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.
This week is challenging with performing outdoors in a noisy environment for people who are far from the stage and masked. I can’t hear them, or if someone says something I can’t tell who is saying it. I can also have no one on stage. I’ve been working on no contact material for a while, but the not being able to hear people is really throwing me for a loop.
I’ve been leaning heavily on jokes to add length to my show. The nice thing is that they require no props and that I can do and tell them without needed to hear anyone. It’s almost like telling jokes on a zoom show…but you can’t see people laughing.
I’m remembering reading in Wise Guy, Harry Anderson‘s book about performing band breaks at concerts and not being able to use the audience onstage. That’s where he developed his mismash card, and the monarch monte.
I’ve got a couple more days of stage shows before I shift back to doing just roving. It’s fun trying to figure out how to work these shows…hopefully I won’t have to deal with this ever again.
When I perform at fairs outdoors, I don’t wear pants, I wear shorts. They are part of my “costume” and look that I’m going for. The shorts that I wear are actually pants that I’ve cut into shorts. There are a couple reasons I do this, the main one is that they fit differently and hang on my body differently than most shorts do.
In the past I’ve always taken them to my local tailor and had them do the conversion. However their shop closed about six month ago, so I couldn’t take them to my normal person. I decided to try to remember what I learned in 8th grade home economics class and do it myself. I spent about 45 mins cutting and hemming two pairs of pants and they turned out pretty well, but hemming pants isn’t a very difficult project.
Many magicians are surprised when they hear I wear shorts in my show. They think it’s not part of a costume, or what a magician should look like. They are entitled to their opinion, but they are part of a coordinated look, I’m not just throwing on shorts. They may not like that look, but it fits with what I want the audience to see when they see me onstage.
When I was first starting out performing and I had a gig, that would literally eat up my whole day. From packing for it, to travel and performing, even for a local gig. Then as I got more confident in my show, it got much faster, I knew everything was in my case, and didn’t need to double check anything. I was also a lot more confident and had more experience as a performer, so that if a prop was missing or whatever, I could still make it happen.
I’m heading out to my first fair contract in about 18 months and it’s an out of town 10 day contract. Another challenge on top of not having performed at a fair in a year and a half is the scope of work I’m doing. I’m pretty much doing whatever they want me to do. I know I’m doing some stage shows, stage MCing and some roving. Once again, this wouldn’t have been an issue in 2019, but it’s a lot of stuff to figure out how to pack.
So why not do it how I did it a couple of summers ago?
Well, every summer I work on a lot of new material at fairs, so the packing of the show will be different than it was before. Also I’m not sure the level of contact, or social distancing that people will be comfortable with. One of my routines a couple summers ago was an 8 minute bit where someone fed me marshmallows, and that’s something I probably can’t do for a little while. Sure I could get someone on stage and ask them to do it, and they probably would…but I’m worried it would be “cringy” for people watching it. I don’t want that.
I’m going to spend a day stressing out on how I’m going to pack the show, then hopefully the next contract will be much easier!!!
I’ve posting in the past that I’ve been thrust into role of expert with the Vanishing Birdcage. There are definitely people who know a lot more than me, but I’ve spent some time with several different style of cages and know a little bit about what helps make the trick successful.
One thing is having a decent quality cage. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a cage, but you will have to spend a few buck. What you are looking for in a cage is something that’s smooth when collapsed. Tommy Wonder in his book mentions running a loop of string around the cage to look for snags and Billy McComb in his DVDs mentions rubbing it with a silk to look for snags. Since brick and mortar magic shops are becoming less and less common, something you can look for in an online picture is how streamlined it looks. Does it have a lot of bumps when collapsed? If you think it does, look for one that has less.
The cage that I use when collapsed is very streamlined and doesn’t have much bulk. It will easily fit through my wedding ring with the bird inside the cage! While having less bulk is important, the cage having less snag points is more important!
People always ask me what kind of vanishing birdcage do I use, and unfortunately I don’t know. It was given to me when I was a teenager by a magician because it had some broken bars. Some things to consider when picking is cage is how you are going to use it and how you need it to be on your body after the vanish. Blackstone Jr used that small Abbott’s cage because he needed to wear it for half of the show up his sleeve.
The main thing you are looking for is something that won’t get caught on your sleeve. Once you figure that out, you’re good to go!
A while ago when I bought a Himber Pail, I was worried that while I loved the trick, the audience wouldn’t. The routine is coming together and I’ve done it at two theaters and four school assemblies that were in person shows, and it’s playing well!
This is a trick that I’ve loved for a long time, and I think my enthusiasm helps carry the routine, but the trick is also good!
The thing with this trick is that I didn’t hope that the trick was strong enough on its own, I put in some time and work on the routine. That’s the secret to my success, if I buy a prop, I don’t use it as the directions say, I think about about and make the prop work for me!
As we move forward and out of the COVID pandemic and venues start to reopen and live, in person entertainment begins to come back, we’re going to have to follow some rules. There are tons of magicians that are saying, “I’ll never do a show with a mask on” or whatever, and that’s fine…it’s their personal choice. The venue’s don’t get a choice, they are given guidelines to follow by the state/county/city and must follow those. So your personal choice will affect your ability to perform.
I think that the fear of performing with a mask, or a no contact show comes from a place of laziness. Why wouldn’t you want to figure out how to do your show no contact? The answer you hear is, “My comedy comes from interacting with people”. Great! you can still do that without someone physically onstage…or onstage 6 feet from you. It just takes some work.
I’ve had to recently reblock my show so that couple things I still do with someone onstage can have the person six feet from me…and we both can be masked. I’ve had to reexamine my show and figure out how to make it work…but that’s something you should be doing every now and then anyway.
In my continuing quest to make things play bigger, I’ve finally altered a trick that I used close up to hopefully have it play for a bigger audience. The trick started as Huge Shelley’s iCube trick. The problem with his set up was that I found using my phone as a thumper was unreliable. The bluetooth would drop, or I wouldn’t necessarily be able to feel the vibrations.
I then got a ProMystic MD Mini, which is completely reliable. I just didn’t like the look of the cube, so I put the guts into the shell that came with icube and have a little prop that works great for close up!
The next challenge is how to make it play bigger. Right now the cube is about 3/4 of an each on each side. The obvious way it to scale it up to a bigger cube. For that I picked up a Meffert’s Oskar’s Treasure Cube with is a Rubik’s Cube that had a compartment inside.
I put the MD Mini that’s inside the iCube shell into the treasure cube and secured it with sponge. Now I that can be seen in a bigger venue. The next challenge is to figure out a way to show the selected side of the cube. This was a bit of a challenge because if it’s held up and show by someone in the audience, they won’t necessarily do a good job displaying it.
To solve this, I went with an obvious solution, and that’s to put the die is a box with a lid.
The box was a very quick and simple 3D print to design and it only displays one side. No I can simply ask the person to, “take off the lid and show it to the audience” and there’s no issue with displaying the selected color. As a bonus, if the trick ever fails me, I now have an out. I can use it like the old color block trick where you put the lid on the side!
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!