Sunday, September 9, 2012

Make A List - Check It Twice

You're going to go out on stage one night and half way through a routine you've done a hundred times you will find, to your absolute horror, that an essential prop or gimmick is missing. Being organized is the key to making your life and job easier - and avoiding this inevitable event.

With a check list of all your needed props and equipment you can certain that everything that needs to be there is there - each and every time.

Legendary magician Tenkai had custom-made cases with a specific place for each and every gimmick and prop. An empty place in the case meant something hadn't been packed.

An idea from the late, great Billy McComb is to take a picture of all your needed props and gimmicks packed inside the case. Print the photo and slip it in a safe place in the case. Now you have a visual reminder of where everything is to go and if it's not there - it's missing!

Preparing your show the same way every time is a good habit to develop that will pay off in worry free performances. And don't forget to pack your case the night before REMEMBER?

Organization will give you peace of mind so you can focus on entertaining your audience and not worry if you packed everything for the gig.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Life of the Party

There are one of two roles you will be playing when attending a house party or get-together, the first is
as a hired entertainer and the second is as an invited guest. I'm sure you already know what to do when someone hires you for a gig but, what do you do when you're just a guest at a party.

You will probably be called upon or coerced into performing on your "night off" at some point during the event. There are those performers who have adopted the mindset that they will refuse to perform under these circumstances because they are not being paid. This is a foolish and unfortunate position to place yourself in and a horrible business and marketing decision.
Here is an opportunity to demonstrate your performance art for an audience of genuinely interested people. Don't neglect the fact that you are Live Performance Artist. Here you are 'live and in the flesh' ready to have potential clients experience exactly what it is you do. You don't have to try to explain your show over the phone, send them to your website, show them a youtube clip or just give them a business card - you can amaze them personally right then and there.

As magicians we have the distinct advantage over other professions in that people are fascinated by what we do and with a little effort we can make a powerful impact performing informal and impromptu (seeming!) magic.

If you ever use the excuse that you "don't have anything with you" I would strongly suggest you take up a different vocation or hobby. You have no right to call yourself a magician. Put some thought, effort and time into what you would and should perform in these instances. Be prepared. You will be rewarded for your efforts.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Getting Nothing In Return

When audience reaction, energy and response is not at the level you were expecting, desiring or hoping for - soldier on. It does not mean they aren't enjoying themselves. For example, at corporate retreats your audience has probably been seated all day in the same room listening to lectures, keynotes, sales reports, etc. So do your homework. Find out what is happening before you go on and try to meet them at their level of interaction, interest and energy level. Be a professional. Maintain your own good attitude and enthusiasm during the show. And don't turn on your audience. You only have a short time to make a great impression.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

6 Pounds of Nuts In A 4 Pound Bag

My good friend and mentor Bob Sheets has told me for years that most magicians look like 6 pounds of nuts in a 4 pound bag. He is describing close-up magicians that pack a lot of props into bulging pockets and look abnormally 'pudgy' due to the weight and amount of stuff that weighs them down. I've always loved the expression because it exactly describes the visual experience that audiences are subjected to when a performer overcompensates with props for a lack of careful planning and pocket management.

I still remember my first close-up gig working banquet tables. I was young, inexperienced and thought that I had to take every trick I knew to each and every table. Not only did I pack my pockets with gaffed coin sets, packet tricks, decks of cards and final loads for my chop cup routine, I also carried around a briefcase full of stuff to each group plus a miniature persian rug to place (somewhere!?) on the table when I arrived to create a little atmosphere. I quickly learned that I was drastically overdoing it.

Several years later after trial and error and a few hundred performances I concluded that I really only needed 3 sets of 3 tricks each at the very most. I also deduced that the props for these effects did not need to bulge out from every pocket in my suit jacket and trousers. At a normal walk-around gig I would carry the first set that usually consisted of some coins, a deck of cards and some pieces of rope. A second and third set remained in my case that I would tuck that away behind the bar area after clearing it with the caterering or bar staff. If I didn't have the luxury of stowing the extra sets at the bar, I would simply leave them in the car and pop back to switch up if the occasion called for it.

Now my primary focus is on stage and stand up performances and for those shows I have honed my pocket and prop management to a science. I know when and where each prop and item is coming from and where it is going after it's use. One overriding theory or practice of mine is that as props come out of my pockets they rarely ever go back into my pockets, but rather into my performance case. I usually wear tailored suits and to try to jam the deck of cards I just used back into the back pocket of my trousers looks uncomfortable and occasionally disrupts the nice body silhouette that the suit creates (all an illusion of course!). This may seem ridiculous, but as props are eliminated from my pockets and tossed into my case, I get a physical sensation that the show is almost over when I have nothing in my pockets!

The art of pocket management is a personal and performance preference concern. You have your own show and your own props and it's really up to you how you pack your pockets. The challenge is look in the mirror after your props are 'loaded' in your pockets in preparation for a show, and be honest with yourself, do you look like 6 pounds of nuts in a 4 pound bag? If you do, examine what you can do to eliminate the bulge.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Packing It In

Pack your show the night before the gig. In my experience I've found that if I leave the packing to the day of the show, I create unneeded and unwanted stress. I have also had several instances where I have neglected to pack props and in one case forgot my entire prop case! There is a calm the night before a show that allows me to truly focus on what I am doing and affords me the concentration needed to make sure that I have every prop prepared and in the case. I also print out my map(s), punch in the correct destination on my GPS and if I need my P.A.system I also set it by the door. The day of my performance is spent focusing on travel details to get there and preparing myself for the performance.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Cagematch : GPS vs. Google Maps vs. Real Old School Map

Finding your way to a venue by automobile can be both stress inducing and potential career threatening. If you don't get there in enough time you could shorten your set up, sound check and prep time ultimately affecting your performance. More importantly you could damage your relationship with the client who is counting on you to entertain and impress their guests...and show up on time.

In my early years as a performer doing several gigs on a weekend I would pull out my trusty map book on the Friday night before and I would mark the destinations with post-it notes and stick the contracts in between the pages at the appropriate maps. Later on after the inter-webs became an accessible reality I started using Mapquest and would print out the maps the night before and staple the contract to them. Now with a GPS I have a new way of getting to a gig.

Each of these methods have their strengths. An old school map is a solid and reliable way of finding a location, but is a little weak on pinpointing an exact address as the street numbers are not printed in detail. The Mapquest/Google map print out is much more exact and can take you directly to a street or unit number but does not account for traffic and create alternative routes on the fly. And lastly the GPS is a real time location and direction finder that can instantly find alternative routes if you are stuck in traffic, but if you don't do your homework (or program the thing correctly!) it could take you on a longer route than necessary.

The best system?

All three.

I keep street maps of the major cities and towns where I might be traveling to here in Ontario, so I have a reliable physical reference handy to verify the GPS route and to get an overview of the route. The night before I travel I also print out a Mapquest or Google map of the journey to keep tabs on the GPS route and have an alternate in very off chance that my GPS unit completely dies on me (hasn't happened yet, but it could).

You may feel that this is overkill, but I don't want to take chances in getting to the gig in plenty of time to do everything I need to do to make the client and audiences experience the best I can.