Performing

Free Routines for Kid Show Performers – Interview with Christopher T.

While researching new material for my library shows this summer I came across a Magic Cafe post where some guy was posting free video routines for kid show performers. That man is Christopher T. Magician and so far he’s posted seven FREE episodes loaded with amazing content. Once I started watching the videos I knew I had to do an interview with him and share his videos with my readers.

Christopher_T_jersey_kid_gymChristopher T. Magician performs as a children’s magician throughout New York City and New Jersey. A graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, he brings his acting and playwriting knowledge into his magic to create wacky, hilarious, cartoon-like performances. Alongside his passion for magic, he is building a career writing musical theatre as well, performing his Off-Broadway one-man show Just Like Magic at the New York Musical Theatre Festival and currently participating in talks with Broadway producers (real ones, too – not imaginary!) for his horror/slasher musical Most Likely To Die. His love of music influences his magic as well. His USP (as the marketing gurus might say) focuses on his original musical theatre style songs integrated into his routines and the overall throughline of his magic show.

Here’s a video a mother took of Christopher performing his song “Looking Like A Magician Now!” with the cutest little birthday guy…

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Canadian Performers Working in the United States

Previously I’ve written articles like How to Produce a Touring Illusion Show, and How to Perform and Work Internationally. But for Canadian performers the main headache of performing across the border in America is obtaining the correct working Visa.

Your Greatest Resource

The best resource I’ve found is a PDF distributed by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs. “Canadian Performers: How to Enter the United States

Canadian performers

This publication provides the information needed by Canadian performing artists and theatre, dance and musical troupes planning to perform in the United States. It describes the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) visa classifications, procedures and timelines, required materials, and deadlines for submitting applications and includes lists of INS offices, labour unions, immigration tax lawyers and other resources. The guide also provides definitions of U.S. immigration terms and offers a breakdown of some of the costs associated with visa petitions, applications and processing services.

In the booklet it explains exactly how to apply for the various types of Visa’s for Canadian Performers. You can apply yourself or you can do what Murray SawChuck talks about below and hire a lawyer who specializes in working Visa’s to help you with the process.

Never Try to Enter Illegally

Some performers try and cross the border illegally under the guise of a vacation while getting paid for work. Obviously, this is a very very stupid idea. There are very stiff consequences should you be caught.

Once I was attending a magic convention in the states where I was going to enter the stage competition. The border guard was concerned because I was entering the country with equipment that I normally use make a living with. I had to explain multiple times that the equipment was ONLY going to be used to enter in the magic competition and I wasn’t receiving compensation of any kind. That’s when he turned to google to check the convention website to make sure that I wasn’t on the entertainer schedule. In the end I was able to cross without issue because I was being honest and upfront. They are very meticulous at the border and if you try to cross illegally they will catch you!

Interview: Murray SawChuck

Canadian magician Murray SawChuck has been performing internationally for the last 18 years. Murray generously sat down with me to answer a few questions on performing in the United States.

Murray SawChuckMurray’s star power has exploded onto the entertainment scene with the charisma, personality and talent of an entertainer born to be on stage and screen, after his successful run as a semi-finalist on NBC-TV’s “America’s Got Talent.” The #1 network summer series was viewed by over 22 million fans nationwide. Murray dazzled the judges: Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel by producing a Ferrari from thin air, transforming a girl locked in a cage into a 450 pound tiger and did the largest trick ever on “AGT” by vanishing an entire 1918 steam train locomotive in mere seconds. All of these illusions took place before a “live” and national “TV” audience, and brought standing ovations from the judges.

Leif: First off, how long have you been performing internally for?

Murray: I have toured around the world for the last 18 years from Lebanon and Paris to Singapore and Ukriane!

Leif: And how long have you been performing in the states for?

Murray: I have been performing in the state for the last 15 years.

Leif: What type of Visa did you apply for while working in the states?

Murray: I never applied for any. The key is to have the employer apply or you and use a good immigration attorney. I had an O1 and O2 visa when I first worked for “The Lawrence Welk LIVE Show” in Escondido, CA. The lawyer obtained the visa for me.

O-1 Visa: For an individual (one person only on the petition) of extraordinary ability (distinction) in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture and television fields

O-2 Visa: For essential support personnel (including performers) accompanying the O-1 performer of extraordinary ability or achievement

Leif: Was there anyone else in your company that needed to apply for a visa, such as an assistant?

Murray: No, just me. No matter where I fly I can us local talent. Save a lot of hassle and visas.

Leif: Do you have any advice for Canadian performers looking for work in the states?

Murray: Yes! The NUMBER one key to working and having any chance at getting a visa to work in the states is to have something ORIGINAL that NO ONE else is or can do. I invented an act all with Compact Discs and won over 24 international and national awards titling me a world champion. One of the main reasons along with BEING DIFFERENT I created the act was to stand out and be able to be eligible for a visa. I wanted to be the ONLY one that could do an act like that which gave me a stronger chance of gaining a visa to work in the United States.

Murray SawChuckLeif: Any funny travel stories?

Murray: I remember once in Shanghai, China I won the world title of World Champion Magician in Shenzhen, China. It was on television and broadcast to more that 8 million Chinese viewers. Well, when I left for the airport the next morning and my driver dropped us off at the airport I went to check in my suitcases and as soon as I entered the airport I was surprise as everyone recognized me from the TV show the night before.

I was escorted to the front of the line to check my bags in, then to immigration, and as I approached immigration I never had time to fill out my customs form before going through immigration. I must of had 5 immigration people assisting me. I shook all their hands and they handed me the proper travel immigration form everyone has to fill out when leaving the country.

I started to fill in my address, passport information and they said …”No, no… not important…” just sign at the bottom… I said “Sure”… they are the law of the land! So whatever they wanted.. I signed the bottom of the form then the guy folded it up and put it in his pocket… and said thanks now I have a souvenir and you are free to go through! I was so surprised and said “Thanks!”

Leif: Have you ever had any problems crossing the border? Have you ever had any problems with customs with your equipment?

Murray: NO never any problems… you enter legally and honestly and abide by the rules… you won’t have any problems. There are always questions with my equipment but if you are using them for what you say you are… YOUR PERFORMANCE… and you have the proper documents, there should be no problems.

Leif: You’ve been living and working in the states for a while now. Are you still a Canadian resident?

Murray: Yes I am still a Canadian resident… I will NEVER give up my Canadian residence or citizenship. I am a united states citizen and when I married my first wife I received a green card then went for my citizenship after having a green card for 8 years. Now I am a citizen of both countries.

Leif: Is there anything else people should know if working intentionally is their goal?

Murray: Just be different and original… The easiest way to get accepted is to bring something new, different into the country that they don’t have already… that’s what helps a lot.

Leif: Thanks again Murray for taking the time to answer these questions! If anyone would like more information on Murray you can visit his website www.MurraySawChuck.com or follow him on Twitter @MurraySawChuck.

Have you ever travelled internally? Leave your tips below in the comments section.

Working with a Video Camera

A great way to improve your show is by filming rehearsals and live performances. Your video camera is your best friend because it helps you see your show the way others see it. 

Whenever I’m working on a new routine I always rehearse it in front of a camcorder first. I use three different types of camcorders to record; a webcam, my cell phone, and a camcorder.

1. Webcam
I’ll usually film rehearsals with my webcam if I’m looking to quickly share my video with someone else for review. With a webcam and Youtube you can go to the upload page and click “webcam capture record” and record directly from your webcam.

capture

Once you are finished you just click save and your video will instantly be saved onto youtube without any extra uploading. The one drawback of working with the webcam is that because the lens is designed for a video chatting the viewing angle isn’t very wide so it can be difficult to get everything into frame. But if you stand back far enough from the camera you should be able to get everything to fit into frame.

The footage quality on my webcam isn’t the greatest but there are full HD camcorders available on the market now.

Here’s some footage I recorded with my webcam:

2. Cell Phone Camera
I’ll use my iPhone camera  to rehearsal material when I’m not in front of my computer. The thing that’s nice about the iPhone is that its easy to watch and replay footage immediately. It’s also easy to upload online, or transfer onto the computer. Because each clip is saved to a new file it also makes it easy to delete bad takes and just keep the ones you need.

Here’s some footage I recorded on my iPhone:

3. Camcorder
I don’t often use my camcorder for rehearsal because I have to capture all the footage from the MiniDV tape onto the computer which takes a long time. Its easier instead to use the webcam or my iPhone instead.

Instead I use my camcorder to film live shows with a tripod at the back of the venue.

Unlisted Uploads to Youtube

I upload entire full length shows and rehearsal footage to youtube so that other magicians and directors can critique it for me. But I don’t want this footage to be public so instead I upload them as an “unlisted” video instead. An unlisted video means that anyone with the link can view the video but it won’t appear in my public channel or in the regular search results.

unlisted to youtube

Camera rehearsal tips:

  1. One technique that I’ve stumbled across is to go back and watch old performance footage. If you film your show and watch it that same day you’ll remember every detail about the show and you won’t be able to separate your internal reality from the footage you’re watching. By watching old footage you’ll forget what you were thinking and you’ll be able to see the show more closely as the audience experienced it.
  2. Save your footage so you can go back to review it. I’ve recorded lots of different ideas that I’ve found useful later on.
  3. Watching yourself on video is a painful experience, but keep doing it over and over again and your act will improve because of it.
  4. Take chances while rehearsing on camera. Its a safe environment to try out different ideas before you get in front of an audience.

I’ve talk with lots of performers that don’t have ANY performance or rehearsal footage AT ALL!! How can you possibly tell if the material is any good if you’ve never seen it yourself?!? In this article I’ve shown that you don’t need anything fancy to get started. Even if you don’t have a camcorder, you can start recording with your cell phone camera, the webcam on your laptop, or a cheap external webcam.

Share a link to your rehearsal footage in the comments below!

Directors and Consultants for Magicians

Many performers have no idea that there are consultants, directors, scriptwriters, and mentors specifically for magicians. Below is a list of some of the more popular options and a list of the services that they offer.

1. Joanie Spina – Artistic Director

A lot of people don’t know who Joanie is so let me give you the 2 second introduction

As principal performer, choreographer, and artistic consultant to David Copperfield for eleven years, Joanie Spina redressed the ancient art of magic with a flair the caliber of Broadway and Hollywood productions. Joanie teamed up with Mark Kalin, Jinger Leigh, and Jeff Hobson to create the award-winning show Carnival of Wonders.

If that wasn’t enough she also writes monthly columns called Directions in Magic Magazine. Its my personal opinion that her articles hold all of the secrets of making tricks feel like real magic. If you don’t already subscribe to MAGIC Magazine, track down 2012’s issues and read her columns! It’s the type of information you’ll want to go back and read over and over again.

Joanie Spina: Director & Consultant, Theatrical Coach, Lecturer

I’ve worked with Joanie twice. The first time I worked with her we did the video critique. I sent in a video recording of my show and she tore apart the act second by second. Literally every.single.second. It was an eye-opening and amazing experience that pushed me leaps and bounds beyond what I ever could have done on my own! The second time we worked together I flew to Vegas for an in person coaching session. During the live session we were able to do theatrical exercises with parts of my act to help think about my performance in new ways.

Artistic Direction

2. Magic and Mystery School with Jeff McBride and Eugene Burger

Jeff McBride’s Magic & Mystery School offers many different services depending on your specific needs and interests in magic.

Leif, Jeff, And Eugene

Back in 2007 I attended Jeff’s Master Class in Calgary, Alberta Canada and it was an amazing experience. I learned sooo much in just a couple days and I made some lifelong friends in the magic community.

3. Magician Tony Clark

tony

Tony Clark offers personal consulting on the phone, a DVD critique, skype sessions, as well as services for film and television.

  • Hand Insert: Replace an actor’s hands to look like a magician for film
  • Creative Consulting and Directing: Film and stage.
  • Magic Academy: Introduction to Sleight of Hand, Parlour or Stand up Magic, Money Making with Kid’s Shows, Card Manipulation Course, Dove Magic Workshop and Private Session.

I contacted him once looking for pricing and his rates seemed very reasonable but I haven’t yet had an opportunity to work with him yet.

4. Doug Bennett – The Magic Writer

doug

Doug Bennett aka “The Magic Writer” is a talented script writer who understands magic. While looking to theme my children’s show I hired Doug Bennett to help me write new routines and segways for the show. The part I found most amazing about working with Doug is the fact that the material I got back from him was written exactly in my natural speaking style. I’ve never in my life before experienced somebody writing something that so perfectly sounded exactly like something that I would say.

I would highly recommend him if you’re looking to have material written for your act. I will absolutely be working with him again in the future!

5. Bob Fitch

Bob_FitchBob Fitch is a director and magician that specializes in helping magicians improve their act. I haven’t worked with him but he’s received some high praise from big names in our community.

Bob Fitch is an actor, director, magician, singer and dancer. Bob Fitch has coached FISM winners Shawn Farquhar, Paul Gertner, Timo Marc, Florian Zimmer, and Gaston  & Arthur Trace. Bob offers performance workshops integrating acting, speech, movement and basic theatre (communication skills) for working magicians. His workshops have been reviewed in the Linking Ring, MUM and Genii.

  • One-on-One Private Sessions: You can either work in person (New Jersey) or do a video critique where you send in a DVD of your act. [more info]
  • Group Workshop: For groups of 5 or 6 magicians for 4 to 5-day workshops in their respective towns. [more info]
  • Free Online Articles: Articles & Reviews.

If you’ve worked with any of these people before please leave your comments below. I would love to hear how they helped you. If you found this article helpful, please share it with your magic friends.

Ego check. You aren’t that amazing.

kids-magician-costumeThere’s no doubt if you’ve been performing magic for any period of time you’ll have audience members say things to you like “OMG you’re so amazing!”, “You’re so talented!”, “You’re so funny!”, and “You’re so clever!” And if you perform with any regular frequency at all you’ll start to hear these things often, in fact, it might almost become a daily occurrence.

It’s no wonder then that so many performers start to believe it. The naive performer may start to think “My audiences are so intelligent to recognize that I am amazing, talented, and clever!” And this is how performers develop an ego. They start to “believe their own press.”

Here’s a dose of reality

When audience members say nice comments about your performance they’re commenting on your performance. They’re commenting on your material. They’re commenting on your art. It’s important to realize that audience members are NOT saying YOU AS A PERSON are amazing.

Don’t confuse people being appreciative of your art for a reflection of how you are as person. 

  • You aren’t amazing because you can do a sponge ball routine
  • You aren’t amazing because you can do an ambitious card routine
  • And you aren’t amazing because of your thumb tip technique

But audiences will tell you that you’re amazing because you can do these things. Don’t believe it. It doesn’t matter how great your act is, how funny your jokes are. If you start to believe how great you are that’s exactly when you need to put your ego in check. You might have an amazing act but that doesn’t give you an excuse to act superior than anyone else.

In magic a lot of ego is derived from comparing ourselves to others. Instead of being negative or jealous remain humble. Offer to help or accept help yourself. Check your ego and our entire art will benefit from it, your life will benefit from it, and our world will benefit from it.

We’ve all met performers that are amazingly talented but sadly their success has turned them into assholes. And there’s performers who are amazingly talented and successful but they remain humble, kind, and generous. Which one would you rather be? Keep this in mind as your experience and your career grows.

 

David Copperfield Quote

“First, learn everything you can about the art. Second, learn everything you can about being on stage – performing. And then work hard to find you own voice – your own unique point of view. Do lots of shows. And finally – most importantly – don’t give up.” — David Copperfield

Customizing Your Magic Props

Torch to Rose Kevlar WickWhen you buy a trick you’re buying the secret and permission to perform for the effect, but often the prop itself is made as cheaply as possible to appeal to the masses. Even if the prop is well made you’re probably going to have to modify it to fit your act.

If you’re going to be a professional magician you need to accept the fact that when you buy a new prop you’re going to have to make modifications or remake it entirely.  If you don’t want to look like every other magician then modify or create new props that match your personality, audience, and theme. 

You might need to modify the prop to last longer: If you buy a “Torch to Rose” the wick that’s included is just a bit of cotton wrapped in wire. It works for a little while but it won’t last forever. If you really want to add this effect into your act and you want it to last you’ll need to replace the wick with some kevlar rope instead.

You might also need to modify the prop to suit your technical needs: For my show I purchased a butterfly silk that turned out that it was too thin and transparent for my needs. So I took it to my seamstress where she was able to add a black layer of fabric onto the back of the silk so now it works perfectly for my needs.

Butterfly Silk

You might also need to modify the prop to suit your character: With the Wandering CD prop (A “Die Box” done with a CD instead) there’s a giant hole in the middle of the prop so that the children  can see the CD sliding back and fourth.

Read More…

Performing for 10-13 Year Old’s… Compared to Adults

In a previous article I talked about how We Teach Our Audiences. The idea is that during the course of our performance our behavior will dictate how our audiences will respond.

If you’ve ever performed for children you’ll know that different ages react very differently. 10-13 Year old children will be the most difficult to perform for because they have a good understanding of how the world works and feel like they should know how the magic tricks are accomplished. David Kaye talks about this in his book Seriously Silly. In the book he discusses the idea that you have to eliminate every possible solution before the magical effect happens. In the book though he doesn’t explain WHY that’s happening and I think that the psychology behind it is just as interesting.

It’s my theory that 10-13 year old’s act this way because they are able to dismiss the abstract situation that we as magicians are creating. For example if you say “If I tap my hand with this magic wand the handkerchief in my hand will disappear”. For this age group they understand that things can’t simply just disappear. This is great because it means that we can create a magical effect for them. It also means that they are immediately searching for method. At this age they’ll feel your artificial and abstract context is a lie and therefore they don’t buy into it. They don’t want to made foolish or get taken advantage of. That’s why they will say things like “Its in your other hand!” or “Its up your sleeve!”

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How to Produce a Touring Illusion Show – Interview with John Kaplan

When I was getting my start in magic John Kaplan’s “Magic School Bus” show was one of the first live magic shows I ever saw. I remember that it was a fundraiser for an elementary school in Penticton, BC. Almost 20 years later and John is still touring Canada with his show, commanding thousands of dollars per show for himself and earning thousands of dollars for his clients.

Since he’s obviously on to something I wanted ask him how he did it. It turns out he’s leaving this week to tour a month long tour in New Zealand and Australia, but he found enough time to do this interview with me. But first, Who is John Kaplan?

kaplanJohn Kaplan’s career began, as most magicians’ do, when he received a magic kit at age 9.

Inspired by the life of Houdini and determined to make magic his life’s work, after high school John became a sorcerer’s apprentice, finding as his mentor Micky Hades – author, publisher, illusion builder and inventor of magic tricks (such as the world-famous “Micky Hades Improved Finger Chopper“) – and it was from Micky that John learned the business side of the magic business.

Early contest wins and TV appearances gave John a running start as he pursued his childhood ambition.

Many interesting career high points followed, including promotional shows that saw John escaping from straitjackets, making cars and people disappear, headlining gala shows for major sporting events, performing on cruise ships, in comedy clubs and being Jay Leno’s opening act.

In 1989 John created, produced and starred in his own theatrical production “Johnny’s House”, leading to years of creating theme shows for amusement parks and shopping malls, where he developed his acclaimed “Santa-via-Satellite” program currently licensed in over 60 markets worldwide.

In addition to his performing career, John’ s business-building programs, effects and routines have been well received by the magic community.

However, it’s his unique approach to the fundraising market that’s given John his greatest success. During his 30+ year career he’s performed thousands of shows in over 500 Canadian towns and cities, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for school and community groups with his Fundraising Magic program.  Read More…

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