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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The August 2014 entrée: Jason Palter » » Writing a Show » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Hi Jason,

I've been a dilletant card magician for 21 years. While I have performed for money, it's always been walk around, without requiring as much planning as a cohesive parlour show entails.

These days I volunteer as the facilitator of the Salt Spring Conjuring Club. As part of the upcoming session, we're planning a 30-45 minute show, that's going to be parlour style. Now, I don't have a clue how to write/routine a show. Since it's new territory for me, could you please shed some light on the process. I would appreciate that.

To give you a sense, the hardest parts from my current vantage are 1. visualizing how things are actually going to shake down, 2. choosing what not to use in the show, and 3. deciding when the darn thing is done enough to start rehearsing, after which the final hurdle is committing, within reasonable limits, to what's down on paper. During rehearsal, I find doubt floods the mind, and I continuously want to return to the drawing board, which may or may not be a good idea. In any case, it's an anxiety and doubt ridden process, due to the uncertainty and importance of entertaining and astonishing that mysterious collective mind we call the audience.

What I'm looking for is not some grand strategy but rather a skeleton of structure for keeping on task, for moving forward.


Here is a 29-minute live performance of mine:

I used to be quite sensitive to criticism; I am much less so now; so, please do criticize my technique, presentation, and posts. It helps me to grow, and I promise to take responsibility and not to be defensive.

Jason Palter
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Hi Shaunluttin:

Thank you for your question. I totally understand what it is that you're asking and where your concerns are. My first question is when is the event (ie. how long do you have to plan)?

I'm going to assume that it's not next week, and you have some time to plan. lol So let's break down your points with my thoughts and responses:

1. Things are going to "shake down" as you put it in a very similar way to the close-up magic that you've been doing. Now before everyone starts saying, "What the heck is Palter talking about?? Close-up is much different than doing a 30-40 stage show". That is correct. It is some ways. What I mean is that it is still going to be a performance. There will (should! lol) be a beginning, middle and end to the show and to each routine you are going to do. The difference here is that the props will most likely (should again! lol) be larger than props you use for close-up magic. Don't get caught up in too many details, and look at the “big picture” that this is just another show and gig, otherwise you might drive yourself nuts.

2. Deciding what NOT to do in a show can be a bit tricky sometimes (pardon the pun). The reason is that often you have to try material out in front of crowds to figure out what to keep in and what to take out of a show. However you sound like you know your stuff well enough to know what things are going to work for you and what will not….what things you’re good at and will kill versus what you’re still working on….what things friends/family say they love and others that make them go “meh, it’s okay”. So put in your material that you know is the strongest at the beginning and end of the show, and for the middle part put in good stuff mixed with some “not-so-sure” stuff. Obviously don’t perform anything you haven’t rehearsed properly. But if I was going to do 4 routines for a show and 1 of them was brand-new, I would put it in the middle sandwiched between tried-and-tested routines. So when in doubt, go with your gut. Your gut is very smart. Someone once told me (and I’m paraphrasing here) that we have same cells in that are in our brains, but also in our gut. So when you get a “gut feeling”, it’s using those same cells to “think” like we would use in our brain. Cool huh? So I think your gut is very smart. lol

3. The rehearsing thing is difficult to answer here in a message. However there are some things that you can do to know when you’re done rehearsing and ready to perform. First of all, let some people (friends/family) see the routine and ask them what they think. Secondly, video yourself doing the routine and watch it back with as objective and a critical viewpoint as you can. However, be fair to yourself and don’t be TOO critical. The camera eye does not “blink”; our eyes do however. So the truth is that often the camera will see things (flubs, steals, etc.) that most audience members would never even catch…..Now when working on a magic trick, like any other “art” (writing, dancing, drawing, sculpting, etc.) it’s a constantly evolving process, and it really is never “done”. That painting that the artist painted? She/he will always say they could have done more on it…….That script that was written? The writer will always say that they could have written more, tweaked it, etc……And the magic trick routine that you’re doing? There is always more that you could do on it. What I mean is that there comes a point where the stream of rehearsal and work on a routine that has been flowing by you, has to be entered. And when you enter that stream, ideas and thoughts will continue to come at you. Be selective on what you stop and look at in the flow, but basically make the decision to let most of it flow past, as you wade into the water to do the routine and put it into your show—otherwise you’ll never end up doing it. I hope that makes sense, but if it doesn’t, please let me know and I’ll clarify.

Regarding the anxiety and doubt, please try to let the anxiety go if you can. It’s okay to be nervous, because the nerves keep us on our toes and aware. What you don’t want to do is be anxious, because that anxiety will throw you into worry that things might go wrong, etc. Don’t worry, things might go wrong, but that is okay; you’ve practiced and are ready! Trust that you’ve done the work, and that the audience is there to be entertained and they WILL be entertained by you. If you can, video the performance so you can watch it again later and see what worked, what didn’t work, what you want to use in the future, etc. But be objective and fair to yourself! Remember that what may bomb in front of one group, will kill in front of another because all audiences are different.

So that is sort of a large overview. Please let me know if that helped and anything else you want me to clarify and/or go into more detail on. Thanks!

Best regards,

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