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Vilago
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I've recently read several posts in which a magi talks about having an "act" versus a collection of tricks. Just to make sure we're all using the same definition, what is your understanding of the word "act"?

Does it mean that your show is theme-based, and every trick integrates that theme somehow? Anti-drug themes would be a good example. A bumbling magician or an old wizard might be another.

Or, does it mean that you've carefully selected effects, created scripts for them, spent time considering the proper place for them in your show, chosen costumes and music (if any), and rehearsed the total show? Other than that, though, the effects aren't related in any way.

I'm interested in your thoughts about how you regard your show, act, or whatever...
Billy Whizz
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Hi Vilago,
I never use a themed show. I often read on websites that magicians may have a dozen or so different themes. I wonder how they can polish the act to perfection with so many to remember. I usually have two shows I can do plus a new christmas show every year. That way, I can make sure my 'act' is profesionally polished.
Years ago, I used to worry that a child might see the smae trick twice. But if you think about it, children will watch a video over and over again if they enjoy it. The same goes with my shows. I've come accross the occasional child who might have seem my show maybe six times, but you can see from their reaction that they still enjoy it. I do change it every year as well.
All the best, Billy
p.b.jones
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Hi,
My views are similar to that of Billy I have Just a couple of childrens shows non themed
Phillip
Cheshire Cat
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I look upon an 'act' to be a pre-determined non flexible sequence over a set duration. We did an 'act' of Marionettes for many holiday companies in the 1980s. We now do an 'Entertainment' as known over 2 hours (teabreak) with Disco, Games, Magic, Puppets, Balloons etc. There is a built in flexibility to account for hot teas not being ready/kids not wanting to dance etc. Re: changes of programme. It's nice to do something new - it keeps you 'sharp'. But birthdays are a constant changing market, and even though we have lots of repeats we are wise enough to know that people are always looking for something different (in many cases coming back to us with tales of woe!). I think any REALLY busy children's entertainer soon realises that 'themed' parties are out of the question, as it narrows your scope down somewhat. People ask us: "do you do a Halloween themed party" (or similar). You have to simply explain to them that you do around 300 bookings a year so individual 'themes' for events are simply out of the question.
Adam V
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I've always been told that themed acts rarely work. They get boring too quickly.

I suppose when I perform I have an act which is made up of a bunch of tricks. Think of the Amazing Jonathon. His tricks don't lead into each other. He just does a bunch of crap. You'd still call it an act though.
Adam V - 9 out of 10 dentists recommend him.
JSMagic
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The Amazing Jonathin is hilarious! (a little of topic, i know)
If a magician is not intending to "trick" a spectator, why is every "trick" called a magic "trick"?
Dennis Michael
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This confusion is very common and there are no specific answers so I made up my own.

A trick is a product which has the effect listed and sometimes a decent patter.

An effect is what the product is designed to bring out from the audience stand point

A collection of effects is a routine. Usually three to bring about a solid strong effect on the audience, but not required

Routines that generally flow together is an act. Several acts is a show.

The Worlds Greatest Magicians is show made up of several different acts, one act could be Lance Burton's Sword Fighting, which is made up from combining several routines.

Just my way of looking at a collection of tricks. Now, with kid's shows, a magician can get away with several tricks without a solid jointed connection. For instance, a magician can move from the Miser's Dream to the Pofessor's Nightmare just by putting down the coin pail and picking up the ropes, then putting down the ropes and picking up, the Hippy Hop Rabbits and so forth. There should be some sort of organization with respect to an introduction, a middle, and an ending with audience control, spreading out the use of assistants, using only one sucker trick if any in the middle. If possible use an animal or bird. Each of these effects need enhancing by using other comedy props to make each routine more funny and enjoyable rather than just a collection of displayed tricks. (Adding the breakaway wand, or comedy sissors, etc.)

When doing schools, one must take into consideration the local laws regarding using school assemblies for educational programs. Dave Heflick details this in his "Making Money Performing in Schools.. Definitive Guide to Developing, Marketing, & Presenting School Assembly Programs." This is where an "entertainer" develops a theme program for school assemblies. This program can be 30 minutes long and command up to three times what a normal magic show would bring in. There are many ready made programs related to themes which can give an entertainer a head start. For more information related to packaged programs and routines, see Steve Taylor's Educational Programs

Hope this view helps.
Dennis Michael
Peter Marucci
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The Amazing Jonathan's act may appear to be "a bunch of crap" to Adam V, but it really is a finely scripted and crafted piece of theatre.
The "throwaway ad-libs" are as carefully rehearsed as any Shakespearean soliloquy.

An "act", as it relates to magic, doesn't have to be themed and the tricks don't have to lead into one another.
But there has to be some structure to it -- a logical beginning, a logical end, and a middle part to get you from one to the other.

For example, you wouldn't use a four-foot-high Botania production as your second trick and then close with Nickles to Dimes! That would simply be bad theatre.
You wouldn't open with a slick trick and then have three or four effects fail on you; but the reverse is funny AND good, theatrically.

It may be easier to define what is NOT an act, and then reverse it.

Or, one way to define an act is to have clear in your mind your reason for being there.
Unless you are a hopeless showoff, that is going to be the basis of your act; for example, I am a storyteller to whom these magic things just seem to keep happening.
There doesn't have to be an explanation; after all, that's what makes it magic!

A bunch of tricks is not an act; a bunch of tricks is -- well, it's a bunch of tricks!
Vilago
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Thanks, everyone, for your input. I think we're all on the same wavelength when it comes to what an "act" means.

I was just curious if anyone had a different idea, because I've read earlier posts wherein someone said they had a collection of tricks in their show, and immediately it seemed as though others would respond that the poster didn't have an "act"...well, the real question is whether or not that collection of tricks is routined and has "structure", as Peter put it.

Thanks for the conversation.
Bilwonder
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I agree with most everything that's been written here, but wanted to take a stab at a focused definition. A collection of tricks, as a dealer might demonstrate for you...has the focus on the tricks. An act has the focus is on you and the audience. An act is a sequence of "effects" that increasingly highlight your character.
I think Peter has excellent sense about these things, but I would point out that when he says, " you wouldn't use a four-foot-high Botania production as your second trick and then close with Nickles to Dimes! That would simply be bad theatre. " He is refering to the standard presentions. A creative artist could take this challenge and present such as good theatre...ending on an intimate note... so it is not the kinds of tricks chosen, but the ROUTINES created around them and how you orchestrate those routines together around your character to create an act.
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"You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." Mark Twain
kenscott
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Peter you are totally right about Amazing Jonthan. What a great show with alot of thought.

Ken Scott
Payne
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Don't sell the themed act short. I have been doing a themed act for over twenty years so it is quite polished and professional, thank you very much. Recently (the last three years or so) I have been doing a themed childrens performance as well. I offer a straight show and the themed show and needless to say the themed one get the lions share of the business these days. I takes a certain mindset to develop a good thematic show and often the requirement to rebuild most, if not all of your props. but if you do it correctly you can fill a nitch market that no one else can compete with.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
Billy Whizz
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Hi Payne, I don't mean to 'sell the themed act short'. I'm sure a themed act can work very well, but I can never understand when some will say they have maybe 15 different themed acts. I can't see how that many could be polished into perfection. If you have maybe 2 or 3, then yes, these could quite easily be professional.
All the best, Billy
Payne
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I will agree that having 10 to 15 different themed acts would be a challenge to pull off and still maintain a level of professionalism. I suppose I could say I have many acts too. I have both a Mediaeval and a Renaissance act. they are the same act just done in different attire. I have my Straight Show which is pretty much my MediaevalRenaisssnace act without the Thee's and Thou's and Ladies and Gentlemen instead of M'Lords and Ladies. So there I have what I could advertise as three seperate acts but in reality it is pretty much the same show with different trappings. So with my Childrens shows and my regular act I could, if I really wanted to, advertise that I do five seperate acts.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
Vilago
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Bill, I enjoyed reading your attempt at a focused definition, and I liked your addition of the act having a focus on you and your audience.

The theme ideas can certainly work. Just look at David Ginn's school shows. Each year has a different theme, and I don't recall hearing that David was living on the street recently, so they must sell AND work well.
kenscott
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In GA where I live the state has a theme for the entire library system for the summer. For ex. last year was reading around the world. 2003 will be Books Ahoy, My summer is booked solid because I take the time and write a new show every year for that. The libraries like that I bring a new show with new props, backdrops, music, etc. I recently went to see another performers show that he wanted me to watch and give him feed back on. He was doing a say NO to drug show. And it was nothing more than a magic show. He told them that drugs were bad and that they could be put in jail if they used drugs and then he did a trick. And personally that is not what the schools want and that is not how you theme a show.

When i am at conventions I am always looking at new props, tricks and I am thinking in my head what I could use that trick for. Ex. of using a trick in a theme show was my school show right now. I share a book with the kids that is called "Where do Balloons go" and I also share a nother book with them about playing games. I put the two books together and talk about a game I made up called "Which balloon is it". I have a Kerry Pollack Card in Balloon that is remote controlled. The basic effect is a selected card ends up in one of the balloons. But it is the ride that we took getting up to the end that was fun and themed because I used the books to get me into the routine.

If anyone has any good ideas on "BOOKS AHOY" I am all ears. I think their concept is going to be about the under water, boats, sea, etc.

Best,
Ken

http://www.kenscottmagic.com
Vilago
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Ken,

That's a great idea to create your show around THEIR theme and then sell it. I think too many of us create the theme first and wonder why no one bites? Very proactive on your part!

Smile
Payne
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For the Books Ahoy theme I would look into tricks with water or undersea creature. You could use a Lota Bowl or do sponge ball magic with natural sea sponges. Professors Nightmare with Kelp? I've had the seed in the back of my mind for a while using a tank full of deadly sea enenemies (in reality Kosh balls) maybe juggling them or using them in a stratosphere like effect.
A Pirate theme or drawing ideas from books like 20,000 leagues under the sea or Moby Dick might come in useful as well.
Remember Libraries love it when you tie in literature of any kind to encourage the kids to read.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
Magic Patrick
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I use several small acts during my show. They use different tricks each. I do not string them along. I do however, place them in a logical sequence.

Patrick
Futureal
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To me, an "act" is something that you've put together and do as a show. If you have an "act" it gets better and tighter over time.
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