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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » New to magic? » » Shifting gears during a performance? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Ed_Millis
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Yuma, AZ
2286 Posts

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I'm thinking through the planning stages of putting a show together. It will be designed for parlor / small stage whole family entertainment.

Given the dynamics in my town, I'm expecting an audience to consist of parents and smaller children wanting to see magic, and some older (teens) kids either drug along for a family outing or wanting to see Criss Angel! The character on-stage, though, will disappoint the teens, I'm afraid - he's going to be more like Jerry Lewis or Lucille Ball than a MindFreak!

There's no way I could pull off an Angel or Blaine style personna or presentation. But I could probably do some stuff that would pop a few fuses in the older kids.

But will it work to begin as one personna, and then at some point make a complete shift in character? I had thought about doing my opening, then stepping forward out of the performance area to welcome the crowd. At that point, if I have a number of teens, I could adress them directly and explain that I will perform some stuff directed more at the younger kids first, but if they can hang on for just a little bit, I do have some performance bits just for them.

Of course, since I'm also playing to the parents, the first part won't be just an hour of Hippity-Hop Rabbits and Coloring Books - there should be plenty of opportunities for them to be amazed.

Is the character shift a bad idea, though? I'm not aiming to be the coolest overweight middle-aged magician a teen has ever seen - I just want them to go home and feel they've enjoyed themselves.

Ed
Father Photius
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El Paso, TX (Formerly Amarillo)
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Without some kind of physical break it is probably not a good idea. I used to do a light comedy show, and I did a drunk magician, and a groucho type character for a couple of the routines, but never together, and there always was a physical break in the show before those characters (i.e. I either performed in sets with a second magician, and those were used as closers without me having come on during that set until the closer, or we were doing MC type stuff when we came out between acts of other kinds, thus a physical break, or some kind of intermission)
You really don't need CA or Blaine to entertain teens, Jerry Lewis and Lucy entertained teens for decades and still do. Such an abrupt character change would be too dramatic. I mean can you see going from a wild "oh dean, oh dean" jerry to the somewhat grumpy, somber blaine type character. Way too opposite. And unless you in your 40's and like to try to pass for 20 something, CA ain't gonna work, it really doesn't work for him.
"Now here's the man with the 25 cent hands, that two bit magician..."
Brad Burt
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Ed:

You can shift to a different character, but it's got to be clear that that is in fact what is happening. You need to introduce the character as you are making the transition. For instance, "And, now I would like to introduce Harry the Miser (or whatever) who will do...." As, you finish you crouch, spin around and come up with a different hat, glasses, etc. You need to change voice in some manner. Talk slower, faster, odd cadence, etc.

As long as the shifts don't puzzle your audience...that's what the magic is supposed to be doing, you are fine. Remember, though that you have to 'stay' in that character until you done with it.

To see how this might work watch Jeff Dunham(?) the vent. If you haven't seen him got rent his DVD. Consider that he's doing exactly what you are talking about! Shifting between characters even though at one-remove from himself.

Note that your voice need not change the much, but the change that you go into must be distinctive in some way and you must be able to maintain it as noted above.

Hope that helps! All best,
Brad Burt
Hoppini, the Mediocre
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Re: a character shift during a performance.

Brad's got it right. The audience will accept a shift [u]as long as it can be clearly explained.[/u] This applies right across the board for any manner of entertainment. Ventrioquists do it by switching figures, Red Skelton did it by changing hats, and I even had a neat way to switch between being a mute clown and a talking one. It can be done...but you have to justify it, and be good enough to pull it off. Just switching characters in the middle of a show with no reason will turn everyone off...they'll keep waiting for you to explain it.

I'll give you a tip regarding teens: Be fun, but be yourself. Don't try to be cool unless you really are. Teens have pretty advanced BS detectors, and would resent you "trying" to be something you aren't in order to reach them. I had my best luck as a clown with teens when I'd drop halfway out of character and play it sort of straight with them. If I was at a birthday party for little kids, I'd do my little kid show, hand out some balloons, and if there were teens I'd go over to them later and say "I got something that usually goes over the heads of the little guys. I don't usually do it at birthdays, but its cool...wanna see it?"

One more thought: Teens like funny. If you can pull off a Lucille Ball or a Jerry Lewis character that's actually funny, they'll probably like it...IF you can do it. One thing I've noticed in my years of teaching clowning is that people tend to grossly underestimate the amount of talent it takes to do that kind of character. And watching someone that doesn't have it is extremely painful to watch. If you are going to do something like that, make sure you take the character as seriously as you take the magic. In fact, if you're doing a character piece, I'd go so far as to say the character is probably more important than the magic. So unless you're an experienced character actor, tread carefully.
marty.sasaki
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Here is my two cents. I would avoid doing anything that even hints of Criss Angel or David Blaine. Doing this will cause you to be compared to these too and you are unlikely to be able to measure up. Remember that both of these guys have a team of folks helping them and they have the freedom to do multiple performances to pick the right one to air, you won't have that chance.

Do your own thing and if you do an effect that someone else has done give it your own twist to help avoid comparison.

Of course if you have a killer presentation of something and feel confident that you can impress the "too cool" teenage audience, then go for it.
Marty Sasaki
Arlington, Massachusetts, USA

Standard disclaimer: I'm just a hobbyist who enjoys occasionally mystifying friends and family, so my opinions should be viewed with this in mind.
abc
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South African in Taiwan
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I think there has been great answer so far. Would just like to state my opnion. I teach as many know and some of my students are high school students.
It is a myth that all high school students like CA. It is absolutely not true. There are many things that teens find amazing or interesting. These are the classes where I am most frequently asked to do a trick or two at the end of class. The students are even willing to stay after class if they can see magic. I am almost the exact opposite of CA. People (including teens) like to laugh so do something humorous without insulting there intelligence.
They are easily amazed. I did a memory effect and they have been bugging me ever since to teach them so they can memorize work at school better. I do teach a little memory course but it has nothing to do with the effect.
I agree with the above opinions so please do not fall vicitm to thinking CA is the coolest guy for teens. You will lose half of them.
Ed_Millis
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Yuma, AZ
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Thanks to all who responded. Having been through four tens of my own, I have come to understand how much I don't understand about teens!!

My character will probably not have the polish and charm of Lewis or Ball, but that's the humor I grew up with and love. Goofy, visual, off the wall, unanticipated. Basically, that's me. (My son told me once "T can find you in any crowd - I just look for the people who _aren't_ laughing!" That's just because he's heard all these a million times!)

Hoppini - I like the line of "It usually goes over the heads of the little guys." In a nutshell, you've told them you respect their higher level of understanding and won't ignore them, but you have a performance set that has to include things for the littler ones. That's exactly what I would want to convey.

Blaine and Angel were just two convenient names to use, especially since they seem to be trying to "capture cool" in who they are. A middle-aged man with the physique and charm of a pear is not gonna compete! But the goofball who plays to small children and parents - two of a teen's greatest enemies!! - may not go over well, either.

A definite shift is what I was aiming for - a clear-cut difference between the first guy who plays with kids and the second guy who caters to teens.

Ed
Sk8erBoi9305
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I would suggest have a different hat for each character, or a different tie. but if you have 5, 6, 7 characters make sure they're all VERY different
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