Gig Requirements…

It was only a matter of time before I got an inquiry for a gig that required me to be fully vaccinated.

Personally I have no objection to getting the COVID vaccine and knew that not having it may affect my ability to work. I got my vaccine the first chance I was eligible to get it. The big thing to consider is time…if you get the two shot version, you’ve got five weeks until you are fully vaccinated. The waiting period could cost you some work if you wait until the last minute to get it.

I’m not a doctor and don’t take this as medical advice, but for me getting the vaccine at the first chance I had was a good business decision!

Secret Cabaret….

When I was a kid someone let me borrow a VHS tape of a recording of Simon Drake’s Secret Cabaret. This was a TV series from the UK in the early 1990’s (I think) and it was soo far ahead of it’s time. It’s the show that got me into being a David Berglas fan before I knew anything about him.

Here’s one of his routines:

He had two main characters, one was dressed in a top had and tails and the other was dressed in a “mad max” style. Everything that he did on the show was done in a very unique way.

One trick he did was he had two tables and a box on each table. How I remember it was he put something into the box on one table and one the other table, a hand came out of the box holding the item. It was a really cool visual!

It’s something that’s been in my head for a long time. I like the idea of the “instant” transposition. I’ve been kicking around an idea of having two paperbags and thing that go into one, pop out of the second bag. I was thinking of somehow anchoring the second bag upside down, so when I put things into the first (right side up) they fall out of the second bag and onto the floor or table.

The final one would be a coke bottle, and when it goes into your bag you crush it up (latex bottle) and it comes out of the second one and clunks down on the table or shatters on the floor.

Logistically, there’s a lot that would need to be figured out for the trick to work. It’s a “back burner” project for me, but one that I would really like to eventually do!

Virtual Show Pricing…

Ugh, so my laptop has been working less and less well with virtual shows. It’s doing a strange things where my screen freezes, then speeds up to get caught up to real time. Luckily it’s not as bad on the audience’s screen as it is on mine, but it’s still there. It’s doable, but not a great experience for the audience.

If this was happening six months or a year ago, it wouldn’t have been a big deal as we were in the middle of the COVID pandemic and there was a long tunnel of virtual shows ahead. Right now I’ve got about 10 virtual shows on the books, but most places are booking me for in person shows. That makes it a hard decision to go out and buy a new computer. Do I just struggle through the last of the shows?

I decided to get a new computer to run my virtual shows on. This got me thinking about why virtual shows should cost at least as much as your in person magic shows cost. The main reason is that I am providing the venue, before the booker did that. Because of that I have “venue costs” associated with the show. That’s things like keeping my tech up to date and in working order, in addition to the maintenance of the performing space (backdrop etc).

At this point in the evolution of virtual magic shows, if you are charging less than you were 18 months ago, in my opinion you are charging too less. Keep in mind I don’t count other people’s money, you charge what you need to charge to survive and I won’t judge you on why you are charging what you are.

On The Big Screen…

For a long time I didn’t really use any video projection in my show. Mostly because I didn’t understand how it worked and how to work it. In late January of 2020 I decided I was going to start to figure out how to use it in my live, in person stage shows. Shortly after I started working on using projection, the COVID pandemic hit and any work on in person shows went onto the back burner as I had to figure out virtual shows. Luckily those virtual shows have translated into me starting to understand how to incorporate video elements into my in person show.

Recently I did a theater show and got to start to use video projection. One thing I didn’t like about video was that I didn’t want the audience essentially watching TV. The ideal trick for this is the Three Shell Game. It’s interactive, and fills the screen nicely, but plus it still have whole audience interaction. I chose to use my Russian Shell Game as it has a payoff with the production of a dozen shells.

Here’s my first show using video projection:

It played well, and one of the silver linings to come out of the COVID pandemic is me not being afraid of using video projection/production in my show!

The Places We’ll Go…

I’m home now from a taping of a TV show in Burbank and sometimes there are moments when I reflect on where my dopy little show has taken me. The picture below was taken as I was about to leave my dressing room at the studio at the end of the day.

After having not really done the show in a year, to having done a few cool shows right out of the gate as things open up. It’s amazing where my stupid little ideas packed into that Pelican 1615 case have taken me. I think it’s important to look at what you’ve done with your art and why you do it. I do it to show people my ideas, and to see cool places. As a kid who never went anywhere, my show has taken me all across North America!

Quarantining With Props….

Yesterday I mentioned that I’m out of town performing. I had to fly to this gig and it’s been a while since I’ve had to fly. Here’s the gear I use to fly:

The Pelican Air 1615 carries my show props, then the suitcase holds my costumes, non show clothes and other personal items. The particular gig I’m out for right now required me to go from the airport to the hotel and quarantine for two days. Then I have to go direct from the hotel to the gig…in addition to passing several COVID tests over the course of about a week.

This has presented some unusual challenges. Normally I would buy a few of the “grocery store” props once I got to the city I’m performing in. That’s not an option for this gig due to the quarantine. I had carry onto the plane some items that are semi fragile.

One of the hard things was travelling with bananas that I intend to use several days later was finding green bananas (that would be nice and yellow in three days). I ended up having to go to a restaurant supply place and had to buy a box of green bananas!

I could have had the production provide the bananas, however in the past when I’ve had them provided for me, they always give me the worst bananas. Same with the crackers…I rarely get exactly what I ask for. The trick is pretty specific to what I need. For example, I use unsalted crackers as they are easier to write on than salted crackers. I’m just trying to eliminate a headache before it happens.

Another In Person Gig…

We’re heading in the right direction for things opening back up for live, in person magic shows. Next week I’ve got my second bigger in person show. I’ll be performing in Lincoln City, OR as part of their Festival of Illusions on 3/23.

If you’re in the area that week you can get tickets at:
https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?ticketing=lccc

The bigger thing I’m having to figure out is that there’s not really one set of rules that everyone place has to follow. The regulations so far are varying everywhere as to what COVID restrictions you have to follow. Sure the only 100% sure fire way to plan is to assume you’ll be 25 feet from the audience (who is distanced) and you’ll be doing a no contact, no volunteer on stage, magic show while you are wearing a mask.

Most places don’t have requirements that strict. Since I don’t have a huge itinerary of big events, it’s easier to plan how I’m going to work the show on a case by case basis. I’m trying to work on things that use people from their seats in the audience and not relying too much on that.

What’s your plan for getting back to work?

Adding People…

When I do virtual shows the format I’ve been using is fairly similar to the structure of my in person shows. I usually alternate a trick where I’m solo on stage, followed by a trick where I use someone from the audience onstage, then repeat that. It’s a nice break from a constant stream of people coming up from the audience.

Last night at a virtual show I started using more people on screen than I normally would. In the solo tricks, I just talking to the people and joking with them.

It played out really well and it made the show a lot more fun for me. For a virtual show it really helped bring up the energy and forced me to be more present in the show during my solo tricks.

Vertical Three Shell Game

Last night I was playing with a set of mini cups and balls that I have. This particular set was made by Leo Smesters. These are a great little set, however honestly I don’t have much of a use for them. When I originally bought them I had an idea, but haven’t done much with them.

I had the idea of doing a vertical three shell game. The ball would switch places vertically while the cups were stacked. Here’s a quick video of the basic idea:

There’s a little bit more to the full idea I have. Right now the cups are ungimmicked and they will stay that way. However the balls have magnets in them and they stick to each other through the cup. So the cups can sort of function like a chop cup or regular cup depending on the positions of the two balls.

My idea is to have one ball with a very strong magnet in it and then two others with smaller magnets in them. The audience is only aware of one ball. You will steal the ball with the strong magnet and use that magnet like you would a use thumbtip with a magnet inside of it. That will give much more options with what you can do with the cups.

Now I just need to make the balls…

To Keep or to Delete…

Something I try to be aware of is the content of my show and how it relates to the current world. An example of this is trying to stay about from politically charged topics, and not gendering people. I’ll be 100% honest that I struggle with not assuming someone’s gender, I’m getting better about it. The thing is I’m not just pretending it’s not a thing, I’m actively trying. Just breaking 40 years of habit is tough.

Right now I’m having a struggle with a line in my show where I say:
“…it gives you the illusion of choice…like voting”
The original intent with that line was my opinion on the electoral system. However with the political challenges the USA has faced in the last six months I can see how that line now carries very heavy political baggage.

Do I keep it or drop it?

Here’s the thing, it’s not a huge line in the routine or show. So dropping it won’t hurt the show. Also, it’s a probably pretty easy to write something to fit that format, just change “voting” to something else.

It comes down to how bad do I want to defend the punchline if someone gets upset at it? It’s not a joke or bit I would fight really hard for. There are other edgy jokes that I definitely would fight for, this just isn’t one of them.

Moving forward, I’ll probably drop the line, or rewrite it and a few years from now it may make it back into the show…