walk around act

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby Brian Marks » 11/02/05 09:48 AM

I have not found a thread that covers this

I am looking to go from amateur to pro.
What goes into a walk around act?
How large should your repitoire be?
Brian Marks
 
Posts: 918
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Nyack, NY

Postby mago » 11/02/05 10:41 AM

Hi Brian,

You really need a three part routine.

A fantastic opener, a middle segment and a strong finale.

Dress well, study your magic well, believe in yourself and go forth and amaze!

Tom Wolf
mago
 
Posts: 70
Joined: 09/07/08 05:25 PM

Postby Guest » 11/02/05 10:41 AM

The Complete Guide to Restaurant and Walkaound Magic by Kirk Charles is still one of the best one-stop sources of this kind of information.

Hardbound, as low as $27.00 on one of the reputable online magic shops.

Looking forward to seeing if others start giving you the benefit of their experience in this thread.

Jon
Guest
 

Postby cataquet » 11/02/05 11:37 AM

Brian Marks asks "What goes into a walk around act?" & "How large should your repitoire be?"

Depends who you talk to. I work out of my pockets, but I know guys who carry a briefcase, toilet bag or leather bum bag. I've also heard of guys who carry a table (!) with them to perform on. So, it's all up to you (and what you can get away with).

As to how large, some guys do the same three tricks (all of which instantly reset) from one group to the next regardless of the venue. Most newbies have a "professional" set that consists of sponge balls, crazy man's handcuffs, color monte, and invisible deck. More experienced pros have several sets so that as you leave one group of people, you start a different routine with another group. So, if you have people who follow you, they are watching something different every time and don't have the opportunity to try and figure out how it's all being done. Again, it's all a matter of what works for you.

Another book worth mentioning is Jim Pace's "Magic for Restaurants". Also, look for anything by Simon Lovell and Paul Green, both of whom are superb walk around magicians.
cataquet
 
Posts: 261
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: England

Postby Pete Biro » 11/02/05 11:53 AM

MOre than the tricks... make sure your a first and foremost a GREAT ENTERTAINING PERSON and have the selling and contacts to sustain it as a real business.
Stay tooned.
User avatar
Pete Biro
 
Posts: 7124
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollyweird

Postby Brian Marks » 11/02/05 12:17 PM

Originally posted by Harold Cataquet:
Depends who you talk to. I work out of my pockets, but I know guys who carry a briefcase, toilet bag or leather bum bag. I've also heard of guys who carry a table (!) with them to perform on. So, it's all up to you (and what you can get away with).
I will work out of my pockets.

Peter, I also do stand up comedy and have trained in acting and improv so assume this is true for moment. what might go into an effective walk around set? what is appropriate for approaching a group? for leaving?
Brian Marks
 
Posts: 918
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Nyack, NY

Postby Pete Biro » 11/02/05 12:19 PM

Great... break a leg
Stay tooned.
User avatar
Pete Biro
 
Posts: 7124
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollyweird

Postby Brian Marks » 11/02/05 12:20 PM

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
Great... break a leg
I edited my last message.
Brian Marks
 
Posts: 918
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Nyack, NY

Postby NCMarsh » 11/02/05 01:09 PM

Excluding a few rare instances of subbing for friends while I was in HS, I have only been performing walkaround professionally for about 3 years -- I consider myself about halfway through the transition and at the very begining of my career. Given that, here are a few of my thoughts (with the hopes that others will append their own), I will give my answer to your question but I also can't resist the temptation to talk about the things that I wish I had been told when I was at the stage that you are at now:

First, there is a troubling phenomenon of rushing the transition (and I was certainly a guilty party). You think that because your magic is really strong you are ready for the primadonna fees. There is so much more involved in a successful professional performance, and there is no shortcut to getting lots of flight time. Bill Malone worked a decade performing seven nights a week, for several hours a night, when he was in his twenties. His advice to me was to go out and work as much as I can -- to try to find a place where I could perform 6-7 nights a week, even if I was only getting $25 a night; and, and this is relevant to your repertoire question, to use this time to get my working repertoire as deep as possible. When you are working a major job, for a significant fee, you don't want to be using that time to break in new material. So you want to take maximum advantage of the "flight time" period of your career to build a repertoire of material that you have experience performing that is as deep, rich, and varied as possible.

Three is a begining, but it isn't an end. There are always new pieces that I am working on, and about every two or three weeks something reaches the point where I start to throw it in as a middle piece. Sometimes it goes back into the notebook until I fix something that doesn't play the way that I wanted it to, sometimes it stays in the rep. and quickly becomes a feature piece. But I am always at work on new material and the repertoire is never static.

I find that, for myself, the choice of material is absolutely influenced by venue; and I agree with Michael Close ("On Venue and Evolution," Closely Guarded Secrets) that performance material should feel like it grows organically from the envirornment. My regular gig is at a Dinner Theatre, the envirornment is quiet and subdued and the clientele is older. Saturday night I was performing at a Halloween party that was loud and raucous and dominated by 25-40 year olds. I found that the stuff I was doing a lot on Saturday night is stuff that I rarely do at the theatre, while material that is in virtually every set at the theatre was performed much more rarely at the party -- it didn't feel right in the different envirornment and would not have played as well with the different level of alcohol consumption.

As you move forward in your career, you're going to want to be able to kill in as many different envirornments -- and for as many different demographics -- as you can...now is the time to get as much experience as possible with the largest amount of material...

of course, you take on an entirely new responsibilty when you perform professionally, so I don't want to give the impression that you should just go out and do a whole night of material that you haven't done in public before. Go slow, build the rep one piece at a time, but always be working on new stuff and always keep a notebook...

In looking for a venue you want a place that reflects well on you, but that isn't so nice that you don't feel comfortable using it as a laboratory...you want a place where you feel ok trying out new material, new ways of approaching the audience...a place to learn how people respond to magic and what they're looking for from it...

spend some time seated at a table in your venue...look around...pretend that your there for dinner, that you aren't expecting a magician, and imagine what its like to be approached by someone to see magic tricks...what are you thinking as he walks up? what are you afraid of? what do you want? how do you want to be treated?

In searching for material you are looking for strong stuff that everyone isn't doing.

The Kirk Charles book is necessary reading, Jon was right to point to it, I also think that anyone performing for the public should read Bill Goldman's Little Book of Big Secrets...very, very important...

The other important thing to realize is that as magician you are everyone's best friend...your performance will be far more successful if you authentically like the people you are working for...there is more on this in the Goldman book, but it is impossible to overstate its importance...you need to have fun being around them and sharing what you do with them...ego has to take a backseat

more, perhaps, later...best of luck!!!!

Nathan.
IllusionArtistry.com
OrlandoCorporateMagician.com Orlando Magician
User avatar
NCMarsh
 
Posts: 1172
Joined: 02/16/08 01:00 PM
Location: Orlando, FL

Postby Mark Collier » 11/02/05 01:50 PM

Heres my nickels worth:

Restaurants are a great way to break into performing close-up professionally. They dont pay nearly as much as private engagements but they provide a venue for your magic and your character to grow in a real world environment. You have practiced your magic: now you need to practice performing.

Part of the art of walkaround magic is in finding a way to approach a group that works for you and your character. The timing of your approach is very important. You should be able to judge fairly accurately the intensity of the conversation and how you will be received.

I suspect you have enough material, the question is, how much should you do? How long you stay at each group should vary depending on many factors (the food arrives for example).

I dont recommend doing the same set for every table. Not only will you get bored but the nature of walkaround magic is interactive. Groups are different. Some will love your humor; others will be more interested in the magic. You will find different reactions and personality types within each group. Edit under fire. Your patter and timing can and should adapt to the group. Your jokes and set list should adapt as well.

I work out of my pockets but I do keep a bag in the back so I can rotate material if I will be returning to the same group. This is also good for quick reset of stacked decks for instance.

When working a corporate function, I usually do quick visual magic at first in very short sets. This helps to establish credibility so its easier to approach them later. Also, when guests first arrive, they are more interested in seeing who is there and making their appearance. Everybody is greeting each other and there are a lot of interuptions. Unless they show a lot of interest, I usually do one or two quick, impressive, visual tricks and welcome them to the event and move on.

If I am working a corporate event for the cocktail hour and through dinner, I will change material during the transistion to dinner. Its too hard for me to remember who saw what tricks during the cocktail hour since the groups you perform for during the first hour may not be sitting together for dinner.

During the cocktail hour, be prepared for no tables and the possibility of your spectators having a drink in one hand and an appetizer in the other. Save your table magic for the dinner set but keep in mind there will be very limited table space available until after desert has been cleared. Even then, the centerpieces will make it difficult for some people to see.

Keep your periphial vision sharp so you can stay out of the way of the waiters. I avoid tables that are eating the main course.

The main thing is to get out and do it. Perform as much as you can and you will find out what works best in various situations.

Good luck!
Mark Collier
 
Posts: 376
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Santa Barbara, Ca

Postby Guest » 11/02/05 04:33 PM

I have to say, Mark got it dead on. My advice? Re-read Mark's post a few times. He touches on a few things one may not think about before a performance, especially trying to work for people who have their hands full, and working a room when people are arriving. I NEVER agree to work a gig when guests are supposd to be arriving, I always make sure my start time is at least a 1/2 hour (preferably an hour) after guests arrive. It is so much easier. Peoplehave had a chance to say their hello's and mingle a bit.

Aaron
Guest
 

Postby Fred Zimmerman » 11/04/05 12:04 PM

Walk-around is a major part of my gigs, and while I do mentalism rather than magic (actually, a hybrid of the two), the psychology and science of it are substantially similar.

I have to echo Pete Biro's comments. Start with this scenario in your mind. Think of yourself as a professional party guest. And more to the point, you are an ambassador for the hosts of your event (and the venue if applicable).

You approach a group of people. What is your job? To fool them? Hardly. You're there to make their experience at that event better and more memorable. Period. Nothing more.

Now, imagine that you introduce yourself and talk with these people. This is the hardest thing to learn how to do.

Now set yourself this mental task. You must engage them and entertain them for about 5 minutes WITHOUT DOING ANY MAGIC. Puts the tricks away for the moment. Can you do this? Can you be an interesting, perhaps erudite, perhaps witty person? Can you help make this group's evening a little brighter and meaningful? Have you added any value to the event?

If your answer is "no" or "I'm not sure," my opinion is that you need to jump this hurdle FIRST. I remember when one of my good friends, Dennis DeBondt (The Sears Tower of Magic) first walked into Magic, Inc. many years ago. He was a salesman (perfect skill-set) and wanted to learn "some magic for his customers and kids." That has now evolved into a full-time, lucrative profession for him. I now hold him up as one of my favorite magical performers. Why? Is it the magic? Nope. Because I honestly don't care about the magic when I watch him--I just think he's funny and entertaining. He has totally discovered who he is and made himself a walking "brand." (And, for the record, he does some fine magic)

Therefore, how you open, how you engage, and how you transition are KEY. When all of that starts gelling, THEN you can start applying the magic. Only then will you be effective.

As support, when I engage a group at a party, I forece myself to NOT have anything in my hands and I make it a point to NOT do a trick for at least the first minute of my time. I spend it meeting people, using some of my scripted interactions, and then I transition to an effect in a (semi)logical way. Hopefully, at this point, I have piqued their interest and they actually WANT to see me perform something.

In closing, when clients remember and reccomend you, they may remember some of the magic you did, but most likely, the reccomendation conversation will go something liek this:

"You should get Fred Zimmerman. Why? Well, he was really great with my guests. They had a GREAT time, and he helped me cover the lag time I had when my caterer screwed up. He showed up on time, and he actually stayed a little longer than the time I hired him for because the party was still going strong. What kind of magic did he do? You know, I don't actually remember, but I know it was really great and the guests loved him."

See? How much magic was talked about there? About 10-20% of that conversation was about the tricks. It's all about value and filling a need.

Fred Zimmerman
Fred Zimmerman
 
Posts: 102
Joined: 02/02/08 01:00 PM
Location: Chicago

Postby Jeff Haas » 11/04/05 12:41 PM

Similar to what Fred says, when you do a gig in someone's home, learn to be the "perfect house guest" -- approachable, perceptive, undemanding, returning more to the event than you take.
Jeff Haas
 
Posts: 922
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: San Mateo, CA

Postby Brian Marks » 11/04/05 02:00 PM

many good points.

Part of what I am trying to tackle is my act. I find many things I already do either require a table or apply to a larger audience.

I have never performed for children or young teenagers.
Brian Marks
 
Posts: 918
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Nyack, NY

Postby Fred Zimmerman » 11/04/05 02:13 PM

Good observations. A table, at a walk-around gig, is a nicety. And even if there IS a table around, I find that it often dillutes your work. Everything should be in your hands, or their hands, and feature you and your face. Try and stay away from the "peering down a well" posture, as I call it. Many times, when you see a magician doing walk-around, the crowd is huddled in a circle with their heads bowed in order to watch what the magician is doing. This is fine if it happens for a moment, but as a rule, they'll get tired and distracted. This posture is too much work and the party is going on around them.

If the work is up at your face or in front of you, allowing you to look them in the eye, then you'll keep their attention longer and the distractions will be minimized.

As for working for teenagers and children ... I personally don't take jobs that involve a great deal of children. If I do encounter them at a gig, I treat them like adults and include them in everything. I don't make them the butt of jokes.

Secondly, teenagers are incredibly savvy these days and I would simply think of them as young adults. In many ways, their hot buttons are a little easier to push. Yes, they may put on the "world-weary" front, but they are deeply interested in how the mind works, how people can have an "edge" in gambling, or anything else that gives them an "inside scoop." I never alter my material a bit, other than taking out ANY innuendo. I don't really use much to begin with, but I'm VERY conscious to watch my tougue with anyone under 18.

Have fun on the journey. You may have some abysmal nights, but they will only lead to knowledge.

Fred Zimmerman
Fred Zimmerman
 
Posts: 102
Joined: 02/02/08 01:00 PM
Location: Chicago

Postby Jeff Haas » 11/04/05 06:56 PM

I generally run into two different groups: Adults only, usually at a company party; and families, at either company parties or events such as a school night, museum, etc.

Groups of all adults are tougher for me than parents with kids. When people are with their kids, they're very open to watching a magician, and I take a more whimsical tone in my choice of material, whereas when I perform for adults the whimsical stuff is dropped (unless a group seems to be like that.)

Teens are OK if they're with their parents. If they're in big groups on their own, watch out!
Jeff Haas
 
Posts: 922
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: San Mateo, CA

Postby Jon Allen » 11/05/05 07:21 AM

With regards, to approaching a group, I bear one thing in mind:

I have to be more interesting that whatever it is I am interrupting.

If you see a group who are having a good time, are you going to add to that or detract? Just because you like magic, it doesn't mean that they do. What else can you offer apart from the tricks themselves? Why shuld they stop enjoying themselves to watch someone do tricks?
Jon Allen
 
Posts: 242
Joined: 02/02/08 01:00 PM
Location: UK

Postby David Alexander » 11/06/05 02:38 PM

Lots of good advice here. As for repetoire - ignore what the finger flingers are doing and what impresses other magicians and keep alert for things that entertain lay audiences. You're being hired to provide entertainment. Sponge Balls/Sponge Rabbits, Color Changing Knives, Copper/Silver are old to magicians but almost always new to lay people. (I worked Polaroid Money for 20 years before I heard a woman say that her husband had a "trick wallet" like mine. Once in 20 years isn't bad.)

You have to know your material cold and be able to do it in your sleep as you'll be performing in dynamic and fluid situations, constantly adjusting for what is happening around you. You cannot think about your material as you perform. You have to focus on adjusting the presentation to the situation all the while being aware of drunks or smart asses who want to show how clever they are, grabby kids, etc. Most people are polite, but you must be in control at all times and prepared for what can happen.

When I worked for the Trader Vic Organization many years ago, almost nothing I presented took longer than 90 seconds, but nothing seemed hurried. The effects were simple, so the specators understood what had happened. Nothing complicated or anything that required counting cards or making piles...

Everything came out of my pockets. I worked standing at the table, not sitting like Allerton did.

My presentation was modular. If I detected the slightest flagging of interest, I'd stop, thank them for their attention, and walk away. I learned never to over-stay my welcome or to push myself onto people who were merely being polite.

Learn how to approach people without being intrusive. Two men discussing business will not be interested in watching you do a card trick.

On party walk round - I work out of my pockets and, occasionally, with a simple, small table, as there are things I like to do that require a table. Everything is "correographed" that that whatever I'm using goes back to the same place. I've spent a lot of time working out the logistics of what I'm doing and where it goes on me. You must be organized, but not with too much on your person so that pockets bulge and you cannot access things easily. I usually have a 20-minute repetoire on me, but that is usually overkill.

When I am working a cocktail party where there are tables, I use them, not my table, watching out for spilled drinks and dropped food.

If you are working a large party, develop two or three short routines of three tricks that can be done in their hands for small groups of three or four in a short time. This way you can cover a large group, do a little at each small group and move on. You're being hired to "work the crowd," not stand in one place and entertain one group of people for 15 minutes. I've worked a number of large parties where I did the same three or four tricks for tiny groups for two hours.

Not long ago I worked a house party where the caterer insisted that I work the tables instead of doing a single stand-up act. So, I did ten minutes at each of the six tables of 11 guests, varying my presentation from table to table.

While it was a party for adults, the hosts' children were present. I used them twice, which delighted mommy and daddy. By the way, no sucker tricks for the kids. They were treated with respect like the adults, which was recognized by the host with a nice tip for "being nice to my kids."

Something not touched by others: clothing and manners. Being appropriate and sophisticated is important, especially when working country clubs and corporate events. For most of my work I wear either an Oxxford tuxedo or an Oxxford cashmere blazer, a custom shirt and a Brioni tie. Naturally, the hair is groomed and my clothes, hands, and breath are clean. I look like the people who hire me. They think you're "one of them" and you gain respect and attention right away.

There are several good books on manners. Read at least one if you have any questions about how to behave.

You would think this need not be mentioned, but I've actually worked walk around with other magicians who look like they've slept in their cars before the show....rumpled suit, black tee shirt instead of shirt and tie, etc. Amazing that they work at all.

And I wear a name tag that identifies me by name and profession, so when I join a group, they instantly identify me as the entertainment. While I've worked a few parties where the host did not want me identified as a professional entertainer, but their "friend who did magic," the normal approach, with a name tag, makes things much easier.
David Alexander
 
Posts: 1550
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Aurora IL

Postby Jeff Haas » 11/07/05 05:07 PM

One thing no one's discussed is when you show up prepared to do strolling, and then someone at the event (usually an exec, not the HR person who booked you) gets the idea that you should "do something for the whole group."

Comments?
Jeff Haas
 
Posts: 922
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: San Mateo, CA

Postby Brian Marks » 11/07/05 09:29 PM

Originally posted by Jeff Haas:
One thing no one's discussed is when you show up prepared to do strolling, and then someone at the event (usually an exec, not the HR person who booked you) gets the idea that you should "do something for the whole group."

Comments?
Funny, I am more prepared for playing larger groups than stroll around. I could possibly do a 20 minute show off hand.

1 trick I will be doing walk around, I have done in front of 100 people. I have a 4 trick memorised deck routine, that will play well.
Brian Marks
 
Posts: 918
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Nyack, NY

Postby David Alexander » 11/08/05 11:29 AM

As Jeff has pointed out, there are, occasionally, mooches who want more than what you are being paid for. I work by contract that specifies what I am providing and what I'm being paid. In the case of walk-around, it is from specific hour to specific hour with additional charges for additional time. If they want me to do a stand-up show, well, that's in the contract for an additional fee.

There are a few people who will happily take advantage of the naive and inexperienced and have them perform additional hours, a stand-up show and, if they could, have them wash their car and mow their lawn. DON'T DO IT!

I'm not saying you can't give them an extra 15 minutes of walk-around. I've done it many times and the good will it brings is worth the time (unless you have to do to another gig), but giving someone a whole additional show for free is not good business. People who ask you to do that and expect you to do it as "part of what you're already being paid" are either clueless on the contract or they're simply trying to get something for nothing.

You must value your entertainment service just as though it were a tangible commodity. It will pay off. If you value your time, talent, and experience poorly, you'll just be viewed as another hungry fish to be hooked and exploited...and it makes it more difficult for the guy who follows you.

T. Nelson Downs said it best, "The more they pay you the more they will respect you and enjoy your show."
David Alexander
 
Posts: 1550
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Aurora IL

Postby Brian Marks » 11/08/05 08:34 PM

just curious. I feel more comfortable doing stand up shows than close up. Its because I am a stand up comic. Do you often do stand up shows at weddings/funerals? Ted Lesley tipped using a table in his book.
Brian Marks
 
Posts: 918
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Nyack, NY

Postby David Alexander » 11/09/05 01:25 PM

Funerals? I'm assuming this is part of your comedy...
David Alexander
 
Posts: 1550
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Aurora IL

Postby Brian Marks » 11/09/05 04:32 PM

Well if you have ever seen me die on stage.

Yeah its a joke.
Brian Marks
 
Posts: 918
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Nyack, NY

Postby David Alexander » 11/10/05 12:50 AM

OK. On this forum, you never know.

To use a table or not use a table is the choice of the performer. I can work both ways, depending on the venue and the situation. Sometimes it is nice to have a table as it sets out the performing area. Sometimes there isn't the room for the table.
David Alexander
 
Posts: 1550
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Aurora IL

Postby Brian Marks » 11/10/05 04:33 PM

My goal personally is not use the table. Being an ametuer alot of close up magic I do centers on a table 2 or 3 matrixes, cutting aces etc etc.
Brian Marks
 
Posts: 918
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Nyack, NY

Postby David Alexander » 11/12/05 10:49 AM

If you're going to do professional walk-around, you must be prepared to work under strange and highly variable conditions. A couple of years ago I did a corporate walk-around gig in a restaurant that had been bought for the night by the company that hired me.

Unfortunately, the corporation was far larger than the restaurant. I walked into a venue that looked like the stateroom scene from that Marx Brothers film. Had the Fire Marshall shown up, he would have immediately demanded that half the people leave.

The press of people made it nearly impossible to "walk around," and the concentration of several hundred people talking to each other made it necessary to shout at the people I could work for. Luckily, I was only hired for an hour.

I was only able to work for people sitting at tables but I made certain that I worked a few minutes for the big bosses, so they knew that I'd actually shown up and that I was entertaining. I did my time and left.

The sad thing is that often, the people who book you have no concept of how best to use your services or what you can actually deliver when you show up. As a professional I always want to deliver the best I can to a client, but often there won't be anything near ideal performing conditions and it won't be my fault. In those situations I'm philosophical, do the best I can, take the check....and leave.
David Alexander
 
Posts: 1550
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Aurora IL


Return to Close-Up Magic