Birth of a Nation Magic Show

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

Postby Umpa Duze » 05/11/11 04:58 AM

Hi All,
I am working on next year's show and I am having a great deal of fun. I thought that I would outline what I am working on and see if anyone had any suggestions or could use some of the ideas here. Like many others I have been working hard to motivate the action so that the magic is a natural consequence of the story line.

The topic of the show is The Birth of a Nation running from the Tea Party to the Election of George Washington. Here is what I have so far:

Before the show begins I come out and informally talk to the school audience. I tell them that in a moment I will enter as King George III and that they will pretend to be the Colonists. I enter in king garb and begin complaining about the colonists constant whining, the dialog is an interplay between me and the audience where the audience has lines on cue cards and a teacher leading their response (we practice a couple of times before beginning).

We get to the issue of the tea tax and I pour a burlap bag of tea into a tea chest and lock it. First I need my taxes. The misers dream is used to collect taxes from the colonists. In the end the taxes vanish, the kids yell that they threw the tea in the sea and as I pick up the tea chest it falls apart (hinged) empty. This means trouble and I walk back behind the curtain for a quick change. Music plays Yankee Doodle Dandy.

I enter with a run rabbit run that has been designed with a Paul Revere character instead of the rabbit. Here is one of my questions; has anyone developed a run rabbit run routine where the child holds the apparatus and tilts it to fool the performer? My thinking is that I can be wearing a redcoat and the kid/colonist comes up as I set the scene. I am searching for the Sons of Liberty and I teach the assistant to tilt the apparatus when I touch him on the shoulder. The poem, The Midnight ride of Paul Revere, with a few humorous breaks and some modified language tells the story as I search for Paul Revere and the kid keeps him hidden from me. In the end Paul revere vanishes and ends up on the kids back.

Next is the Declaration of independence. Here I would like to perform a torn and restored paper effect where the king reads key passages and rips them out of the document as he ridicules the very idea of a peoples govenerment. He tosses the ripped paper down and exits with a huff a moment later I enter as a colonist and pick up the torn paper, causing it to mend into the declaration with the word Freedom on the back.
This means war.

Here I plan to use a Betsy Ross routine with Washington talking about the many flags that were being used and the battles that were won/lost and the need for one flag to unite us. I will demonstrate the paper fold and snip Betsy used to convince Washington to abandon the six point star in favor of the five point. I plan to use two assistants here with a routine that uses controlled confusion to create the mismade flag.

If anyone knows where I can get a Betsy Ross Mismade flag with the circle of 13 stars I would really appreciate a heads up.

I am still working out the details of the last two effects, but I would like to perform a three card monte effect with George Washington being the one they are looking for in response to a question about who was the first president. I think a VOTE motif and storyline could be fun and provide an opportunity to talk about just how amazing it was in those days to create a representative democracy.

The finish will be a Fourth of July Americana Bonanza production with flags, etc.

Any ideas will be very appreciated.
Cheers,
Umpa
Cheers,
Umpa Duze
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 05/11/11 08:00 AM

Umpa - that's very cool - and congrats on the theme etc.

Did you know the Die Box trick was orginally a tea chest?

Also - just a heads up on the phrase "birth of a nation" - as it also references a film containing questionable (read racist etc) content. Maybe a change in phrasing for your product would get you further -without the taint of D. W. Grifith.

Was it Betsy Ross or Ben Franklin who figured out how to get the five pointed star from folded cloth for our flag?

Best wishes in your project and many happy (and profitable) performances,

Jon
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Postby Jim Martin » 05/11/11 09:12 AM

Nice job, Umpa. I like the audience participation elements. (For the Revere bit, when 'Paul' is in motion have half of the kids make horse clip-clop sounds while the other half whinnies.) Also, RK's Seriously Silly book has a great Mismade flag routine by David Kaye that will give you some ideas.

You mentioned 'Yankee Doodle' music; there are two Charles Ives pieces that might help: Three Places in New England (Second mvmt.,Putnams Camp) that is a real rouser and has a patriotic storyline. The other is the Ives/William Schuman Variations on 'America'.

I've purchased items from P & A Silks - very well-made. It would be worth a call to them.

http://www.pasilks.com/
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 05/11/11 09:17 AM

If you want to have some fun with the "mismade" - here are some real early American flag designs to work from: http://www.vexman.net/13stars/

I'm not sure it's okay to crumple our flag - so perhaps rolling or folding might be better (buddah papers) and that leaves more room for using decals or appliques in the flag construction.

:)
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Postby Ted M » 05/11/11 09:33 AM

Hi Umpa,

Great ideas. Terrible title.

As Jonathan noted, The Birth of a Nation is a famously racist film which depicted the Ku Klux Klan as a heroic force. Its working title was "The Clansman," and it was adapted from a book of the same name. Here is the theatrical poster:

[img:center]http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/61/Birth_of_a_Nation_theatrical_poster.jpg/220px-Birth_of_a_Nation_theatrical_poster.jpg[/img]

So you might want to think about a different title...
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Postby Jim Martin » 05/11/11 09:42 AM

A new title - hmmmm. 'Springtime For....... Magic.'?
:)
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Postby Q. Kumber » 05/11/11 10:23 AM

How about, "Birth Of Our Nation".
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 05/11/11 11:55 AM

You crack me up, Quentin.
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Postby Umpa Duze » 05/12/11 03:27 AM

Hi All,
Thanks for the encouragement, suggestions and warning regarding my ill advised title. I enjoyed the many flags from the link above and have found even more designs used by a variety of outfits early in the war. The one I am curious about is the 12 stars in a circle with one in the middle. At first I thought this was one of the states' battle flag, but now I am going to have to find out more about the identity/meaning of the center star.

This is the third school show I have built around a theme. The math and reading shows were valuable experiences, but I am having a great deal more fun with this one as it comes complete with larger than life characters, wonderful stories, symbols, and a meaningful connection for all of us. So far so fun.

Umpa
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 05/12/11 08:00 AM

Umpa,

It might be intersting to have the stars move/multiply on the blue background. ;)

Jon
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Postby Umpa Duze » 05/13/11 02:20 AM

Wow, Jon that is a wonderful idea and could make a beautiful ending to the show. Thanks! I need to get my brain around method...But that is usually the easier part.

Thanks again,
Umpa
Cheers,
Umpa Duze
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Postby Umpa Duze » 05/28/11 01:14 AM

Well I have given the moving stars some thought and have arrived at a few solutions and wonder if anyone has a better idea.

Idea 1- The flag can be adhered to the front of the "Voting Booth" cabinet which opens in a manner reminiscent of the Abbott's Grand Finale although in a self contained/compact fashion.

With the flag on the cabinet, it might be possible to use LEDs and a stencil to cause the stars to move and change.

Idea 2- One could produce a handful of stars, a snowstorm of stars, or whatever and use one of the changing handkerchiefs to go from the Betsy Ross to a modern flag - sort of a reverse Dots Off effect.

Idea 3 - A double flag with a rod in the hem might support a change using a blind that is actually pulled across a white or blue background with the excess part of the blind hidden in the flag itself.

Idea 4 - A combination of 1 and 3 - using some array of LEDs behind the flag to create movement as the blind slides by.

Clearly, I have not stumbled onto the solution yet, but would enjoy hearing from anyone with better, simpler or just different ideas.

Thanks,
Umpa
Cheers,
Umpa Duze
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Postby Spellbinder » 05/31/11 09:44 PM

At the risk of boring you with more gushing of a proud grandpa over his precocious magic grandchild, reading this effect gave me an idea of how to use Wilhelmina's Transparent Dye Tube in connection with your evolution of flags. She is using currently a clear plastic mailing tube (1.5" in diameter by 12" in length). Call it a glass tube and refer to Dr. Benjamin Franklin's experiments with electricity as you rub the glass tube with a piece of silk and then push the silk into the tube to have it blown out the other end as one of the various historic flags that preceded the current one. You can do this over and over again with her method, and if handled correctly, the transformation of the silk to the flag seems to happen at the moment it is visibly blown out of the cylinder into the air.

There are pictures of quite a few of the flags here: http://www.historicalflags.biz/historic ... _flags.htm

You might have to paint your own silks to get them, or you could print them out on silk using an inkjet printer and this stuff: http://www.jacquardproducts.com/product ... t/habotai/

Anyway, I think it could be a pretty effect and work in Ben Franklin to the story. Maybe add a funken ring to make some sparks with the "glass" tube to show the magic power of electricity.

Wilhelmina's method is here: http://www.magicnook.com/WizJ21/wizj21- ... e-Blue.htm

More last minute thoughts: use flashpaper to cut out some star shapes, setting them on fire with the spark ring just before blowing the flag with five pointed stars from the tube.
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Postby Joe Pecore » 05/31/11 10:15 PM

Spellbinder, your ad for Wilhelmina's method states that "No one knows who invented it [Mismade Flag] exactly".

It has typically been credited to Carl S. Lohrey, http://geniimagazine.com/magicpedia/Mis-Made_Flag
Share your knowledge on the MagicPedia wiki.
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Postby Spellbinder » 06/01/11 10:39 AM

Thanks for the information about Carl S. Lohrey, Joe. I have added it to the advertisement and inserted it as a footnote in the e-Book itself.
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Postby Umpa Duze » 10/06/11 03:08 AM

Hi All,
I thought some of you might want to see the props for the show. I am working on the music now. Please try the following link if interested.

https://sites.google.com/site/drduzemag ... story-show

Cheers,
Umpa
Cheers,
Umpa Duze
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Postby Spellbinder » 10/12/11 10:53 AM

It looks good. Remember, a lot of our early history is mixed in with myth and legend, such as the details of Paul Revere's ride (which leaves out the guys who really did the work that night). Revere has a good publicist in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Years later, in 1896, Helen F. Moore wrote:

'Tis all very well for the children to hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere;
But why should my name be quite forgot,
Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?
Why should I ask? The reason is clear
My name was Dawes and his Revere.

And even she didn't remember (or know) about Wentworth Cheswill, probably because he was Black, but he was the one who rode north to warn that the British were coming, and it was a result of that northern ride that recruits began pouring into Boston fron New Hampshire and Vermont.

Well, that's all too much for your magic show, but just make a point to tell the audience that there's more to the story than just Paul Revere, and if they want to know more, they can look it up in the library.
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Postby Umpa Duze » 10/13/11 04:05 AM

Hi Spellbinder,
Thanks for the information. I knew about Dawes, but not about Cheswill. That is a nice addition to the script. I have been trying to balance similar issues with the story of Betsy Ross and the first flag. Where I could really use some help is in the role of Native Americans. I know some of the broad strokes of how the confederation split with some allied with the Americans and others Britain.

I have quite a number of schools in my area with large Native American populations and I have been trying to figure out how to balance a celebration of the beginning of the U.S. while being sensitive to the negative consequences for the indigenous peoples. I have been reading some history and historical novels trying to get the flavor, but if anyone has some sources that could help me integrate the role of the tribes in the revolutionary period that would be wonderful.
Cheers,
Umpa Duze
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/13/11 08:34 AM

Probably want to look at the Martha Washington stories, the origins of scalping and the musical Oklahoma.

Pretty much makes R'lyeh sound like Oz IMHO.
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Postby Umpa Duze » 10/25/11 01:58 AM

Hi All,
After giving the issue of how to best represent the role of Native Americans in the revolution considerable thought I came to a stumbling block that I can really use some help with. The Iroquois Confederacy consisted of six tribes. It has been argued that the structure providing for collective action in a limited realm, while reserving all other rights to the individual tribes was an inspiration for our Constitution. When the revolution broke out, three of the tribes joined the British partially due to a promise to hold back the migration of settlers into Indian lands if Britain won. Two tribes joined the American side, leaving the Mohawks divided, some joining the British and others the Americans.

This suggests an effect of breaking apart, what I realized as I have been ruminating on this is that the reason I have not found a suitable effect may be because there is no redemption in the story. No restoration of the Iroquois Confederacy, no clear winners amongst the Indians after the war, nothing but a fairly bleak history of broken promises for all Indians involved. Clearly, the Indians who joined the US cause played a valuable role along the frontier, and a couple became important members of the regular force.

So here is my question: what effect can bring home the power of the confederacy and the consequence of the revolution on the tribes.
Cheers,
Umpa Duze
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 10/25/11 02:20 AM

I think you need to decide what it is that you want to say before you can apply an effect to it. That means finding a resolution where none exists.

Perhaps, if what I read is correct, that since the Iroquois League (cultural side) still exists, versus the Confederacy (political side), it shows that the spirit of the peoples ultimately transcends political boundaries and differences. From that, I could see a multiple cut & restored rope routine, talking about the various "sides" but in the end, the culture of the Nations survives as one.

Good luck,
Dustin
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/25/11 08:31 AM

A rope is made of strands and sometimes a woven sheath as well.
There are some strands which run straight through while the strands that make up the sheath form a more complicated weave.

A cut and restored (deconstructed/reconstructed) demonstration might require a holdout to manage the dispostion of some items extracted or frayed - but the end result might be more dramatic.
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Postby Umpa Duze » 10/26/11 02:43 AM

Hi,
Unfortunately, while the Iroquois name was resurrected after the war, the tribes scattered; with Mohawks heading to Canada, the Oneida lost everything in their support for the US and ended up scattered throughout New York, and so on. This is what I meant by there not being a redemption story that would allow a broken/cut and restored effect without misrepresenting the truth. A more analogous effect might be the shattering of a glass/vase without restoration. I am probably over thinking this, but our community has a long history of not honestly dealing with history.
Thanks again for your thoughts, they are helping me clarify my own thinking on the matter.
Cheers,
Umpa Duze
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/26/11 08:56 AM

A friend got me to listen to the audio book by Michael Medved, Ten Big Lies about America which puts some of the stories and commonly asserted perspectives into a different perspective and cites historical sources.

That said, I also recommend Bulk Food * by Peter Watts when the matter of accepting/understanding other cultures becomes a topic of conversation. There is also a Philip K. Dick short story about finding a mythical missing world which predates much of the back and forth on the matter.

The theme here is that what we would like to imagine for ourselves, would like others to imagine and what we can believe from the evidence at hand may be quite distinct.

* not to the mods - the Peter Watts story was posted by the author on his website for the purpose of making his work accessible. I can recommend his other works and am looking forward to his forthcoming companion book to Blindsight.

PS - sidebar - to those who enjoyed Capenter's take on "The Thing" and are considering seeing the latest film on that topic - here's Peter Watts short story from its perspective: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/watts_01_10/
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Postby Tom Frame » 10/26/11 12:06 PM

Jon,

I'm a huge John Carpenter fan and his rendering of The Thing blows away the original version that featured James Arness flailing around in a cheesy rubber suit.

Thanks for sharing the short story. I really like it!
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Postby Spellbinder » 04/19/12 11:56 AM

Time to start thinking about Patriotic magic and themes ahead of Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Wiz Kid Eleazar (who is now known as Wiz Kid Ee-Gee-Fiki - kids, go figure!) has a nice tissue paper tear to Uncle Sam Hat, in which the Uncle Sam hat is NOT made of tissue paper but of fabric (and easily found in Dollar Stores ahead of patriotic holidays). It's better than the usual tissue tear to tissue hat because the hat can be worn without falling apart and used over again each performance (or given away- it's cheap enough!). Ee-Gee-Fiki also combines the hat appearance with a hat production of red-white-blue chain of banners and a display of mylar sparkle confetti "fireworks" which he gets by just punching the hat insideout before he puts it on (let's see you do THAT to a tissue paper hat!).
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