Constructing Your Shows

If you are an established magician, you will already have a collection of tricks, and maybe even an act. If you are not, we trust that the previous modules have helped you on your way to learn some effects that suit you.

Reaching this point is a milestone in the course, because it means you are ready to start thinking about putting a show together using what you have learnt thus far.

You have already been provided with many magic effects in the videos provided, and if you have practised them well, you should be proud of yourself for the commitment you've shown. Probably you are anxious to get in front of an audience, and you'll be pleased to know that you are rapidly approaching that step.

From your notebooks, and from watching other magicians, you will have gathered ideas that appeal to you. It's time to arrange these ideas and effects into groups of close-up, night club (yes they still exist), after-dinner cabaret, theatre, corporate and children's shows.

You should also have a list of magical tricks that you think would work on television. Later in the course we will be going into performing on television in greater detail. But for now, you should remember the basic truth that on television, you will mostly only be performing one trick at a time, and rarely a sequence of effects.

Once you have divided your effects into these types of shows as sections in a notebook, or in files in your computer, you should pick five in any given section and try to put them into the best sequence you can think of (for now).

If you go to magical conventions, and watch the competitions and gala shows, you will see a lot of acts themed around a single subject. Remember that they are performing for magicians, and that without a lot of acting ability and sense of theatre they will be boring as hell to most lay audiences!

In magical terms, the word theme often tends to mean that the performer works with only one type of prop, such as silks, beverages, a piece of rope, cards, cigarettes etc. You too might want to construct such an act for magic conventions. Fortunately for all of us, these acts are rarely longer than ten minutes, and usually only six or seven.

You are a magician, and therefore should be able to do magic with just about anything. To leave the audience with the impression that you can only do one kind of magic is to lessen their perception of your ability.

If you like the idea of hanging your act on a theme in the general sense of the word, it is better to have a wide range of props and effects connected by you, the character, who might be a gormless yokel, a man in a hardware shop, a musician etc. Within such characters, the magic can (and should) be wide and varied. We'll develop this idea more in a moment.

Remember also that in order to maintain the attention of the audience, it is highly desirable to vary the size, speed, look, and lighting during the performance. We live in the high speed world of edited television, and that is your visual competition. We also live in a world of high-tech, multi-million dollar stage shows, and that is your theatrical competition.

French magician Tabary has a superb rope act, but you would not want to watch it for an entire evening! If you have such a sequence already, remember that for the lay public it should be presented as an insert in an act, not as an entire act.

Having said this, if as we have already recommended, you truly know your routines inside out and can perform for them without thinking or hesitation in any circumstances, then you will have a relaxed confidence that will carry you through even where the venue cannot provide you with good staging and lighting. Your magic and your presence will be enough.

If you go and See Paul Daniels current touring show, you come away having had a great night watching a man standing on the stage alone! What you are unaware of as an audience member is the visual psychology that Paul deliberately built into his act. He enters alone, and within a few minutes he is interacting with a man in the audience, creating an unseen downward 'slope' from himself to a single point. Next, he uses the whole audience and splits them into two halves, making them visually bigger than he is as a whole, even though he is 'controlling' them.

Then at Paul's request, two men come on stage, and stand one each side of him, whilst the audience continues to watch the 'play.' After about seven minutes, the audience 'sees' a triangle structure, Paul being the tallest point of the triangle. Next he goes into a routine where two spectators are standing and one is sitting, and then one of them sits and the other stands. The point is, the visual imagery is always changing. Before you know where you are, the men leave the stage, and everything reverts back to the original state.

None of the above is accidental. As a young man, Paul saw a performance of Sammy Davis Jr, one of the greatest entertainers of all time. Having subsequently enjoyed the show many times over on an audio cassette in the car, Paul evaluated it and slowly became aware of WHY the act was so entertaining. It was constructed in such a way that after the first couple of songs, which were sung in a fairly straight manner, you never knew what the man was going to do next.

Paul learnt from examining the performances of Sammy Davis Jr.

Every song was sung in a different manner, with surprising and creative accompaniments, and you were left with the impression that Sammy Davis Jr could just about do anything really well.

Wouldn't it be good if you could leave your audience at the end of the show, thinking the same about your magic? Well you can!

You must not take anything for granted in your own act. When it comes to the property business, they often say location, location, location. When it comes to performance, you should say analyse, analyse, analyse!

Now, look at your five tricks again, in any given category. They might well work alone, but can you combine them with another lesser effect to build the single trick into a better routine? If for example, your trick demands that you write something down, can you make the pen disappear as an aside? Alternatively, can you do or say something with or about the pen that is funny, because comedy is a powerful weapon in your act? In fact, let's now look at comedy in a little more detail, and see how valuable it can be to enhance any act.

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