DIY Rasmus Performance Case & Table

Barry Mitchell and his friend Rasmus from Denmark built an awesome performance case and table. Similar to Evan’s DIY Table in my previous article he was looking for a performance table / case that could fit into his small car. In this article I’ll show exactly how they built and constructed their performance case and table.

First they tracked down some ideal storage containers.They stacked, had lids, and even came in various sizes.



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DIY Performance Table by Evan Reynolds

The following article was written by fellow magician Evan Reynolds. This article was also featured in Vanish Magazine for magicians.

Performing Table Design

I do a lot of birthday party shows. I normally use a suitcase style table, and it’s wonderful. It has been a workhorse. But now I have a smaller car. It’s nice but my suitcase table no longer fits unless I laid it down its back. And furthermore, the suitcase table is heavy – it’s 45 pounds when empty, and once my show is loaded, it’s quite difficult to carry around. And when I get to a birthday party and have to climb stairs – that was getting ugly.

So I had two problems. My table was too big, and too heavy. But I loved having a table that carried all my stuff AND served as a performing table with lots of storage.

So I decided to design and build my own table. I’ve gone through three iterations so far. All of them have their advantages – and all of them are really easy to build. One involves nothing more than sticking on Velcro and using an iron. The other two involve a drill and a screwdriver, but if you plan carefully that’s about the only tools you’ll need. And the next plus? The last two tables have a built in sound system. It’s cheap, easy to operate, and there’s nothing to plug in. It’s not a big system – but it’s perfect for a birthday party.

I’ll point out the advantages and disadvantages as I go as well as the things I’d do differently next time. But the key to all this is to think about what you want out of the tables and then modify them. Make the tables bigger or smaller, add shelves, add compartments, and make it what you want. And then go to JoAnne’s and get some nice boxes/art storage bins. They go in the table beautifully and store your smaller magic props wonderfully while looking great.

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Stay healthy. Pack a lunch.

lunchbagI did something I’m not proud of this summer. Whenever I had a day filled with shows all over town I would quickly stop for a quick bite to eat at a fast food restaurant. Large coke, fries, and a chicken burger. So delicious, but I paid the price for it. I ended up getting sick twice during my heaviest performance schedule ever. Performing that many shows everyday plus lots of travel draining and I wasn’t feeding myself properly.

I ended up adjusting by packing lunches for my day trips rather than eating out. I bought one of those small foil-lined lunch bags. Instead of using an ice pack I would include a frozen bottle of water that kept everything cold all day long. Some of the food items I packed were sandwiches, cut up veggies, crackers, yogurt, trail-mix, hard boiled eggs, fruit, extra water and pop. If I had more self-control it would probably be better if I didn’t include the pop, but having that caffeine to keep me going for the third show in a day helped.

It was also great to have freezing cold water waiting for me in the car after a show on a hot summer day. Summer’s in the Okanagan can get VERY hot, and after performing in a venue without air conditioning, or doing an outdoor show, or even just having to repack the car when it’s really hot out, its great to have cold water to cool off immediately.

Previously if I didn’t have any extra time between shows I would just have to skip a meal and I would be starving by the time I had some free time. Plus I was able to eat better quantities of food since I didn’t have to eat that entire value-combo just because it would go bad in the car between shows. Instead I snack and eat throughout the day in better quantities keeping me full without overeating and feeling gross.

It sounds silly to make a post about something so mundane and ordinary as packing a lunch, but it really did make a difference for me. And judging by the waistlines I’ve seen at magic conventions… we all need a little reminder to eat healthier! If you’re looking for ideas for healthy lunches there’s an endless list on pinterest and other blogs.

Late Night Conversation – Lecture at the 3 of Clubs Magic Convention

This past weekend I lectured at the 3 of Clubs Magic Convention in Coquitlam, BC Canada. In the talk I discussed my stage setup for shows, branding, marketing materials, advertising, newsletters, and evaluations. There were a few additional topics that I discussed live at the event that aren’t included in the below video. You’ll just have to attend in person if you want to hear everything!

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How to Stay Cool While Performing in the Summer Heat

Now that summer is in full swing you’re probably performing plenty of outdoor shows. Client’s looove to host events outside. Performing outside can be a very enjoyable experience for both you and the audience, but it can also be an extremely difficult without the proper preparation.

Here are 8 tips to help you stay cool while performing in the summer heat:

1. Avoidance

Unless the weather is absolutely perfect, usually you’re better off doing the show indoors. There will be less distractions for the audience, you’ll have more control over the performing environment, creating a better performance in the end. Once you explain this to the client you may be able to move the party indoors for your show.

Find out during the booking process if there’s an alternative plan for bad weather. Is the show going to happen rain or shine, will it be cancelled, or will it be moved to another location? Find out all of these details in advance so there aren’t any surprises on the day of the show.

2. Acceptance

If you have to perform outside find out if you can be in the shade somehow. Sometimes you might be able to perform under a tent, under a tree, or against the side of a building.

Keep in mind that even though YOU might have shade the audience won’t be. If you’re performing at a festival the stage might be covered but the next available shade space will be under trees that are far away. You can bet that the audience is going to stay under these trees instead of sitting close to your stage. This distance between you and the audience is going to kill your interaction and make your show more difficult. In these situations you might have to setup closer to the audience to get the rapport that you need for the show.

shade under the trees

[ Above: I had a tent to perform under at this show but the audience all sat under the shade of the tree’s. So I left my tent and walked closer to the audience for better interaction. ]

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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 or follow him on Twitter @MurraySawChuck.

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

Get to your gig on time every time

watchIt doesn’t matter how great your show is, if you show up late that’s what your client is going to remember.

You should arrive early enough so that you can setup your show without rushing plus additional time to take care of any unexpected surprises. You’ll need additional time for bad weather, traffic, re-parking the car somewhere legally instead of that handicapped stall you unloaded from… etc.

I try to arrive earlier than I said I would to the client. That way the client never wonders if I’m going to be late or not.

“If you’re early, you’re on time;
If you’re on time, you’re late.”

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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…

How to Perform and Work Internationally

Many magicians have a dream of performing internally but there’s many road blocks to navigate along the way. That’s why I decided to do an interview with Paul Romhany who’s without a doubt one of the most qualified people in our community to answer the golden question “How do I work internationally?

For the past 25 years Paul Romhany has been travelling the world performing at corporate events and festivals, as well as cruise ships around the world. During that time he has been in over one hundred countries and in 2012 flew over 500 hours to get to gigs. When asked where he lives he replies, “I’m a Citizen of the World”. The answer that Charlie Chaplin gave when asked the same question almost 80 years ago.

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