(Close Window)
Topic: Advice Need for a Newbie to stage Illusions
Message: Posted by: Aus (May 20, 2003 09:59PM)
Hi guys

I just won’t to get a census on what are the best books and plans for someone getting into stage illusions. I’m an experienced magician with over 12 years in the art but most of that time had been spent on children’s magic, cards, close up, so I’m standing on new ground here when it comes to stage illusions. What I’m looking for is something like an “introduction” to this branch. I have looked at Paul Osborne’s Illusion System books on the internet, but lack the insight as to weather or not there to my stage (no pun intended) from a beginner’s perspective. Other Books that I have looked out in search of the right texts have been, Inexpensive Illusions by Gary Darwin, Grants Carton Illusions and a few Andrew Mayne stuff. Could anyone give me any insight to these and other books that you might recommend for me at this point.


Message: Posted by: JamesinLA (May 21, 2003 12:16AM)
The Gary Darwin book that I have is all black art so you would need a special black art stage and lighting. DO you want to build your own or buy illusions? I'll be interested in what others say on this topic...
Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (May 21, 2003 05:37AM)
For starter, your new here on the Café, with a very few posts, so the first thing to do is read everything you can under the Illusion section in the archives as well as what is posted here. There is a lot of good information.

Jeff McBride series Magic on Stage DVDs/Videos covers the topic of Stage Magic very well. The "Illusionettes" Boxes with rabbits or dove appearances/disappearances is a prelude to illusions. They are good examples to start Stage stuff. Jeff even says if you intend to do illusions, this is where to start.

Illusions is not just the effect. It is an understanding of sound, music, dance, stage movement, etc...the theatrical aspect of performance. It requires research and study to understand how to do this effectively.

Like any field, an in depth study is required to know what to do. Any book, Steinmeyer, Wakeling, Osborne build a background on the illusions, Spina builds stage movement and stage presence and books like [b]ILLUSION SHOW Know-How[/b] by Ken Griffin is a good start for a rounded understanding of what it entails. I do not (yet) do stage illusions even though I have twenty of them.

I bought the illusions first then learned about how to present them. Kind of backwards...an expensive way NOT to learn about Illusions. I also got [b]burned on some USED illusions[/b] which will hit the trash. (Homemade crap by someone else.)

An illusion show is boring, it needs more than ta-da here I am, and ta-da now she disappears. You must stir the emotions of the audience, you must grab their attention hold it, with sound, music, lighting, sex appeal, color, movement, etc. and get them involved emotionally to get good at it. Include as many of Fitzkee 39 Audience Appeals as possible

I like Jim Snack's [url=http://www.success-in-magic.com][b]Success-in-Magic[/b][/url] book which in one section he states a nice format for stage illusions which I revised.

[b]Illusion Show Routine Format:[/b]
[*] [b]Opening Illusion:[/b] Flash Appearance, Portal, Fire/Lighting/Fog/Sound Effects
[*] [b]Establishing Image:[/b] Fast-Paced, Magical, Flash, Colorful, Animal Production (Rabbit)
[*] [b]Production 0f Assistant Illusion:[/b] Crystal Box
[*] [b]Illusion with Assistant:[/b] Mismade Lady, Ziz-Zag, Saw-in-Half
[*] [b]Trademark Routine:[/b] Expose Your Personality to the Audience (A talking routine that is YOU and Your's Alone)
[*] [b]Novelty Illusion:[/b] Twister, Mismade Lady, Some Illusion that is funny
[*] [b]Audience Participation:[/b] Wiz-Kote, ProViper II, Head Chopper, French Arm Chopper, Visible Sawing-in-Half
[*] [b]Featured Levitation Illusion:[/b] Gamalo Levitation, Sword Suspension, 3-in-1 Levitation
[*] [b]Audience Participation:[/b] Wiz-Kote, ProViper II, Head Chopper, French Arm Chopper, Visible Sawing-in-Half
[*] [b]Closing Illusion:[/b] Statute of Liberty Production from a Square Circle or some Very Powerful Closing New Routine Leaving the Audience something to talk about on their drive home.
If you watch Copperfield's video, his format is something similar.

There is a lot involved here: Where do you get the assistants and how do you keep them? The need for stage sound and lighting manager, costumes, place for rehearsal, storage, trailer to move items, bigger truck to pull trailer for starters.

What is it that the audience expects when they are told they are going to see an illusion show. They expect a levitation and/or a person sawed in half, to enjoy themselves, laugh and leave with a good feeling. [b]Give it to them![/b]

[b][i]"If your are doing a classic illusion, then perform the classic like it never was seen before...Set a new standard for which all other magicians will want to copy."[/i][/b]

[b][i]"Show them something they never saw before and make it something they never will forget."[/i][/b]
Message: Posted by: Alex Tan (May 21, 2003 07:18AM)
I wish that I had all these advise when I started. It would have cut away those wasted, painful and headaching years.
Message: Posted by: Aus (May 21, 2003 07:02PM)
Thanks for the advice so far guys, but one area that I wont info on is what are the best resouces for a beggener to stage illusions. I understand the concept of persentation and the power of performance but that fact still remains that I will have to come across effects to buy or make at somepoint. So I wont to know how to go about this. Whats the down falls of making and building your own illusions to buying them ready made.



PS: I have looked on the Café to find texts on illusions but many seem to lake the insight of knowlegde level to use them.
Message: Posted by: mike_york (May 21, 2003 07:35PM)
Making illusions yourself is really in my opinion not the way to go. Unless you are very skilled in woodworking and other areas in the shop. You will spend far too much time and money trying to make things work.

Sure buying an illusion from a pro builder is expensive built if you look at what your paying for it's a good deal. Plus you really don't have to worry about anything. unless you need to meet a deadline.

Pro builders have years of experience and they know the little ins and outs. They buy the best material. Your paying a hourly rate for actual fabrication. Your also paying for research and development. Your getting the top of the line quality of work. And a pretty deceptive looking prop that will last years. Not let's make it work. I think you get the point.

Building yourself is a painful process. Your working form a set of plans. And let me tell you most of the plans out there leave allot of key information out! You tend to buy cheap material. Therefore in the end it shows. You don't get the quality. Most of the time you do something and say know own ill ever know.

So it's really up to you on what you want to do.

If you do build yourself. Start off will small stuff. Like trying to make a deceptive base on a dove to balloon or something. Make mock ups to see if the thing will work. Just b/c there is a plan it does not mean it works.

Hope this helps at all. Let me know if you want some more tips.

Good luck,
Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (May 21, 2003 08:05PM)
Build also a small model, so the mistakes are caught before you make the mistake on the larger version, costing you a lot more.

There is a learning curve also in construction, glueing, the right materials, the painting, etc. Then after you build it you find you can't get it out of the basement door.

Here's the concept... How much do you expect to make with your illusion show? How many Shows a Year? Are your going to be asking couple of thousand per performance? Well, you need four illusions at the minimum to classify you as an illusionist. One should be a levitation of some type, another a novelty, illusion. You must have your act together, self-sufficient, Stage, Lighting, Sound, Backdrops, etc. (Outside the Casino Enivornment)

Please pick four illusions and then we can give specific advice. If you don't know what four you want and why you selected those four, then you need to do more research. See if your local SAM or IBM club has a library on illusions. You need to get your act together before you even buy or build.

What is it you want to do? Stan Kramienr offers a book, [url=http://www.fundraisingmagic.com/upgrade/index.asp][b]The Illusion Show Business ($100)[/b][/url] as well as [url=http://www.fundraisingmagic.com/upgrade/index.asp][b]Griffen's book ($15)[/b][/url] both are excellent books and a starting place. If you are looking for a short cut, then these books will give you the start you need in selecting the right illusions.

I suggest spend the $15.00 and make some decisions on what you want first. In [b]ILLUSION SHOW KNOW-HOW[/b] Ken and Roberta Griffin disclose not only their time tested ways of operating a big show but give you all the information needed to go along with the other aspects of this business. Here's what that $15 dollars gets you...

[b]Twenty-Eight Chapters
1. Can Anyone be a Magician
2. Routining the Show
3. Blocking
4. Showmanship, Misdirection & Presentation
5. Audience Reaction
6. Volunteer Assistants
7. Tips on Presenting Illusions[list]
[*] 1. The Levitation
[*] 2. Substitution Trunk
[*] 3. Bloodless Surgery
[*] 4. Sawing a Woman in Half
[*] 5. The Disembodied Lady
[*] 6. Guillotine
[*] 7. The Haunted Totem Lodge
[*] 8. Super Vanish Extraordinary
[*] 9. Shooting an Arrow Through a Girl
[*] 10.Super X in a Box
[*] 11.The Glass Lined Trunk
[*] 12.Loyds Prediction Trunk
[*] 13.Cutting a Girl in Sixths
[*] 14.Vanishing Radio
[*] 15.Giant Square Circle[/list]
8. Assistants
9. Costumes - Women's Wardrobe
10. Costumes - Men's Wardrobe
11. Flats'and Scenery
12. Advertising[list]
[*] 1. Press Release
[*] 2. Poster.
[*] 3. Radio Advertising
[*] 4. Cuts and Proofs
[*] 5. Brochures
[*] 6. Direct Mail[/list]
13. Photography
14. Getting Mail General Delivery
15. Trade Journals
16. Stage Terms
17. Superstitions
18. Novelty Acts
19. Make-Up
20. Lighting, Portable Footlights
21. Sound, Music & Voice
22. Stage and Load Out Crews
23. Carrying Cases
24. Stage Brats - Trouping Children
25. A Typical Day With a Touring Magic Show
26. Manners for Magicians
27. Decorating Props
28. Miscellaneous

This is the way to learn what is it you want to do. Then select a builder who will design and up date your selected illusion to the present times. If you haven't going this far, then work on this first. It is an expensive business to get into so you need a good starting foundation. This $15.00 is well spent investment!
Message: Posted by: mike_york (May 21, 2003 08:25PM)
Den is giving you some great advice!

Message: Posted by: JamesinLA (May 22, 2003 12:25AM)
Great post! It sounds like a great book. I'm going to order it right now. Have you ever heard of "Illusion Builder to Fu Manchu?" It's one of the books McBride recommends in his Stage dvds. I'm trying to track it down, but this book sounds somewhat similar, though this one will be more up to date.
Message: Posted by: cfrye (May 22, 2003 02:32AM)

I found "Illusion Builder to Fu Manchu" at Denny & Lee's: http://www.dennymagic.com/cgi-bin/hazel.cgi?client=22376630&action=detail&item=002400 .

Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (May 22, 2003 05:39AM)
Don't have that book, but just ordered it from [url=http://www.dennymagic.com/cgi-bin/hazel.cgi?client=22376630&action=detail&item=002400][b]Denny and Lees[/b][/url] Thanks
Message: Posted by: Saydean (May 22, 2003 04:40PM)
Den has given you a really good guideline to follow. I would ask you one more question: " Who is going to hire you?" You can buy all the illusions in the world but you must have a show that people want to see. Make sure you have a story line that is easily followed . The magician who thinks he can do a illusion show without talking or bonding with his audience is dead. Good luck in your endeavors
Message: Posted by: Aus (May 22, 2003 07:31PM)
Thanks again for your great advise, and Den the two books you referenced will be a great help and I will see if my local dealer can get them in. Saydean as for your question I sad to say I don't know yet. If I did know the answers to all these questions I wouldn't be here asking for help on the magic café, all I wont to know at this stage is the best path to get into this branch of magic. I do acknowledge that I will face this question later on but at the moment I'm more focused in getting an act first if you know what I mean rather then trying to work at this stage whether or not I have chosen the right way to aim it. I guess this would help picking the effects and patter etc but I just wont the foundations at this stage. Like the theory of the best patter, presence, stage lighting, fog, making or building illusions etc, which as you can see will come a lot further along the line in obstacles as I walk this path. All I'm saying is Saydean, one step at a time mate.


Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (May 22, 2003 08:00PM)
Now that your thinking... Lets move on to step two, where to perform this family type illusion show.

Invest in [url=http://www.fundraisingmagic.com/upgrade/courseinfo.html][b]John Kaplans Deluxe Fundraising Program[/b][/url]. Take a look at his concept here. What you offer is local clubs, schools, firehouses, etc. a fundraising program, (no more candy sales)

You are selling a way for them to make money off your illusion show and you get paid as well. It is all in John Kaplans Materials. You are NOT SELLING A MAGIC SHOW but selling a way an organization can make thousands of dollars with next to nothing effort. The more effort they put into it the more money they can make.

It is tough getting started, but within five years you could be making $100,000 a year. I want to tell you it isn't easy developing a show, getting the materials together and finding an assistant and a place to rehearse.

What you want to do is possible, it requires commitment, and most importantly, don't quit your day-time job until you are well established.

What Saydean has said is absolutely true. Denny Haney (Denny and Lees) and I discussed this at length. Illusions by themselves is boring. Remember, one of the best shows in Vegas is Mac Kings Show and he doesn't do an Illusion show. It is all about connecting with the audience and that can't be done without comic relief, talking parts, and audience participations effects as stated above. Your character and personality must come through! People are interested in people not big stuff!
Message: Posted by: Jim Snack (May 25, 2003 07:57AM)
Don't put the cart before the horse. Polish your club act, then add one illusion that can play anywhere as a feature or closer. Build your illusion show one box at a time.

Lance Burton started with his dove act, then added the "Sword Fight at the Ball" transposition. He worked those for years before buiding his first issusion show.

By the time you have several illusions you will require a stage when you perform, so the avenues open include schools and theaters. You can book fundraisers ala Kaplin's plan - it's a great way to polish the show "in the provinces" before approaching theaters.

Go back and re-read everything Dennis Dowhy has written. Dennis is giving you some great advice here. (And I'm not saying that because he invested in my Success-In-Magic program.)

Good luck.
Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (May 25, 2003 10:07AM)
Jim's Book is an excellent resource. It contains a lot of good practical advice and worth the $99 for Two huge 300+ page books, plus extras. Like I said above the outline is a revised illusion plan as stated in Jim Snack's book. He also has a career ladder of success section and workbook included.

It is good advice to crawl before you fly. As with everything, there are exceptions to the rule, and only after you gained sufficient knowledge in the area of your choosen career.

Jim Snack quotes Denny Hanney related to a club act. They are correct, and so is Jeff McBride, except Jeff calls it his Commando Act. This is a solid powerful "play anywhere" act. From there, spring board it into an Illusion show. Meanwhile, look over the different illusions and plan for what you want in the future and write in down on an index card and carry it with you. Eventually, you will seek out those dreams that are written down.
Message: Posted by: JamesinLA (May 26, 2003 01:59AM)
Thanks for the helping finding the Fu Mancho book. I'm getting it next week and looking forward to it. So far, I've performed illusions on a real stage only once and I loved it. It went very well, and I think it's because the act had a real story with real characters that the audience really connected with. One of our spontaneous bursts of applause wasn't even a magical moment in terms of a traditional magical effect. It was magical in terms of drama though, and the appaluse came. It's really fun and thrilling doing this on stage.
Has anyone ever thought of a one of two (or more) magicians ganging up to mount a production? Maybe that doesn't make sense...
Message: Posted by: Jim Snack (May 26, 2003 04:45PM)

One or two (or more) magicians ganging up to mount a production..... how about:

Siegfried & Roy
Penn & Teller
LeRoy, Talma & Bosco

It makes sense if you have the right team.
Message: Posted by: Aus (May 26, 2003 09:21PM)
Ok guys, I have put a little thought into what I’m going to do and I’m starting small so I have not chosen really expansive or elaborate illusions. What I have got so far is Andrews Maynes stool levitation titled “Mid-Air” and the farmer and witch Illusion from Mark Wilson’s Course. As for what area I hope to aim this show, I have but some thought into a whole family setting. As to where I can get this type of audience etc I don’t know yet, I’ll have to put some more thought into it and I’ll get back to you.


Message: Posted by: Cashetta (Jul 21, 2003 02:44AM)
Just picked up a copy of Illusion Show Know How as per Den's recommendation and it's and excellent book. It really get you thinking about everything involved from start to finish. Check it out
Message: Posted by: genemccarthy (Nov 6, 2006 04:07PM)
I dart in and out of the Café and ran across these old posts.

I wouldn't undersestimate the generosity of those that are doing it, like Murray Hatfield, Chuck Jones and others. For anyone considering this line entertainers of that calibre are most gracious and their experience is untold.

Murray Hatfield produces one of the best, as in quality,shows available. He works all the time and feautures legendary support acts.

The tours are tough and Murray Hatfield is renown for treating performers as artists and not as geeks and freaks.

I just noted you are in Australia so Sam pwers, Tony Laffan and John Taylor are extremely experienced and marveous poerformers as well.

Message: Posted by: Matt Adams (Jan 25, 2011 02:50PM)
Wow, this thread is really old...AND TOTALLY AWESOME. There is GOLD here in these posts! A very late, but very appreciative thanks to those of you who parted with this knowledge. I'm picking up some of these resources. I do have a thought, though I may not get an answer. :)

Dennis mentioned the following:

# Opening Illusion: Flash Appearance, Portal, Fire/Lighting/Fog/Sound Effects
# Establishing Image: Fast-Paced, Magical, Flash, Colorful, Animal Production (Rabbit)
# Production 0f Assistant Illusion: Crystal Box
# Illusion with Assistant: Mismade Lady, Ziz-Zag, Saw-in-Half
# Trademark Routine: Expose Your Personality to the Audience (A talking routine that is YOU and Your's Alone)
# Novelty Illusion: Twister, Mismade Lady, Some Illusion that is funny
# Audience Participation: Wiz-Kote, ProViper II, Head Chopper, French Arm Chopper, Visible Sawing-in-Half
# Featured Levitation Illusion: Gamalo Levitation, Sword Suspension, 3-in-1 Levitation
# Audience Participation: Wiz-Kote, ProViper II, Head Chopper, French Arm Chopper, Visible Sawing-in-Half
# Closing Illusion: Statute of Liberty Production from a Square Circle or some Very Powerful Closing New Routine Leaving the Audience something to talk about on their drive home.

Now, that is all well and good...but it smacks of the same problem most illusion shows have - TOO MANY STUPID BOXES!! I was totally thrilled to see this list and thought quickly of how I could work my show around these. However, then I remembered the very thing I HATED to see when I was starting out - too many "my box is cool" tricks. I watched a leading illusionist team (not mentioning names) who did TONS of illusions but every one had a trick box. It got old very fast. They are one of the best teams in the country and extremely well known. Good? Eh...ok I guess but it's just a dumb box, right?

I think it's very difficult to do one thing well. However, it's even more difficult to do many things well. Perhaps this is the reason performers stick with one method instead of several. My show has mentalism, escapes, manipulation, illusion(ettes), and many more forms of magic. This way, if someone hates the linking rings, they can enjoy the mentalism. Maybe someone who hates mental magic can really enjoy the illusions. There's something for everyone to talk about and it really showcases the many forms and aspects of magic AND the performer! I think if I were to do an illusion show, I would do 3-4 illusions with a good bit of other types of magic that still played to packed houses. (David Copperfield does a little bit of this by putting in several closeup effects in his act and using a live video camera.)