Creating an act

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Shawn Allison, Jan 16, 2014.

  1. Hi,

    I do magic a lot but now I want to make my own act. Something you would do if someone asked you to do a show. And the act is yours and not just what ever you've got on you, meaning that if 5 people asked you to do a show, you would do the same act for each show. If you guys have any advice on starting an act I would love to hear it because I kinda need it. But one question I have is, how long should an act be?

  2. The answer to your question is very much dependent on where this act is going to be performed. Are you expecting to perform on stage at a comedy club, walk-around at a party, as a headliner in a theatre show, busking on the street or somewhere else? Each type of performance venue brings its own set of requirements. So, where are you planning to perform?
  3. On top of those questions, you also have to consider what your character is and what you're capable of pulling off.

    What is your concept for the act? The overarching idea of what's going on.
  4. Usually an act should be no longer than 45 minutes unless you're Now You See Me then you can be several hours long and give your audience millions of dollars.
  5. #5 krab, Jan 16, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 16, 2014
    45 minutes? Wow I have been doing it wrong for 15 years. I guess no more two hours shows with an intermission. Or hour long shows.
  6. I'm wondering about character as it relates to restaurant table hopping. I am aiming at 3 effects per table, and I wonder how to go about establishing a character in that time frame. Similarly, given my ability level/repertoire, wondering how to make this experience higher impact and stronger in terms of emotional content. I am most confident and proficient with card magic...

    For Steerpike et al: I have not accepted a restaurant gig yet, as I am trying to make sure that I have the show together first
  7. You gotta love it when non-professionals think they know our work better than us.

    It all comes down to how you present yourself. Word choice, body language, etc. And it's possible to deliver a lot of information in only a small amount of dialog. Let me give you some examples.

    "It belongs in a museum."
    "Requiescat in pace."
    "Hell's bells, Murph!"

    Lines culled from Indiana Jones, Assassin's Creed II, and "The Dresden Files." Each one from a totally different character: Indy himself, Ezio Auditore, and Harry Dresden respectively. Each line tells you something about the character who says it, and more importantly the context in which they say it. Indy says the line in response to fortune-hungry treasure hunters. Ezio utters that line after assassinating a target. Harry uses that as his preferred expletive.

    You don't need long monologues to establish character. It's often communicated through small actions and dialog. Word choice is very important in this regard.

    So what are you trying to communicate?

    Well, that presents a problem in that card specialists have become about a dime a dozen. So it sure as hell isn't going to be your ability to move pasteboards around that sets you apart.

    A welcome switch to say the least.
  8. I would say for most performers they shouldn't be on stage more than 45 minutes. But mostly because their shows aren't good enough yet.

    In regards to establishing a character in a short period - As usual, I agree with Steerpike.

    However, also as usual, I'd like to expand on it a bit. Character is everything about you - the tricks you do, the way you talk, the way you dress, how you stand, how you style your hair ... it all has to work together to show people who you are. Look at Dan Sperry's posters and pictures. You know you're getting some crazy goth-rocker type performer immediately. Apollo Robbins looks like a "Gentleman Thief". Lance Burton looks like an elegant magician character. David Blaine looks like a mysterious stranger. Criss Angel looks like a pretentious --- nevermind.

    So! First you have to decide what your character is. Then you have to decide how that character will act, dress and speak. Once you've gotten all that decided, you have to train yourself to act, dress and speak like that.

  9. 45 minutes is the length of the typical performers' show. . . especially if they're doing big illusions.

    Christopher, Formula and others have given you some nuts & bolts to chew on. The one thing they didn't say (that I noticed) is that THIS IS A BUSINESS and in creating your product (your act/show) you need to look at it as such. . . and yes, that includes those weekend warriors that only work part time at this stuff (a.k.a. Semi-Professionals).

    If you were in the position to hire talent you would be looking for certain qualities but most importantly, you would want to know that they were approrpriate to the event or situation you were bringing them in to. . . asking Mike Ammar to do 2 hours on a grand stage might not be a successful venture but inviting Greg Wilson to do the same. . . well, nothing more need be said.

    Start with where you live, your age, knowledge base and resources (inventory).

    Look at what you can honestly deliver right now and what sort of market base that type of menagerie is best suited to; Kids? Grown-ups? Business Groups? Freak shows?

    Though I tinker most of what I do now days is Seance type work and the telling of ghostly tales that means that I work with small groups (usually less than 18) under intimate conditions a.k.a. close-up/parlor. I also pander to the over 30 crowd in that they are the folks with the free cash flow and living situation that most well suits the work I do and too, these are the folks that have a more mature interest in this particular mode of amusement. They hire me because of my age and knowledge. . . not of magic but of Magick. . . the metaphysical and esoteric.

    Why would someone hire you? What do you have going for yourself?

    These are the things you need to mull over in your mind and for best results, on paper.

    An exercise Peter Pit used to run me through went something like this; think of a market you want to work in and using only what you have in way of skill sets, knowledge and resources, create a program that would be entertaining and appealing to that group. The catch is, Peter would have me do with with numerous different demographics so I'd learn to see a couple of important things; a.) how to use the same basic program and just slightly twist it so as to fit each demographic; b.) how to be more resourceful when it came to adapting my programs in situations such as dealing with young kids vs. teens vs. adults of various ages.

    Play around with it, you've started off on the right foot by asking.
  10. How many tricks should be in an act?
  11. #11 Craig Browning, Jan 25, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 25, 2014
    Again, it depends on what type of magic you're doing. As a mentalist I can suck up 15 minutes doing a single routine without it getting boring; technically the Q&A, a Blindfold bit or even Muscle Reading are a single effect. On the other hand, if I were doing the traditional magician ala Lance Burton my opening 3 minutes alone would have close to a dozen minor effects that establish me as such. . . pulling birdies out of hanks, producing flowers such as the Blackstone Garden act, etc. My old dove act lasted just under 4 minutes and in that period of time I produced 6 doves and then made them all vanish via two different effect systems. This was followed by a quick change, a tri-angle illusion and mismade lady for then next 3 and a half minutes and that was my standard club act when I was 16 years old.

    Can you see how we must refine things in our head? How the type of magic you do has to fit the target market?

    That dove act was designed to work a medium sized night club stage and the country club scene. My mentalism, as noted, typically caters to small groups with the floor show being reserved for charity events more than commercial work, even though it's a 50+ minute stage show.

    So let's get back to the basics. . .
    • What Kind of Act do You See Yourself Doing? Close-Up, Stage, Mentalism?
    • What's Your Style/Character? Is it Age Appropriate? What Age-Group Are You Targeting?
    • What Performance Conditions Are You Prepared to Work? Outdoor Venues? Home Parties? Small Stage?
    • Is This Practical Given Where You Live and the Venues for Supporting Such an Act?

    These are the things you need to figure out first. . . unless you want to go through lots of growing pains and find you can't swim in the deep end of the pool. If you can figure these things out you will come off as being far more professional and most importantly, PREPARED.

    I hope you can understand why we are stressing these thing.

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