Performing

Optical illusion magic trick

optical illusion magic trick - Thatcher

Last year the local libraries had a theme of “Strange but True”, so I created a Strange But True – Game Show magic show. For that show I wanted something a little bit different than just a standard effect, so I started looking at different optical illusions magic tricks that I could add into the show.

I had seen a couple performers use the Thatcher optical illusion and decided it would be a great addition to my show.

The Thatcher effect or Thatcher illusion is a phenomenon where it becomes difficult to detect local feature changes in an upside down face, despite identical changes being obvious in an upright face. It is named after British former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on whose photograph the effect has been most famously demonstrated. This was originally created by Peter Thompson, in 1980. [Wikipedia link]

The only problem was that I didn’t like the sample faces that were available online because children had no idea who the people were. That’s when I decided to create my own Thatcher Optical illusions out of people that they would recognize.

I created three illusions with famous celebrities children would recognize including Salina Gomez, Justin Beiber, and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter). Upside down the faces look totally normal, but turn them 180º and you’ll discover that the eyes and mouth are facing the wrong way.  Read More…

Progressive Learning and Hypnosis

If you’re reading this blog then you know the importance of progressive learning. To be a successful performer you need to be continually learning and developing new skills. Somebody who embodies this principal to its fullest is Corporate Hypnotist and Peak Performance Expert Wayne Lee.

I first met Wayne Lee when I was about 17 years old, which was about 10 years ago. Wayne and I were both hired to perform a highschool graduation party. I was going to be doing some close-up mingling magic, and Wayne would be doing a full Hypnosis show. Wayne flew into Kelowna from Edmonton with his two crew members and rented car then he also picked me up and we drove to the event together that was just out of town. We would be staying in a hotel overnight, and drive back the next day. I remember it vividly because this was the first time I ever had a client pay for my own hotel room. I hit the big time! lol

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We teach our audiences

Sometimes while performing an audience or volunteer will act differently than we expect or want them to. This behavior isn’t necessarily good or bad but good spectator management is the key to a successful performance. Anything that can happen on stage, will happen.

I believe that most of the time audiences will react in a certain way based on the expectations that you’ve established through your personality.

As an example, imagine a children’s performer presenting a routine where a child volunteer is selected to be on stage and the routine is structured so that the child disobeys the magician to the delight and joy of everyone in the audience. Each time the child does something that the magician “doesn’t want him to do” the audience bursts out laughing. What does this teach the audience? That they can you do whatever they want on stage and it will be funny! Imagine the next routine in the show where the magician selects a volunteer to be on stage, and the kid disobeys the magician “for real” this time. Maybe throwing something that they were supposed to hold, or dropping something intentionally. To the child it may be funny, but it may disrupt the flow of that particular routine. In this case the performer has unintentionally taught the audience how to behave in a way that is undesired.

With experience you learn how to deal with these situations, but the first step is to be aware of WHY they’re happening.

Here’s a great example of this concept. Here’s a clip of the amazing Justin Flom is performing on the Ellen Show.

In this clip Ellen was offered to select a cookie, under the assumption that she was supposed to do something with it for the trick. But at the end of the routine you can see her confusion when she’s left with a cookie that she didn’t do anything with. This taught her that when offered something, that it isn’t part of the trick.

You can see this psychology in the next routine when Justin offers her a mint. She assumes that it isn’t going to be part of the effect so she pops it into her mouth. Thankfully it was inconsequential to the effect, but it demonstrates quite clearly exactly how our actions teach our audiences how to behave.

What are your actions teaching your audience? Think about these things when watching video recordings of your show. You can either change what is causing the audience to behave in an undesired way, or anticipate it and find new moments within that structure to entertain your audience.

Video Interview with Tommy James – We Live and We Learn

Earlier this week Tommy James made an interesting post on The Magic Cafe. Here’s that post:

I have something I NEED to share with everyone who has purchased my Lop Sided Cyclops or intends to buy one in the future. We all need to learn from our mistakes and I hope MY mistake will be a learning experience for anyone else. I just received a letter from a teacher at a school that I need to share. I’m not proud of it in fact, I’m hitting myself in the head and saying “Why did I not foresee this as a possibility!???” Please read her letter and then I will tell you how I responded.

Dear Mr. Tommy James,
Last week you put on a performance for our school. Most of the children enjoyed the show greatly, you were funny and magical. However, I would like to bring to your attention, a skit that I found very offensive. When you did your flying eyeball trick, you mentioned a “monster” who had one leg shorter than the other and walked around the stage limping. You had no way of knowing this, but in my class, I have a student who was born with a birth defect and has one leg shorter than the other. The minute you said that, he looked at me and several students looked at him. I am writing to you, to ask you to eliminate this skit from future performances. You never know who will be in your audience, monsterizing a physical defect can be very hurtful. Please consider this in the future.

Thank you,
C.

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Creativity with new magic

Next time you’re thinking about buying a new magic trick I would encourage you to try and rehearse the trick before you buy it. Doing this will let you think about the various elements that make up the overall effect before spending the money on it. You’ll think about the scripting, blocking, music, costume, and everything else.

Think Before You Buy

But how can you rehearse the trick before you have the props or know the secret?

In many cases you can make a temporary prop and just act out the trick as if it were real. You don’t need to have the actual effect take place if you are only practicing.

For example, once I used a teddy bear as my stand in prop for a fountain of silks. I was able to produce a bunch of silks, then steal the teddy bear out just as I would the fountain of silks, and I just make believed that all the silks were flowing out. By doing this I was able to plan my routine out to see if it would work without spending the money on the prop.

You can do the same thing with any trick though, let’s say for example you were thinking of performing Kevin James’ Bowl-A-Rama. So instead of spending the $750 up front, take some time scripting what you’ll say at the start of the trick and what music you’ll use. Because you don’t already have the prop you won’t feel so limited to do it exactly like you saw it done before. Maybe you’ll decide to produce a zombie head instead and use spooky music. (That’s actually a pretty good idea…. nobody steal that. I’m going to use that!) If you had purchased the effect first though, you’d probably just produce the bowling ball since you already owned it and it was easier.

Anyway… my point is that by play-acting the routine it will push you to be more creative and you won’t be limited by a physical prop or method, you’ll also be more likely to develop something creative and new.

Let me know if you’ve used this technique before in the comments below. Don’t forget to sign up for the RSS feed or the newsletter in the sidebar.

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