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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The little darlings » » Party on a school night: and other things I am blaming on the parents (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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toomuchmagic
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(Sorry in advance about the novel length post.)

So I have had myself a nice long streak of birthday parties going without a hitch ...until last night.

Let me first say that I have been doing this for quite a few years and last night was the first Birthday show on a week night. I would like to label it a mild disaster, and I only can blame myself for about 50% of it.

Prologue: Mom was a stickler. Asked for references...called them....liked them...but still tried to haggle price. had to have the party ON the date of sonny boy's birthday.

I arrived early as I always do, allowing time to set up my show. I was scheduled to start at 6:30, arrived at about 6:05. This was a PACKED house. Mom shows me the room where she wants me...which is tiny and FULL of people...primarily small children. I decide it is best to 'assemble' my show on their large porch while the children are eating their pizza and running around.

6:15 Mom says..."are you going to start soon," to which I reply that I was shooting to start at 6:30 as planned.

"It isn't 6:30 yet? Gee I just thought it was, there are so many kids in here I don't know what to do." So I tell her I will hurry and start asap.

I bring my table into the room, leaving still several of my props outside, when grandma yells "Ok the magician is starting everyone watch!" I say no wait, I still have to get a few more things. Probably 3 more trips. I return after trip 1, and she goes, "ok hurray he is back everyone watch he is going to make stuff disappear."

No, I say. Not yet. My next trip outside, I see my stuff has been moved by the crowd of smoking parents who made their way outside. I grab what I see and get inside to try and start the show to appease the mob.

Little "Johnny" is 5. I swear they told me 7. I know they told me 7. All 30 of the kids are 4 and 5 years old and jam packed in to this little tiny sitting room along with several of their parents. I am backed against a wall (literally), and I can;t even get the kids back far enough so they aren't breathing on my ankles.

I start the show finally, at about 6:28. Goes very well until I can't find two of my props. I realize they must be outside. of course, They were. I come back get on with the show.

One kid gets up and starts pulling on my "tablecloth." I sit him down, make a joke...you know the usual. 1 second later he is up there again trying to knock the table over. I got him to sit back down about 6 more times. He was resilient. Destined to pull that table down. I gave him something to play with and got him away. I really wish mom or someone had stepped in on this one.

My show is choreographed to music and several tricks rely on the sound to be 'as effective" as possible. (i.e. vanishing bandana, I use axtrax, I have several other sound effects and climax moments synched up on a cd.) For some reason the wall sockets in the house were not designed properly to hold plugs. My speaker system kept falling out in the middle of the performance. The plug would just not stay in the wall.

So I go on ad libbing, doing my best. show must go on. I finish with my big closer which is normally pantomime, but I made it up as I go along. Kids are having a ball. But I can see the crooked looks of mom, dad, grandma, and other parents in the back. I really can't figure out why. I know this isn't my A #1 performance, but the kids are having a ball nonetheless.

I am booked for am hour and a half...after the magic show portion, I am making balloons for all the kids. But it's now 7:15 on a school/work night. I am not a parent, but I am pretty sure this is past...or darn near close to bed time for 4-5 year olds. Parents want out, and kids want to stay because they want a balloon. They are looking at me like this is my fault. The kids get in a nice orderly line...and of course dad #2 says " hey do my kid first we gotta go." Then all the parents are following suit, getting PO'd cuz they want out of there. I am sure it is going to be hard enough to get them to sleep after all the cake, candy, and sugary drinks.

Meanwhile, that kid from before brings my table crashing to the floor (spilling a cup of liquid on some of my stuff including my iphone. yes I said liquid on my iphone.)

I finish up, and want out just as bad. I get my stuff cleaned up, but can;t even get near the door cuz there are still a bunch of people crowding. I leave about a half hour later than I wanted.

#1 How many shows do you folks do for bdays on school nights. I think it was late on a school night too. I am at way more kids bday parties than the average person, so I would assume this is an oddity, but maybe not. I think this kinda ruined the vibe....for some of the kids and ESPECIALLY the parents.

#2 what the heck do you do when you don't have enough room to do your show comfortably. In my experience, there are an average of 10-12 kids at a party like this. Sure, I have done birthday shows for 25-30 kids, but in a room large enough to hold them. I have done school shows for 150-350 kids, but in a gym or an auditorium, you know.

#3 Hundreds of shows and this was honestly the first time I have dealt with people so pushy and unappreciative. I know some of you may be used to this, but I guess I have just been lucky. I thought was doing something right to attain this. I didn't know how to deal with them and they just seemed unpleased. Usually the parents are MORE THAN thanksful and appreciative. The response I got after everyone left was..you aren't used to this many kids are you. I was slightly insulted and all I could reply was..."NO, not in such a small room". I have never had a control problem before...or at least not in a long long time.

#4 I know I should be able to do my show without the music...so I don't want to hear about that really unless you are offering sympathy.

Let me hear it.
Stevethomas
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Wow. First, AN HOUR AND A HALF for a party? Me? I do my balloons prior to leaving home. That alleviates the problems you ran into. Planning in advance by phone calls to the parents would help some of that, too, although it sounds like those parents wouldn't have had a clue anyway. Contracts, specifying the amount of space needed, and parental supervision would've helped, too.

As far as the music/sfx...if the birthday party isn't being held AT LEAST in a venue as large as a church fellowship hall or something similar..I wouldn't do anything requiring sound. AND..I use a SMALL sound system...an iCue2 with an Anchor "Explorer Pro" speaker/amp (usually to sit on a chair in that situation) with built-in wireless mic. In a home, I wouldn't use that.

As to keeping up and setting up your stuff...for something in a home of that size, nothing more than a Lefler table and maybe one case (for a specific prop..either a Wolf's Magic "Wacky Weasel" a Khyber Kobra or a Jumbo Sidekick), and maybe a small Dr. bag (containing my Professor Cheer's Comedy Rope Trick), but nothing more than one trip into the home. Don't even leave 1 item sitting alone in a room full of kids.

The one Mr. Destructo kid...that all comes with experience in handling "that one kid" who has NO home training or knowledge about how to act.

Sorry about your bad show, but the next will definitely be better!

Steve
MagicSanta
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Life isn't perfect. I've done midweek but usually they are last minute cuz relatives are in town or something like that. Things don't go right all the time so roll on and learn from it.
robertwong
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Sorry to hear about your experience but as the saying goes, "What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger."

I always tell the parent that I need room for my props and such. The next time you are faced with this situation when you don't have a lot of room, insists on changing the room. I would also like to mention when I am setting up my show, no one is aloud in the room. This bit of information is shared with the parent on the phone when I am taking the booking and when I arrive.

I second Steve's recommendation in regards to using a Lefler Table. I use this table an ATA case to hold and move all my props.

As far as music/sfx is concerned, I use a MP3-Tech and a Pyle Pro PWMA120, which is battery powered PA system. Whether I perform at a birthday party or large corporate event. I always bring music and a PA system with me. Believe it or not, I can carry all my gear in one trip. As far as my corporate show is concerned, that's another story.

Cheers,

Robert.
toomuchmagic
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Though it is detail-less. I appreciate what santa has to say. That is kinda what I was looking for. I was hoping this was just one of those nightmarish experiences that I can learn from, but is atypical.

Clarifications:

I use a bose wave radio for the sound. It works on a remote, fantastic sound quality , is very small/portable, and I have used it to provide sound for small to rather large rooms (even a few gymnasiums due to the fantastic acoustics.) Movies have music, tv shows have music, theater shows have music, and so does my magic show. I think this MAKES my show. I think this one factor makes me stand way out above the certain competition, and I will never let that portion of it go.

That said, I can not get myself to use a microphone at a birthday party. I don't really have a loud voice or anything, but I have never had a problem being heard and I think it is going overboard if you amplify what can already be heard.

I just cant rationalize the showtech price, though I would love to have/use one.

I carry with me a truck and a table. Don't have a lefler, but have considered it in the past...all in all, I am pretty sure I will be carrying the same amount of stuff.
everything in the show fits into a trunk (bose radio included) which when empty I use as a small table behind my main table to hold the various props, radio, etc. which I will use throughout the show. I have my main table which is just a metal stand on wheels that I put a piece of wood on top of, and cover with a cloth.

I like making the balloons for the kids...while I am there. They enjoy it more that way. It is part of the entertainment experience I think. Big and bad stuff, maybe I'll make at home. But I am having these people pay top dollar, I am going to provide a service. Anything to make the party go more smooth for mom and dad...and yeah that includes being there a while.

Good advice so far, keep em coming.
Payne
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I make my home B-Day show as bulletproof as possible. No Sound System, No Backdrop, no secondary table. It's just a valise and a chair with a clip on table. Everything comes out of the valise, gets performed and then goes right back in. The show takes 5 seconds to set up and 5 seconds to break down and only one trip to and from the car. It can be performed in the smallest of rooms to the largest of back yards.
I used to do a big show with big props and fancy tables but I got tired of hauling all that crap around so eventually I pitched all of it in favour for the single case show I've got today.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
kimmo
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I do after school parties all the time (I have one tonight) and they are usually great. We all have bad shows from time to time so don't worry about it.

It just sounds like your show is not ideally suited to this venue - add to that the fact that you had a difficult crowd and pushy parents and it's a recipe for disaster. Like Payne, I keep things simple for house parties - one small trunk, no sound system and virtually no set-up time.

If you intend doing many more of this kind of show, you might want to consider simplifying your set up.

Hope your i-phone is ok!!
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Potty the Pirate
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Your main problem was too many kids. I do lots of after school parties, like Kimmo, and I never have a problem. BUT, when a client intends to hold the party at home, regardless of whether it's a weekday or weekend, I always recommend a maximum of 15 kids. My line is something like: "Even if you live in a mansion, many more kids than this can seem overwhelming. Remember, it's your home, not a playground. More than 20 kids at home is nearly always a bad plan. I recommend you hire a hall if you want to invite so many children."
I've done parties at huge houses, and they've insisted they have space for 30 kids. But in reality, 30 kids in a huge house, just want to run around all over the house. Fine, if the host is happy for you to do just that, the kids can and will have a ball. You can play "stations", "Pirate Ship", and all kinds of interactive games where the kids get to run amok. But if they want all the kids to sit attentively in one room for the whole party, 30 kids at home is asking for trouble.
The other issues you raised, parents blocking the exit, etc, happen regularly, and there's not much you can do about it. I don't see the question of weekdays or weekends is relevant. Mostly, the only real change I make during the week is to have the tea a bit sooner, as the kids are always hungry after getting back from school.
AshleyW
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Well, I do have to say (1)
And next time try following (12).
If you would consider moving, then you could (71)
But don't take my word for it, wait for Kyle's 76
And finally, (9)



http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/uploa......d_v2.pdf
magicgeorge
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I do notice the difference on school nights. Especially on Fridays when they have been in school all week and are on the verge of detonation. You just need to be aware they'll be a little more lively. A lot of people I know actively sell school nights as weekends will fill up anyhow.

As Payne and Kimmo pointed out the more stuff you rely on the more stuff can go wrong. After all (2). I've ordered a new microphone system because mine has been flucking up recently. On the occasions it has started playing up I take it off at the first sign of trouble and forget about it. Reoccuring technical difficulties look a lot worse than one.

Have some back up routines and do a check before you start. I wouldn't leave the room after I started the show. Even if my favourite prop was missing I'd still do something else.

Sounds like space was going to be an issue whatever you did but children don't usually fill a space very efficiently. A bit of organisation and gap filling before you start will often give you a bit more room.

Balloons are often an issue (29) there are some good solutions. I personally sell balloon twisting as something that can happen during the meal. In the summer, I sometimes do the show inside and the balloons in the garden. I sympathise with your point about pre-made balloons you get a lot more money for your time when you do the balloons there rather than premaking them,too.

When a kid starts playing with my table or edging towards my amp, pointing out the dangers (flat/frazzled kid) will often make the parents take a bit more notice.

Don't worry too much about it, everyone has hard or below par shows (and if they tell you otherwise they're probably lieing or as Tony would say "can't see past the floats"). You came out alive and got paid. Learn what you can from it and move on.

All the best,

george
alexa
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I agree with a lot that has been said here. I know with pushy, stickler parents booking it can be hard to get all of the information you need but in the future that's where I would try to solve many of the problems--I always get there before the party starts and tell them to start the first entertainment half an hour from the invite time. This way you can set up before the kids are there and once they are you can start. Also, if kids are late you still start on time.

Good luck with your I-Phone.

Alexa
Stevethomas
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Toomuchmagic,

If you have the cojones to take any BOSE product into a situation with kids, you're a very brave person. I could just see that thing having some kid set a glass of drink on it, and another kid run into it. WOW!

Steve
alexa
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I agree with a lot that has been said here. I know with pushy, stickler parents booking it can be hard to get all of the information you need but in the future that's where I would try to solve many of the problems--I always get there before the party starts and tell them to start the first entertainment half an hour from the invite time. This way you can set up before the kids are there and once they are you can start. Also, if kids are late you still start on time.

Good luck with your I-Phone.

Alexa
rossmacrae
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I can handle out-of-line kids a lot better than I can handle out-of-line parents. Some of my biggest nightmares started that way.

Everything I wanted to offer as a suggestion boils down to this:

(1) my show is a lot more portable, no setup at all, and that has helped in many such situations

(2) seems like you know this show started going wrong waaaaaay back in the 'initial phone call' stage - gotta really nail down those details (and impress your client with the serious need to do so) right from the start.

(3) sometimes you just have to say your lines, take your check and go home.
toomuchmagic
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Quote:
On 2008-01-10 09:11, AshleyW wrote:
Well, I do have to say (1)
And next time try following (12).
If you would consider moving, then you could (71)
But don't take my word for it, wait for Kyle's 76
And finally, (9)



http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/uploa......d_v2.pdf


you people are really doing this. Shame on me, I actually went and looked up what these are, and they still made no sense
MagicSanta
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I said it before and I'll say it again. The worse mother I ever dealt with on the phone, to the point where I almost cancelled because I was tired of answering her questions and accusations, turned out to be a lovely and delightful woman face to face.
ku7uk3
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A few hints. Any client who asks for references, I tell them to look at the website. I never, ever give them somebody else's number. A past client doesn't like being bothered and the person asking for the number will only create problems wit them. (Badgering them with questions).
You know from this situation that people who want references are more trouble than there worth, not only that but they damage the chances of you getting repeat bookings from those people you gave out personal contact details for.

If they want reference, make some up and put them on a website, pretending they came from a client. But don't hand out other peoples details and if you have enough work, then these are the client that I usually turn down.
You know that you'll never make them happy, no matter how good you are.


Get a portable waist PA. Its a speaker system that you wear around your waist and is battery powered. Very useful for these engagements.


If you ever need to get rid of the kids, or parents. Ask the children if any of them need the toilet. Half will always put up their hands. You can then get rid of half the kids, and the parents who usually end up escorting them. Leaving you with fewer kids and less disruptive children / adults for the show!
And there is nothing the parents can do, since they can't blame you for children needing the restroom!
Its not something I do often, but when there is a major problem, its my secret weapon.

For a child tugging at your equipment. Tell them that you have hidden a twenty-seven pound note somewhere in the room. If they can find, it they can keep it.
This note doesn't exist! - But that kid will spend the next half-hour searching the room for the money! If a parent asks what he is doing, and he says I'm looking for a £27 note, they laugh, because that value of note doesn't exist. So I get brownie points there. It gets rid of the annoying kids.
I do this one often; especially when I need to set-up, and have to get rid of the children for five minutes. They all go off searching!

Steve

P.S: Never start early. If you agreed on a start time, then that is when it will happen. You might have to be strict on this, but starting early only leads to problems at the end of the party, as the parent still expects you to perform up to the specified finishing time.
It also has many other problems, and they can all be easily avoided by agreeing to the times that the CLIENT originally asked for.
John C
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Welcome! You've made it!

John
The ULTIMATE Routine Series: rebirth soon!
KC Cameron
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It sounds pretty funny (as long as it wasn’t me). I get a party like this occasionally, but not often. If you sense the parent is a pain on the phone, it is almost a guarantee they will be so in person. Unless You are in desperate need of cash, do what I do. I say, "Hey their is this magician called Skip, and he will be able to help you. His number is . . . ." *L* --Nah, I wouldn't do that to ya Skip!

Seriously, 4 trips to the car? I think that is great, but have a minimalist show too in case you need the room/time. You also might want to buy some toy traffic cones to create a barrier. They don't work for the worst situations, but for many they will be fine. I NEVER give out previous clients phone numbers unless the party is going to be at least $900. Then I as the clients right before if it is ok. The client may be enthusiastic at first, but as their phone keeps ringing, their enthusiasm will generally start waning. they may not invite you back to avoid referral calls. This is why I have video referrals. I get them right after the show, so they are still flush with excitement.
alexa
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These are really great points about the enthusiasm waning. How do you do video referrals? Parties are usually pretty busy for the clients.

Thanks,
Alexa
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