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Montana76
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Hi!
I mainly do walkaround but from time to time I find myself in the position where it would be best to do a 20-25 minute scripted show.
So... Where on earth do I start?

I've carefully selected six effects I think would be a good start but where to go from there?
I find walkaround to be quite "jazzy" with a lot of byplay but how do I plan out what needs to be planned out when writing a show?

This is driving me completely nuts because I am loosing out on a potential market. Clients ask me if I do a show and I have to say no and thus loosing the gig.

Please help!

Have a great weekend everybody!!
Theodore Lawton
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By a show, do you mean stand-up,parlor style, or stage? Or formal close up?
Magic is the bacon in the breakfast of life.

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God bless you and have a magical day
Montana76
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Hi Theodore and thank you for replying!!

I guess I mean
"A scripted thought-through show for 20-60 people where I stand in front of them and I'm able to bring spectators up to/with me". For example when I am booked for an event to do some walkaround magic I am often asked if I can do a 20 minute show for the attendees of the event.

That definition would touch on more than one of these settings I believe.
eralph357
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Personally I like things to hang together with a theme or story (or perhaps personality/character is enough, on occasion). Multiple routines supporting the theme, building on each other, make a good show (in my opinion). Learning storytelling may be a good start - look into Toastmasters, or storytelling groups, maybe even writer groups. Just my 2 cents.
Theodore Lawton
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For 20 minutes you don't need that much material. Maybe consider doing a few quick, visual openers involving colorful props, silks, sponges, card manipulation, etc. These could be done to music or as you're pattering. Maybe. That could take up 5-7 minutes right there, depending. Just some ideas.

Things that are good to have with you in case of such an "event" have some good stories to tell built into them. Professor's Nightmare. ID- involves spectators, especially Bill Malone's version. Rings- Pop Haydyn's version brings up a spectator. Chop cup. A p@lmo and some silks. A TT and silks or a salt pour. Bill in lemon- again, Bill Malone's version calls for a spectator. Cards across- you can get 3 people involved.

Mentalism works great for these types of events too. Everyone can be involved!

These are just some examples. I'm sure you have effects that can play to that many people. I think the best advice I can give you is something Dick Oslund would say, "Keep it simple, make it fun."

The show doesn't have to be rigidly scripted and have a theme, but that's great of you choose to do so. You're a magician so people expect you to show them some tricks. The important thing is you entertain the people. Can you make them laugh? Can you do your tricks in a way that keeps people's attention with good patter? 20 minutes will fly by!

You got this!

T-
Magic is the bacon in the breakfast of life.

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God bless you and have a magical day
Montana76
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Thank you very much! Fantastic advice- keep it simple.

I might be overthinking this, but then again, that just might be me overthinking;)
55Hudson
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I always bring my close-up case to stand-up shows and a few stand-up props to close-up shows.

Just the other day, at a Halloween house party (adults), I ended up with half a dozen sitting in the rec room, away from the main party, and they asked for something. The setting was such that cards, coins, & such didn't fit. So I pulled out a rope and rings. Cut & restored routine (Dan Tong) and linking rings (Pop Haydn) and it was a hit. Probably 20 min right there.

No matter how well I think I've prepped for a show, I prepare a gig sheet and an agreement for each show, something will always be there that is unexpected.

My gig sheet is basic, I got it from Walter Graham (Omaha). He published it in his 1987 book, How to become a Magician for Fun and Profit. The agreement is based on Jamie D Grant's example in The Approach.

Hudson
DaveGripenwaldt
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What you write will have to come out of how you want to present yourself. This is a great exercise because it forces you to think through how people see you as a performer. Are you just some guy who went to a joke shop with a few bucks? Are you entertaining them with comedy with the magic as the medium? Are you giving them a behind the scenes peak into the arcane? Are you bumbling, mistake-prone, suave, chatty, etc.?

You have to start there because what you write/say/present flows out of that basic persona...which can be close to the real way you come across or completely different; your patter just needs to be informed by that choice and be consistent in the performance.
griffindance
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Here is a major problem with magic. Most of us don't do shows, even those who do set sequences don't do narrative theatre pieces.What some of us rely upon is charisma and a persona (eg. Copperfield has an easy personality that connects to the back row of a 2000 seat theatre and Piff the Magic Dragon has a funny dry comical character that presents effects based on his specific character)

I assume that Montana76 has done enough table-hopping gigs to be able to stand in front of the same group of people for a half hour and entertain them. As a magician who performs a series of effects for maximum thirty minute slots, engaging with the audience and doing the normal patter/banter is enough. Maybe the individual effects need to be larger so as to not be lost on the back row, but a performer who regularly engages the audience should have the experience necessary to performer 4-6 effects in succession without repeating themself.

As for writing a show... magicians don't do enough actual "writing then developing." We normally use the effects we already have. We favour the big flashy effect to finish with and a nice quaint effect to warm the audience up with, but most shows are variety shows of one trick following another with no discernable link from the beginning to the end. Even the musical "Cats" has a better dramaturgy.

Try this... Throw all knowledge of illusion out. Start with a story you might like to hear yourself and write that down. Basic story telling rules apply (at least at this stage) Beginning - middle - end. The middle part is a series of events that uses all the questions raised in the Beginning so that the End can provide the audience with the answers to the story. Tension builds until the final or penultimate effect. Punctuate the story with a few illogical "deus ex machina" moments (we are using magic to communicate our story!) but always try to keep the internal logic of your story constant. Once you have a story mapped out you can start bringing illusions back into your thinking. Use the illusions to illustrate the elements of your story.

What I am trying to suggest is story telling over effects. Engage your audience in one brilliant story and use your knowledge of illusion and spectacle to make the audience really remember the journey you took them on. Rather than collecting a few really cool gimmicks and tricks and presenting them as the meat of the evening.

The story teller (ie magician) should be what the audience remembers, not just that some guy on a stage could find a card in his own deck.
Pop Haydn
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Quote:
On Feb 1, 2016, griffindance wrote:
Here is a major problem with magic. Most of us don't do shows, even those who do set sequences don't do narrative theatre pieces.What some of us rely upon is charisma and a persona (eg. Copperfield has an easy personality that connects to the back row of a 2000 seat theatre and Piff the Magic Dragon has a funny dry comical character that presents effects based on his specific character)

I assume that Montana76 has done enough table-hopping gigs to be able to stand in front of the same group of people for a half hour and entertain them. As a magician who performs a series of effects for maximum thirty minute slots, engaging with the audience and doing the normal patter/banter is enough. Maybe the individual effects need to be larger so as to not be lost on the back row, but a performer who regularly engages the audience should have the experience necessary to performer 4-6 effects in succession without repeating themself.

As for writing a show... magicians don't do enough actual "writing then developing." We normally use the effects we already have. We favour the big flashy effect to finish with and a nice quaint effect to warm the audience up with, but most shows are variety shows of one trick following another with no discernable link from the beginning to the end. Even the musical "Cats" has a better dramaturgy.

Try this... Throw all knowledge of illusion out. Start with a story you might like to hear yourself and write that down. Basic story telling rules apply (at least at this stage) Beginning - middle - end. The middle part is a series of events that uses all the questions raised in the Beginning so that the End can provide the audience with the answers to the story. Tension builds until the final or penultimate effect. Punctuate the story with a few illogical "deus ex machina" moments (we are using magic to communicate our story!) but always try to keep the internal logic of your story constant. Once you have a story mapped out you can start bringing illusions back into your thinking. Use the illusions to illustrate the elements of your story.

What I am trying to suggest is story telling over effects. Engage your audience in one brilliant story and use your knowledge of illusion and spectacle to make the audience really remember the journey you took them on. Rather than collecting a few really cool gimmicks and tricks and presenting them as the meat of the evening.

The story teller (ie magician) should be what the audience remembers, not just that some guy on a stage could find a card in his own deck.


This is a recipe for disaster in my opinion. If you want to tell stories, write plays.

Magic is an artform of its own. It is fine to use magic in the service of story, but that is not the art of Magic. That is magic brought into service for the theater--magic is only a special effect or transitional device.

Magic is the story. Every magic trick is a little play. The audiences are also actors in the play.

I don't tell stories about the coyote. I am the coyote; people tell stories about me...
Juglr
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Brilliantly put!
griffindance
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This is a recipe for disaster in my opinion. If you want to tell stories, write plays.

Magic is an artform of its own. It is fine to use magic in the service of story, but that is not the art of Magic. That is magic brought into service for the theater--magic is only a special effect or transitional device.

Magic is the story. Every magic trick is a little play. The audiences are also actors in the play.

I don't tell stories about the coyote. I am the coyote; people tell stories about me... [/quote]

Im sure we actually agree. Ill explain why later.
We are in a difficult position as exponents of magic. This is because our stock in trade is "tricks." When people talk about "some magician they saw" they may talk about tricks, how they couldn't believe how they were fooled by this trick or how cool this trick looked. But how often do people start off talking about "some magician they saw" and remember their name?
The audience remembers the name of a really good showman and to be a good showman you need to engage the audience and lead them on a journey. As Pop said "I don't tell stories about the coyote. I am the coyote; people tell stories about me..." From what Ive seen of the Pop Haydn act, he is an excellent story teller. Just look at the faces of his audience in those moments when he isn't making something magical happen... his audience are listening to what he is saying, waiting for the next chapter. His audience will remember his name because of the experience he has given them, not how good his french drop is.
If you want to just do tricks then corner an audience and do an endless loop of Ambitious Card. I doubt they'll stay around long.

Some time ago I answered a question on Quora regarding magic - Why is magic performance generally neglected when people think of performance arts? The answer is essentially a problem of bad performers and reinforcement of clichés. The majority of magicians that audiences see, perform tricks. They are, as Pop may suggest, people who tell stories about the coyote. Then there is the problem that Pop alluded to of magic in theatre being a special effect. Unless the illusion used is performed for a good reason and by a skilled magician, the 'magic' becomes just that, a trick.

So what Im am advocating for is not using magical illusions as special effects to accompany a story that could be delivered to an audience as its own material. No-one wants to see the Misers Dream during Act Three of Romeo and Juliet. That is a sin of using our knowledge and skills as window dressing. What magic needs to do in order to be appreciated as more than just cheap glitz is engage an audience for longer than the time it takes to make something disappear and re-appear. We need to have the audience tell their friends about the storyteller not the story. We arent going to be able to do that by only endlessly controlling a card back to the top of a deck.

There are the magicians out there (some I suspect are regular visitors to this page!)who can engage the audience at a deeper level than "some magician who did this trick that was really cool..." but most of our work is in 5min (one trick- one story) 15mins(2/3 tricks - 2/3 stories) or 20-30mins (3/5 tricks...) slots. What I want to see is appreciation of the magical arts that allows for the development of longer, full evening shows that arent basic revue style series' of un-connected presentations, but are complete journeys unto themselves. I want to be able to speak to non-magicians and hear them talk about seeing the productions of different named magicians, not as it usually is today, having seen "some magician who did this trick..."

A good storyteller becomes the coyote. For conceptual proof of this think about the connection between these stories "Die Hard," "Moonlighting," "Death Becomes Her," "The Sixth Sense," "Unbreakable"... Now you know the connection think about how one storyteller transcends all of these stories.
Pop Haydn
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I don't agree. The story of a magic trick IS the trick. It is is the story told by the spectator to someone else about what he saw at the magic show. "This guy took a coin and put it into a beer bottle!"

The story that is told is ALWAYS about the magic effects. If you want them to remember the magician, he has to be such a powerful and interesting character in the story that he is worth talking about as well. Few people will ever try to tell the story about Kate and Edith when they talk about that effect. They talk about the cards changing.

I think that many people tell stories about the Coyote, the Raven or the Rabbit, the traditional Trickster characters in literature, and those stories are about what clever thing the Trickster did to get out of trouble or get what he wants.

Some magicians want to add a story to their magic in order to make it more interesting--this is often a mistake, as the trick itself is the story that wants telling.

Few people ever repeat a story told by the magician. The tell the story about what they saw. "He took this scarf and put it in his hand and it changed color!"

Every trick IS a story. The magician offers the spectator a chance to choose a card. (protagonist) The spectator (antagonist) wants to fight about which card he takes, or how he puts it back. (conflict) The magician finds the card in spite of the difficulty (climax/resolution)

If you have an overarching story that puts several tricks together, I find that the story becomes the important thing, and the magic and its arguments become less important--more just special effects or transitional devices. Maskelyne and Devant explain this very well. You must decide if you are doing Theater with magic as the dressing, transitions and special effects--Peter Pan with magic to make him fly, vanish, etc., or Tale of Two Cities with a truly believable guillotine; or you are doing a magic show which amazes the mind with its impossibilities, but uses enough acting, scripting and story to serve the Magic. In story theater, magic is always the handmaiden to the story--too much or too strong and the people are ripped out of their suspension of disbelief. The guillotine doesn't serve the story--it brings the audience out of their seats for concern for the actor. If the story is the important thing, the magic must be formulated so that it "serves the story."

In Our Magic, M & D claim, the story serves the magic. The needs of strong magic are attended to first, and then the story and character and the acting are all sublimated to the needs of Magic.

The whole thing comes down to what you choose to offer the crowd and the best way to approach it. If the story is the thing you wish to convey, you must present the story in a theatrical way, and make sure that the magic doesn't break the suspension of disbelief that is necessary in order for people to imaginatively participate in the story and identify with its characters.

If the point of the performance is the magical effect and its meaning and argument, then it is the story of the trick that must be emphasized, and it is important not let people be distracted by too much "added on" story. Strong Magic is an artform in itself, and the story that dresses it is its servant, not its purpose. The story of Magic that is told later by the spectator is our real story.

In the magic story, the magician is the Trickster. People talk about what clever and amazing things the Trickster did when they met him. I am the Coyote. People tell stories about having met me.

In story theater, we present a story to the audience for them to imaginatively engage with. They suspend disbelief and let their mind focus on what the story means, and what it would be like to be one of the characters in it.

In Our Magic, we create a story in which the audience members play a role--as witnesses and judges. The story they tell later is about their own personal encounter with magic.

They remember the story not as something they were told about or a story that they saw presented, but they remember the story as something they participated in--something that really happened to THEM.

What is interesting about the Coyote is the clever trick he creates itself. In story telling, it is the Trickster's methods that are interesting. How will he get out of this predicament--that is the point. "Born and Bred in the Briar Patch, Br. Fox!"

But in Our Magic, the point of the story is from the point of view of the spectator--"I saw this guy and he did something impossible!"

It is about the spectator's own experience with the Trickster.

It is NOT the experience of someone else with the Trickster in a time and land far away--it isn't just some story being related to him by a story teller. He was THERE! He saw the lady float. He held the empty bottle when the coin went in.
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The contradictions in Pop's last post are worthy of being called a magic trick in themselves. He advocates for the need to be a storyteller but derides the need for a story.

Although I still maintain we agree on the importance of being a good storyteller. If we (as performers) tell a good story the audience will tell stories about when they met us. He opens with "I don't agree" then goes on to illustrate the same points I am trying to make myself.

I thought I was clear on my meaning, perhaps I wasnt. A story doesn't have to be presented as a bedtime story. I am NOT advocating for a magician to monologue to the audience as they add special effects to wake up their audience. But a magician, like any other performer, NEEDS TO TELL A STORY. If you disagree and insist that "the trick" is more important then I have to repeat the challenge; you are going to have to prove that you can entertain a crowd by an endless loop of Ambitious Card or French Drops without speaking to or communicating with them.

So if magic is to be considered as more than cheap entertainment and compete for audience attention as it did before film and television, we are going to have to be more than shuffling geeks who have to regain audience attention every five or so minutes by starting a new story.

I am advocating for magicians thinking of, therefore producing, performances that are more than just novelties, more than just presentations of one effect at a time. It is difficult to conceive of an evening length performance that has an overarching story but that doesn't use magic as special effects. Difficult but not impossible.

We are Masters of the Impossible, Commanders of Spectacle but at the moment we are letting ourselves down by being short-sighted.
Pop Haydn
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It may depend on what you mean by "telling" stories. Would you consider these two routines to be story tricks?



griffindance
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Pulling a quote from above "The story of a magic trick is the trick" Both of these videos support the quote. The little stories of losing watches, cards and rings and having them returned is well done and Pop's audiences are their usual appreciative selves. Two three minute stories that can be presented without any extraneous plot devices. But these videos are not separate, isolated performances. The reason the audience is so happy with these shorter presentations is the wider performance; the continuation of a wider story. The character of Pop Haydn, his accent, the costume and the accompanying designs continue the idea of the Pop Haydn show. He is correct when he says "I am the coyote" The allure is "See Pop Haydn!.. and by the way this wily little bugger does some magic tricks as well." If the magic were dropped from the act Im sure the audiences would be just as interested but if the character were removed in favour of a modern day magician performing the same routines... Im not sure the same ensemble of effects would be as enticing.

This is why I suggested in my original post on this thread to start with an idea, a story, before you worry about what effects you want to include. Give yourself a reason to be there, 1800's card sharp, cybergoth wizard, secret agent, anachronistic fairy or whatever your preference, choose a story. Your character needs a reason to interact with the audience and the magic needs a reason to happen. Include effects and designs that further the character's story. eg don't include a katana in your act if your character is a middle ages court jester. If you don't come to your audience with a reason to communicate and continue the reasoning then you are just demonstrating... tricks.

Acts of the caliber of Pop Haydn are the minimum level to expect of a performer. I have seen too many apathetic childrens clowns, self centred egotists showing how much more talented they are than their audience, bored children doing a magic act because "mummy was never a famous performer but dear darling WILL BE" and the like, to accept magicians doing less. I have seen brilliant magicians let themselves down by not giving a thought as to why they get to perform.

Robert Houdin's famous quote "A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician" is reference to the audience's need to see more than just "execution of effects."
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After having read both of these minds voice their opinions, I really think you both make great points. The story of the trick/effect is the trick and truthfully the better its presentation the better the story. It's also refreshing and nice to see a performer acting a part to maximize the trick or to tell a story to maximize the trick. But what's wrong with presenting magic as yourself, after all we are not all Pop Hadyns, having created such a character of interest. Was it Vernon that said to be yourself? In fact speaking of Vernon, his character/story was of a crusty old man (at least in his later years) because he was a crusty old man. So if you don't have a character/story than just be yourself and do it as well as you can.
Jim Mullen
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I completely agree with Pop Haydn's analysis. Make the tricks the centerpiece of the act. Yes, you can have amusing patter, but it should enhance the magical effect not overwhelm it. For example, I love Pop's Mongolian Pop Knot effect in which he purports to explain how to do the famous cut-and-restored rope effect. Of course Pop never explains anything but rather just fools the heck out of the audience as he restores an obviously cut rope. Part of his fake explanation includes how he makes up the prerequisite Pixie Dust from live pixies--using his blender. Thus there are plenty of laughs and bits of business, but in the end the essence is that the rope becomes restored. In another example, Pop's famous linking ring routine involves a similar theme of pretending to explain to a spectator how to link rings. Pop always seems to be looking away when the spectator fails to link anything; thus it is funny when Pop calls for congratulations and applause for the spectator's "success." In my own stand-up act, I have many bits-of-business for my ring-in-wallet routine (Ring Flight, Ring Vanish, Ring to Envelope in Wallet.) For example, I seem to lose the ring but explain that the owner should not worry as I am fully insured by Obamacare, the provisions for which are in my wallet. I think the audiences like the jokes--they laugh--but what they talk about after the show is how could the ring possibly have gotten inside the wallet, inside the zippered compartment, inside the closed envelope, sealed hermetically by sealing wax, and opened by the spectator herself. Again, it is the magic that they come to see.


To get back to Montana's original inquiry, how does a performer turn a group of tricks into a 30- to 40-minute show. I have a few thoughts:

(1) Select the best effects that you do, i.e. the ones that really fool audiences. Using a 1-10 scale, select only the 10"s.

(2) Eliminate the close-up effects that are too small to work in a larger, parlor environment.

(3) Put your best, most dramatic effect at the end for a finale. Put a fast, surprising effect as your opener. Put the others in the middle.

(4) Write out the patter for each effect word-for-word. And write out your opening and closing comments. Incidentally, I note that Pop Haydn says almost exactly the same words every time he performs the Mongolian Pop Knot and the Linking Ring effects.

(5) Write in your script how you will place your props and how you will transition from one effect to the next.

(6) If you are not a polished writer and speaker, have an expert edit your script. Inasmuch as you are writing down your script, you might as well use perfect grammar and word choice.

(7) Dress up for the occasion. For a 35-minute parlor show, the audience expects the performer to look better than the audience. If the audience is in sweaters, wear a jacket. If they are in jackets, wear a tuxedo, if they are in tuxedos, wear a full dress suit. If this is not possible, at least match the audience's level of dress. Or you can wear a costume, e.g. Pop's barker outfit.

(8) Rehearse the whole show end-to-end. Then do some full dress rehearsals.

(9) When you perform your show, record the audio, and afterward analyze the result. Look for hems-and-haws. Check the pace. Count the laughs per minute. (A stand-up comic will get a punch line and laugh every half minute; a comedy magician will get one every minute. an amusing magician will get one every two minutes. If feasible, record audio and visual.

(10) Practice the show in front of an audience as many times as you can. This is the most important recommendation.


Good luck.

Jim
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Pop Haydn
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Quote:
On Mar 9, 2016, griffindance wrote:

Acts of the caliber of Pop Haydn are the minimum level to expect of a performer.


Really? Smile I'm glad after 50 years I've made it to the minimum level...

I maintain that one should create the character and backstory around the magic effects that appeal most to you. Change the character as needed to support the magic. Magic is not a special effect or mere transitional device. Magic does not support your character, your character supports the magic. If you are doing magic and not theater, the magic has to come first. Theater and story are only there to support strong magic. They are not central as in normal theater.

This isn't a rule. It is just a viewpoint. In my work, the magic is always central, and the character, costume, and backstory can be changed to suit whatever magic I want to perform. That is largely how my character was created--I kept changing the character and story to accommodate the effects I wanted to present. He was originally just a gambler. I kept adding to his story as I kept introducing effects I wanted to do. Why would a gambler do the Linking Rings? Why would a Western gambler wear a turban and read crystal balls? Why would a gambler have a teleportation device and a Tesla Coil?

Finally, magic is not about "telling" a story. It is about enacting a story that involves the audience as characters in the story. The story is what happens to them in the show--what they witnessed at the event. The audience members are all witnesses to the events in the story, and some are actual participants. It is like the magician is the lead actor and the audience and volunteers are co-actors, following his lead. The "story" is the story of the experience--what they will say they saw afterwards.
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Hello.

My name is Roger and I am a suitcase magician.

(Hi, Roger.)

I have been a suitcase magician for just over 25 years with an average of 100 paid stage shows per year. Q.E.D. I might be decent at it.

Every year I source/devise/write a new show. This is not a product of masochism but a desire to stay fresh.

What follows is a jobbing professional's 2 bits; most of this echos the foregoing advice. All of it is from a specific operating perspective revealed in the first point.

1. A suitcase magician's largest prop is himself. That said, you need to know your performing persona. Who are you? As a trained actor, this part is easy for me; look into theatrical character analysis and creation if you're not. Even if you have no notion of "playing a character," you already have a persona (used during close-up). Who is that magician?

2. Pick a theme. My last family magic show was about beginnings. This year is titled _Magical Me_. (All of my family shows have the overarching notion of me sharing the journey of creating a magic show. Even my shows for adults.) This becomes a logical framework for everything you do and say.

Before anyone bites my head off, consider this analogy. A student in a first year history course wants to execute an essay on WWII. They will fail because the topic is too huge to do well in an essay. Then the student says her topic will be Hitler. Nope, still too vast to create anything useful, especially in essay form. Hitler's moustache. Too fuzzy. Facial Hair on Persons in Power: How Hitler's Moustache Led to the End of the Weimar Republic and Secured the Rise of the National Socialist Party. Now, no matter what her research actually turns up, she has a strong basis for a provable 3000 word thesis.

Magic is too vast a topic for a 30-120 minute show. Give it a focus and give the audience something on which to hang their imagination.

3. Select material.
a. Make list of all possible effects (either the 7 for general magic or the 6 or so for strictly mentalist acts). Ensure you select a variety.
b. Select an opener -- something that helps your audience get to know you and prepares their expectations for the show. Select a second to last effect that is the killer of the show. Select a closer that readily cues applause.
c. Check that scripted patter (from the originator -- sometimes you) matches 1 and 2. Write and rewrite -- sometimes writing is not on paper or on the Cloud; you may only think through your material) Write transitions that take your show from one trick to the next by reconnecting the audience to 1 and 2. Rehearse accordingly. This is not a play; it is an organized set of effects that reflects the magician's persona and supports the chosen theme that effectively entertains the audience.

I sincerely hope the formula helps. I am collating ideas like this now and am happy to go into more depth via email.

Roger
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