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Topic: Ventriloquism Show Structure
Message: Posted by: Hansel (Sep 29, 2011 07:48AM)
Hey Friends...

As many of you know I'm a lover of ventriloquism...but a little afraid of performing it ! So I finished "Ventriloquism of Today" by Paul Stadelman. blueshawk1 very kindly send it to me, and I REALLY appreciate his help! Thanks my friend!
So now my doubt is...

1-)How you structure a ventriloquism show?
2-)How long to run it? ( 30 minutes, 1 hour...? )
3-)Are you using multiple characters or almost do the entire show with the same?
4-)Can you do a entire show about ventriloquism? or Balloons, Magic and other entertainment forms are needed?
5-)You do interactive routines with the kids and the puppets...are you breaking the 4 wall of "Theater"?

I know there are A LOT of questions, but believe me, I'm really interested in putting together a ventriloquism show, The investment would be considerably because I don't have any puppet and I'M IN LOVE with the AXTELL'S PANDA, so him is the one I wanted and he is an investment so that's why I'm doing this research, hooping to hear from pros in this field.

Thanks as always for your generosity and kindness!
-H
Message: Posted by: tacrowl (Sep 29, 2011 09:18AM)
Hansel -

I can relate to the "little afraid of performing" aspect. When I switched from magic to vent, I would bring a puppet out and within minutes feel I was dying miserably. The puppet would go back in the trunk and I continued with magic. It was a comfort factor. So to start, I recommend you introduce your puppet into your current program. Try to get comfortable using it and make it a strong part of your act. Then build upon it. It took me a year of shows before I was ready to let the puppets take over.

There is no right answer to any of your questions. We can all tell you how we work, and you will likely get many different responses. What matters is how you want to do things and are comfortable with. That will dictate the structure. Always end with your strongest routine. Always open with a strong intro and routine. With any performance, it is important at the start to connect with the audience. If they like you, they will support what you do on-stage.

Don't set a length - set a goal. I started with two minutes. Built that to 10, 15, 30 and now I generally do between 40 - 55 minutes depending on the audience. The key is to test your material and hone it. Ventriloquism has morphed into a form of comedy for most. Hit 4 to 6 solid laughs per minute and you'll do great. Don't attempt to do a longer set than you are ready for.

Multiple or single characters? Some do whole shows with one, others use many. For children, changing puppets helps hold attention. My personal feeling is to make the characters as strong as possible and have fun with them. The stronger the character, the better the laughs. I generally open with a introduction/warm up, followed by a couple of novelty puppets which run about 5 minutes each. Then I bring out my main character and get 20 - 30 minutes. Finally, I close with an audience participation mask routine that runs about 10 - 12.

Yes, you can do an entire show of ventriloquism. Dunham, Fator and many others prove that. For you, it depends on how confident you are in your abilities as a vent AND an entertainer. Unlike magic, vent gives you no back up. With magic, if they aren't entertained they are hopefully amazed. With vent, you don't get the laughs, its lonely up there. There is nothing wrong with adding magic or balloons. In fact - it relates to my earlier statement about adding puppets to start.

Interactive routines? - Check out Colin's new DVD set. I think he covers some routines. Neale Bacon and David Pitts do a game show bit - so yeah, break down the wall and involve the audience.

Wow - long answer - sorry...
Tom
Message: Posted by: Servante (Sep 29, 2011 10:11AM)
Tom's absolutely right (Pretty much always is).

I've been in show business for over fifty years I started VERY young as a child ventriloquist/puppeteer and added magic...then, I moved into acting, directing and play writing (It is as a playwright that I make my fulltime living, with all of the other stuff still on the side. I'm only telling you this to establish at least some sort of credentials on this deal. :)

Here's the point: I am afraid of performers who are not afraid.

They get sloppy. The trick is to channel that fear into laser-beam attention and stay in the moment. Use the old actors' trick: Relax physically by starting at your toes and relaxing the muscles you find to be tense (you'll find 'em!)...then work up your legs and relax THOSE muscles, and into your hips and your stomach and your chest and out through your fingertips and up to your neck and face. If you have to lie down to do this, lie down. The thing is: You can't force yourself to relax mentally...but when your brain notices that you are relaxed PHYSICALLY, it is tricked. It says, "Oh, I'm relaxed physically...I must not be afraid." This relaxes the brain...and there is a feedback loop, back to the body, and so forth. Keep the loop going. Eventually this leads to the condition most performers and actors find themselves in: Perhaps tense backstage...but once onstage, that tension becomes control and forcus.

-Philip
Message: Posted by: ColinDymond (Sep 29, 2011 01:24PM)
Thanks Tom. I have my puppets doing lots of magic, some suitable for adults some more aimed at kids, although with a bit of a tweak they are very funny for adults.
How long to performs depends on the gig. I am doing a lot of comedy clubs and when they say 10 minutes they meen 10 minutes. So you have to get into the act pretty quick.
Have fun, learn lots.
Colin Dymond.
Message: Posted by: kidshowvent (Sep 29, 2011 03:16PM)
Hansel,

There is a big difference in doing vent shows for adults and doing them for kids (my speciality). I know a lot of my friends in the "grown up" market (I hate to use the word "adult") do usually a 45 minute to 1 hour or 1 1/2 hour show. I think the rule for most of them is 45 minutes-1 hour. For kids, I do a 40 minute school / library show and for young children about a 30 minute show. I don't do it with one puppet, but I anchor my show with a puppet at the beginning and a puppet at the end and in between I do things like a baby cry, distant voice with a ventriloquist's magic wand (a pop away wand), human talking puppet (Mic Mouth is good here..) etc. I sometimes put one magic item in a show to give my voice a break, but I often try to tie the magic in with vent in some way. I really don't want to be a magician or even considered to be one as they are getting to be a "dime a dozen" (no offense to magicians..we are just over pupulated with them).

Because of the attention span of children I keep my vent routines around 8 minutes before I go to something else. They don't tire of the puppet and they stay with me in better fashion. Break your show into 5 or 6 segments (of 8 minutes each) to make it manageable (some bits may be longer or shorter, so you have to balance it out). That way you keep the audience with you and if you have to shorten the show you just knock out one of the segments, or at least combine it to get a point across. Hope this helps..and good luck!

Mark
markwade@kidshowvent.com
Message: Posted by: creativemac (Sep 29, 2011 03:38PM)
Above shows why, Mark is a "Great Man."
Message: Posted by: Neale Bacon (Sep 29, 2011 05:47PM)
Mark, I do follow your format but I still find the 40 minute show a sticking point for some markets. They seem to feel if they don't get an hour, they aren't getting their monies worth.

How do you convince them that 40 minutes is better for the age range?
Message: Posted by: Hansel (Sep 29, 2011 06:36PM)
[quote]
On 2011-09-29 10:18, tacrowl wrote:
Wow - long answer - sorry...
Tom
[/quote]

And Extremely helpful!!
Thanks a LOT !!!
-H
Message: Posted by: kidshowvent (Sep 29, 2011 06:48PM)
Neale,

People need to have confidence in what you are doing (that's not saying your clients don't have confidence in you..) and believe you when you tell them that 40 minutes is plenty. I usually like to tell those who want an hour that this is not like buying nails at the hardware store. You buy them by the pound. Shows are not bought in quantity of number of minutes, but by the quality of the performance. I also explain that young audiences have a very limited attention span and the longer you go with them after 40-45 minutes the more likely you are of having a roudy audience. I don't think any client of your shows wants an unruly crowd of kids. Let them know you are an expert in the field (in a nice way, of course) and that your experience with young audiences tells you that they will go away enjoying the show more, and be less problems if we limit the program to what they can handle. That would be what you suggested..40 minutes. If they insist..suggest doing an autograph time with the kids afterwards or a Q&A to round out the time. This would be more of an activity instead of more time in your act. Of course your price will be higher for the additional that they want. :)
Message: Posted by: Hansel (Sep 29, 2011 06:57PM)
[quote]
On 2011-09-29 11:11, Servante wrote:
Tom's absolutely right (Pretty much always is).

I've been in show business for over fifty years I started VERY young as a child ventriloquist/puppeteer and added magic...then, I moved into acting, directing and play writing (It is as a playwright that I make my fulltime living, with all of the other stuff still on the side. I'm only telling you this to establish at least some sort of credentials on this deal. :)

Here's the point: I am afraid of performers who are not afraid.

They get sloppy. The trick is to channel that fear into laser-beam attention and stay in the moment. Use the old actors' trick: Relax physically by starting at your toes and relaxing the muscles you find to be tense (you'll find 'em!)...then work up your legs and relax THOSE muscles, and into your hips and your stomach and your chest and out through your fingertips and up to your neck and face. If you have to lie down to do this, lie down. The thing is: You can't force yourself to relax mentally...but when your brain notices that you are relaxed PHYSICALLY, it is tricked. It says, "Oh, I'm relaxed physically...I must not be afraid." This relaxes the brain...and there is a feedback loop, back to the body, and so forth. Keep the loop going. Eventually this leads to the condition most performers and actors find themselves in: Perhaps tense backstage...but once onstage, that tension becomes control and forcus.

-Philip
[/quote]


Philip:
Thanks, That's good advice for ventriloquism as well for my regular magic shows!
Thanks a lot !!
-H
Message: Posted by: Hansel (Sep 29, 2011 06:59PM)
[quote]
On 2011-09-29 14:24, ColinDymond wrote:
Thanks Tom. I have my puppets doing lots of magic, some suitable for adults some more aimed at kids, although with a bit of a tweak they are very funny for adults.
How long to performs depends on the gig. I am doing a lot of comedy clubs and when they say 10 minutes they meen 10 minutes. So you have to get into the act pretty quick.
Have fun, learn lots.
Colin Dymond.
[/quote]

Good...!!! Puppets doing Magic always fascinates me !
-H
Message: Posted by: Hansel (Sep 29, 2011 07:01PM)
[quote]
On 2011-09-29 16:16, kidshowvent wrote:
Hansel,

There is a big difference in doing vent shows for adults and doing them for kids (my speciality). I know a lot of my friends in the "grown up" market (I hate to use the word "adult") do usually a 45 minute to 1 hour or 1 1/2 hour show. I think the rule for most of them is 45 minutes-1 hour. For kids, I do a 40 minute school / library show and for young children about a 30 minute show. I don't do it with one puppet, but I anchor my show with a puppet at the beginning and a puppet at the end and in between I do things like a baby cry, distant voice with a ventriloquist's magic wand (a pop away wand), human talking puppet (Mic Mouth is good here..) etc. I sometimes put one magic item in a show to give my voice a break, but I often try to tie the magic in with vent in some way. I really don't want to be a magician or even considered to be one as they are getting to be a "dime a dozen" (no offense to magicians..we are just over pupulated with them).

Because of the attention span of children I keep my vent routines around 8 minutes before I go to something else. They don't tire of the puppet and they stay with me in better fashion. Break your show into 5 or 6 segments (of 8 minutes each) to make it manageable (some bits may be longer or shorter, so you have to balance it out). That way you keep the audience with you and if you have to shorten the show you just knock out one of the segments, or at least combine it to get a point across. Hope this helps..and good luck!

Mark
markwade@kidshowvent.com
[/quote]

Mark:
Thanks for the format... That clears up SO MUCH things for me and the structure of the show !
I hope to meet you someday at the Ventahaven convention!
-H
Message: Posted by: Servante (Sep 29, 2011 09:05PM)
Hey, Hansel...it goes without saying that when I wrote "forcus" up there, I meant "focus." I seem to have gotten cracker crumbs in my keyboard. :)

And, you're more than welcome.

-Philip
Message: Posted by: Steve at The Dummy Shoppe (Sep 29, 2011 09:57PM)
Darn it Philip. When I read forcus, I got out my forc! I thought it was time to eat. Now even cracker crumbs sound good :)

Steve

http://www.thedummyshoppe.com
Message: Posted by: Hansel (Sep 29, 2011 10:13PM)
LOL!!!
Thank Guys !
Message: Posted by: Joseph_Then (Sep 29, 2011 10:15PM)
Over the few years, I have simplified my kids show to just the following:

1) 3 puppets in the 30 minutes show
2) About 9 minutes per puppet
3) One minute to transit

For each puppet, I will have about 5-7 minutes of scripted routine, and spend about 2-3 minutes in getting 1-2 kids to shake hands with the puppets. That's where I'll do quite a bit of adlibs.

If you follow this structure, you only need to create a 5+ minutes scripted routine, which is very easy.
Message: Posted by: Chatterbox41 (Sep 30, 2011 09:18AM)
I think ventriloquism, like comedy bits in general, varies a lot timewise towards the need of the piece... I mean like the time needed to establish the character(s) and get to the big build up. You don't want to go so long with a character that the audience gets bored, but you shouldn't be worried if it's only 5 minutes or only 10 minutes. You may do a 10 minute bit with an established character and then do a 2 minute bit with a new character. Find a strong beginning and a stronger end and try the character out. If it plays add to the middle.

As to having to buy puppets, don't forget puppets (and therefore characters) can be made quite cheaply out of a sock (ala Sherri Lewis) or a glove (Jay Marshall) or even with some of those "Peepers" to start out with. If the character plays, you can always upgrade as you go.

Just a thought.

Gary
Message: Posted by: CaptKirk (Sep 30, 2011 09:20AM)
Not much a beginner like me can add to ALL the EXCEPTIONAL advice already given by the superb vents who have made their very informative comments. WOW, THIS IS THE PLACE to talk and LEARN about ventriloquism from REAL PROFESSIONAL VENTS!!!

I have structured my own routines with about a minute or two of self introduction and then I introduce my first "on-stage volunteer who will assist me with my comedy routine" which is usually my first cousin from the hills of Kentucky - Cletus L.C. Jones and the show goes on from there. Depending on the allotted timeframe of the show, I try to distribute time segments evenly amongst my vent family so they won't get jealous of each other:o)

I haven't yet performed for any children based audiences but would certainly adhere to Mark's suggestions IF I ever do. He is "the MAN" when it comes to those kinds of shows, IMHO:o) - and that is NOT saying there aren't other superbly talented folks who are members of this forum who perform for kids and do fantastic jobs as well!!!