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Topic: Running a Stage/Illusion Show: Assistants v. Solo?
Message: Posted by: Brian Haagen (Dec 29, 2003 01:09PM)
I am to the point now where I am formulating exactly what I want to get to put a stage show together. I have ambitions after high school to go out, and perform a lot. But when I start thinking about the practicality of a show, what is better, a show with assistants or a show without?
I am thinking about this from a talk with the parents last night. They think that I should get as many things that I can do by myself that I can, instead of buying things (Thin Model Sawing/Origami/etc.) that require an assistant. They think that after high school I could then be a lot more self efficient, not have to worry about other's pay scales/insurance/rooming/etc, and would be able to book shows across state, and move from one to another freely.
I think there is some reality in that, but it seems to me like it would be impossible to run a stage show without at least having an assistant and one technical person to run lights/sounds/etc. I also think that many of the stage illusions that use assistants are the coolest.
So before I go investing a lot of money, what do you guys recommend? Also, what venues are there for someone like me that might do a touring type stage show with or without assistants? Thanks in advance.
Message: Posted by: pyromagician (Dec 29, 2003 01:51PM)
Solo for beginners is always the best, when your right out of high school, you will want to mainly get your name out. Once you do that and have some money to pay assistants, then you could start auditions.
Another thing you need to consider, stage crew (lights, sound, smoke, and other effects, and box turners.)
Message: Posted by: Jim Snack (Dec 29, 2003 10:48PM)
Gary is right. Work on your solo "club act," a 45 minute slam dunk act that can play just about anywhere. This is practical and commercial.

Then get as much performance "flight time" with your club act so you can polish your performance skills.

When you are ready to add an illusion, pick one that can be done with just one assistant and, if possible, that can be done surrounded (ex. Sub Trunk). Add that illusion to your club act when you have a bigger venue to play, say a school stage as opposed to a church basement.

After you have that illusion down cold, think about adding another, Broom Suspension, Sword Basket, or Cube Zag, for example. Again these can be done with just one assistant and can be done under most conditions.

By the time you add a third illusion, you will need a second assistant to help load, unload, run tech etc. Since you will have lots of performing experience under your belt, now you can focus on managing a company.

Best wishes.

Oh yes, you asked about venues. Civic organizations, schools, fairs and festivals are appropriate venues to focus on at this stage of your career. If you can land a summer job at an amusement park, jump on it. You will work very hard and not get paid much, but here is no better place to polish your act early in your career.

After a few years polishing you act in these venues you will be ready to start moving up to theaters. That's a subject for another time.

Good luck.
Message: Posted by: briansmagic (Dec 30, 2003 03:06AM)
I am not out of high school, only 15 years old. I love illusions and when I first wanted to perform illusions magicians were telling me not to...too much time, effort, money, not practical, etc. They wanted me to avoid them like the plague. But I didn't take their advice and I got a Sub Trunk built. That worked out so well for me that I bought a Shadow Box next. But if you do go with illusions, which I recommend you do if you really want to, then here are a few things to keep in mind:
1) Get things that pack down and pack down fairly small and light. Donít get a Disembodied Princess that doesn't break down and you need a big truck to transport and 3 men to lift it out of the truck.
2) For starting you will for sure want something you can do w/ ONE assistant. I would recommend something she can roll on stage, step into, step out of, and roll off stage, (i.e. KubZag, ZigZag, Broom Suspension, Sword Basket, etc.) It is harder if it is something she has to start out loaded into or end up stuck in the prop. That means you will need another assistant.

Forgot to mention:
Get things that are angle friendly. Not necessarily surround-able (although that is nice) but just props that you can work in a broad theatre that wonít be exposed from the far right or left.
Message: Posted by: HarbinJr. (Dec 30, 2003 09:13AM)
Brian Haagan

I think that pyro and Jim have the right idea. It's best to get a club act going for now to start learning how to move around on stage and to figure out what works well with you. As to your question on whatís better, I have had both assistants and solo. Currently, I find that solo works best for me. It's a lot more work since that I'm the only one to unload and reload the truck and naturally the only one to set up the equipment. I do run my own sound and lights while I do the show. So you have to figure out when or where everything is so you can get it and keep the audiences attention. I have had to invent several illusions that can operate as solo and fit my style. There are a couple books out there that could be helpful like Andre Mayneís Solo-X and perhaps Jim Steinmeyer's Device and Illusion. To be honest if I had a choice between the assistants versus solo I would pick the assistants since they are many times eye candy and also help in tremendous ways for the show.

Good Luck to you!!

Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Dec 30, 2003 08:27PM)
There is no question that there is less risk in a solo act. Remember that most of the places that use a magician today don't even have a stage or sound/lighting engineer. Usually you work in the flat and need to arrive self-contained ready to go. You work your own lights, sound, curtains and staging. The places that have those things don't hire new acts and they go through agents. Agents avoid new acts. Agents want the steady good stuff. (I owned an agency for years.)

New acts must be more flexible and self-contained. New acts depend on volume. Stay busy. Keep it to what you can carry alone. Good shows do not require large props. Large stages require large props. There are not many large stages in the USA.

Good Luck! Never Give Up!

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Message: Posted by: skilusion (Jan 2, 2004 04:07PM)
My advice would be to figure out what kind of am image you would like to have in the next couple of year. Classical, Pop, Comedy, Dancing, Etc. and what age group do you want to perform for - Kids, Teens, College, Adults, Family. Once you figure this out find things that will fit around that image. If the tricks or illusions you find to fit that image require assistance then hire assistance. I, personally, would not sacrafice my image at the price of whether or not I should have assistants. I agree that some of the best illusion show I have seen have had assistant, who are just as important to the show as the illusionist. Hope this helps.
Message: Posted by: Starrpower (Feb 17, 2004 11:37AM)
I think a solo act is a great idea. When you start getting larger props, get illusions that can be done with an audience member rather than an assistant, like a headchopper, chair suspention, audience acupuncture, or other "audience as assistant" trick. There are lots of them out there.
Message: Posted by: Chezaday (Feb 18, 2004 02:07AM)
Brian... do you want to make money or are you in it for the adventure? I've always gone all out with the illusion show.. but when it comes right down to it.. the expenses add up fast. When we travel its usually four of us and the equipment in the biggest Chevy you can buy. Sometimes we make money .. other times it's for the adventure. We have a fun time no less....