Putting together a show is much like writing a story. It needs a strong opener, a solid middle, and a wonderful finale. Assuming you have a vast array of effects to choose from, there’s one very important thing to remember. What you may consider a great magical effect may not play for your audience. The opposite also holds true. What plays for your audience may be considered lame by you and your magic cronies. This is a lesson you can only learn from trial and error. A true professional will value this way of thinking.
The Starting Point
The opening effect is something that will hold the attention of your audience no matter what venue you happen to be playing. It needs to be magical and strong. Your presentation will leave your audience either wanting to see more…or not! To be cliché, first impressions are a vital part of life. Sometimes you just don’t get a second chance. The trick here is to make friends with your audience. If they like you as a person and you come across as entertaining, they will more than likely enjoy your magic as well. Getting back to the starting point… While I cannot suggest names of props or effects to open to open your show, it is up to you as the performer and creator to decide what item best fits the bill. Depending on the venue and style of show or set, I have opened with borrowing money, sponge balls, fire effects, productions, or something off-beat to set the mood. In most cases the type of magic is quick-paced or flashy. Once you decide what works well for you and your audience, the next step is stringing your tricks together to form a routine for a good middle part of your show.
Routining your tricks together can be a very simple thing to do or it can be as complex as pulling fifteen random words out of the air to form a complete sentence. Here’s an example. I want to incorporate a rope routine into my next show.
The name of the tricks is as follows:
1. Knot Unexpected
2. Cut & Restored Rope
3. Professor’s Nightmare
Rather than just doing #1, 2, 3 one after another, I want to create a formula where I segue from one to another. Something like: 1+2+3=wonderful rope routine! Stringing tricks together to form a routine can either be done with physical tricks that have a similar property or it can be done through the verbiage you choose called patter.We’ll go back to the example for a moment.
Knot Unexpected uses two spectators to assist you and a ten foot piece of rope. The spectators hold each end as you cut the rope somewhere in the middle. You tie the two pieces into a knot, and then slide the knot to one end! When the knot is untied at its new position, the rope is now cut there as well! While it’s not a cut and restored type of effect, you can see how it leads into the premise very well. At this point, another spectator is called to the stage. The remaining long piece of rope is cut in half. The spectator takes one length of rope and the performer takes the other. Now you are ready to perform a comedy rope routine with the spectator doing as you do! The cut and restored effect is performed with lots of byplay between you and your spectator. You now make a couple of loops in your long rope and with a couple of quick cuts, you have now set up your rope to be a short, medium, and long rope flowing very nicely into Professor’s Nightmare.
You can see how the transition from one trick to another blend seamlessly into one beautifully flowing rope routine.
Sometimes, a series of completely different effects can be blended together to form a routine. This can be done though words and stories.
A trick list might be as follows:
1. Fantasio Vanishing Candle
3. Salt Pour
4. Drawer Box
5. Rising Cards
6. A Silk Scarf
It’s a list of tricks that really have nothing to do with one another. However, with some careful thought these five things can be blended into a routine that will play. The first thing that comes to mind is something haunted or spiritual, probably because it’s close to Halloween as I write this post. Looking at the trick list, the flow of events almost becomes apparent to me.
I will begin by talking about spirits and ghosts, perhaps the anniversary of Houdini’s death. Instantly a white scarf appears in my empty hand. Perhaps the entity of a ghost. I drape the scarf over my hand and a candle magically appears. I light the candle to add to the mood I’ve created. I set the candle in a candle holder for a moment. I tie a knot in once corner of the scarf. It begins to wiggle about, then becomes animated and floats down to the floor and back up to my hand. I walk to my table to pick open a box. It contains salt. Perhaps it’s the remains of a ghost. I sprinkle the salt into the scarf where upon the salt vanishes. I pick up the once empty box and open it to find all of the salt has returned. Puzzled, I clench my hands together and begin pouring salt from my once empty hands into the box until the box runneth over with salt. I pick up the candle and blow out the flame. It’s placed under cover of the scarf where it ultimately vanishes from whence it came.
It may not be the best routine, but it is there as an example of taking non-related props and working them into a concept. You’ll notice I didn’t make use of the cards because in this playlet, it just didn’t seem to work. The formula here is 1+2+3+4-5+6=bizarre spirit routine.While I chose parlor effects and concepts, the same principles hold true with coins, cards, mentalism or any other avenue of magic. Routining of effects creates a story line and takes the hobbyist to another level of entertaining. This would be a good point to discuss scripting, but I will not digress. I will leave this concept for another post.
The Ending or Finale
This will be your strongest effect known as your finale. This will be the one that will almost make them forget about every other magical piece of theatre they have seen. While the effect does not have to be physically big, it does have to be emotionally charged. You want to evoke a strong reaction, perhaps the strongest reaction of your show. This is the last thing they will see from you; it’s the thing they will remember.
Too many card tricks will bore your audience to the point they will want to shoot you, or themselves. It doesn’t matter because either way because they will be put out of their misery! Whether close-up or stage, mix it up a bit. Audiences today like to be entertained in a variety of ways. While we all might accel at once particular thing, the true professional will be adapt in the many diversities of magic.