was worried a kid that a younger kid would be uncomfortable onstage alone. Turns out I think that was the issue with an older kid, they feel a bit self conscious.
This week I switched a kindergarten or first grade kid and the difference is HUGE! Every kid I’ve used was great, and really played up the emotions that I was asking them to do. Also there’s something that all ages love is seeing a little kid have fun. Their joy is infectious!
It’s little things like this that make a good show great! My show still has a lot of these little things to be fixed.
One huge thing with this school assembly tour is efficiency. Honestly, I’m not getting paid a ton, so wasting time loading in and out isn’t a good use of my time. The show loads in and out in one trip.
My road case has wheels on the bottom of it and I have handle that attaches to the front of it that I use to pull it.
One trip without a dolly or hand truck makes this a quick load in and out.
Magic has a long history of appropriating Asian culture, from people performing in yellow face to props having random Chinese characters put on them to make them look exotic.
I have a prop that has Chinese on it that actually makes sense. A couple of years ago I made a production box out of a take out box from a Chinese restaurant. This idea had been in a notebook years earlier, but I finally got around to it in 2020.
This box is the first trick in the school assembly show and gets a huge reaction! In the show I use it to produce a tennis ball, while saying producing a tennis ball from a take out box doesn’t really make sense, in the routine it does make sense.
Out here on this tour, sometimes the travel time between shows is very tight and I don’t have very much time to set or strike the show. I provide everything except electricity. Knowing that some shows I may not have much time to set, need to pack out quickly, or both, I have two set ups for the show.
The normal set up takes about 20-25 minutes to set up and I use this when I have plenty of time to set up and strike.
Here’s the normal set up:
The quick set up/strike takes about 10-15 mins and I use it when I have tight travel time.
Here’s what it looks like:
The big difference is that I don’t have the banner. It also doesn’t use a speaker stand for the PA. A difference you can’t see is that the quick set up doesn’t use a wireless headset mic. Those few things make a huge difference in set up/strike time.
I use the handheld mic with a stand or a mic hanger for when I need to use my hands. I’m really glad that about a year and half ago I decided to learn to use a handheld microphone. Having practiced with a handheld really makes me a lot more versatile!
In the new school assembly show I do a trick with apples and oranges. It’s based on Jim Steinmeyer’s Apples and Oranges trick from his book Conjuring. The concept is the same, the the routine is completely different.
I’ve notice that about every 2-3 shows I have kid in the audience when I introduce the apples and oranges that will yell out, “they’re fake” and the kid is correct, they’re plastic. What puzzles me is that kid will fixate on the fact that they aren’t real and keep yelling out “they’re fake“, even after I agree with the kid that they aren’t real fruit.
I’ve tried different ways to deal with this, and yesterday I wrote the line, “they’re not real, I got them from Ikea…So they’re made of particle board and Swedish meatballs”. The goal is to address the issue before the kids says anything. I’ve done it at 2 shows and so far I haven’t had anyone yell out anything.
One challenge with this line is that I’m in North Dakota and there isn’t a Ikea for about 700 miles! The line gets a small laugh from the adults, and not much from the kids. this is better than nothing, however I think I need to write a better line…