this is the beginning of my fair season and I was going through and fixing, cleaning and upgrading props. One of the props in my show is a bowl that holds a ball of yarn. I use a plastic bowl instead of glass because it travels better and is much lighter!
Over time the bowl has really gotten beaten up and it was time to replace it.
I probably hung onto the old bowl for too long, but I liked it because it’s half the height of any plastic bowl that I’ve been able to find. Sometimes you don’t realize how bad things look until you see them next to a new one!
As magic has more and more electronic tricks that are mass marketed a few problems are popping up. First one is customer support if they don’t work correctly. Usually the manufacturer doesn’t have incentive to repair the item. Sure they may replace it if you recently purchased it, but after that your main option would by buying a new one.
That’s why I like companies like ProMystic. They sell higher end products, and they will repair them. For example I’ve used their trick Inception for about four years and the screen went out on it. This is not their fault, I’ve used it in close to 1,000 shows across the USA (and North America) and over the years it’s been dropped, gotten wet, and still worked like a champ, even without the screen!
I finally had a gap in my schedule where I don’t need it and sent it in to them for repairs. For way cheaper than I thought it would cost for a screen replacement, they put a new one on it and it’ll be waiting for me when I get home in a few days.
For me having the option to have a four year old prop repaired instead of buying a new one is great! If you’ve been on the fence about getting anything from ProMystic, they are a great company and stand behind their products and help with support long after your purchase!
There are some props that have always baffled me as they don’t look like anything I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. The props for the Rice, Orange and Checkers trick is one of them. Below is a Rings n’ Things set that I own:
The middle container is the rice vase where you fill with rice, then rice turns into an orange. At the hotel I’m at, I found what I think it’s supposed to be in real life:
I don’t think anyone has really used containers like that in my lifetime, but I found what they rice vase is supposed to look like! I now only slightly less dislike the Rice, Orange and Checkers trick.
I just wrapped up performing at my first fair of 2022 and this fair has reminded me that to be successful performing at a fair you need a lot more than a good act. You need to be flexible as there are soo many unexpected variables.
The fair I was at has soo many challenges. One of the biggest ones was that it way very windy. By windy, I mean it would blow my table over. I’ve had to deal with that before sometimes the solution is simply to unscrew the top off my table and set it on the floor.
The stage was mostly in the Arizona sun all day, which bakes your props. I do a trick with keys and by the time I got to that routine they were physically uncomfortable to touch. The solution was to put strings on the end of the keys, so people could hold them by the string.
Then there was the blowing dust. Unfortunately there really wasn’t a solution to that. All that really can be done is to either pause until it stops or power through it.
Having performed at many fairs in the past, I’m aware of the challenges and while I’d prefer to not have the wind blow over my table, I’m equipped to handle them. Fairs will make you a better performer because you’ll have to deal with pretty much everything from weather, to people, to venue challenges. If you can figure out how to adapt, you can figure out how to work your show virtually anywhere.
I love how people can look at the COVID restrictions and figure things out. A while ago I did a birthday party magic show in a small theater. The thing about this is that at the time, the show would have been against COVID restrictions to do in the family’s backyard. But if they did it indoors, in a theater, we could do the show. It doesn’t really make sense why this was OK, but outdoors wasn’t. I’m not going to get into that debate. When COVID first hit, I said I was going to follow whatever the local health code said, and this was allowed.
One switch I’ve made is I’m trying to have more props onstage at the beginning of the show. Normally it’s just my prop case and table. In 2019 I added the bowl on a stand to hold a ball of yarn and now in 2021 I’ve brought back my Applause Please trick (applause sign).
Visually that puts some stuff on the stage. While my show is still primarily hand held magic props, having something onstage for the audience to look at before the show makes it feel like something more. David Hira talks about this in his penguin magic lecture, I and really agree with him. Having something for the audience to look at and wonder what it does helps build excitement (in most instances).
The holder I was printing out the other day is finished and works great! I designed this to display to hold an envelope, or jumbo card upright so that it’s more visible than laying flat on a table. I also put a magnet inside of it so that I can simply stick it to the front of my small case.
Here’s the finished holder:
Here it is holding a giant card:
It holds it very securely, the card won’t fall out under normal circumstances.
It also hit me that I could put a magnet behind my virtual backdrop and use it there.
If I end up using it for virtual shows, I’ll need to print out another one to keep with that show’s props. I really dislike moving props around from case to case. That’s a easy way to forget or lose things.
Now that I have a few more of these “masked, small group, no contact, socially distant” magic shows under my belt, I’ve started to streamline the show. I know what’s working and what’s not working or what’s not needed. Instead of doing one 45 minute magic show, I’m doing three magic shows that are 20 minutes each.
If you compare the picture above to the one that I posted a few weeks ago when I first started doing these shows, you’ll notice I have a lot less stuff in my case. The props I never used have been taken out. There are still some things I don’t really use, but have as back ups in case I end up with a really strange group.
You also may notice I have multiple sets of the same prop. This is because I’m doing three shows instead of one with very short gaps to reset. Having three sets of Gypsy Thread set up, or three peaches ready cuts down on reset time. I can now have one group coming in while the other is leaving.
Something else that was never really a concern with me since I usually only do one show, or have longer gaps to reset the magic tricks in my show is the actual reset time. Pretty much everything in the show was selected because it has quick or no reset time, or it was practical to have multiple sets of it. This was a compromise that needed to happen to make this show work.
One of the things that I try to do in my show is not to use props that other people use. It could be the same prop, but mine looks different. Usually the reason mine looks different is because I made it myself (or had it made for me). I read a long time ago … Continue reading “Make It Yourself…”
One of the things that I try to do in my show is not to use props that other people use. It could be the same prop, but mine looks different. Usually the reason mine looks different is because I made it myself (or had it made for me). I read a long time ago in an SH Sharpe book on magic theory that when you make the prop the pride your have from making it will show in your performance and that’s something that’s stuck in my head.
Recently I searched for a set of large walnuts to make my own set for the three shell game. I finally found some in the Ukraine had them shipped to me. I altered one of them a little bit and made a mold of it, and then cast my own set of shell game shells in resin.
These shells are larger than most shells, but not too large. I’ve used them in a couple of gigs and they’re working out great. The next step is to learn to reduce the tiny air bubbles in them.
Playing with props instead of trying to learn a routine really makes a routine yours. You end up understanding the props much better than if you simply followed directions. Yes there is a place for following directions and learning from the people that came before you. Personally one of the ways that I create material … Continue reading “Play With Your Props”
Playing with props instead of trying to learn a routine really makes a routine yours. You end up understanding the props much better than if you simply followed directions. Yes there is a place for following directions and learning from the people that came before you.
Personally one of the ways that I create material is to start with the prop that I want to use. I then learn the technical end of the prop and then start playing with it. The play helps me come up with ways to use it that are more based on my mannerisms and movements. Now that I understand the prop a bit, I’ll start to learn all I can about the prop or effect. How do other people do it, and why do I like or not like they way that they are doing it.
After playing with the “silk thru mic stand” a lot yesterday a routine has started to take shape. My routine uses something other than a mic stand, but essentially the same trick. I’ve got three phases for the routine, and that I think gives it a sense of build and each phase has a different texture. These phases came as a direct result of playing and then research, try it, you’ll be surprised at the results!