Personal Performance Review Notes – Shriners Children’s Hospital , St. Louis 15JAN2014 and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Family Fun Day, 26JAN2014

Admittedly, both of these shows were two different types of shows, but in both cases, I learned quite a bit about my act from each show.

Starting with the Children’s Hospital show, I prepped beforehand to keep my act to 12-15 minutes with additional stuff on deck in case I needed to fill a time gap. I kind of learned this from prior experiences, but considering I was performing with Terry Richison, who I highly respect and gotten great advice from.  This time around, my act was scaled back to the Linking Rings, my sponge ball routine, and my Reggie the Rabbit routine.

I’ve been reworking my Linking Rings during the winter months, and I have to admit that watching Dick Stoner’s routine, I had some ideas on more that I wanted to do. It helps that Dick’s routine is not a silent act, which is a break from most versions I see. For the little bit that I had added, it looked like I had a positive response. As opposed to before, because I’m in close enough quarters with my audience, having them handle the rings is not a problem. The only thing that I might want to work on is getting the people more to the front. Don’t know why I did it, but I worked with what I think were a mother and daughter who were at the extreme stage left of the crowd. It’s definitely something I need to work a bit on. In my typical half-circle show, it’s not a problem, but when I’m dealing with an audience where half the group is in wheelchairs or traction frame, it’s something to consider. As I’m working on taking my act to retirement homes, that’s a serious consideration.

My sponge ball routine got the reactions that I love to get, but I need to work on it a bit more, just for my own personal benefit. I want to expand it a bit more but in a way that will translate well whether I’m on stage or busking. I’m back into a bit of research mode, I think, but more will be added when I’m ready.

And now we get to Reggie the Rabbit. Everything technically went well, but I’m going to listen to some of the notes I got from Terry on it. First, I need to remember to display the empty production box more visibly so it’s clearer that the box is empty. Next, in handling Reggie, I need to work on my handling him so I don’t unconsciously handle him the neck (oops) and look like I’m strangling the poor puppet rabbit. I didn’t realize I was doing that, and those unconscious moments are the ones that it’s always good to get feedback on.

Finally, in the other trips I’ve made to the hospital, we’ve never put much of a focus on teaching magic. When David Copperfield put out the guidelines for doing Project Magic, that was to be a focus considering part of this is learning magic as therapy. I think the Impossible Knot that Terry taught was a bit over their heads, but then again, it pushed them in learning the manipulation, so that was probably part of the point. When I go out to the hospital again in April, this is certainly something I’ll keep in mind.

Now, to yesterday’s performances at the JDRF Family Fun Day.

I ended up basically doing what would be a busking grind act, the only difference was, if I didn’t have a crowd, I would reset my show and try to get a group before starting again. I think with busking, there is so much involved with patter and rhythm that it took me about 45 minutes before I felt like I was in the flow of things. It was also at that point that the crowd became a steady flow of people coming in and out from my little area where I had my table and case set up.

Normally, either with a rope or some other sort of boundary marker, I would try to delineate what was my “stage area,” but the kids were pretty up close and personal. When I handed a sponge ball to one child to examine, you can believe that the kid next to them would grab it and check it, too, so I had some crowd management to deal with there. For the stuff I threw in my case and pockets, about the only thing I didn’t do was my Vanishing Silk routine. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been working on my Linking Rings, and I finally got validation for the changes I’ve made. I actually had kids ask me to do them again. That felt like a major score for me. I tend to lead off my routine with the Rings, but it’s kinda always been more for me than for them, and with kids, they’ve been interested, but usually not seemed impressed until the final chain. I finally found a routine that seems to work well for me.

If there was a routine that I did that I am rethinking, it’s probably the Chinese Sticks. I’m still not satisfied with them, and while today in the shower, I did have one of those “ah-ha” moments on one of the things that I think I need to change. I’m still thinking about dropping them in favor of the Ali Bongo Pom-Pom Stick, and for my style of performance, I still think that might be a better way to go.

On a lark, I tossed my Rocky Raccoon into my case after I found out the night before how nicely he fit into a Crown Royal bag. This killed on such a level, I couldn’t believe it. Yeah, I used some of David Williamson’s material, but not really the impersonation parts. I found once I brought out Rocky, I kind of was able to do some improvisational jazz with him. This was some serious fun for me. I don’t care if maybe only some of the parents caught the reference, but my favorite Rocky impression is going to be “…and from ‘Big Trouble in Little China,’ David Lo-Pan.” It makes me giggle, so I’m keeping it. I ended up doing my card routine that I worked out for Reggie the Rabbit, and it worked out to the delighted squeals of the kids, so I think if I’m going to include a rabbit production I’ll use Reggie, otherwise, Rocky is on deck for the routine. I’m pretty sure Rocky’s coming out with me for busking.

If there is a take-away lesson from yesterday, though, it’s back into crowd management. I was at the inner corner of a T-intersection directly on the way to where the dinner was going to be served, so at one point, there was a serious crowd-press. At one point, I pretty was working inches away from the crowd. The kids were pretty grabby, and if I went into my case, they could see inside. I could keep them from grabbing, but they were going to look. The big issue with this was, as soon as some of them saw the Rings, they wanted to see the routine. Kinda hard at this point.  I need less than five seconds to reset the Rings, but that was a hard five seconds to get. Considering my location and the crowd that was moving through, it was difficult to get space, but somehow I still got it. Definitely a lesson in both crowd management and location.

I did end up with one little girl, Anastasia, crying because she said I never chose her to help me with a trick. For the life of me, I thought I had. I know I was interplaying with her quite a bit. Man, that stung a bit, but I’ve seen the hurt looks from kids who were upset from not getting picked to help before with some of the other people I’ve performed with, so I do know that when I work with kids, that’s going to be a possible hazard, but this is the first time it’s happened to me. It may be unavoidable, but my goal is to make the act fun enough that that is a minimal issue and in general, everybody has a good time.

All things considered, that was an exhausting experience, but great overall and it has my juices flowing for what’s to come this year.

Doing the Sponge Balls (photo by Columbus Smith)

Doing the Sponge Balls (photo by Columbus Smith)

Working the Linking Rings (photo by Columbus Smith)

Working the Linking Rings (photo by Columbus Smith)

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