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njh
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Can anyone here either offer me advice on how to maintain the 'balance of power' when performing for children? How can you discourage them from interrupting, interjecting, or simply interfering with the entertainment you try provide?

I can deal with the kids who say they know 'how it's done,' but I have trouble with the ones who interrupt you about how "my grandpa is a magician," or "I've seen this before," or any number or ridiculous, irrelevant statements. I don't think they say these things out of rudeness, but they just want to tell you about their past experiences with magic and can't wait. How do I communicate (nicely) that this is not acceptable?

If this has been discussed previously, could someone please post a link.
Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Jim Snack
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You need to build in lots of opportunities for their participation and keep the show moving along at a good clip. If you have any stage waits, they will be filled by the kids. They just want to participate, and that is very acceptable.

Also it helps if you set the ground rules early on in the show. Many performers make it part of the audience warm-up. Do a search here and you will find lots of ideas.

Jim
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magic4u02
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It has been discussed before, but I have no problem trying to shed some light on it again for you and ofer some advice that has worked for me. Perhaps it can work for you as well and others can chime in with helpful links or other advice also.

You are right in the fact that most kids do not realize or find that what they are doing is not appropriate for you the performer. They react to you because they want to tell you things and feel special in doing so. In most cases they mean you no harm.

How can you set ground rules to help handle some of this? Well I do this in several ways which I would like to list here:

- First, as soon as I walk into any place, I tell myself that I must be professional. This does not mean I turn it on just when the show starts. It happens from the moment I make the first call to the parent or client and continues well after the performance is over.

Being a professional means that I must show respect to everyone if I expect to get that same respect back to me. This even applies to children. I show them respect and I listen to them when I get there. I encourage them to ask me questions if they so desire cause it sparks there curiosity. If they ask questions before the show, then I can usually get it out of their system before the show starts.

Kids probably have not seen that many magicians before and you may be the very first magician they have ever seen. So it is natural for them to be curious and want to share things with you.

- I also make sure that I am not "stand-offish" to the kids when I arrive. By this I mean I do not distance myself to them. I shake their hands and I ask them if they are having a good time and if they enjoy magic. By doing so, I am showing that I am a nice guy and that we are there to have fun. In a way they are making friends with me and I with them.

In this manner, by the time the show starts, we already know each other and I can gain a much better repoire with them. this also stanslate well when I want them to quiet down etc. They are more apt to do this if they know I am friendly and a nice guy and have shown them respect early on.

- When the show starts, I do my opener number and then my standard intro. My intro is structured in such a way to set the ground rules for the show but in a non-harmful way. Too many magicians lecture to the kids and place demands on them. I do not do this. My method is setting ground rules in a fun manner in which I stay in character, I do not lecture to them and they realize my rules are not really rules to them at all. They find them to just be part of the way to have a great show.

I simply state that there are 3 ways in which we select our helpers to come up and help us work our magic. If you would like to be a helper we ask you to follow 3 simple rules. 1) you have to be seated like you all are right now. 2) you have to have your hand raised so we know you want to help out and 3) you have to have a really big smile on your face. If you can follow those simple and fun rules, you might be the person we select to work magic with us.

That is pretty much it. It is stated light hearted and it is not lecturing to the kids nor and I coming off as demanding things on them. Notice how I never once said you muct shut up, you must be quiet you must not talk. Those to me come off the wrong way.

I get the children to remain quiet simply by forcing them to smile if they want to help. When a child smiles, they can not be talking. It works very well for my wife and I.

- Use of reinforcement. By this I mean you reinforce your simple rules throughout the show. If the group gets noisy, you simply have to say.. remember how we pick our good helpers? They immediately remember and you see them sitting down, hands up and smiling. In a fun way, they recall your rules cause they want to have fun with you on stage. It is this simple reinforcement that can gain you back some control if you need it.

- The art of talking softly. If you feel the children are still getting too noisy for you, then you do the exact opposite. You start to talk softly. As you talk softly, you will be amazed at how the audience quiets down with you in order to hear what you are saying. It is pyschological in nature but it does indeed work.

- If a child does say something in the show, do not always ignore it. Sometimes ignoring it can only encourage the child to do it more often. In most cases I will listen and then address their question easily. I might say.. oh your grandad does magic.. that is really great.. he must be a great and fun guy.. but let us get back to our own fun and we can talk about others questions after the show ok? great thanks. I am pleasant to them and I address the question with a nice calm answer. It works well for me.

- When a child has said I have seen this before... it does not usualy mean I have seen this so there for I do not want to see it again cause it will bore me. Quite the opposite is what they really are trying to say to you. I have found in most cases, that them telling you they have seen it before, often means that they recognize a trick similar to it and they liked it a lot and they want to see it again. Do not always take this as a bad thing.

I hope some of this helps. It by all means is not a golden rule book on how to handle situations. These are simply things I have learned over the years that have worked for me and perhaps may work for others.

Kyle
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Whiterabbit
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I saw a clown deal with the problem within the first couple of minutes of the show.

He gets the kid going, has a give away item and says "are there are good kids?"
(heaps of them raised their hands).

"Are there any bad kids? Come on who's a bad kid?" Eventually one child raised their hand and he got them up on stage, gave the prize to them and said "Okay, but you gotta be good for the rest of the show..."

And it worked. He asked who was bad, got them to agree to be good before the show went too far and nipped the whole problem in the bud. Lateral thinking and it worked. I learnt a lot watching that show.
May your fingers never lose their deftness,

May your tongue always lead them down the garden path...



Regards,



Whiterabbit
magic4u02
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Interesting idea but I wonder if that only possibly sets you up for possibly more problems. What happens if the kids see the bad child getting a reward for being bad and as soon as they sit down now all the kids start raising their hands screaming they are bad to and they want a gift as well? In a way they see you rewarding bad behavior.

Depending upon the reard, you may also cause a distraction because the kid and the kids around him or her may be more intersted in what the child received and playing with it instead of watching you.

Not trying to be negative here at all. I am sort of playing devil's advocate if you will to spark further discussion on the issue. I thank you for bringing it up. What do others think? How do you guys handle situations like this?

Kyle
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chris mcbrien
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I totally third (or fourth) setting the ground rules. It can make or break a show. Once you set the rules ( I like adding "and no one comes up on stage unless they're invited") it really helps them relax and enjoy themselves. I know it sounds weird, but it's kind of like having police in your neighborhood...once everyone knows that they can't go pillaging and burning through the town, they can relax and enjoy doing that normal stuff...like clapping and cheering you on!
And, I agree you should NEVER reward the bad kid by having them come up. Not only does it set a "standard of behavior" for the rest of your show ...."gee, if I act like him I'll get attention too!". It also reinforces behavior in the long run. And of course you won't score any points with the adults in the room, especially those with education degrees......
Positive reinforcement wins every time. For instance, when I mow the lawn or clean out my car weekly my wife gives me an M&M....I get the peanut ones when I give her all my receipts for her accounting....
;)
Whiterabbit
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Hi Kyle and Chris,

normally I'd agree with you, but it did work very well in this case. I think the important thing was that the child wasn't misbehaving at that point in the show. In fact, it seemed to me that the clown was subtly setting up the rules of the show from the start.

He got the children cheering and laughing, identified the potential trouble maker at the start, got him on side before he started to make trouble and told him very nicely to be good. He told everyone else they'd get a balloon at the end of the show if they were good and it worked big time.

This contrasts with my normal approach, which is to make an entrance, introduce myself, set the ground rules, then do a couple of silly things to bond with them, have the children sitcrosslegged - cause it's harder for them to get up and do something sudden, then proceed with the show.

I can see the drawback of the other approach, but it worked for this guy. Maybe for others, who knows? But the approach fascinated me.
May your fingers never lose their deftness,

May your tongue always lead them down the garden path...



Regards,



Whiterabbit
chris mcbrien
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Well, there's always more than one way to tie a know, so why not this? I think it depends on your character or just you personal preference. As the old saying goes, "if it aint broke, don't fix it!".
Chris
rossmacrae
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Quote:
On 2005-08-08 20:59, njh wrote:
I have trouble with the ones who interrupt you about how "my grandpa is a magician," or "I've seen this before," or any number or ridiculous, irrelevant statements. I don't think they say these things out of rudeness, but they just want to tell you about their past experiences with magic and can't wait. How do I communicate (nicely) that this is not acceptable?


So ... you want an audience of little robots sitting reverently and silently while "wonderful you" performs his art? Get a TV show!

Entertainment is never "me to you exclusively." You are there to have an interaction with the audience even if their input consists only of applause and the occasional gasp of astonishment. And when with children, it's never limited to that.

I can't say that your attitude as expressed is very likely to come across well to a children's audience (or, for that matter, with most adult audiences.) It may be what you want, but the disrespect simply drips from it. You're not there to be worshiped, you're there to entertain, and that means to SERVE - that's why entertainers bow to audiences, not the other way around.

True, you can't let idle conversation take over the show. But all of the comments you cited could be handled much better with an "Oh, really? How many people have grandpas who are magicians? That's a lot of you, I guess I'm going to have to try really hard to be better than a grandpa!"

"How did you do that?" - There has just been a thread about this one.

"I know how you did that!" - [Stage whisper in return:] "So do I!"

"I had a rabbit!" - "What was his name?" (Then just go on doing what you were doing)

"You're silly!" - "Thank you!" or "That's my job, kid!"

"Are you a real magician?" - "I dunno, are you a real kid?"

You don't wanna be in a room with real people with real reactions to you? You want unqualified silent approval? You want little dummies who will worship anything the magic shops sell and you can manage not to fumble? Then go back to performing for the local magic club.
Countage
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When a kid in one of my birthday parties says, "I know this trick" I say "I know it too." That always gets a big laugh from the parents. You have to say it in a bragging tone just like you are a another kid. In Bill Malone's DVDs he says you should have stock answers to commonly said things. That bit of advice has help me out a bunch. I am thinking about starting a post about this.
Andy Wonder
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When children interrupt your performance with irrelevant statements it is because their mind is thinking irrelevant thoughts. Minds wander off when they are not anticipating what is about to happen next.

This is a sign your show is too much of a series of unrelated events. Make sure all your actions have a clear apparent reason behind them. The minute you do something without your audience knowing why you loose a lot of entertainment value. You need have some type of plot into your act so they will be thinking about how the conflict in your presentation is going to be resolved. Keep them anticipating what is about to happen. You might want to expose the children to some information that you apparently don’t know. You can also foreshadow the exciting events about to happen like mentioning you will be looking for polite children to help do some magic. This also gets them thinking about what might be happening next.

If they are thinking about what might happen next they won’t interrupt with irrelevant statements. They may then interupt with relevant statements & those can even be expected or encouraged & built into the fabric of your routine. That way the performance feels spontaneous. The children get to interact & it is all part of your script anyway.
Andy Wonder, Auckland, New Zealand
danryb
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I perform at hotels for the guests children.
I often find myself up against numorous tourists from all over the world. There are some who "know it all" and some whom have barely come face to face with a entertainer of any kind.
The quiet children tend to be more mature and relaxed and those who respond to everything and remark all the time are just slightly hyper and seem to be looking for a good time, with no bad intentions. I respond to these children with more eye contact, body language and even verbal response. If I can add a word or two I do and if not I will either just not respond or lip this child to "shush" for a moment whilst the effect sinks in.
In some, unfortunate cases, I come across those who desperately want to distract others. for these children I use a different, firmer, technic. I will literaly stare them in the eye and inform him/her how much he is disturbing the others and me. I sometimes request himher to move to the back row if heshe prefers to lie down or I will get an adult supervisor to talk with him as a go with the flow and proceed with the show.
Either way, "the show must go on" and if I have to pick up my pace I will perform like a steam train and get every one so excited that the disurbing kid will barely be noticed.

Enjoy,
Dani the magician
Gideon Sylvan
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I just do my talk of two rules before the show (be polite, and have fun). Then if one of them is going crazy during the show, I don't mind, it's fun and funny. You play around with you inturupt them back. Really, we should all be kids in heart, so lets act like them now and then to defeat them. Also, I love to improvise, so it makes it that much more fun for the audience and me when stuff happens out of the "script."

Gideon
You know you are a magician when you have boxes full of lecture notes you have never read, but still are excited about going out and buying more.

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magic4u02
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It is what I call "controlled chaos". This basically means that you allow the children to interact with you and with the show but you are always in control of the situation. This just comes with time and practice and a very good knowledge of your show.

Kyle
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SteveFowkes
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I've only had one out and out trouble maker at a show and he was an absolute nightmare but I eventually regained control and turned him into a joy to perform to.
This kid was known as a bully and a trouble maker and didn't waste much time trying his best to ruin my show. I could see all the parents at the back pointing at him and talking but surprisingly, his own mother did nothing to try and stop him. I tried my usual 'I only pick good kids to help' and even asked him directly not to spoil the show for everyone else, all to no avail. Eventually, I got him up to help with the Ali Bongo growing hat. I pointed out at the end of the comedy routine that everyone thought he was a little monster and he replied with, 'yeah, but you can't do real magic. You can't turn me into a frog can you?'
I was knocked for 6 by this and furious inside but I kept smiling and said I'll try my best. I then turned the hat around and said that I'd turn him into something and when I removed the hat, the audience was to shout out what he was. I grabbed a cat picture from another routine, held it behind his head and gave a hugely exagerated wink at the audience and removed the hat. They all shouted cat and this kid was furious. I told the audience all to meow at him so he could understand what they were saying at which they did. This kids face then dropped. He was gutted and practically in tears, so I quickly 'reversed' the spell and put him back to normal. He was as quiet as a mouse after that and I even had to tell him that he was allowed to join in with the shouting etc for the rest of the show.

After the show, I got several comments that the best trick of the show was when I turned this kid into a cat. I even got congratulated by his mother saying I was the only person in months to get him to behave! She booked me there and then for his party the following month. I accepted and he was as good as gold.

I share this just to highlight that no matter how well prepared you think you are, there will always be someone who will throw a spanner in the works for you. Also, that just because any number of parents may be present, you cannot rely on their help and you really are on your own.

Kids are brutally honest and unpredictable but oh so satisfying to perform to. They keep you honest and thinking on your feet and to be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way.

My advice? Keep calm, proffesional, quick witted and above all, a sense of humour. It IS worth it.

Reagards,
Steve
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Steve
Bill Nuvo
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To maintain control, you can squirt them with a super soaker...just kidding. What I do is set up the rules beforehand. I only have two rules to they are really easy to remember. One, this is my stage area..that means no one can come into this area unless I ask them to. And I only ask children who are behaving and following rule number two. If you are making to much noise I stop and do this (raise my pointer finger to the air above my head and bring it down to my lips with a sound effect similar to kung fu movies where their hands cause that chopping sound in the air). Does anyone know what this means? That's right. Lets practice it. On the count of 3 I want you to make a lot of noise and we will see how fast you can become quiet. (I do this about 3 times and they get better each time as it is a game. It also release all the excitement out at the beginning of the show.) I have rarely had to stop the show since I started doing this.
Gideon Sylvan
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I think if you have a joke for all situations, it becomes fun to get the kids to behave those few times they don't.
You know you are a magician when you have boxes full of lecture notes you have never read, but still are excited about going out and buying more.

www.gideonsylvan.com
magic4u02
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Steve,

I mean you no disrespect at all and I hope we can agree to disagree. However, I would never allow myself to stoop to that level no matter how bad a child is or how they behave. I am hired as a professional and so I must be one at all times.

This means that even when I want to punch a kid in the face cause they are driving me nuts or being rude, I can not and will not go that route cause I am a professional and I learn to handle things in a different manner.

Putting a child down like that or embarassing them like that for me is not the way to go even if it does make you feel better inside or you feel like it is the only avenue to go down. You are an adult and a professional performer. There are other methods in which you can use to control a problematic child. Embarrasing them and making them feel lower then dirt is not proper form if you ask me.

Just my difference of opinion is all.

Kyle
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SteveFowkes
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Kyle,

First of all, no disrespect taken and I actually agree with what you said.

I didn't intend to belittle the kid but was actually trying to perform to him on a personal level. The Ali Bongo hat is just a comedy item and is part of my normal act. When he challenged me about the frog, my quick thinking and perhaps naivity took over and the cat item was born. As soon as I realised that the kid was upset by this, I took immediate steps to 'put things back'. I made sure he got a round of applause before sitting down. When the show continued and he was still upset, I directed a lot of attention to him to encourage him to join in again.

For the record, I was surprised by his reaction and although it allowed me to continue the show, I wasn't at all happy with the reaction I'd caused. In this instance I was lucky for a number of reasons. Firstly, as the show wasn't spoillt for everyone. Secondly, as the other adults present didn't think less of me for what had happened. And lastly and most importantly, I was able to do a show for this kid a little while after, which he really enjoyed. There were reasons behind his behaviour which are not for public viewing but his subsequent party was the first time in months that he'd been a kid again.

Not that the end justifies the means, but I genuinly didn't mean to put him down. I'm not a comedian dealing with a heckler. I'm a kids magician paid to entertain.

My 'crowd control' techniques have improved somewhat since then and luckily, I've never had anyone as disruptive as this kid again. Perhaps there should be a 'I learnt about performing from that' topic to air just this kind of thing?

Anyway, no offence Kyle and I stand by my last two sentances in my first post.

Regards,
Steve
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Let's make it more so.
Steve
JamesinLA
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I think Andy's post is great. Thanks, Andy.
Oh, my friend we're older but no wiser, for in our hearts the dreams are still the same...
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