We’ll assume that you’ve pieced your show together by selecting an array of astonishing effects. It’s time to script your show. A magic show is a piece of theater that has an opening, middle, and ending. When I put together a formal stand-up show, the first thing I do is make a numbered list of tricks that fit the bill. This might be a random ordered list. Once the effects are selected, I put them in a particular order. Once the order is set, I develop the patter for the show. Every piece of verbiage is actually handwritten in a notebook or legal pad as apposed to using my computer. I have found that handwriting my dialog is a method of helping me learn and remember the patter. Each effect is written as if it were a screenplay. If on stage, lighting and music ques are noted. Pauses, be it dramatical, or for a laugh are also noted. If something should go wrong, I try to anticipate a potential problem and create a work-around. Sidebar comments are made on the page. It’s quite amazing how many hand-written pages accumulate when all is said and done. Much like an actor, the notes are studied and learnt, practicing and rehearsing each effect on its own. At some point, the moves and patter will come as second nature without thinking about it at all! An example is the video clip for the Multiplying Bottles which is currently running on the front page of this site.
This was the first draft of my notes for this routine. I spent an hour to three hours every day for two months learning the trick without patter. Another several weeks were spent rehearsing it.
I will digress just for a moment…
There’s a rule I follow I simply call THE FIVE P’S (five protocols for an effect):
Probe It – Investigate the effect and research all you can about it.
Process It – Learn the ins and outs of the effect.
Practice It – Repetition leads to perfection.
Perfect It – Work out any kinks or added pieces to your piece to make it play.
Perform It – You’re ready to show it!
It’s this philosophy that separates the hobbiest from the serious student of magic. If a larger show is prepared for the stage, my notes are transposed into something legible and done properly on a computer. Copies are made and distributed to the cast and lighting and sound people. Once I have full control over my show the dress rehearsals begin. My practice area is formed to replicate the actual venue I will be playing. I dress as I would for the actual perfromance. Lighting conditions are recreated as well.
I’ll digress again for a moment…
I practiced for one particular show during the day. The room was bright. One effect need me to read from a cheat sheet. Not a problem. Then the formal dress rehearsal time was upon me. I was shocked when I realized that my eyes could not read the cheat sheet at night under lower lighting conditions. The script instantly changed and so did the pace for this routine. I explained to my audience I wanted to get serious for a moment. As the music changed to something quiet and eerie, I reached for my reading glasses on the elegant wood table next to the candle. In a very serious voice I gazed upon the audience and stated, “This is my serious look!” It got a good laugh, and as I continued in a very serious tone, the room was dead silent. I managed to create and set a perfect mood for the routine I presented. It was even better than the original script.
David Copperfield is brilliant when it comes to scripting. Nothing is ad-libbed, though it may seem that way. If he stumbles while coming down the steps into the audience, he’s remarked, “I can make the Statue of Liberty disappear, but can’t make it down some steps!” It gets a great response. Accident? Nope, it’s in the script. It may have stemmed from tripping during one show and an ad-lib worked very well, so he decided to run with it.
When an audience member is invited onto the stage to help him with something he asks their name. What you don’t see is the large neon screens that continuously show the name of the person to David off stage so he remembers that person’s name. Simply brilliant! A true entertainer knows when something works for an audience. The smart entertainer will revise his script to include or exclude a bit of business.
Things change even at the very last minute. Scripting your show is a vital part of your professionalism as an entertainer. Yes…enetertainer not magician!