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TonyB2009
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On Dec 1, 2015, Terrible Wizard wrote:
Tony: I'm not sure I have the stature to be able to threaten other blokes with violence and get away with it! Smile. I think I'll have to look into alternative methods of maintaining control. Wasn't that threat illegal,too?

I am nearly fifty years old so I don't have the stature to get away with it either! But being on a stage gives you a position of power. And in Ireland this wouldn't really be regarded as illegal anyway.

In twenty years I have only had to react like that once at a kids party, and perhaps three times at an adult party. I first came across it when a very famous hypnotist, whom I won't name but whom I admire greatly, was being heckled right from the start by two drunken young men. His show was in danger of being destroyed. Hypnosis cannot happen in a hostile environment, and I thought he had lost control. But the hypnotist suddenly walked to the front of the stage and looked at the two drunks right in the eye. He said: If you two don't shut up immediately I am going to come down from this stage and flatten you both and then personally throw you out of the theatre. Everyone here paid good money to see a show, not to watch two drunken morons spoil our night.

I was stunned, and thought he had lost it entirely. Then I realised the audience was completely with him, and he had suddenly turned the situation. The rest of the show went perfectly. He had reminded people who was in charge in the room. It is not an approach I would advocate (obviously) but it is not something I would shy away from either.

Taking control immediately is the key, however you do it. And there are many ways, some less confrontational. Generally I go for the less confrontational.

Mary, you are not getting a pass on bad behaviour because you are a woman. You are getting a pass because you have the experience and talent to retain control. And they see that. Bad behaviour from the audience is not down to the performer, but bad behaviour persisting more than a minute is.
Terrible Wizard
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Mary - thanks for the clear and detailed reply Smile

A - I've very glad to hear this. The initial report kinda spooked me, to be honest - reminding me of many of the troubled kids I've known though my own schooling (in some fairly rough places) to my professional life (sometimes teaching in rough places).

B - Makes sense.

C - Cool Smile

D - I was thinking a bit more than just bad language, but fine.

E - fine. Though I again find that pretty surprising thinking back to certain experiences I've had in rough neighbourhoods - there's horrifying stats regarding school teachers and their experiences. Assault seems pretty routine in some places.


Tony:
Yes, I totally agree about taking control - as an educator I know first hand what happens when you don't! Smile But the methods open to a performer seem fairly limited (especially with children), and I know of many kids who simply would have found such a challenge funny to watch (They're the kind of kids who love to watch you fight a drunk then put it up on ytube).

How would you respond to my alphabetised queries?
RealityOne
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A) Is it a 'normal' or regular occurrence to find child audiences very badly behaved, foul mouthed, violent and keen on disruption?

It isn't normal for kids to exhibit that kind of behavior. It is normal for kids to react to performances in a variety of ways that challenge the performer.

b) If someone reports that they faced such an audience, is it fair to assume that it was the entertainer's fault?

Kids only do what gets them attention and what they think they can get away with. Kids typically only act out when they are bored. So a performer should have a show that engages kids on a variety of levels that are appropriate to their age. Performers should act in a way that encourages good behavior (asking the children sittling quietly to help them) and discourages bad behavior (not giving kids the power to disrupt their show). Good performers maintian control over their show and audience. There is a great section in Ken Weber's Maximum Entertainment on this with great tips (that is probably the best book on magic performance out there). If you are a good entertainer and a strong performer, those types of reactions will be few and far between.


c) If a performer faces an audience where the kids are pretty much out of control, acting in an abusive fashion and seemingly unresponsive to all normal methods of control and interaction, what should the entertainer do? Is walking out the best option, and should they waive their fee in such a case?

Generally, a strong entertainer should have the ability to control their audience without breaking the rhythm of the show. Occasionally, a performer has to break character to handle a significant disruption. But you have to do it in a way that has the audience on your side because peer pressure is the best way of controling misbehaving kids or adults. Tony's example is perfect -- the hypnotist turned the audience against the hecklers. That being said, know the difference between a heckler (who's goal it is to ruin you show) and an overenthusastic audience member who just doesn't know the right way to act (the kid yelling out "I know how you did that" -- which, in my opinion is a result of too many magicians playing "I'm Going to Fool You" game). The overenthusastic audience member need to be redirected nicely so you retain their enthusiasm.

d) I have personally encountered a number of children, including pre-adolescent and primary school age children, who I can easily believe would be 'uncontrollable' by an entertainer. Is extreme juvenile delinquency in pre-adolescents something others recognise also?

I can't say that I've seen the extreme, the worst I"ve seen is significant pains in the buttocks.

e) It seems, in my experience and in common sense, that such kids, such parents, and such audiences are more likely to be found in certain areas and amongst certain demographics than in others. I can imagine that someone working a lot in such an area would often face 'uncontrollable' children. Do performers here deliberately avoid certain areas/groups given this factor?

You would be surprised. Misbehaved kids magically appear across socio-economic and racial lines.
~David

Any perception of reality is a selection of reality which results in a distortion of reality.
TonyB2009
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A) Not normal at all, in fact it is very rare to find truly disruptive kids.

b) If the show goes south, yes it is fair to blame the performer.

c) You have a number of options to regain control, if you react immediately. You can come out of character and tell the kid to cop on. You can get the other kids to put pressure on the troublemaker (he's ruining George's party sort of approach). You can ask an adult to supervise the child, or even remove him for a while. You can stop the show and restart it once you have recruited reinforcements. Personally I have never abandoned a show. I came close once, when the father wanted me to perform in the snug of a pub, while a rock band were playing in the main room. I said the band take an hour long break, or you pay me now and I go home. The band took the break. If it is not my fault I will insist on full fee.

d) The only kids I have seen who could be possible born troublemakers are those who have learning difficulties. They sometimes don't react in ways you can predict. But you realize it is not personal, not evil, and you find ways of working it.

e) In general all demographics are fine. There is one possible exception. The kids of very wealthy people can sometimes be privileged ***s. Kids from disadvantaged communities are generally a pure pleasure to deal with.
Terrible Wizard
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Reality one:

When you say it isn't normal for kids to engage in that behaviour, what are you basing that upon? Again, in my experience, there are certain kids who regularly cause trouble.

Also, I think the comment regarding 'what they can get away with' is part of the issue. In some cases they could easily get away with wrecking a show and stealing your car.

Do you think that your lack of encounters with the 'extreme' (a rather large minority in some areas) has coloured your perceptions? No doubt my experiences have coloured mine.


Tony:
Learning difficulties covers such a range of behaviours it's difficult to distinguish between a LD and just naughtiness sometimes. Most of the kids I'm thinking about here no doubt have as huge range of EBDs, but I that just means doing a show for them would be like the poor guy in the OP said.

I agree that many rich kids can be horrid in their own way - I've certainly encountered that enough too - but your experience of disadvantaged communities runs counter to my general experience (assuming we're talking about the same sorts of areas). The statistics for school violence, weapons, drug use, sex, arson, vandalism, high and low level disruption are quite something. If a performer was faced with an audience of these sorts of children then I really would find it hard to blame the entertainer for a show goung south. It reminds me of blaming the teacher when they are faced with some monsters us behaviour. Sure, a bad teacher is always gonna get it, but even good teachers reach their limits quite quickly with some kids. I wouldn't feel right blaming the teacher for the atrocious behaviour of some very naughty children, nor would I feel right assuming the blame lies with the entertainer if they are working in certain areas. I'm sure you know the kind of communities and children I'm on about here. Not just rambunctious ordinary kids, but the ones who by the age of seven are already high as kites, carry weapons, trash their areas, steal regularly etc etc. I think you know that these children exist, and in surprising numbers in some areas (in my experience).
TonyB2009
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TW, I have performed in very disadvantaged areas, estates where no one has worked in a generation, drug use and violence are regular occurrences, the kid doesn't know his or her father, etc. Never a problem.

As for learning difficulties, you always know whether the problem is a learning difficulty or naughtiness, because if a kid is just acting up he will stop when you take control. I firmly believe it is all down to the performer in 99% of cases at the very least.
Terrible Wizard
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Fair enough Tony, I certainly don't have any performing experience to draw on. But I'm glad that at least you've moved from total certainty to allowing less than a percentage chance of doubt regarding it being the performers fault Smile

This is quite a sad topic, though, whichever way one tackles it. I'm not sure it's doing much to promote a happy vibe, and for that I apologise.

Given the fact that most kids in most areas are just fine I doubt this is ever much of an issue, but the quote scared me - and I was reminded of all the 'horror stories' I'd encountered in my life as an educator, and my own past. I was also reminded of all those poor teachers I'd seen go down in flames, and I really don't think it was all their fault.

I think we'll have to agree to disagree for a bit here on this issue, at least until I've got more to go on. I think I'll try and keep away from the areas where my car is likely to get trashed at the start of my kids entertainer career, and maybe only tackle the shows where less than half the audience has knives until I have more experience Smile
TonyB2009
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TW, I would agree to start with perform where you are comfortable. With experience any audience will become easy. Just bear this in mind; in a disadvantaged area they get less, and so are grateful for what they do get. So they are often a charming, interested, enthusiastic audience. My ex performed on a gypsy site, where everyone lived rough in caravans, and she had a wonderful experience.

The other thing I would say is, don't worry. You will rarely encounter problems, and will soon learn to overcome them. My first half a dozen performances featured some turkeys, but my last several hundred didn't. So soldier on in the certain knowledge that you will swiftly get good, and audiences will enjoy you.
Terrible Wizard
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That's cool advice - and good to hear! Smile
Dick Oslund
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I specialized in performing in schools for about 50 years. Primary schools (K-3) Elementaries (K-6) Elementary/Jr. Highs (K-8) Junior Highs (K-8 & (K-9) Senior Highs (9-12) & (10-12) AND, in RURAL AREAS, K - 12). In some areas, kids came to school without shoes! In other schools, the kids were dressed in high fashion! All black youngsters, all Indian youngsters, all Hispanic youngsters, all deaf youngsters, all physically challenged & and all mentally challenged youngsters, were often my audiences I played institutions for the criminally insane, all boy, and all girl reformatories, hospitals for all ages with mental illnesses and prisons for teenagers who hadn't stolen hub caps--they had, for example, murdered their mothers.

I wrote up a number of anecdotes in my book that describe absolutely horrendous situations. And, I wrote an equal number of stories about audiences that were so wonderful that I didn't want the show to end.

It was a great life!
SNEAKY, UNDERHANDED, DEVIOUS,& SURREPTITIOUS ITINERANT MOUNTEBANK
Terrible Wizard
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Cool, dick Smile
lynnef
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Adding to RealityOne's comments from Food for Thought forum, I'd have to say that children's audiences vary widely; and not just in the past 50 years but in what demographic they may be part of, etc. I've done a few shows for classrooms; and the children MUST behave with the teacher right there. And I've learned over time that engagement with the children is VERY important. You can't just give them a show...they need to be in it. I can understand difficulties with children's parties; definitely if the adults are drinking in the other room. But I've copied the style of a local magician who engages BOTH the adults and children in the performance; and this works much better than being a babysitter.
My sympathies to Funsway's friend; but I have a great anecdote... my wife is a retired Kindergarten teacher. Once I was doing a birthday party for a friend's kid; and all the kids started acting up, threatening to put everything in a shambles. Somehow, I don't know how, but she got them to do things together like "yell when I raise my hand, quiet when I lower it.." Everything calmed down! Now that's magic! Maybe we could all learn a few things from our Kindergarten teachers. Lynn (also noting Dick Oslunds excellent comments for addressing this topic).
RealityOne
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Quote:
On Dec 1, 2015, Terrible Wizard wrote:
Reality one:

When you say it isn't normal for kids to engage in that behaviour, what are you basing that upon? Again, in my experience, there are certain kids who regularly cause trouble.

Also, I think the comment regarding 'what they can get away with' is part of the issue. In some cases they could easily get away with wrecking a show and stealing your car.

Do you think that your lack of encounters with the 'extreme' (a rather large minority in some areas) has coloured your perceptions? No doubt my experiences have coloured mine.



I guess that all of our observations are based on our experiences. Are there kids that regularly cause trouble? I suspect there are. I just haven't encountered any that cause me to lose control of the situation. Tony recomends a lot of options for dealing with this type of behavior but the common thread is that you are showing that you are in control. The comment about what they can get away with relates to control. If you are in control of your show, there are limits to what the kids can get away with. If they get close to the limits, you assert control in an appropriate manner. All that being said, most of my encounters -- regardless of race or socioeconomic status -- has been without any extremely bad behavior. That seems to be echoed by most of the others in this section of the forum.
~David

Any perception of reality is a selection of reality which results in a distortion of reality.
funsway
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I will join in here at Wizard's request to expand on the original post in another thread. If anything, we see the danger of taking anything out of context.

The purpose of the original post was simply to illustrate that kids today and kids 50 years ago might act different with regard to expectations, courtesy, attention, respect and behavior.
There was no suggestions that all kids misbehave or that a magician cannot handle these vagaries.

I related a story of one magician who has decided not to deal with these issues. For anyone to assume or project anything about his competence as a performer is unwarranted.

By analogy, I no longer drive in the snow. It has nothing to do with my competence as a driver. I do not trust the other guy's ability and don't want o get shot because some jerk slides into a ditch.

I expanded a bit on the other thread ..

He also owned a magic store and had to move. Part of the decision not to re-open was the changing level of respect and behaviors of customers in general.

In recent years he told stories of people coming in with no intention of buying. They just wanted to expose effects for their friends and play with things -- often calling them stupid and junk because they were not electronic.

So, his general desire to perform at all may have been effected -- seeing in every urchin a disrespectful teenager.

I believe his favorite audience was 10-12 year olds, but had also enjoyed the library shows for younger kids -- perhaps because they were better behaved.

I am more concerned over the apparent lack of imagination and sense of awe and wonder in young people today. I ma not surprised they don't appreciate magic. All life is a video game.

I will ask him when I see him again."

....

His comments were made in grocery store in front of his wife and a son deciding if he wants to pursue magic professionally or not. His phrasing of the events may have been for impact on them and not for me at all.
At the time there were some kids misbehaving in the store (even with parents present). On previous occasion we had discussed "de-evolution of culture" issues.

Thus, his decision to stop performing kids shows is based on this experience (true) -- but hardly the only reason for this decision. He also has grandchildren to homeschool.

Yes, I sympathize. I rarely perform magic at all anymore for adults either. Their behavior and love of violence doesn't appeal to me.
My choice -- it has nothing to do with my abilities as a performer. Of course, I never perform for pay either.

If I wanted to make a living with magic I would learn balloon tying.

I am happy to share some personal experience with performing for kids if desired -- but long ago and far away. Maybe not relevant to today's audience.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst

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Terrible Wizard
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Thank you so much for adding further information here funsway, I think it really puts the quote in context and helps me understand. thank you. Smile
Russo
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Just to clearify(sp) the 'tell the one giving trouble to LEAVE - I did- the show was a recommended one and hadf SEVERAL programs from that one - the sponsor warned me there may be a few troublesome there and to handel it as I may- of course that was in the 70's and Sponsores werent afraidof the audience and as was I -NOT AFRAID.I never had a problem with audience disaplin(sp?)entertaining from 1947 through present.
Russo
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P.S. my conscience reminded me that though the Sponsors said they were happy how I handeled it(?) - later I got a Letter from them condeming me for it- the MOTHER of the Child, complained to them - SHE was A VOTER _ and the Sponsors were CITY COMUSSIONERS. Oh well, a couple incidences in 60+ yearts of Performng isn't tooo bad. Ralph(russo)Rousseau
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On Dec 1, 2015, Terrible Wizard wrote:
Not yet, no I haven't. But just to clarify, this discussion isn't really about methods for audience/kid control. To make it more transparent what I querying here:

a) Is it a 'normal' or regular occurrence to find child audiences very badly behaved, foul mouthed, violent and keen on disruption?
No, but different type of clients, venues may increase or decrease the chances of having such disruptions. I find school assemblies the easiest audiences to deal with because of all the teachers and often the principal in attendance and students behave, on the whole, better than say a birthday party where if no adults are actively engaged then it can be a free-for-all you walk into. Library shows have the capacity for little ones to want to stand up, walk toward the table, etc. But the type of bad behavior you mention I have not encountered very often. Once was a boy scout event where the leadership was so lacking the boys were literally running around unsupervised and a couple were handful. The other was at a very ritzy country club. I have a solid show and I've been performing for 30 years and have seen it all and done it all and consider myself quite adept at capturing and holding an audience's attention but two factors have become clear in my experience. A few of these particular kids were hard to work with and I'm not sure why. Maybe they're so use to getting their way (Affluenza) or not having someone tell them no. I've also noticed another difference when it comes to parents and cultures. Some parents of certain cultures simply allow, and this is a great generalization, their male children to stand up and even approach the performer, in some cases volunteer themselves without being asked, etc. This is NOT the same things as misbehaving. I find it no problem to redirect the child when the parent won't. I just figure that if I'm seeing the same sort of scenario it's less about me and more about a certain parenting style.

b) If someone reports that they faced such an audience, is it fair to assume that it was the entertainer's fault?
No, it's not always the entertainer's fault, in my opinion. Going back to the case I mentioned above with the scout show that went downhill fast. It all came down to one particular boy who was quite obviously an emotional wreck and was expressing it in a very inappropriate way. When his father approached him later I saw a look of fear in the kids eyes. The truth is we may never know what's going on in that family. But our responsiblity is to do all we can to keep the show on track. Another case was a boy at a birthday party who was quite disruptive and I later learned he had some special needs issues and the host knew he might be disruptive but didn't want to leave him out of the fun. All of that being said, if you don't have what it takes to be a good performer, if you haven't put in the hours, if you're doing the wrong material for the wrong ages, they can eat you alive.

c) If a performer faces an audience where the kids are pretty much out of control, acting in an abusive fashion and seemingly unresponsive to all normal methods of control and interaction, what should the entertainer do? Is walking out the best option, and should they waive their fee in such a case?
I've never had to actually end a show early. If there is a problem I first try to address is gently with humor. If that fails I then call on an adult responsible for the setting up the show to aid in the situation. There have been a time or two when I got to the three warnings stage and had a child go and sit at the back with a parent. If they behaved I then brought that same child back up near the end to assist me in a trick, publicly praising them for being so good. I should mention that I also outline the type of behaviour I look for in the kids I chose as volunteers, set expectations, etc as part of the very beginning of the performance. I don't waive fees. It's written right into my contract. I've done the prep, I've driven to the venue, set up and done the show, will have to break the show down and drive home again...I'm getting paid! Sometimes we just have to put our game-face on a the show must go on.

d) I have personally encountered a number of children, including pre-adolescent and primary school age children, who I can easily believe would be 'uncontrollable' by an entertainer. Is extreme juvenile delinquency in pre-adolescents something others recognise also?

Not as a given. I see some but not very often. Maybe it's as others have mentioned and attention spans are shrinking and it's harder to hold their attentions. That's why I don't do things they've seen before, that's why I don't talk down to them...I want to capture their attention and give them something worthy of their attention.

e) It seems, in my experience and in common sense, that such kids, such parents, and such audiences are more likely to be found in certain areas and amongst certain demographics than in others. I can imagine that someone working a lot in such an area would often face 'uncontrollable' children. Do performers here deliberately avoid certain areas/groups given this factor?


I've stated an example of this above. I've also started using an email template for those who write asking about cub/boy scout events. I ask right up front if it will be attended by whole families and moms and dads or just the scouts. I find that if the mom's are there the events are more controlled.
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