Stage Show

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Jebzy, Apr 15, 2014.

  1. I don't know nothing about stage shows, but I know a lot of you guys from here are doing stage shows.

    So can you please tell me something about it. How long an average stage show are? How many tricks do you put there in? How many shows do you have? How you booked your first show? In this forum definitely are some other threads about this title, but I couldn't find. Maybe you can recommend some books or dvd's about stage shows.

  2. A ROUTINE -- is a series of effects or one effect system (like the Cups & Balls or Linking Rings) that carries a specific theme that typically runs 2-6 minutes in length.

    AN ACT -- is a collection of routines that hold to a theme and can run between 5 to 20 minutes in some cases

    A SHOW -- is a collection of Acts, typically 3-5 + segue' sequences. With a big illusion show the Segue' bits are what are done downstage in front of the main curtain while the team is resetting the stage for the next major effect/routine. In some programs this is translated as "stool time" -- a more intimate sequence or bit of silliness that happens in between featured routines/key show highlights.

    Shows technically run anywhere from 20 minutes (special promotional format, such as you would find in fairs, trade shows, etc. where a quick turn-around is needed) to well over 2 hours. Shows frequently deliver a variety of themed acts so as to take the audience on a journey or adventure. The exception to this rule will be found in Mentalism programs where the performer must retain their claim and play things very close to one given persona. . . one of the reasons why Mentalism can be a greater challenge to do as a Show until one acquires significant showmanship skills and experience. . . it is NOT the same thing as magic.

    As with everything, building a stage show requires that you have a vision -- goals! It's not simply tossing your favorite effects into a pile and presenting them randomly. It takes time, patience, experimentation and some outside perspective . . . both people that know magic as well as the laity, we need their in-put in order to mold and turn our vision into all it can possibly become. . . I can assure you, it will not be what you envision initially even though some of your thinking will remain in the structure.

    Look at the 19th and early 20th century history of magic and how people like Blackstone started their careers building up acts and routines that they would later be renown for, decades prior to having those big shows. Take their lead and learn how to slowly build up act after act that you want in your full show; work each act for a season so you can smooth it out and perfect each nuance then move on. With little effort and a bit of time you will have a full hour show and ultimately more.

    Hope that answers your question.
  3. That explains a lot...

    On a serious note - Listen to Craig as he's as qualified as anyone else on these forums and in the majority of cases more qualified (as he's done/been a part of stage shows before...unlike us close-up hobby magicians)

    As he said the best stage shows (coming from someone who watches them) have a very smooth flow and very fluid transitions. Good close up/parlor magic can have shows and be done this way as well - Ricky Jay and his 52 assistants is a great example of Acts building a Show. He starts with an expose of skill and moves into gambling moves - he speaks of history and mentors and shows effects done by them as well...his curtain closes so he can perform the boomarang card slice (or whatever he's named his scissor cutting boomarang card throw). Watch it in full and you can see where his script is broken into's free on the youtube.

    Also - you want good stage direction and scene changes - go to the theater, watch a play. Any time someone is in front of a curtain performing a monologue or two actors are having dialogue (sometimes a narrator is involved instead) the crew are behind the scenes moving walls and changing the stage - any major changes happen during intermission (if needed).

    With all of that said I have never been a part of a Magic act of such a large scale, but I have been a part of almost every other aspect of stage within plays (from improv black box to college level productions) and the pacing is the same. Write your show like you would a play 'Act1 Scene1 - magician introduction and first trick - Act1 Scene 2 ...more trickery' - etc - and you can break everything down and work on any one Act or Scene individually (Craigs suggestion of one illusion for an entire season, months of work as many times as you can is pure gold for both closeup and stage work) will help develop the rest of the act and, by proxy, the show.
  4. Thanks!
    Now I know what is it, but could you please recommend some good books and DvD's about building a show.
  5. Unfortunately there were not books when I first started out in this business outside Magic & Showmanship by Henning Nelms and maybe the Amateur Magician's Handbook by Henry Hay. . . . for me it was a load of pros from magic and theater as well as PR companies that pulled all the strings, I just wore the suit, said my lines and acted cute.

    There is a book, I think Diane Zimmerman and Pam Thompson put it out in the 80s about being a magician's assistant that will help you understand things from the helper's point of view. This is something most of us never think about as we create a program.

    If you are looking at grand illusion I can help you with most everything but the big $$$s needed for doing it. . . but there are cheats, starting with the Darwin book of Inexpensive Illusions. . . much of the material in that book has been used by major headliners in Vegas over the years but it's stuff you can make with cardboard and some fabric, etc. low end versions of yesteryear miracles like the DeKolta chair, sub-trunk, etc.

    It's really up to you to simply sit down and think out each sequence in the show, starting with an opening act that is 3-6 minutes (usually) in length. Will that be a Lance Burton styled manipulation act? The Blackstone styled Flower Act? or are you just going to open with comedy and patter?

    YOU are the only one that can formulate these things and don't be afraid of tradition, it has significant value in a stage show. But, put your spin on things; if you do the canary, egg, lemon & orange trick then do it differently than what is typically seen, same goes with a Miser's Dream . . . MAKE IT YOURS!

    HERE'S AN EXAMPLE. . . .I've been planning to do a particular Rice Bowl routine for close to 30 years now; an expansion to the routine I was doing at Pagan gatherings and Renaissance Fairs back in the 80s. I have only now acquired the handful of items needed (included custom Rice Bowls) for making this act real. . . I've held to that one vision for decades, slowly working towards it. Finally the situation fell into place that has made it more than I'd originally envisioned. The thing is, what I do with this long forgotten classic makes it MY ROUTINE, something no one else has or (hopefully) will do again until I'm long gone. I've done this with a number of effects over the years which is why, when I'm booked, those pieces are requested by talent buyers or the client. This is how you become a "brand name" and not just "another magic buff doing tricks at base fees" .

    Hope these insights help you out but feel free to touch base any time.
  6. Thanks! :)

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