Category Archives: Development

Probably My Favorite Performance, Yet

Today I finally got to perform most of my act for my grandfather. I’ll admit, this one was a bit hard for me to do. I mean, even though this is what I love doing and I’ve wanted to perform for him for a while, now, I’ve been dealing with the fear of his reaction. You know, I can perform for complete strangers with only a small amount of stage fright, but doing this for somebody that means so much to me has been hard to do.

Honestly, it’s going to be one of those performances that will stick with me for a long time for all the right reasons.

My bride and I went to visit, and like I’ve done twice before, I had my act packed, ready to go, and with me. I would have probably chickened out if Michele hadn’t brought it up making excuses that I didn’t want to bother him with it. Sometimes, I wish I still had the fearlessness that I had as a kid, not caring about judgment and going through the tricks whether eyes were watching intensely, rolling, or glazed. Reading personal histories of other magicians who started as kids, I find that really trying to start in middle age, I’m doing it completely backwards. Typically, the veterans started out running their stuff to family and friends before getting in front of strangers to perform. For me, it’s harder to do this for friends and family outside of the magic community. I mean, I can talk about working on databases or computer networks until they’re almost begging me to stop, but why, for the love of all that’s holy, do I have this fear to share something that I truly love doing?

It’s pretty much been once again to be an unfounded fear.

I had an audience of two: my grandfather and Michele.

My grandfather sometimes has troubles keeping his eyes open do to issues with tearing, so even though it’s already my opening, I figured I’d at least do the Linking Rings. Nice and visible and if he was having trouble keeping his eyes open after that, well, I could easily call it good.

I’ve not seen his eyes open that wide in a long while, maybe years. And he was laughing and enjoying himself the entire time. I pretty much went through my entire act outside of my new finale. I had left Reggie the Rabbit in my van. (I’m really serious when I tell you how chicken I was about the whole thing.) For the twenty some minutes I did my act, his eyes were open wide the entire time and he laughed through the entire act. I ended the act doing a Mismade Flag routine, and he had been shown how to do this when he was a boy by a magician and had an impish grin on his face at the finale of the routine.

It’s funny, though. I get stage fright to start, but once I’ve started, fear walks out the door and I feel free to play. And that’s what we did. When I start doing my act, the smile plastered to my face is genuine and I can’t stop it.

And my reward for finally doing what I should have done a while back? I saw my grandfather more animated and laughing than I have in a while and got some new stories that he probably didn’t even remember he had. For all the science that can explain it all, for me, this was the true magic.  No token laughter, no eyes mostly closed. Just us having fun together. I’m going to be riding this high for a while.

Adult life has it’s good share of highs and lows, but today has shown me why sometimes the right idea is to let my inner five year old take the driver’s seat of the Lil Tikes car and show me where to go.

Experience Review: Shriners Children’s Hospital – Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tonight’s routine was a mixture of victory and frustrations. I had been working on new material for doing shows, and this was a test of some of the new stuff in addition to using some of the material I used all summer. All in all, though, the crowd was good and we had fun both during and after the acts. At this point, I’m hoping to pull enough into a good act to start performing, probably starting with the elderly care facilities and working my way into bigger gigs from there. Some of this I’m sure I’ve mentioned before in other blogs, but for anybody just joining in, I figured I’d do that little bit of recap.

After Ken Trokey did his routine, it was time for me to take the stage. After I got my gear in place, I started off with my Linking Rings routine. Now, before, my routine was pretty much Al Schneider’s, just adapted a bit for myself. Since the last time I performed it for a crowd, though, I’ve been reworking it. Between Levent’s Linking Rings DVD set and various lecture notes and printed routines, I had reworked things to a routine that I feel is strong for me, and I was jazzed to perform it. It’s still a five-ring routine, and I think it should be a stronger opener in addition to still being a good routine for busking when I start that again in the spring. And, even though I started strong, I got a bit confused in the routine and got some stuff out of order. Freaking ouch! I got to the point where I couldn’t see my outs, so I ended the routine while it was still okay.  Because of the amount of manipulation involved in the rings, I know that either I should have put more time into the new routine or used the old routine while working through the new material until that was set enough for me to focus harder on the rings. Strong opening to the routine, but not so grand in the finish.

In the set list I had, I ended up dropping the next routine. It’s not a hard one to perform, but at this point I felt it was better to skip over the new and go back to one of my time and tested my routines. Okay, I hadn’t lost the crowd with the rings, but it felt like now I had them back on my side. And seriously, if you ever use the line, “Pull my finger” at the end of a routine that has fathers in the crowd, you know you have them in your corner. Cheap gag, but it seems to work.

The next two routines, my sponge ball bit and the Ropes Thru the Neck, were as solid as I knew they would be. It was at the performances for the Purina Farms Haunted Hayloft that I decided I needed to add a stronger ending to the sponge ball routine, and I had that at the ready, but at this point, I felt it was better to stay in my comfort zone because of my finale routine. As it was, both routines were happily received and we had fun.

And now we come up to what I’ve been stressing out about for the past month and a half, my new finale bit. Bits and pieces have been things that I wanted to do, but I didn’t know how to tie them up together, and at this point, it’s feeling like I’ve got something I and the audience can have fun with. It starts out with my variation on Dan Garrett’s “World Famous Banana Trick” (carrot variation) before leading into my production of Reggie the Rabbit. We do a number of spring animal puppet gags before Reggie reveals a card selected by an audience member (this uses a prop made by Fort Wayne magician Dick Stoner). There are quite a number of tricks involved with the finale routine, so between going through the script and blocking, I was a bit stressed and excited about doing the routine. I might be using bits and pieces from throughout the magic books, but like the new Linking Rings routine, the arrangement is mine, so I’m a bit proud of it.

As it was, some bits got left out and some (a lot) of lines got dropped, but it worked! Not ready for a competition or anything, but we had a lot of fun. Bonus, though, is that the assistant I picked out for the routine is having another round of surgery tomorrow. Bad thing is, I never quite caught what her name was. I know there are plenty of ways around this as far as dialog is concerned, but this kinda means something to me. I love connecting to the audience as we play together, and it helps if it starts by knowing their names. On another note, I started working through this routine a few months ago, and when I performed for the hospital last, a girl by the name of Valora wanted to see a rabbit production. This pushed me to move this routine to the top of the list of routines to add. Sadly, even though she was supposed to be at the hospital until the day before Thanksgiving, she had additional surgery yesterday and wasn’t able to make it to the show tonight. Even worse, she’ll be in the hospital for another six months, so there’s a good chance she’ll be able to catch Reggie’s act. Sadly, she’ll still probably be in a halo. Poor kid, and that goes for all the ones who are out there. Considering the types of treatments kids receive at the Shriners Children’s Hospital, they’re not there just for an overnight stay.

As it was, it was a good night, overall. After our acts were done, I hung out with the kids some more, did a little bit of close-up, was shown a trick from my same lovely assistant from the Reggie routine,  taught them a trick, and got out before I got dealt in to a game of Skip-Bo.

My main take-away from tonight’s performance, though is about playing with the audience. I found the more comfortable I was in performing a routine, the more it was me playing with the audience. I commented about this in my review of Shawn Farquhar’s performance, and I’ve been reminded of this while watching DVDs from John Shyrock. I love calling people up to the stage to keep them part of the act, and I find that I can’t stop smiling the entire time. In Shawn and John’s (sorry for the rhyme) performances, that’s the joy that I feel in the performance. Going with a combination of Murray Hatfield’s and David Ginn’s routining structures, I see how the routine selections can be applied in building that act. Also, going back to Levent, and reviewing his performances, I appreciate how much magic is built into a routine without ever saying “For my next trick…” while performing copious amounts of magic.

Also, I’ve got a greater appreciation of adding new material to routines. My prowess in magic isn’t to the point that I’m able to do a whole new 30 minute act of material I’ve never done before. My new finale was big enough that I should have stayed on with tried and true for the rest of it until the finale was solid enough. Problem is, I’ve broken the seal on some stuff, like the rings routine, I don’t want to look back. The other new material can be worked in and I think I might have to perform a hell of a lot more at club meetings to get the kinks worked out of some other bits. It feels close to go time, though, as far as going to market.

And, hey, a few hours after the performance is done, I’m still smiling about it. How cool is that?

Oh, and for little Paige: You may find out sometime how I did the sponge ball routine, but you won’t hear it from me how it’s done.

Some Thoughts About Magic Lectures

I’ve now been to a number of magic lectures, today’s being with Shawn Farquhar, and it has me thinking about what people intend to get out the lectures they go to.

Now, admittedly, I haven’t been to as many as a lot of the people involved in the magic scene have been to, and I don’t know what percentage of magicians, hobbyists, pros, or semi-pros, intend to get out of the lectures. I know for some people, if the lecturer isn’t selling a bunch of stuff, then they feel let down. There are an awful lot of magicians out there that are looking for that new trick being demonstrated that they can feel is a reputation maker. Some people are just collectors with hoards of stuff they’ve bought and the lecture is more or less a demonstration. I get that, but because I need to focus on learning and becoming proficient with the fundamentals. Maybe someday, I’ll buy more stuff at the lectures, but to me, I appreciate more than a demo show. In fact, one lecture I saw a number of months ago, I know I felt like it was lame because it seemed like mainly a sales pitch for a lot of gimmicks and was thoroughly unimpressed while some of the others, who walked out with loads of stuff, thought it was the best lecture they had ever seen. To this date, though, there are four lectures I’ve seen that stuck with me, and I’ll discuss why.

The first one on my list was with Ice McDonald (http://www.ice.mcdonald.net). In his lecture, he seemed to know his audience was mainly hobbyists or people wanting to break out and start really performing. He had stuff to sell, but mainly, for me, it was like a tent-revival encouraging magicians to perfect their craft and get out there and perform. Man, did that message sink in for me. Yeah, he sold some stuff, but what impressed me a bit later was watching Silly Jilly (http://www.sillyjilly.com) take something Ice had taught and sold and adapt it to her kids show. She combined elements from other tricks and came up with something that stuck with the kids. Ice’s routine wasn’t for kids. Not that it was inappropriate or anything, it just would have been lost on them, but Jill’s spin on it was what makes the trick work for her. Jill’s already a serious working performer, so I don’t know how much inspiration she got from the lecture other than the routine, but I know I came out wanting to perform even more than before.

Boris Wild (http://www.boriswild.com) is the next lecturer I want to discuss. To me, Boris is a true artist in magic and one of the nicest people I’ve met in this field. (All things considered, though, of the people I’ve had the privilege to meet in magic, most of them have been really kind, but Boris stands out.) In the notes for one of his past lectures, in the forward he states,

“…I am sure your closets at home are packed with props, books and DVDs you probably

have not had the time to study yet. So you already have a lot to play with. This is why I

would rather focus here on something other than tricks. I would rather focus on things

that professional magicians often keep to themselves and very rarely reveal to the magic community.”

That lecture was called “Creativity & Impact,” and even though that was not the lecture I saw, there was an awful lot of that attitude with what he taught. He sold only one gimmick, but what he showed us was how versatile that particular gimmick could be. What he encouraged was to take it and play with it. Jam with it and find new ways of making it work for you. It wasn’t a matter of letting the gimmick be the trick but rather and instrument for magic to be played on. Now, Boris’ talent and skill is insanely good and has one him awards and a hell of a lot of respect in the magic community, but it was the encouragement of taking this tool and playing with it to constantly come up with something new that was inspiring to me. Boris is one of my inspirations to going back and hammering out the fundamentals so I might be able to see the possibilities with educated eyes.

 Shawn Farquhar’s lecture today (http://magichampion.com) was similar in some ways to Boris’. Shawn went through a lot of tricks and routines, but even more to the point, he strongly promoted the attitude of working and being creative with the gimmicks, utility moves, and concepts. The man has explored all the angles and is always delving into more. He didn’t discuss or show anything without going through additional concepts and applications. As you can see, I like the idea that Alton Brown promoted in his show, “Good Eats,” of avoiding uni-taskers as much as possible. Shawn is constantly inventing and building on tricks, whether he is the originator or it started out as someone else’s. It’s the joy of taking something known and turning it on its ear so that you’re constantly creating. It’s the joy of creation in addition to performing.

Finally, we get to Levent. (http://www.leventmagic.com) Levent, in addition to being an amazing magician and performer, is one of the best researchers into the history of effects. For me, I was completely sucked in to his lecture when he started an in-depth discussion of the Linking Rings, which have become my personal favorite piece of magic to perform, whether I’m performing for myself or for other people. When he gets into a piece of magic, it’s full immersion. He just recently released a 7 ½ hour four DVD set just on the rings, and it’s on my wishlist. What he has inspired in me is the desire to research what has been done with a particular routine to find out what has been done so that I can make something new from the pieces.

I’m still a student tracing drawings until I learn enough to draw freehand, but I can see the beauty and art that will be available to me once I’ve put in the time, whether it’s in performance or skill.

Man, I love this gig.

The amazing Shawn Farquhar and me following his lecture for St. Louis I.B.M. Ring 1

The amazing Shawn Farquhar and me following his lecture for St. Louis I.B.M. Ring 1