Beyond Magic Dealers

Discuss the art of Children's Entertainment with your fellow performers.

Postby Guest » 07/09/07 08:20 AM

I have been entertaining children professionally for longer than I can remember. It seems that many folk of various ages see that this can be a lucrative way to give up their 9 to 5 routine, and turn professional. They have a basic knowledge of magic, but the time has come for them to put on shows. What do they do? They turn to the dealers. Not a bad way to start. In my young days, Supreme magic was the source, and I certainly spent much of my well earned pocket money at Edwin's wonderful establishment. The tricks all came complete with props, patter and presentation.

As I got older and wiser, I realised that buying a lot of props that every other "Uncle Johnny" uses was not the best way to go. So I got creative. These days I use very few dealer's props, and create most of my show from the ground upwards. Entertaining children has little to do with a bunch of magic tricks. For a young child, their whole lives are magic! Entertaining children is all about bits of silly business, making them laugh, putting silly hats on them, "look don't see stuff" and so much more. There is much to discuss on this subject, so I welcome the views of others. JR

Postby Guest » 07/10/07 12:05 AM

Now that the Potter craze is nearly over I've been thinking of creating a website showing all the various Potter themed props I've built over the years. Some are quite simple, a reworking of the old Cords of Fantasia trick, using balls and hoops to illustrate the rules of Quidditch to a very complicated Jack Hughes style snake basket based around a baby basilisk.
I've always built or reworked most of my props to fit into the theme of my programs or just so I didn't look like the guy down the street.
If everyone had the same props and routines there would be no reason to hire one magician over the other.

Postby Guest » 07/10/07 04:46 AM

Guess the Quidditch stuff is out but you're keeping the Althiometer and the Silver Chair stuff?

Postby Guest » 07/10/07 08:31 AM

Never been asked to do a Narnia show. Though a Run Aslan Run might be fun to construct.
Havfen't even been able to break into.
We'll see if the Golden Compass sparks some interest. Doubt it will be much of a blip though as I haven't even had a single Lord of the Rings Party to perform at either.

Postby Guest » 07/10/07 08:36 AM

"Now that the Potter craze is nearly over I've been thinking of creating a website showing all the various Potter themed props I've built over the years."

What a wonderful idea, Payne! When it is done, would you mind giving me the link........but I would prefer it if you did not give it to anyone else. Thanks!! By the way, there is a Harry Potter bus touring various cities in the US. It was in Phoenix a couple of days ago, and I did a magic show at the library where it stopped. Here is a pic:


Postby Guest » 07/16/07 02:26 PM

I was asked to do a Harry Potter show about 8 or 9 years ago; actually, I was asked to do a show and was pretty much told at the show it was a Harry Potter theme. At the time, I had never even heard of Harry Potter, so I did my standard program surrounded by lots of kids wearing black plastic John Lennon glasses...

My props that are dealer-bought were chosen for their quality, such as Steve Dick's "Superior Hydrostatic Glass", while my self-made ones in some cases make the prop actually workable (removed the Soft Soap gimmick from the unuseable included thick cotton rags with fake lipstick marks and substituted Abbott's silks that I then spray painted to suit my own needs).

I also sold a slew of not-being-used props on ebay that ended up getting me very little, and to be honest, they probably sold for what they were worth. Either flat-out got rid of or completely upgraded to materials and workmanship that will last for a lifetime of use.

Another issue was the children's magic videos I had that I also sold for pretty much nothing. What I really learned from them was how NOT to do a children's show, since most of the time, the audiences looked completely uninterested while the magicians themselves were either unsmiling and mumbly or overly unctuous. I already had my own style, wanted to see what else was out there, and discovered I'd rather continue to have my own style.

A major source of guidance has been Denny Haney, who I immediately felt a kinship with when I first visited his shop because he had a bunch of DVD's, a few displayed tricks and two floor-to-ceiling rooms full of books. The John Booth books, "Forging Ahead In Magic" and "Marvels Of Mystery" have been great resources, as well as books like "Roy Benson By Starlight" which gave me the A-HA! moment in the way I did magic. The one DVD that I actually love is the Bobo disc that includes his elementary school show, which was the first A-HA! before the Benson book.

I think the children deserve to see programs that aren't what 99 out of 100 other magicians are doing, and sometimes I feel like I'm in the minority. There's more to children's magic than the "Me, Too!" Franchise that seems to pervade the field (in other words, go to 100 children's magic shows around the country and you'll likely see most of the same tricks done the same way with the same gags, with a consistency that would make McDonald's proud (McMagic, as it were).

Postby Guest » 08/24/07 08:34 PM

Although I still like to buy alot of my props from my favorite magic supplier (Daytona Magic), I have been building my own since I was a kid.

The most recent props were built mainly so I could include the tricks in my show. I could not afford to buy them when I needed them a few years back, so I studied photos of the stuff I needed, then built it myself.

Some of the things that came out pretty good were a Circus Wagon production, a giant Square Circle, a Foregtful Freddie with a scarecrow look, and my own version of the Chinese washing machine. I have also built a small version of the Blackstone dollhouse, designed to look like a circus tent.

All of the big props go over well in my shows, but I also love to work small stuff in my hands, like the Color Changing Shoelaces. I believe a mix of both large and small props works best for me, and keeps things interesting for my kids.

To each his own....

Mark Pettey
Naples, FL

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