Over the summer I worked with a balloon show, and his show is a great illustration of why it’s important to use the stage. If you are standing in front of the stage, it does help you mentally with the energy exchange with you and the audience, however you sacrifice visibility.
Here’s how the show looked from the 4th row at the audience’s eye level:
You can’t see much, and the way the audience in the back filtered out, that confirmed that they couldn’t see. Here’s what the show looked like from the extreme side:
There’s a lot more going on in the show that the audience a couple rows back can’t see. If you are on the same level as your audience and they aren’t sitting directly on the floor, everything needs to be at your armpits or higher. Any lower and it just disappears when you’re in the 3rd row or further back.
This post should be a reminder to audit your show and look for places where things aren’t visible to the audience when you’re performing on the floor. Visibility is why Axel Hecklau’s Just a Cup is superior to most chop cup routines, the action isn’t stuck on the table…and you aren’t stuck behind a table!!
Recently an aerialist that I’ve worked with posted a picture of themself working at a corporate gig.
It’s a great picture and she’s an amazing act.
However the picture also highlights what’s wrong with many corporate gigs. They pay a lot of money to the acts, then they just waste them. I cropped the picture above, below is the uncropped picture:
They have her performing while no one is watching. Everyone is chatting with other people at the table, virtually no one is facing her. Whoever booked it is really throwing away money on an amazing act.
YES, I do understand that it’s ambient entertainment. However, if she wasn’t there the event wouldn’t be diminished, or if they had he do a formal act it’d be much more memorable.
I’m writing this as we get into the corporate holiday party season where pretty much every magician has work. When you book that gig, are they booking your stage show during the meal? If so, then you’re ambient entertainment.
Personally, I won’t take these holiday parties if I’m performing when food is being served or there’s still food on the tables. This is because my show doesn’t work as ambient entertainment, the audience needs to pay attention to my show for it to work. Sure, I’ve taken shows where I’m performing during the meal, but usually not during December when there’s soo much work that I can decline them and something will fill the spot.
Think about what your show needs to succeed, and ask for it!
Not too long ago I wrote about simply having a description of your show on a schedule being more effective at putting butts in seats than your name. Here’s the daily sign on the stage that I’m performing at for a 12 day contract:
My show’s name is the only one that has any description of what it is. It’s the only one where if someone sees the sign, they are going to go out of their way to see (if they want to see a magic show). The other two acts with no description probably won’t make it on people’s mental schedules.
Sure having just your name is great for your ego, but it doesn’t help with crowds. I’d rather have “magic show” than “Louie Foxx”.
The name that I gave my show is, “Louie Foxx’s One Man Side Show“, however usually either Louie Foxx or One Man Side Show made it on the sign. It was my agent’s idea to call the show The Magic of Louie Foxx for the fair/festival industry. It’s really made a difference in my starting crowds!
Last night my wife and I went to see Michael Buble, and that guy works his butt off onstage. He did just over two hours with no opening act, and the two hours flew by!
One huge thing to note is that it wasn’t all music. In between each song the told jokes. It was a mini stand up set that usually introduced the next song or was about the city we were in. Telling jokes between routines is a great way to add personality and time in your magic show. I used to do this more, and need to get back to doing more of it.
Basic math says if you do eight tricks in your show, and if you can add 2 minutes of jokes between those eight routines, you’ve added 12 minutes to your show without having to carry any extra props. That would turn a 45 in show into almost an hour!
Many times after shows magicians will comment on how much is must cost me to perform my show. I have several spots where I use props that I can’t reuse each show. Honestly, I don’t have too many props that are single use. Here are my consumable props for my day at the fair:
Each show I use a paper coil, kabuki streamer, bar of hotel soap and a banana. In addition to the picture I also give away some of my wristbands which I sell after the show. Every show costs me about five dollars to do. To me this isn’t a big deal and since I’m getting paid, it’s just the cost of doing business.
If spending $5 or $100 to do your show is what your vision as an artist is, then it’s money well spent! -Louie
Last week while doing my sound check, I had the sound guy ask me to turn up the volume on my handheld mic.
This is a scenario where knowing your gear comes in handy. This was a Shure SM58, which is a very standard microphone and 99% of handheld mics don’t have volume knobs.
I asked the sound guy for clarity, that he was referring to the corded handheld I was holding. He said yes, and repeated that I should turn up the volume on it. I told him I was unaware corded handheld mics had a volume knob and didn’t know how to adjust it, and he’d have to show me. At that point, somehow he magically made the sound go up using only his soundboard.
The whole week ended up being a struggle with this sound company. From them wanting to sound check a band 10 minutes before my show after I had already starting to my “talk up” for crowd building, to them telling me my gear was bad when it ultimately was their snake that had bad inputs.
The moral of the story is to not let anyone push you around, and know your gear, so that you know how it works, why it works and that will usually give you a clue as to why it’s not working when it doesn’t.
Here’s a little tip for when you’re working a fair or any multi-day gig with a lot of other acts. First of all, don’t touch the sound company’s equipment without asking. What I do is ask if I can have 3 dedicated channels for the week. Usually they say yes, but not always. I do my initial sound check and once that’s done I take a pic of the sound board and note what’s mine.
Now it’s really easy to recreate the same sound by using the picture if things get changed.
I know the sound guy is there for that…well usually they are. The fair where I took this picture had one person running four stages. Since my audio was never supposed to change, he didn’t visit my stage near my show times very often. I’m OK with that, I had his cell number and could text him if I needed him.
Well, one of the community acts later in the day as I was packing up used two channels, a handheld mic and a phone with music on it. At one point there was feedback and the person running music slid down all the levels on the all the channels of the board to make it stop. I should note that the reason there was feedback was the person with the mic stood in front of a speaker.
That person turning down everyone’s channels ruined the preset for the next day. Luckily I have what I need to easily recreate what I had before it got changed! Take a pic of the soundboard, it only takes a couple of seconds and can save you a pain later!
One thing that I think a lot of acts forget about is keeping your props looking clean. Sure you can wipe them down, but at some point they will just get worn down. I understand some props are irreplaceable or expensive to replace, but that needs to be part of the plan when you get them. Yes, I do understand that some props aren’t supposed to look new, and most props don’t have to look brand new.
I used to do lasso in my show a long time ago and I’m learned to do it again, so I bought a new lasso. Of course right after I get the new one, I found my old one. Here they are side by side:
The old one looks pretty filthy, and with something like a lasso, it’s hard to keep it looking brand new, but they are pretty cheap to replace at less than $30ish. The old one I used for many years, and there’s really no reason I can’t replace it every year.
Take a step back and look at your props and see what needs to be replaced or maybe just needs a fresh coat of paint!
Yesterday was the first official day of the Abbott’s Magic Get Together. I spent a good chunk of the morning in the dealers room showing people the products that I brought with me. Then I walked (15 mins) into downtown to see the street performer:
People liked him, however he was a little bit too standard for my tastes. All standard tricks, done in the standard way, with standard patter.
Later in the day was Nick Diffate’s lecture.
It was good, he shared some good stuff.
The stage show that night was fun, and it was good to see Stuart Mcdonald’s act.
There are a few choices that performers make that make me scratch my head. The first is when you’re dong a magic convention and in the evening show, why would you do a standard trick in the standard way? I honestly believe that professor’s nightmare has no place in a show at a magic convention.
The other was they had a speed painter who added a mentalism bit to his speed painting. The effect was he was going to paint the person that someone was thinking of. He used an Amazebox to force it, and from the audience I could tell something didn’t look right. The speed painter got to the end and when he asked the person to reveal the person they were thinking of, it wasn’t who he painted. It took all of the air out of the trick. If you have a skill that’s very interesting, don’t try to add a magic trick to it…especially if you’re not a good magician.
One thing I don’t get is performers who wear sunglasses when they perform outdoors. It blocks your connection to the audience. I don’t care if you have a sensitivity to light, it hurts your show. I get that standing in the sun is uncomfortable, but so is sweating in 107 degree heat.
At the ND State Fair, on the stage next to my stage is a music stage. Daniel Kosel is performing, and all week he’s been wearing sunglasses for his shows. I want to note that his show is a lot less of a show than the other acts I’ll be talking about later in this post.
Daniel is just a guy with a guitar, who stands there and sings. He sings slower songs and mostly older songs. His performance isn’t very dynamic, there’s nothing he does that makes you want to watch him, he’s more of an ambient act, than a mainstage act. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I also don’t think this is the venue for that. He’d be better in a smaller, indoor type venue.
Yesterday on the same stage they had the 188th Army Band of North Dakota. This is one of the Army/National Guard Band, and if you ever get the chance to see any of the army bands, do it! They performers are all super talented and very dynamic. They do upbeat music, and their show is super tight! Any performer can learn a lot about watching these band.
If you look at the pic of the 188th band above, you’ll notice the guy in the center is wearing sunglasses. While I’m not a fan, I also give him a pass, as he’s not the front person, it’s the lady to the left that’s the signer. The guy in the middle was doing a guitar solo when the pic was taken.
The final show of the day was Sting Rays Jukebox Rock. This show is a high energy show that’s full of production and is a lot of fun. Sting Ray plays oldies, but songs everyone knows. He’s got a great look and a tight show. He does a good job connecting with the audience. He’s very likeable onstage.
You’ll notice that no one in Sting Ray’s show is wearing sunglasses. I know this pic was taken after sun down, but at his earlier shows while the sun was up, everyone’s eyes were visible.
I’ve always told performers you can learn more about performing by watching other shows than you can by doing your show. You learn what you like or don’t like, and once you know what you don’t like, you can try to avoid those things in your show.