As you begin to consider mounting an illusion show or just adding an illusion to your already established act, the first thing you must do is research. Begin reading through your catalogues, view your video tapes, get as much input as you can on what type of illusion you want to add. Look at your existing act and analyze it to find what's missing. Should you add a production, a levitation, mutilation or a vanish? At what point do you perform this miracle in your act? Will the same illusion that works for Siegfried and Roy work for you? Research, study and look at what others are doing. See what audiences like and adapt it to your presentation and your style. You don't need to copy.
If you are going to totally re-do youi act and upgrade to illusions, you have a lot of work ahead of you. Selecting the illusions that are not only practical, but that will also adapt to your style is most important. Selection of a "theme" or look is often the most difficult, yet it should be the easiest. It should simply reflect the perf ormer. What do you want to do? What works for you? Although my upcoming chapter entitled "Know Thyself" deals with this in greater detail, here's a hint: David Copperfield would look totally out of place running around a Mismade Girl in tennis shoes with hair down to his shoulders, but this image is perfect for Doug Henning. You must define how your audience perceives you and capitalize on that personality - very difficult.
In building an illusion show or simply adding an illusion, it is most important that the flow work. Recently on the Tonight Show I saw a young, upcoming cabaret pertormer, Lar.ce Burton. His act was brilliant, totally him, beautifully themed and a joy to watch. But, obviously he had just learned a Zombie routine because he stuck it on the end of his normal act. Laymen friends told me, "Boy, he was great, but he should have stopped at..." Flow is most important. Of course, all of these elements must work in harmony in order for your act to succeed. Within the pages of this book I will try to hit the important points of illusion planning. This chapter's main point is to remind you to take time, be patient, research and mentally plan that illusion or illusion show before you blindly execute.
The research itself can be enjoyable. Remember, getting there is half the fun.
As you plan your act, one or. the most important aspects has to be the flow, or how your act is paced from one trick to another. This especially holds true in an illusion act because often you are locked into pre-recorded music and you can't speed up the pacing with your patter or presentation. So as you plan your illusion act, best you consider the flow first of all.
Remember, any successful show has peaks and valleys and they havp to come at thp right time It took me several years to work out pacing for our park shows, but there is a formula for a good twenty minute illusion show. This formula is so successful that, season after season, we would substitute illusions, still keeping the same basic flow, and audiences around the world loved our shows.
To understand our illusion show formula remember what I said about peaks and valleys and begin to visualize it as if your show was a graph based on the high and low points.
The highest points being the illusions or effects that get the most audience reaction on a fast paced, up tempo level The medium and slow effects are still good mysteries, they .lust run at a slower pace to allow your audience to catch their breath as they are still being entertained.
Let's use the same graph, but this time putting the effects ill •
indicates flow of Act
FAST . CRYSTAL CASKET '
indicates flow of Act
FAST . CRYSTAL CASKET '
(j CARD fepEAT
The act would basically flow like this: The magician is introduced, walks out to fast paced music. Enter assistant with crystal casket base and framework, the magician spins unit as assistant brings in plexi panels to insert into framework. Cloth cover is brought out, casket covered, unit revolved, girl produced. (Running time, approximately 2 minutes, 30 seconds.) Magician bows with female assistant. She exits, he begins blowing up balloon. Male assistant takes crystal casket off, brings on Dove to Duck. Female assistant enters with tray, balloon is attached -POP! A dove produced. Female assistant exits with tray, (changes costume backstage for sawing.) Dove is put in Dove to Duck box - BANG! Sides fall down - a rabbit is in the dove's place. Mais assistant exits with the rabbit and the prop. (Running time, 1 minute.) Magician bows, steps up to microphone, removes six cards from pocket, begins patter - to finale of trick (approximate running time 2 minutes.) Magician introduces the Thin Sawing In Half illusion. Curtain opens revealing the prop. Entei two assistants, the girl positioned in the box, the male assistant helps with blades, etc.. The illusion Is performed to fast paced music to finale. Girl exits from box and curtains close. (Approximate running time, 2
minutes, 45 seconds.) Assistants exit, male returns to bring magician What's Next effect as magician steps up to the microphone to begin patter on What's Next. Backstage both assistants preset the Asrah illusion, (girl assistant changes costume.) Magician performs What's Next to finale. (Approximate running time, 1 minute, 30 seconds.) Magician steps away from microphone as ethereal music begins. Curtains open, enter female assistant. Magician hypnotizes her, she falls back, caught by male assistant. She is placed on the couch and covered with the cloth. She floats up, male assistant wheels away table (backstage she exits, runs around to the back of theater.) The form floats up, dramatically the magician whips away cloth and she has vanished! She screams from the hack of the theater and runs down the aisle to join the magician and the assistant for bows. (Approximate running time, 2 minutes, 30 seconds.) Curtains close as the magician steps forward and requests the assistance of two young audience members. The male assistant hands him the Linking Rings, the magician performs with the aid of his young helpers as the assistants prepare the Substitution Trunk backstage As the Linking Rings are completed and the two young helpers are assisted back to their seats, the magician begins to talk about Houdini and his fabulous escapes. (Approximate running time, 3 minutes. The up tempo music begins, the curtains open to reveal the trunk and the two assistants enter. The handcuffs and bag are displayed, the girl is cuffed and put in the bag. The bag is put in the trunk and tied off,, the trunk is locked. The magician jumps on top of the trunk and pulls up the cloth cover. "One" (cover up, cover down), "two" (cover up, cover down), "three" (cover up, cover down) - it's her! She drops the cover, all is reversed and the magician is found where she once was! (Approximate running time, 3 minutes.) The magician and assistants take their well deserved bows.
This is the basic formula for our popular park shows. Season after season we would change the illusions out but never the formula. We changed the Sawing out for the Zig Zag, Cutting In Sixths and Mismade. The slot for the Crystal Casket was filled with the Costume Trunk, Doll House and Chef's Nightmare. The hardest slot to fill was the final illusion. The Sub Trunk is a natural conclusion to an illusion show. The Assistant's Revenge works nicely, the Zig Zag works okay and a costume switch works, but it has to be a special illusion to conclude your show. One of the most creative finale illusions we came up with was called the Chicago Fire. It was invented for a now defunct park called "Old Chicago" near Chicago, Illinois. Basically it was a small building (cabinet) elevated on a pat-son's table. Steps were wheeled up, a young lady stepped up into the "building", the steps were removed and the little building caught on fire. Flames billowed out the top as "firemen" entered to put out the blaze. Instantly all four sides of the building collapsed. The firechief turned around and it was our missing girl!
It was a creative, expensive solution to "what do we put in place of the Sub Trunk?". What can you come up with?
After years of trial and error, we found this formula works for a twenty minute, three person illusion show presented in parks. As you plan your shows, draw my graph, write out what you plan to do, visualize your performance anrd gauge your peaks and valleys. Don't- give your audience too much and don't give them too little. Put it all together right and, even if your illusions are not that good but your flow is correct, you will give your audience a menorsble evening of magic.
More and more it seems as though our knowledge of ourselves, both good and bad, will send us toward a success or failure. How we perceive ourselves is not necessarily how our audience sees us.
Earlier I mentioned a comparison between David Copperfield and Doug Henning and how their own images only reinforce what the audience already senses about these clever performers. That's why this chapter is in this book. Illusion planning should reflect you and your thoughts. Don't plan your act for some other magician. Be yourself.
Getting to know yourself as others see you is quite a trick, but the basic rule of thumb is doing what comes naturally. If one prop opens up new areas of patter or presentation for you and you enjoy It, use it and personalize it. If, on the other hand, another prop commonly used by magicians is awkward for you, don't use it. Begin practicing in the mirror a lot. Begin to play up your qualities, good or bad. Who knows, it may be your trade, mark. The bottom line is, your props reflect you, so they should be props you enjoy performing, props themed to your liking and props that are performed only as you can perform them. Take the time to select your props as you would select a new suit and make sure they reflect your style.
All of the elements that surround your performance - your advertising, costuming, music and prop selection make up your image, or how people perceive you. Unfortunate as it may seem, in "show biz" your first impression may be your only chance. For that reason, you must have a clear view of yourself and your performance style to develop a distinctive approach. As you begin illusion planning, ^ have a distinctive approach, don't copy and...know thyself
One of the most audience tested illusions is still the "Thin Model Sawing" performed here by "Hugo Greystone", our shopping center touring unit. Although the "feet switch" has some angle problems, when performed with fast, stage activity, the exchange can be quickly hidden by a blade or a stock.
The "Thin Model Sawing" should definitely be part of your repertoire. When you hear that predictable gasp as the boxes are separated, you'll be hooked on this illusion.
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