Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Magic in Wonderland

This past weekend sees your humble writer performing at a Tea party, A Mad Hatter Tea Party to be exact. One of the charms of moving to California is discovering the towns near Fresno. Downtown Clovis (the next city to Fresno) has a wonderful old fashion look to itself. Friday nights are farmers nights with fresh farm grown items and live music being played. In the heart of this old village is a tea house. I introduced myself to the owner and she loved the concept of my look. So we produced a Mad Hatter Tea Party. One of her waitresses was the perfect image of Alice (see photo's) and the rest of the staff wore wonderful hats. The Victorian Rose Tea House has been selected as a hidden treasure for dinning experiences. This event was one more event to make it all that more special a place to visit. Between the wonderful food, cakes, tea and magic it was a trip to Wonderland for this past Sunday afternoon.

So here is an idea to sell to one of your local restaurants or find a Tea house in your town to share this magical kind of event in your home town. We are actually going to produce a Wizard's Tea Party and a few other themed events. All of course with wonderful food and close-up magic. I better get writing since I am already a day late, I'm late. OK it just doesn't stop.

Reminder that we will be having Fielding West here at Hocus Pocus for our lecture series. This event takes place Sept 11, at 7:00. Tickets are $10.00 in advance and $15.00 at the door. If you wish to attend start calling us and reserve your place 1-800-407-4040. It will be a evening of great magic and comedy from a veteran of Tahoe, Las Vegas and many showrooms around the world.

Tony's Picks

Once again this is what I a working pro would use in my show so this is why I recommend these items that have come online for you.

Telekinesis Deck
Now here is a electronic marvel, that I think is clever compare to all those Sharpie pen effects. First off of it doesn't move across the table screwing up the effect. Here is a well built deck of motors that will help you look like your powers of magic can make movement happen. It is well made. It does what the website says. And if you want electronic magic that works this one compare to other does. That's it .

Influence U

Larry Becker and Lee Earle have done it again! This is a clever version of the Wizards Phone Call effect. Here is a cell phone version of the whats on the table, here is my cell phone and have my friend tell you what you choose effect. Very clever and smart in its design. Understand that this effect is for USA and Canada only. Check out the full write up on the website. Once again great stuff from Becker and Earle

Andrus Linking Safety Pins

An effect I love. I have spent a life time finding the best pin act. Andrus has the best in my opinion and also Slydini's the godfather of close-up magic says so! Are these the best pins ....yes. Do you need these for your walk around show....Yes. Is the act complete as per the instruction yes..but more can be done if you get Jerry Andrus book on Safety Pins.

Tom Mullica

Well what can I say of one of the most funny and hard working guys of the 1970's and 80's. captured live in his home town of Atlanta. We offer a few DVD's and CDroms of Tom live and some teach while others are performance footage. Tom is a a great working pro and now tours Branson and the world paying homeage to his hero Red Skelton. His one man show is great to keep Red's memory and comedy alive. this is why folks flock to see him in Branson. I highly recommend getting all of the Tom Mullica DVDs and CD roms offered.

Tony's Tips

Tonight I am honored to bring to you from the land down under the great talents of Tim Ellis and Sue-Anne Webster. Tim Ellis and Sue-Anne Webster are married magicians based in Melbourne, Australia. They travel all over the world performing their unique brand of comedy and magic from close-up like Tim's 'Runaround Sue' to grand illusions like Sue-Anne chainsawing Tim in half. Not to mention that Sue is a amazing Jeannie (as in I Dream of Jeannie) look a like. Check out the ongoing adventures of a pair of married magicians on there blog, or visit there "official" site at .
Tonight Tim and Sue share real workers knowledge of show biz. The information below you may know or may have never thought of, but it is the knowledge only 2 season pros's would think of sharing with you. Some of tonight's information comes from Tim's DVD 'ELLIS IN WONDERLAND'. I have been lucky to see them lecture and perform on a tour of theirs in the states about 4 or 5 years ago. I can say that the passion of entertainment and fun is the stuff of Tim and Sue. Such great folks are also inspiring the next generation of magicians down in Australia. So read their tips and check out they blog

Thank you Tim and Sue.

Here are some of our Tips for better shows and for looking like a Pro. By the way in Australia a compere would be your Master of Ceremonies or Ringmaster of the show

TIMING: The first thing you'll need to know when you're booked to perform at a corporate dinner, is what time they want you to perform. Often they'll leave this decision up to you, after all, you are the "expert" in these matters. Immediately after main course is cleared is the ideal time. The guests are satiated and contented, just the right mood for some entertainment. Have the compere give them a "warning" that "the show is about to start in five minutes" so that they can get drinks from the bar, visit the toilet, and return to their seats. As soon as you get the okay from the Maitre'de that the main course plates have been cleared, signal the compere to introduce you and away you go!

WAITERS: When you arrive at the venue however, you must make a point to speak to the Maitre'de and explain that you cannot have any food or drink service during your act. Nothing is as distracting to a performer and an audience as waiters strolling through the crowd offering drinks and clearing tables. It's worth waiting a few minutes after the tables have been cleared to allow the drinks staff to top up everyone's glasses before starting the show.

LIGHTING: Lighting is crucial to a visual act like a magician. For some bizarre reason, 70% of the functions we entertain at do the same thing: they position the lectern where the CEO will be speaking from in the darkest corner of the room. Often with a light or open window behind him so he's only seen as a silhouette. It's essential to explain to the client in advance that you will need as much lighting as they can possibly get for you. Unless you're using threads, it's almost impossible to be overlit. A few friends of mine even carry some basic lighting in their car "just in case", and they have had to pull it out on more than a few occasions. A follow spot is another way you'll be seen by the audience. Often bookers will baulk at this idea because of the cost of paying an overpriced follow spot operator. If they do, it's better to get them to just hire the light, and bring a friend along to operate it for you. It's even better to just open the spot wide and fix it so it shines on the stage, and just work within it. Either of these options are better than working in dim light.

SOUND SYSTEM: If people can't see you clearly, their minds will begin to wander and they'll lose interest and start talking amongst themselves. The same happens if they can't hear you properly. Unless you take lessons in voice projection, which is a very good idea for anyone who speaks on stage, you will need to use a microphone attached to a sound system. Be very specific about your requests here. If you just ask for a mic, don't be surprised if it is attached to a lectern. Even if you use a radio lapel mic, it's good to have a corded mic on a stand side stage as a back up in case the radio mic fails. As most people know, even if you asked for a corded mic on a stand, often they won't be able to find a stand. Some people carry a spare mic stand in their car, others carry a simple and inexpensive mic clip they wear around their neck. Whatever type of mic you end up using, it will only sound as good as the system it's hooked up to. If it's part of a mobile disco set up, it will only sound okay for small groups. If it's patched through a band's PA, the sound will generally be good enough to fill a large venue. Ideally the organisers will hire a system of at least 600w and have it professionally set up with the speakers placed so that everyone in the room can hear you equally well. Even with a professional sound company doing the job, you will still do better if you're able to have a sound check before the show, especially if you're playing back recorded music. During a sound check, done before the guests come into the venue, you'll find out where you can and can't walk in the room with your radio mic without getting feedback, you can find out whether your microphone lead is long enough, and you'll be able to have them set the volume levels on your microphone and music (we like to gaffer tape the volume dial in position to guarantee no well-meaning technicians turn us down or off before we go on).

MUSIC: Even though it is part of their job, most technicians cannot manage to hit the average number of audio cues in the standard magic act. After years of working with professional technicians we've discovered this number can be as low as one cue. There are many ways you can operate your own music nowdays, even if you run a one-man show. The Show-Tech system is an excellent remotely controlled MiniDisc system. You can even have your MiniDisc or CD player on your table and press "pause" every time you pick up a prop. If you record a few seconds of silence before the start of each track (and rehearse a little), each track of music will appear to start as if by magic. If you are carrying a MiniDisc or CD player with you (once you've used one, you'll never go back to cassette tapes) then make sure you carry a selection of leads with you. You'll need:
* 3.5mm male to 6.5mm male mono
* 3.5mm male to 6.5mm male stereo
* 3.5mm male to dual 6.5mm males mono
* 3.5mm male to dual RCA males
* 3.5mm male to 3 pin Cannon male
These cables should enable you to plug into about 95% of PA systems. Add to your collection a 3.5mm male to 3.5mm female 5-10 metre extension lead, and you'll still be able to position your player side stage even if the PA system is 5-10 metres away. If you're like us and don't trust the batteries on your MiniDisc player, don't forget to carry a good collection of double adapters, extension leads and power point boards.

STAGES: Magic is a visual art, but many function organisers don't seem to realise this and put all manner of obstacles in the way of a successful show. Get a copy of the floorplan, detailing stage and table positions, as far in advance of the show as you can. Even with a small group, your show will look 100% better if you are on a raised platform at least 30cms high. Once you are working to an audience two or more tables deep, you need to be 60cms high, and for groups of 500 or more, 1 metre high is essential. Don't forget to check the stage before the show. Often the venue staff will assemble a Flexi-stage (made of separate sections) in a hurry and forget to lock it together correctly. Jump about on the stage and, if you have any doubt about the stage's stability at all, call the venue manager over and have them fix it then and there. The last thing they want is to be sued by a guest who disappeared down a crack while helping the magician. Also, make sure they provide safe and stable steps either on the side or the front of the stage for easy access. Even though you may not need it, many female helpers you might choose from the audiences will be wearing long gowns and might like to retain their dignity while hopping up onto stage.

ANGLES: Another problem you may encounter is, in their effort to fit as many guests into the room as humanly possible, the organisers may have several tables directly on the right and left beside the stage. These people will not enjoy the show. If you cannot get the organiser to relocate those tables before the event, then have the compere ask them to leave their seats and reposition themselves somewhere else in the room where they can see the front of the stage. Often the waiting staff can discreetly relocate several tables of people immediately before the show.

DANCE FLOORS: Often, instead of a row of smiling faces directly in front of you, you will find yourself looking at the vast empty chasm we call a dance floor. This is the magicians worst enemy. If you work on it, a lot of people will only see your side or your back, even if you somehow manage to rotate for the entire duration of your show. If you choose to work on it, you will usually be unlit, or lit only by inappropriate coloured flashing lights. If you use a spotlight to light you on the dancefloor, not only will the people behind you only see your back, they'll also be blinded by looking directly into the beam of the follow spot. If you look at the floorplan before the show and see a dancefloor directly in front of the stage, urge them to reconsider. Your show will be 100% better if you have your audience closer. There are many creative ideas we've seen used to great effect to solve this problem: have two dance floors on either side of the stage, have the band stage on the opposite side of the room with the dancefloor in front of it and a separate stage for speeches and magicians, have the waiting staff place theatre-style seating on the dancefloor immediately before your show and relocate guests from the back of the room into these chairs. Finally, if you can't avoid the dance floor dilemma it is better to work closer to the audience from a raised portable stage on the dancefloor, but try to relocate as many guests as possible so they can see the show from the front and make sure your portable stage is lit properly.

BANDS: If you are stuck with a dancefloor, odds are you will be stuck sharing the stage with a band. This usually means your backdrop will not be a nice plush curtain, but instead an array of shiny instruments and microphone stands with large foldback speakers at your feet. First of all, make sure the organiser knows how much space you need on the stage then, when the band are setting up before the show, tell them too (the organiser won't have). Explain that the space needs to be completely clear of all cables, mics, instruments and speakers. Often, this will mean waiting a few minutes before you start your show while the band grumpily shift all their equipment out of your way. Wait. It's worth it. Sometimes, the band are scheduled to play you off or to begin another set immediately at the end of your show. We've had a band get up on stage behind us and pick up their instruments ready to play, just when we were getting to the big finish of the show. It was very distracting, extremely unprofessional, but it did happen. And now you know it can happen, make sure it doesn't happen to you! (One band even accidentally unplugged the power to our MiniDisc during the show. One way to avoid this is to gaffer tape all of your plugs, leads and connections.) If you can, bring your own self-standing backdrop and place it in front of the band (once they finish playing of course). Otherwise all the shiny metal band bits and pieces will catch the light, and your audience's eyes, and become very distracting when you want them to watch the tiny playing cards in your hands.

DECORATIONS: Often organisers will spend more on table decorations and centrepieces than they will on you. As beautiful as they are, they usually block the audience's view of the stage. If they are solid, by the time your show is due everyone has had a good look at them and the waiting staff should be able to remove them immediately before your show without any trouble. If they are balloons on a string they can either be collected, or try what I did once: I had the compere announce that normally I begin the show with indoor fireworks, but due to fire regulations tonight we were going to do it a different way. He got everyone to use their cigarette lighters to cut through the balloon strings and everyone held their helium balloons and released them simultaneously on the count of three. It looked good, was fun to do, bonded the audience, and ensured that everyone had a good view of the stage. Another decorative dilemma is the "balloon drop". This is a net full of balloons hanging from the ceiling, ready to be dropped during the dancing later in the night. Often these balloon drops are badly positioned and block the lights which should be lighting your stage. Once again, knowing that this could be a problem will enable you to nip it in the bud if you hear they are planning a balloon drop.

DRESSING ROOM: For some strange reason when performers ask for somewhere to change they are often directed to the nearest public toilet. I usually explain that I don't think the guests would appreciate seeing the magician naked in the toilets before the show. They always find a more private room for me... generally because I explain exactly what type of dressing room we need in advance. It needs to be completely private, not shared with the band or other acts, not a thoroughfare where staff will be constantly walking through. It needs to be as close to the stage as possible. (Often, in a hotel venue, they'll offer you a luxury suite 10 floors above the function room. That's very nice, but what if the lift gets stuck when you're doing a quick costume change? The rooms we usually end up with are storage rooms, which is fine. We bring hooks which clip on the backs of doors so we can hang our costumes, we bring portable halogen lamps for lighting, and we use a custom built suitcase table as our backstage "office" and preparation surface.

REGULATIONS: Generally, most venues will not allow the use of naked flame without a special permit and the presence of a fireman (at quite a large fee). Some will not allow fire at all as a condition of their building insurance. Think about this when you are designing your act. Pyrotechics, naked flames, smoke machines and fog machines will often trigger alarms and result in a very expensive visit from the fire brigade. Once again, if you notify them in advance some venues will allow the use of these devices for a fee which covers a fireman who turns off the alarms during your act. Some venues will not allow them at all. If you are considering using pyrotechnics, please check the regulations in your area as you may be required to have a permit to operate them. If you use Aerotechnic streamer cannons, make sure you use non-toxix, flame proof streamers and confetti and let the technicians know. If your streamers end up hanging from the lighting, the technicians may turn the lights off rather than risk the streamers catching fire. Aim carefully.

VIDEOS: Many large venues use videoscreens and project your show live. Try to avoid situations where the screens pull the focus away from the stage. People do not applaud "television". Try to have your input in the positioning of screens in advance of the show and be aware that many camera operators are even slower than follow spot operators so don't make any sudden movements or the screen may go blank. Also, have a camera check before the show so you know exactly where you can walk and still be seen, and just how close the cameraman can zoom in. There's nothing worse than repeatedly calling for them to zoom in during the show when they're already in as tight as they can go. To the audience it looks like they're ignoring you.

FINALLY: Many people attend functions nowdays with their videocamera in hand and their mobile phones and pagers on. Provide the compere (MC) with a clear, possibly humorous, announcement to read before your show telling them to turn their pagers, mobile phones and videocameras off.

Tim and Sue

From the photo I would also guess a chainsaw would work on the cell phone problem

Thank you again Tim and Sue for years of knowledge and wisdom. Check out some of the effects that Tim has created on our Hocus Pocus website. Just type in his name in product search. If you have any suggestions or tips, share them with all of us.

Best of magic,

Tony Blanco

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?