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Eric Dittelman
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Regular user
Astoria, NY
179 Posts

Profile of Eric Dittelman
Hello everyone!

I think it would be neat to hear some stories about getting your start in stage illuisions. For example: How much money did you save for you first illusion? What was the first illusion you built/bought? Where was your first show and how did it go? etc.

It would be great to hear from those who have been performing for a while as well as those just starting!
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495 Posts

Profile of Face
My first show was small, just 15 minutes, and it took place in a small school... I remember one thing for sure...I was very nervous, but the show went well Smile
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98 Posts

Profile of Chase
At 15 I saved up enough money from close up shows and restaurant work to pay a retired cabinet maker friend to build some illusions for me.
I bought Osbourne plans and made some modifications of my own. He built me a Shadowbox, Where do the Ducks Go, Cutting in Sixths (with giant playing cards), a head sword box with stand, and a set of deceptive steps with a platform and "utility" box. The illusions were beautiful, and this guy built them for next to nothing.
The props were incredibly deceptive, especially for a first time magic builder. The problem was that the builder was an old school cabinet maker who built things to last. He didn't even like to use nails when building... it was all hammered dowel rods holding it together. I finally convinced him to use pin hinges on the panels that needed to be removed for transport. He built the props out of oak, so they were heavy as crap.
I used those for years, lugging them around in a 15 ft. trailer. I had never been around any professionally made props before, so I didn't really know the difference. When I finally realized that pro-props were built out of different materials, I gave away the shadowbox and cutting to some young magi and started buying some newer used props.
Rand Woodbury was very very very generous and sold me a Gaugan built Mis-Made for WAY below it's value. I have fond memories of driving from Arkansas to Miami my freshman year of college to pick that prop up.
Michael Messing
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Inner circle
Knoxville, TN
1815 Posts

Profile of Michael Messing
I didn't start performing illusions until I had been performing professionally for about 2 years. I already had performed for many banquets and corporate events as a solo act. Since I didn't want to try new stuff on corporate clients, I did my first illusion shows for high school assembly programs.

I did them cheaply so that the schools would jump on it and that way I was able to work out my routines before performing for an important client. It worked great. The best part was I was always able to get 3 or 4 students to load and unload my van!

The first illusions I bought were a refurbished Chalet Crystal Box, a Chalet Substitution Trunk and Mak Magic Super Guillotine (no longer made.) The Crystal Box was really nice. I hadn't expected to purchase it. Since my budget was low, I was planning on buying a Doll's House or Temple of Benares. George Kimery, owner of Chalet, said he had a used Crystal Box that he took on trade and could sell it to me for the price of a Doll's House. I jumped on it and loved that illusion.

I think I spent $2,000 for all three illusions. (Of course that was 18 years ago!)

Christopher Starr
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Inner circle
Heart of America
1851 Posts

Profile of Christopher Starr
My first illusion was a nasty attempt at a Zig Zag. I had NO experience at wood working, and at the tender age of 16, armed with 2 4x8 sheets of plywood, a jig saw, a pencil & yardstick, I set out to build my own zig zag. I did manage to assmeble a crude version of it, but fortunately for myself and the viewing public, it was never performed anywhere!

I later had Jim Sommers build me a Mismade Girl & Thin Sawing, then still later actually had a couple of John Gaughan props. As you can see, my education went from poor, ok to the best!
Kent Wong
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Inner circle
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
2458 Posts

Profile of Kent Wong
I took the LONG road to stage illusions. I performed professionally as a corporate and family entertainer for over 30 years and then expanded into restaurant work and strolling magic after that. My repertoire had gradually grown to include several illusionettes that I often incorporated into my larger shows.

As the nature and size of my shows continued to evolve, I began looking towards one or two full-size illusions. Like many, I wanted these illusions to be as angle proof as possible and fairly easy to transport. I built my own Bryce's Screen using the Osborne plans, but I modified the screens to look like Japanese style dividing walls. That cost about $200.00.

After that, one of my close magician friends moved to the coast and sold me his Asrah Levitation. So now, I had a production and a levitation to work with. The only problem with this illusion was that it required at least one assistant (and a couple of stage hands). For smaller shows, I also have a Chair Suspension, a Princess Flying Carpet and a Super-X Suspension from which to choose.

About a year after that, our local magic shop had a used Substitution Trunk for sale at a price that was just too good to resist. Although the shop was over 3 hours away by car, I made the trip to pick it up.

Last November, after reading the reviews of the product here at the Café, I purchased two sets of Victory Cubes. Now I had the ability to magically produce my assistant as well as decorate the stage with some really cool looking props.

Last month, our local magic shop had a used Zig Zag that came up for sale. It had been custom built for the owner of the shop and it was absolutely gorgeous. After getting invaluable advice from the members at the Café, I went ahead with the purchase, knowing I was getting a quality product.

During all of this time, I had also purchased a 500W P.A. sound system, a full lighting system with fog machine and rotating spot lights, and a portable backdrop. I tend to micro manage my show and so, I felt it necessary to be able to control and manage as much of my performing environment as possible.

So, the development of my illusion show has really been a gradual process. I have performed numerous shows with one or two of the illusions at a time. However, I have yet to perform a full illusion show that would use everything at once. My goal is to be performing that show by Christmas of this year.

"Believing is Seeing"
Eric Dittelman
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Astoria, NY
179 Posts

Profile of Eric Dittelman
Great to hear from you! Any others?

-Eric D.
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Inner circle
1409 Posts

Profile of DanielSteep
My first illusion were givin to me.. a subtrunk, palanquin and doll house...

I have done around 3 shows with my palanquin and 2 shows with my subtrunk.. never done my doll house.. and never done two or three illusions in one show.. until this sunday!

this sunday I am doing my first full illusion show at a local arena! Im the only event in the arena that day and there is nothing else there...

so to me my whole magic future depends on how well my first ever illusion show goes!

I pray to god at least 100 ppl show up~!

Magically Yours,
Magical Odyssey
Johnnie Blaze
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204 Posts

Profile of Johnnie Blaze
Best of luck to ya .. remember as long as there is one person there you have an audience . so no matter the number I hope you great success
all the best
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Inner circle
1409 Posts

Profile of DanielSteep
Hey johnnie,

Yes I'm with you! if ther is only 5 ppl in the audiance I'm doing my full illusion show with the 5 ppl I don't care!

I use like 5 volunteers tho.. so theyl all get to help! haha~
Bill Nuvo
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Inner circle
3094 Posts or
2747 Posts

Profile of Bill Nuvo
My first illusion show was when I was sixteen. It was for my old gradeschool. I built most of the illusions. Bought only visible sawing (UF Grant). I made Arabian Tent (from Mark Wilson complete course), Spike Cabinet (Tarbell course) and Shadow/Light Cabinet (based on Tarbell Course but added my own elements). Also with the show I had smaller front of curtain effects like a mind reading effect I came up with (and still use today), thumbcuffs comedy routine, linking ring/spectator challenge rountine, and ropes through body.

The sawing cost me $300.00 and the other illusions total probably cost me about $300.00 to make because I had access to wood already.

Learned a lot from that first show. Learned I really needed a corless mic which I bought a month later for about $200.00 (it was a cheap radio shack one but it worked for me at the time).

I learned I needed to have my own lighting available. The had a stage but only 3 lights worked. Two on stage and one in front of stage.

I am still impressed that I pulled this off so well. I am sometimes in awe at how I developed little stories around the effects and changed and adapted the effects to suit my needs and style. Good times.
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132 Posts

Profile of jacoblucas
Istart my illusion show from while iam work in singapore iand my first illusion is exchange box which is fold one so iacn moved very easily which made by rangmagic and oother illusion floting girl in this illusion ineveruse my assistance ialwasr preferd audiance
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Inner circle
1409 Posts

Profile of DanielSteep

your illusions looked pretty god to say you were only 16! the show was rele good too BUT You are right the lighting was HORRIBLE you could hardly even see the shaddow box... although you did 4 illusions.. in my first illusion show I'm only doing 3:(.. oh well we all gotta start sumwhere!
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Special user
Bolton, England UK
831 Posts

Profile of magicmarkdaniel
My first illusion (if you can class it as one) was a Head Chopper. It was home built using odds and ends from the garage. It looked suitably comical and makeshift. Lo and behold ten years later almost the same looking model is being professionally built by Nathan Ward...

Mark Daniel
cartoon cowboy
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Lancaster, PA
104 Posts

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My first and only illusion was Lady From the Light which I made from the plans from Tarbell #7 I believe. I was a senior in High School and made it for a talent show at our auditorium, so lighting and sound weren't a problem. It was only made of wood lath, butcher paper, and a bit of spare lumber and casters, so the whole illusion (minus paint) probably cost about $30. Also it is light and easy to transport. But the ripping through the paper is a dramatic end and cheap to replace.
Happy Trails,
- CC Smile
Erick Hershey
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