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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Penny for your thoughts » » Mentalism in a Theater Setting (17 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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ryanshaw9572
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I am a mentalist in Boston interested in performing a show in a theater setting. I currently perform shows around the city in various venues, refining my act and finding my character. Based on what I’ve experienced, performing on a stage for people who come from all walks of life seems most appealing to me, rather than at a birthday party where everyone knows one another, a corporate event where people will be working together all year long, etc. I would enjoy performing at a place where anyone can buy a ticket to come see the show. Are there any mentalists out there who have performed in a theatrical setting who may have advice about resources and methods of finding a place who is willing to host the performance(s)?

Thanks in advance!

Ryan Shaw
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Wait for Mindpro...he may answer...
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Mark Timon
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Just think for a moment. If Banachek , Osterlind , Cassidy, for name a few, have never had their own show in a theater despite their showmanship, Even Max Maven has only had a few appearances in a small theater in N.Y. That should tell you the difficulty of the task. Concentrate your efforts in restaurants, small places before even trying to do corporate events. You are still very young!
Bill Cushman
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Saw Millard Longman and Gary Goodman do this several years ago for two shows in Fort Lauderdale
Stunninger
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Marc Salem has done multi-week theater runs in NYC and Chicago. In his book Discover the Secrets of Mind Games, he explains how he promoted his shows through appearances on local radio and TV stations.
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WitchDocChris
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There are some mentalists in Vegas. Gerry McCambridge, for example. Luke Jermay had a show in Vegas for a couple years I think.

There aren't many mentalists that have a stationary stage show, but there actually aren't that many magicians that do either (percentage wise).

Check out the book Evergreen by Steve Cohen. It's one of the "Astonishing Essays" through Vanishing Inc. It's one of the only resources I've seen by and for someone looking to create a stationary show and build it into a steady gig.

I have no idea who you are, how experienced you are, what kind of business sense you have, etc. so it's nigh impossible to give any decent advice, honestly. There's no universal solutions and the gurus will all just try to sell you on their systems.

Two things I know for sure -
1) Word of mouth is the best advertising out there. More so now than ever before, I believe. The younger generation doesn't trust or even really pay attention to traditional advertising that much. Consistently delivering a good (and interesting) show is vital to building your reputation so that the locals talk about you, and find ways to encourage them to talk about it.

2) You need to figure out how your target market gets information about what they want to do in their spare time. Do they check Facebook events? Is there a city events calendar online that people use? Is it a little booklet that gets printed once a month and handed out to local businesses? Is there a city-based forum that people chat about upcoming events on? Figure that out so you can target the proper market.
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Go slowly, and offer an unique theatrical experience.

I do theatre shows and they are a lot of fun. True art and Mystery can be experienced in there, not just commercial tricks for the sake of the entertainment of a group of people, which is a fine goal without a doubt.

Before starting, observe your personal goals and desire in doing this. As a recommendation, always strive for short-term goals in which you are 100% responsible. If you rely too much in the external factors, you will be frustrated and disappointed. Show business is a path only for those with discipline and love for the art.

Offer a clear and concise act that people can understand as an authentic offering. People know "magicians" and even "mentalists", but you need to be special, and you are already are, so you need to find the way to communicate your "specialness".
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WitchDocChris
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In the US, "mentalist" doesn't mean much. At least, not in my experience along the Eastern Seaboard. So it's tricky to use that term for advertising purposes as few people have any idea what it means.
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ryanshaw9572
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Thanks for all the great advice everyone! I appreciate it.
Mindpro
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Quote:
On Aug 19, 2019, Mark Timon wrote:
You are still very young!


I received a PM to check out this thread yesterday but I've been waiting to see if the OP would respond with more information about himself as WitchDicChris brought up? That would greatly determine my response and any info I would offer on the topic.

As you can see there is much misinformation and misperceptions about theaters, theater shows, and this market. However, I do think mentalism is at its best when performed in a theater under proper conditions. Tell us more about yourself. I to am guessing you are young and newer to mentalism? Why mentalism?
ryanshaw9572
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Quote:
On Aug 19, 2019, Mindpro wrote:

I received a PM to check out this thread yesterday but I've been waiting to see if the OP would respond with more information about himself as WitchDicChris brought up? That would greatly determine my response and any info I would offer on the topic.

As you can see there is much misinformation and misperceptions about theaters, theater shows, and this market. However, I do think mentalism is at its best when performed in a theater under proper conditions. Tell us more about yourself. I to am guessing you are young and newer to mentalism? Why mentalism?


Hi Mindpro,

I am 19 years old. I got into magic when I was very little (as many magicians do), and two years ago I started taking it seriously. I have been learning magic and mentalism for two years straight, reading anything I can get my hands on, watching lecture after lecture, and buying gimmicks to satisfy my curiosity. I quickly learned that magic and mentalism is not about the gimmicks you buy, but rather what you do as a performer. What is your character, what is your show about, who is your audience, what story are you trying to tell, how does it relate to the audience, etc. I love Derren Brown, not because I think he has the best methods, but rather because I respect his commitment to a certain character, and overarching theme from show to show. Others are Marc Paul, Banachek, Drew Backenstoss, Bob Cassidy, Luke Jermay, etc.

In my attempt to start making money back on all I’ve invested in magic, I decided it was time to start performing for money. I didn’t want to undercut the market too much, but wanted to get a start for myself, so I started at $100/hour. I wrote a full script for my show, rehearsed it multiple times, and got booked for my first stage show. It was for 45 minutes. When I got there, the host told me he wanted me to walk around “David Blaine style”, entertaining small groups at a time. I improvised 45 minutes of stuff, and they ended up loving it. I used the closer from my stage show. The next gig I got was an hour away, and it was in a dorm room. Based on what they told me, I was going to have a stage, but in reality they were just sitting on the floor in a dorm room. I went ahead and did my whole stage show anyways. The third show I did was for a young teenager’s birthday party. They told me I would be inside, and I ended up performing outside. These 3 gigs took place within the last 2 months of college. From them, I learned about the unpredictability of the venue (or the importance of clarification). I also learned to stay true to myself, as I made several script changes. This summer I’ve learned more about mentalism and am ready to scrap that whole act. I’m going back for my sophomore year and am preparing multiple mentalism acts that I will be able to do throughout the year.

I realized that performing mentalism at a variety of venues requires adaptability through extensive preparation and consideration for all possibilities. I’m most upset that in my first three performances, I didn’t tell the audience the story that I wanted to tell them. Now that I’ve learned more about how to control the show to optimize it regardless of the venue and audience, I am also aware that having a theater to perform a show in would be a massive advantage to me in many ways. My vision for my mentalism is that it belongs in a theater, where I can customize things to be exactly the way I want them to be. My mind swirls with ideas related to my show having a home.

I had the opportunity to see Derek DelGaudio’s show in New York. This, paired with theater shows I’ve seen online makes me the most passionate about using a theater as a venue. In my opinion, a theater also invites guests who truly want to see you perform, and make the choice to go, rather than being subject to the host of an event’s decision. Perhaps I could work out a deal with my college to perform on their stage.

The reason I choose mentalism is because my mind more easily relates mentalism effects to larger themes that audiences can relate to. Magic can do the same, but I quite enjoy the implications of the mentalism realm. Also, I will likely continue to perform gigs around the city until I can land something in a theater.

Hope this helps!
Max Maven
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Quote:
On Aug 19, 2019, Mark Timon wrote:
Even Max Maven has only had a few appearances in a small theater in N.Y.


Your information is inaccurate. My full evening theater show has been presented in eight different countries, in theaters of varied sizes. Some years back, I did a three-week Off-Broadway run in New York, around two dozen performances.
ryanshaw9572
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Quote:
On Aug 21, 2019, Max Maven wrote:
Quote:
On Aug 19, 2019, Mark Timon wrote:
Even Max Maven has only had a few appearances in a small theater in N.Y.


Your information is inaccurate. My full evening theater show has been presented in eight different countries, in theaters of varied sizes. Some years back, I did a three-week Off-Broadway run in New York, around two dozen performances.


Thank for the clarification! If you have any advice, let me know. Are you originally from Boston yourself?
Slim King
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Quote:
On Aug 21, 2019, Max Maven wrote:
Quote:
On Aug 19, 2019, Mark Timon wrote:
Even Max Maven has only had a few appearances in a small theater in N.Y.


Your information is inaccurate. My full evening theater show has been presented in eight different countries, in theaters of varied sizes. Some years back, I did a three-week Off-Broadway run in New York, around two dozen performances.

I think Max could easily have a Theatre show here in Orlando!
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Philemon Vanderbeck
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Quote:
On Aug 19, 2019, ryanshaw9572 wrote:
Are there any mentalists out there who have performed in a theatrical setting who may have advice about resources . . .


First, find yourself an experienced (and talented) director.
Second, listen to them.
Third, be prepared to spend a lot of money advertising your show in order to fill the house. Nearly half of your overall budget should be spent on promotion.
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Mindpro
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Theater shows don't just happen like other bookings, which is why I asked the OP about his level of experience. It was great to see Max chime in here to set the record straight as there has been much misinformation offered here.

Unlike bookings for most magicians and mentalists that work banquets, company events, private events, kids parties and so on, theaters typically do not work this way. In reality, this is more of a business question better suited for the Tricky Business forum here on the Café where this is regularly discussed. The types of bookings most magicians and mentalists perform, especially in the beginning, are consumer market bookings. Theaters are not consumer market bookings but rather professional market venues and bookings. This is a huge difference that most performers do not understand.

With the exception of a few local theater operators that may accept promotional materials or an inquiry by a local performer (the exception to the rule), most theaters do not seek or book entertainment that way. As a professional market venue, they utilize professional market means and resources to do so, and rarely are local level performers able to operate and fulfill on this level. If they do it may only be for an opening act slot, which many theaters have moved away from for a variety of reasons.

Few if any will even consider taking a chance on a local, no name, unestablished performer (no offense to the OP pr anyone else here, simply stating the truth here).

The above comment about Banachek, Max, Osterlind, Cassidy, and others is incorrect. Max and Banacheck do and have done theater shows. As mentioned Marc Salem also does, as does Craig Karges, and Christopher Carter when not on the road doing colleges also has done theater runs. Paul Draper does a handful of theater shows annually as well. The rest named above operate on an entirely different business model than theaters do which is why they don't play theaters (this is the reason for this).

Next, comes the issue of many performers working the professional theater market are doing 2/4 wall shows. This is a completely different business model than most that just accepts bookings, as this is where the performer produces their own event in a theater. They rent or do a co-op with the theater venue and do everything themselves without the help (or with only limited help of the venue) including promotion, production, ticket sales, press and media, sales, - everything. You have to pay for the venue, pay for their staff (and yours), pay for union staff if a union house), pay for the advertising, marketing, and promotion (3 different things), insurance, and everything else that is required to produce an event. Most do not understand this model which again is why I say this is really a business issue more than a performer's booking issue.

I produce dozens to hundreds of these types of events per year and this is always very misunderstood to most performers, especially those not accustomed to professional markets or this business model. There is a reason Osterlind, Cassidy, Docc, and many others have not done this as there are many more facets involved way beyond the show. Often times there are managers, agents, promoters, multiple producers, and more involved. Cities like Las Vegas, Pigeon Forge, Branson, and many other prime or tourist markets operate almost entirely this way. Over 85% of the current shows in these cities operate in some sort of this type of arrangement. And yes, you must front all of this money for this in advance with no guarantee of a return.

I hope this shines a light a bit more on this topic. Between the 2/4 Wall business model and understanding the differences between consumer and professional markets, there is often a great deal of unknown or misunderstood information on this topic. Also, this often helps one to better understand why you will hear some guys say they make $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000 per show while others find themselves only making $400, $800 or $1,500 a show. These differences (above) are many of the reasons why. This is much of what I teach, coach, and train in my entertainment business coaching and consulting after doing this myself for over 35 years.

Also, for the record, I still maintain, mentalism is meant for and plays the best in a theater setting.
magikcid
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I have that exact opposite experience. Maybe it happens to be an exception to the rule in my area but there are a bunch of small theaters and theatre groups located in my area. Some of them are based off the local colleges and others are small theaters hosting at most 60-100 seats. I have a show with my friend in which he opens with a traditional magic show and I close out the show with my mentalism act. These smaller theaters are mostly labors of love and they host all sort of productions. They usually have their own patrons and then we advertise on our end as well. I don't know where you are situated but I would look for a lot of these small theatre set ups. Try your local colleges and church groups and ask around where these little theaters are located. We would typically do two shows a night. We had great rates for use of the theatre and have made some good contacts between directors and lighting crew. These little gems are perfect ways to build and hone your show. PM me if you want more specifics on price and such.
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Funny you should ask. I just booked a 120 seat theater for a show in November. Have been thinking about it for a while and thought I’d take the plunge. Going to sell tickets at local shops and online as well. Wish me luck.
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I just started doing regular cabaret style mentalism shows on a regular basis here in Phoenix at a local restaurant with an upscale private room that holds 50. It has taken me over 4 years of searching for the right venue and situation to have arrived at this place. I am working it as a partnership with the venue, This means that I am not paying for the room and so far it is coming along nicely. I believe that when a venue has "skin in the game" then the workload can be more shared - although I am doing most of the grunt work, and then they come through on event nights.

I've worked corporate now for many years with mingling and stage and I stay busy - but I needed a sandbox. For me this venture is a sandbox - a place for testing and sharpening, so I am not initially seeking for it to be a massive $ generator. All in good time.

I have a long history in sales, and with this new show I can see that filling those seats is going to be a full time endeavor - and my sales skills/marketing will come in handy.

Right now I create and perform and I will be focusing far more on the performing going forward. So far (about to do our 3rd show this week) it has been fun but a heck of a lot of work. But it is the work I love.
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Martin Pulman
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Quote:
On Aug 22, 2019, Mindpro wrote:

Also, for the record, I still maintain, mentalism is meant for and plays the best in a theater setting.


I couldn't agree more. I would go as far to say that Mentalism performed outside of a structured stage or parlor environment (table hopping, mix and mingle etc) isn't really Mentalism, in my opinion, but rather a magic act featuring mental magic.

Nothing wrong with performing mental magic, but I wish more young performers would aim higher than that. I'm glad to see the young performer in the OP is doing so. And I'm glad to see people like Drew Backenstoss emerging who are dedicating such care and attention to presenting Mentalism as a structured stage experience.
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