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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The little darlings » » How do you get better? (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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JoshLondonMagic
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I am on a never ending quest (as we all are) to getting better at performing. After all, we are paid to perform and out shows should be top notch. With a HUGE list of to-dos and all the business odds an end we need to do everyday I sometimes slip and realize I haven't rehearsed or improved my show in a few months. It's a good and bad problem to have: to be booked solid doing 6-8 shows every weekend (birthdays) and the bad: feeling a little complacent.

I want to start a discussion on out shows. How do we get better? How do we know our shows are good?

I watch video of my shows and take notes. That's one way. What's yours?

Josh
Josh
dearwiseone
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Josh,
Great post, I was thinking a similar thing on my way home frmo a show this morning. A few ideas...

Have a trusted friend watch the shows and give you suggestions. I personally think you need suggestions from fellow professionals within the industry, and members of your target audience. A family member or close friend who is in your target market can be "tough" with you if you ask them to. You can ask them to let you know their favorite effect, their least favorite, etc.

I video tape a lot of my shows and watch them to take notes on what to fix. It sounds like you've already done this, so I think you're well on your way! With every show you watch, write down something you did good in the show, and something you would have done different.

Ask yourself questions that challenge you to improve your show. Questions like "Am I staying current with technology?" or "What is my show missing?"

I've heard of some people devoting time periods to different aspects of their show. For example, January is backdrop month. That's all you analyze all month. February is interaction month where you focus on your audience interaction. March is music month, April is prop management month, etc.

Knowing if your show is good can be a personal thing. I don't think you can go wrong by sending your show to people and asking them point blank for advice and if your show is "good." Take your definition of good and compare your show to it. Let's say that you're a kid's magician and you think Silly Billy's show is great. Watch his show, and identify what makes him good. Why do you think he's good? Write down a list of everything that comes to mind. Then, watch your show and compare those same aspects. You might find room for improvement!

It's a great question, I'm interested in hearing what other people have to say.

Best Wishes,
Kevin
danfreed
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I agree with Kevin's ideas. Also, look outside out the magic community for learning, such as taking improv comedy classes and learning comedy techniques from your favorite movie/TV funny people. Also, look at a list of your tricks/routines/gags and see if there is some variety you can add, like maybe add a levitation if you don't have one, or add a penetration trick if you don't have one, or just add a few non-magic gags, or a puppet bit, or whatever. Maybe if you have other talents like playing an instrument or whatever you can add that into a magic routine somehow. And go to Kidabra next time to get re-energized and to lighten your wallet. If you have music, are you using the best possible tracks? Maybe think about your staging - like if you are turning your back to the audience, that kind of stuff. I need to do all that stuff myself, but I do semi-weekly improv, and I've been working on my act quite a bit, learning ventriloquism and working on vent routines, and I did just put together a Clarity box bit today, and my other plan this week is to start adding more close-up stuff and improve the close-up stuff I already do.
Quentin
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As I see it the three biggest mistakes made by children's entertainers are:

1) the lack of structure and texture in the show. No balance and too much of the same type of trick.

2) Overacting.

3) No understanding of the use and power of pausing.
Chance Wolf
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Here is a PERFECT formula.

For every 10 minutes you spend in the Café....
spend 2 HOURS practicing!
You will be amazed at how much better you get Smile

I wonder how many of you think I am kidding.
Creator of Wacky Wolf Productions & Fine Collectibles

A DECADE of building Magic and we're just getting started!

http://www.wolfsmagic.com
writer25
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I don't know much about children's entertainment. I only came on this section to help protect poor Zucchini from pirates. However, from what I have seen the worst fault is lack of charisma, stiffness and self conciousness when performing and giving wrong advice when you are not much good yourself.
Potty the Pirate
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I think every kids' performer should study stagecraft properly. Even when you know all the "rules", it still takes years before they become so ingrained in your performing psyche, that you never need to consciously think about them.

Know these techniques properly, and you can present the worst trick ever, and still be entertaining and engaging.
TonyB2009
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I don't often agree with Potty, but he is right. That is the key.

For my first number of years I worked on stagecraft and presentation, while others I knew worked on props and sleights. The end result is I have a busier diary. When I decided to add a puppet into the act I went to an acting coach and got a series of acting lessons. When I went into hypnosis I spent months honing my skills at a public speaking club.

We are entertainers; our core skill is showmanship. The tricks are just the tools we use, nothing more.
Skip Way
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RECORD! Keep a notebook or voice recorder with you at all times. Immediately jot down or record magic or funny thoughts as they come to you. Don't wait! You WILL forget! Record strange occurrences that strike your funny bone or jog your creative thoughts.

READ! Put down that game controller and turn off that television. Read everything you can get your hands on about your art and anything remotely linked to it. Step outside of your comfort zone and read everything you can get your hands on. The written word is power! It fuels your imagination and energizes your creativity.

WRITE! Every performance, no matter how simple, requires a well thought out script in order to achieve perfection. Many performers will balk at this and claim that they never use a script - and they are wrong. If they perform the same effect in the same way performance after performance, then they are using a mental script. If that works for you, fine. However, it is very difficult to objectively study and modify a mental script.

REWRITE! To reach perfection, write it down, study it, rewrite it, study some more, rewrite it again, and so on. After every performance, go back and fine tune your script to achieve better timing, wording, delivery, and staging.

WRITE EVERY DAY! The more you write, the easier it gets. Try to write a new routine, joke, or script idea every day. The best time to do this is first thing in the morning before the bustle of the day crowds in on you. Most of these ideas will be forced and impractical, but every now and then, the creative part of your mind will hatch that one idea worth expanding. Run with it!

MAKE IT YOURS! Understand your on-stage persona or attitude. Is your natural attitude deadpan, angry, sarcastic, goofy, or serious? Match your script to your natural on-stage persona. Insure that every script relates to your natural persona. It takes a well-seasoned pro to leap from one persona to another without losing the audience.

CRITIQUE! Once you've written a routine, perform it in front of a mirror or, better yet, a video camera. Carefully note - that means "write down" - the things about your delivery, timing, and movements that you like. Then go back and write down the things you didn't. Now, replay the video or perform the routine for your practice partner. A practice partner is someone you trust to bounce ideas off, practice new routines with, and turn to for honest, constructive critiques. Every performer needs a practice partner. Ask them to note the things they did and didn't like. Compare your lists and discuss ways of improving your performance. Perform the routine and repeat this process until you are 100% satisfied.

REHEARSE! Work on your confidence and make memorized material seem spontaneous. Practice until you can deliver the memorized material in an easy, conversational tone that compliments your stage persona.

TIME IT! Ask your practice partner to time you as you run through each routine several times. Annotate the average time on the top of your script. Understand that nerves will cause you to run through a routine faster on stage than you will in a rehearsal.

TEST IT! Actively seek out places where you can perform in front of a live audience. Organize a "social safety network" by calling friends you know will be supportive and inviting them to come and watch. This way, even if you bomb, you'll have people in your audience rooting for you. This added bit of support can help you through your nervousness in your first few gigs.

TAKE IT FOR A TEST DRIVE! Nothing will point out which parts of your script need to be rewritten, spiced up, or totally abandoned like a live audience. Street performing, restaurants, neighbors, magic clubs, comedy club and rec center Open Mic showcases are just a few of the places that may give you the chance to practice and fine tune your act in front of a live audience. Don't expect to be flawless in these places. Every beginner needs a place he can safely "suck" until he gets it right.

RECORD AGAIN! Video record every performance every time every where. Watch the videos after each show. Write down what you liked and didn't like. Play the video for your practice partner and ask them to write down what they did and didn't like. Discuss and apply ways of fixing your performance and make the changes to your script.

SUPPORT YOUR PEERS! Napoleon Hill's MasterMind is more than a theory in a book. The more you interact with like-minded peers, the more you personally learn. Supporting your peers - even those with different talent sets - the more you are likely to pick up.

There are no shortcuts to becoming the best in your field. The quality of the finished product is determined by the time and effort invested in developing it.
How you leave others feeling after an Experience with you becomes your Trademark.

Magic Youth Raleigh - RaleighMagicClub.org
Jolly Roger
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Good post Skip, although I find your suggestions quite exhausting to read....let alone put into practice!!! Good to have you back on the little darlings!! Smile JR
harris
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Harris Deutsch
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This is a great and productive thread.

Listening during programs helps. For me it's not your a great magician, but I listen for other words including ..your show has heart...haven't laughed liked that in a long time...where have you been hiding...your like a man on the moon..(heard referring to an Andy Kauffman connection)..

I love to write for others, while finding putting pen to paper myself challenging.

When I do on a regular basis I often find either gold, or my critic.

The later I picked up from a book called the Artist Way. Journaling is a great tool. When my critic comes out I use a different style of graphics and often draw a picture or symbol.

So is being with artist in other areas. Reading is also important for this guy. Not just in the field of magic, vent, comedy and juggling.

Classes are great..for me movement, improvisation, puppetry..and yes an occassional magic lecture.

Working in a "legit play", under a great director is something I do occassionally. Last week I hooked up with a group of older actors...55 plus.

I got a kick, when I was asked often, do you qualify (by age) for this group.
At 60, magic, vent, puppetry and theatre keep me in great mental , physical and most important spiritual shape. I cycle/spin class 3 times a week..and hit the weights sporadically.

Spiritually I give credit to God for giving me and helping develop talents...


and in a related field...I get better on stage, when my life and family are important off stage.

Harris
still 2 old to know it all
Harris Deutsch aka dr laugh
drlaugh4u@gmail.com
music, magic and marvelous toys
http://magician.org/member/drlaugh4u
Jolly Roger
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Here is a bit of advice I have learnt over the years. Listen to your audience first, non-magician friends(laymen) second, and magicians last. Also, invest money in acting classes and learn theatre skills. This is a far better investment than buying the latest and greatest magic prop. JR
Bazinga
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I was starting to lose a little faith in Little Darlings because of the actions of a few over last few days.

But then along comes Skip Way and BAM! Faith restored. Excellent post. Good for performers at all levels.

Thank you Skip.

Bazinga!
Skip Way
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Thanks, Bazinga. That's a grand compliment.

My post is a blueprint, JR. Just as no routine out of a magazine or DVD is right for every person, success routines vary with each person's drive and discipline. One should adapt those tips that appeal to him and run with them. Examine every idea, choose those that work for your personality, and make them part of your success routine.
How you leave others feeling after an Experience with you becomes your Trademark.

Magic Youth Raleigh - RaleighMagicClub.org
danfreed
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A lot of us are talking about learning acting/stagecraft skills, which is great. I wonder how many magicians have a background in that. It's one reason or the main reason Copperfield got so good and stood out. At Kidabra a guy named Max Howard had a great presentation. He has a big acting background and demonstrated how acting/costumes/stagecraft took what could be a boring or mediocre box trick and made it into something great. He came up with an old Chinese wizard character and a whole story to go with it, and put on a quick costume and simple mask, and did a whole mini drama in which the magic trick was just part of it. He got a standing O because it was so cool. That doesn't mean we should all do that exactly, but shows how theatrical methods can take us to the next level. I've never done regular theater, though I wish I had, but I've done a ton of improv comedy and still do, made movies all through my teenage years, and dabbled in stand-up comedy. I'm now learning ventriloquism/puppetry which is a type of acting. Mime and dance would be good too. I think I learned comedy mostly by watching so many movies and TV shows, and by making movies.

Here is Max Howard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxXdC_ya7Uc and http://www.thehabitofexcellence.com/Video.asp
Quentin
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There is some great advice here. But I still maintain the first step is to have a well balanced show. Such a show has a flow to it. Even when you are busy with many shows in the day and you have the flu and are feeling miserable, a good structure will get you through. Think of it like a roller coaster. Once it gets to the top, the structure of the ride carries the cars to the end.

Once you have a show, you can work on improving it.

A suggestion for such a show:

Something funny to get the attention and the children laughing. Sometimes smaller children can be apprehensive. Once they start laughing they start enjoying the show.

A strong magic effect with comedy that does not require an audience helper.

A helping trick.

A quick strong visual magical effect that is very baffling.

Another helping trick.

A shouting trick, such as Run Rabbit Run or Codology.

Finish with a puppet routine.

If you have the birthday child up helping in either of the helping tricks, make them a balloon animal or produce a small gift.
If you are doing a longer show do Kimmo's Race Game (see a thread on this on the Café) after the shouting trick and finish with the puppet routine.

But get the show first. Then you have something to work with and improve.
danfreed
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A lot of us are talking about learning acting/stagecraft skills, which is great. I wonder how many magicians have a background in that. It's one reason or the main reason Copperfield got so good and stood out. At Kidabra a guy named Max Howard had a great presentation. He has a big acting background and demonstrated how acting/costumes/stagecraft took what could be a boring or mediocre box trick and made it into something great. He came up with an old Chinese wizard character and a whole story to go with it, and put on a quick costume and simple mask, and did a whole mini drama in which the magic trick was just part of it. He got a standing O because it was so cool. That doesn't mean we should all do that exactly, but shows how theatrical methods can take us to the next level. I've never done regular theater, though I wish I had, but I've done a ton of improv comedy and still do, made movies all through my teenage years, and dabbled in stand-up comedy. I'm now learning ventriloquism/puppetry which is a type of acting. Mime and dance would be good too. I think I learned comedy mostly by watching so many movies and TV shows, and by making movies.

Here is Max Howard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxXdC_ya7Uc and http://www.thehabitofexcellence.com/Video.asp
harris
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Harris Deutsch
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I started in theatre.

Quentin had gold in his list of 3.

an example of a recent change...was a bit I used to do between an audience member and myself...was moved to a ventriloquist section and between the audience member, "Nigel" and me.

I had not planned it, but after a man's response, it seemed the perfect place....went for it and it worked.(not all changes work at such a high positive level of response the first time out)..

and one final thing (this go round) is don't let the show go down the tubes, when something "goes wrong", or not the way you plan it. Bad moments don't equal bad shows...

Harris
Harris Deutsch aka dr laugh
drlaugh4u@gmail.com
music, magic and marvelous toys
http://magician.org/member/drlaugh4u
Jolly Roger
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I am fortunate to have done three years at drama school in the UK. My favourite class was improvisation, and I was good at it. I am also a big fan of Max Howard, but we are poles apart in our performing style. As you know, Dan, rigid scripts are not for me. I worked for two years as an actor in the legitimate theatre from Shakespeare's tragedies and comedies to playing Wilfred in "Spring and Port Wine" for the Forbes Russell theatre company at Bultin's holiday camp in Filey, Yorkshire. Then I branched out into variety and have been a professional magician for over 40 years both for adults and children. In those 40 years I have never written a script, but I also haven't stopped working!!! It was those early improvisation classes that I have to thank for that!! JR
danfreed
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JR, I can see your acting background in your performances. I don't do the rigid script thing either cause I have no memory and like to be very much in the moment interacting with the kids and making everything seem spontaneous. Although with good acting you can have everything tightly scripted and still seem spontaneous and still improvise as appropriate. After seeing Max, I'm planning to try at least 1 tightly scripted alternate character based thing. Quentin Reynolds has a DVD in which he talks about how to structure a show, and he's on this thread so he can say more about that, but he makes some very good points in the DVD.
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