Creating a Mega Stunt

The vanishing of a national monument, escaping from a locked box in a river, predicting newspaper headlines and being buried alive are all mega stunts that several successful magicians around the world have staged and benefited from. These mega stunts managed to capture the imagination and interest of the public, media and industry, resulting in media buzz and publicity.

I use the term mega stunt to describe any large-scale magic effect or escape stunt. It can also be used to describe some kind of physical endurance stunt since the likes of David Blaine and Criss Angel have established such feats as part of the modern day magician’s repertoire.

In the past half a decade, my partner, Ning, & myself have staged ten mega stunts in Asia. Each of our stunts have garnered quantifiable media coverage and I suspect (hope may be a better word) many readers know our names because of some of our mega stunts. Our stunts have ranged from original mega-scale illusions, innovative mentalism acts and escapes.

In this article, we hope to share some of our experience in creating successful mega stunts.

There are a couple of things you need to be aware of before embarking on staging a mega stunt.

First, you must understand the objectives of staging the stunt. In most cases, the purpose of a mega stunt is to create publicity and garner media coverage that in turn leads to brand building. If you are lucky, you can even get paid for your efforts.

Next, you need to have the technical expertise and experience to stage a mega stunt well and most importantly, safely. The mega stunt as a project is quite a big undertaking and besides the technical aspects of the stunt you are doing, you need to understand and be able to manage the event logistics which encompasses the staging, audio, visual, lighting, security, licensing, permits, crowd control, media management and other event related components that have nothing got to do with magic. It is impossible for you to do this alone and you will need a team to work with you. The average size of the production team for our stunts is around 20 – 25 people each time.

If you think you are ready to stage a mega stunt, the next most important step is to actually create the stunt. Here are three hallmarks of a successful mega stunt:

Wow Factor

This may seem obvious but the stunt must have a wow factor that appeals to the general public and media, not just to magicians. For example, being able to back palm two decks of cards may seem like a big “wow” to magicians but is unlikely to evoke the same response from laymen.

The wow factor can be created by doing something so impossible that it baffles the mind, using an iconic location or person or item, be incredulously dangerous or just massive in scale.

David Copperfield’s “Walking through the Great Wall of China” and “Vanishing the Statue of Liberty” had the wow factor due to the size and significance of the iconic objects used.

While not a visual illusion, predicting the national lottery has a wow factor because it appeals to the greed of humans and due to the implications of having the ability to predict the lottery.

mindheist 9 mindheist5

We managed to create a wow factor with our “The Mind Heist” stunt, which saw us set a world magic record of reading 100 minds in 60 minutes, due to the large number of people participating in the stunt. It was also staged as a world record attempt with officials adjudicating the stunt which made it even more intriguing.

Any stunt that is suspended high above the ground is generally quite a spectacle as it scales the effect upwards over a great height. Our “The Aerial Exit” mega illusion saw us vanish 5 spectators 24 feet in the air while surrounded by people. The fact that the mega illusion was so high up made it a mega stunt.

Never Been Done Before

This is the biggest selling point for a large number of stunts. The value to sponsors, clients, media and your own branding is to attempt something that has never been done before.

As all artistes know, nothing is 100% original and everything new is the old reinvented. So “never been done before” is a term that has to be contextualized to have value.

It could be a “never been done before” stunt in your country or city. Or you could be the youngest or oldest person to attempt the stunt.

For example, performing the Houdini Water Torture Cell is not something that has not been done before, but if it is with a tankful of piranhas or it is performed at the top of the tallest skyscraper in the world, it would be “new”.

The key is to find a stunt and a context to make your mega stunt unique in the world.

David Blaine drew inspiration for his buried alive stunt from Houdini but what made his version new was the fact that he was underground for a week in a see-through coffin and people could stop by and visit him.

All our mega stunts have some element of “newness”. In “The Impossible Teleportation”, it was the world’s first real time teleportation of a person from the street to a 50-storey skyscraper rooftop, performed completely surrounded in front of over 9000 people.

Impossible 4D Prediction

In our national lottery prediction, the “new” element was the fact that we claimed we had an actual bought lottery ticket sealed in with our printed prediction. While the lottery prediction is by no means original with us, no one had a genuine lottery ticket sealed in with the prediction before.

Newsworthiness

As most stunts are staged for publicity and media coverage, the nature of the stunt must be newsworthy. While a stunt that has “never been done before” can be a newsworthy point, it may not necessarily be enough for media to be interested. For example, you may be the first person in the world to escape from 500 ft of chain and 100 padlocks, but the media might not find this newsworthy enough to cover. Again, the key is to contextualize the stunt to make it newsworthy.

The classic sawing in half illusion is almost clichéd and one would never think it could be a mega stunt that would be of interest to the media. But what if, the person you were sawing in half is the President of your country and you were performing it on your national or independence day at city hall? I guarantee that if you were able to do this, you would make every news outlet in your country. It is the person, event and venue that gives the stunt context and makes it newsworthy.

Read PR books on how to develop angles that media likes and look out for. There are some tricks and tips to ensure your stunt is contextualized in the right direction and is designed to interest the media.

ning-upsidedown-escape02

In June 2012, Ning, became the first woman in the world to successfully perform a double strait jacket escape while suspended upside down from a burning rope 35ft high above the ground. In this case, no female (to our knowledge and research) had ever performed an inverted escape from TWO straight jackets high above the ground from a burning rope. So, there were a combination of three factors that made it newsworthy.

One, Ning being a female. Two, her escaping from two jackets, which is uncommon. And three, it is a dangerous escape high above the ground. The media loves the angle of the “underdog”, “unlikely hero” or in this case, the non-traditional women-empowering babe putting her life at risk attempting a typically male-oriented dangerous stunt.

Plan your mega stunt with these three elements in mind and you might just make news headlines that is worth tens of thousands of dollars in PR value! Best of luck and most importantly, be safe!

Extreme 002

Here is an interview with Ning (originally published in “Vanish” magazine) regarding her “Extreme Inversion” mega stunt.

Why this particular stunt and how did you come up with it?

I’ve been performing a strait jacket escape in my stage shows for years, done the ‘Magic Babe’ way as a cheeky sexy striptease. But earlier this year, I wanted to evolve the routine and make even more interesting so I started doing a double strait jacket escape, which is rather uncommon. I debuted this in Saint Vincent, Italy during the “Masters of Magic” convention and it got great responses. Since then, it’s been a featured highlight in my show all around the world.

In 2009, I did a upside down single straight jacket escape above a bed of spikes but without a burning rope. So, it was only natural to want to try an upside down double strait jacket escape since no female magician has performed it before. When the opportunity arose to present a spectacular stunt in Genting, this was the first idea that we proposed and the show producer and management at Resorts World Genting loved it. The rest is history.

Strap-Up

Were you nervous trying something like this?

Honestly, no, even though I only got to rehearse the escape once 35ft up in the air, without the rope on fire, on the morning of the escape. We were actually scheduled to rehearse the evening before but the coupling and cable from the crane provided was not in good condition and had to be replaced. However, the engineering company could only get the parts the next day so J C would not risk suspending me more than 1ft off the ground.

But, as you know, I’m an adrenaline junkie and I had faith in our equipment, my team and my ability to execute the escape so come the actual LIVE stunt, I was all zen and confident at performance execution time!

Can you share any technical aspects of the escape?

The strait jackets used are completely ungimmicked. The sleeves and straps are completely sewn down and spectators can thoroughly examine them. The jackets are custom made to fit me so I’m not swimming in them (small-boned Asian girl here) and the inner jacket actually does not have any arm straps. It’s a unique combination of jackets as most double straight jackets used a regular jacket with an outer sleeveless “transport” jacket. While the traditional set is a more legitimate and effective restraint, the escape as a performance is not as dramatic or visual for the audience, if you think about it. That’s the reason I opted with my combination set.

J C is the brains behind the upside down rigging system since he’s the genius designer behind all our mega stunts. His upside down escape rigging system is very safe (as safe as such an escape can be) and is very stable. It has multiple connection points to ensure weight is evenly distributed and in the unlikely event that one connection breaks, there are multiple back-ups. In reality, any one point is actually enough to sustain my weight and the weight of the rigging. All components are marine-grade equipment and tested to hold certain weights. We have a safety factor of 5 for each component. Another feature of J C’s rigging is that after I’m lowered down, it allows me to unhook and dismount myself gracefully on stage after the escape. The last point is an important aspect of the rigging design that many do not take into account.

So you can probably guess, one thing I’m not crazy about is the ending finish of a lot of upside down straight jacket escapes. Due to the rigging systems, after the dramatic escape, the performer has to be lowered to the ground, often flat on their back and the crew has to untie his/ her legs before he/ she can stand up and receive applause. This can take some time and is very anticlimactic when it comes to presenting the escape as a smooth, dramatic performance. The best dismount I’ve seen is by Kristen Johnson who performs a single jacket escape but also unhooks herself gracefully up in the air and literally absails down with a self contained belay system. It is ingenious and beautiful! Kudos to her 🙂 Luis de Matos also has a great rigging system that allows for a graceful ending. Of course, David Copperfield had a dramatic last-minute escape in his “Fires of Passion” special. Robert Gallup has a “kicker” ending that is unexpected and thrilling.

Lighting Up

Any words of wisdom for aspiring escape artists? 

Safety before ego, and er, don’t die.

Seriously, when attempting any kind of escape, please make sure you have trained and experienced professionals supporting your stunt. I’ve heard, in horror, stories where eager but tragically uninformed performers do an upside down escape by simply wrapping chain around their ankles. Not only is this incredibly dangerous (and stupid) as a rigging system, the chain can cut off blood circulation to your feet and cause severe injury.

So please do proper research and talk to real professionals for advice before risking life and limb (literally)!!

Extreme 028If you enjoyed this article, you can check out my original books/ plans/ DVDs HERE and use this Promo Code “5OFF2014” upon Checkout to receive a 5% discount off all books, sets, DVDs, plans & downloads.

Evolve Your Magic & Yourself Before it is Too Late by ‘Magic Babe’ Ning

J C’s Note: 3 years ago, I wrote an essay called “The Magic Evolution & You”. Ning has expounded on this issue with her own thoughts, mirrored by her ever evolving magic, style & image. Just check out how much her magic and image have changed in just the last 5 years. Here is the essay in her own words:

Question: David Beckham, Madonna, Ellen DeGeneres and Leonardo DiCaprio… What exactly do they have in common?

These stars are all hugely successful mainstream artistes who have kept themselves in the spotlight by creating their own unique brand of entertainment (sports, music, comedy/ talk show, acting, etc) that hold a wide mass appeal. These individuals have also put much effort and thought in constantly revamping their style, image and chops to ensure they remain interesting and current to their audience.

As fellow entertainers, we magic folk can certainly learn much from our sassy commercial counterparts. Magic performers need to do the same constant evolution, prob­ably not at the same radical level but it is so very essential for your magic to be current, relevant and mirror mainstream pop culture entertainment.

Shift and dare to change, or be left behind in today’s fast moving world where the Internet is a double-edged sword. Like with any art or entertainment form, the image of magic evolves over time. The trend of today’s magic is incredibly different from the style magic from just last decade. If you are still performing for today’s audience in top hat and tails, producing silks from a classic change bag, or making a rabbit appear, you are unfortunately behind about three decades.

The recent movie, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”, poked fun at magicians and showed how “out of times” and “out of sync” they are with modern pop culture. In fact, the movie showed how lame magicians generally are. Sad… but true.

The-incredible-burt-wonderstone

The only thing constant in life is change, and I’m sure that you would have noticed that the image of magic worldwide has always been constantly evolving. Every two decades or so, there is a dynamic shift in the presentation of magic. The look of magic is usually set by the most influential magicians of that particular time. Top performers like Robert Houdin, Harry Houdini, Channing Pollack, Doug Henning, David Copperfield and more recently David Blaine & Criss Angel have all been responsible for creating the image of magic of their time.

If you acknowledge your show is not in line with modern audi­ence’s expectations of magic today, there is hope yet because you see the possibilities of growth. Set aside your pride and ego for a bit and challenge yourself to explore what can be done better, since you are a living reflection of the image of magic as much as any other magician.

Now, I am in no way encouraging or even suggesting that you should be a clone of David Blaine, Criss Angel or whoever that may be the hottest flavour of the time. Jumping on the fad bandwagon will just make you look like a carbon copy and part of the indistinguishable ‘me-too’ crowd. So, bad idea to be a cookie cutter! You owe it to yourself to be your own person.

Consider for a moment, without pride or ego… When was the last time you revamped your act or added an act that elevated your performance so that it is reflective of current times? Have you been performing the same material for the past 10 years and not given it a commercial overhaul? And, I’m not talking about technical refinements or changing the colour of your cards/ silks/ birds/ canes/ parasols, so please, don’t even go there, unless you’re a jackass. Then I’ll personally come over to smack you in the face with your plastic appearing cane.

Thanks to globalization, our world is getting smaller and life seems to move faster every single day. Social media, the Internet, growth of new economies and countries influence pop culture trends and trends. There are fads and there are trends. Fads last months, trends last longer. Trends used to last around 5 to 10 years, now they last just 2 to 3 years due to the speed the world moves. Of course, this is dependent on your target market but I’m using international standards as a benchmark. People are easily bored and want to be wowed by the next ‘in’ thing.

What’s needed is to identify and pick elements, which reflect the current evolved image of magic as well as pop culture and infuse it into your style and/or act. Here’s some tried and proven things I’ve personally utilized in my commercial magic career, that you can also use to spruce up your unique image and brand of magic. Dedicate some soul-searching time to consider…

Choice of Material:

Is your choice of show material and props used considered current to your audience  If you are performing an act still using cassette tapes, Walkmans, old-fashioned bulky TVs, ancient typewriters, bulky mobile phones or other things that society has pretty much considered “retired”, your act will inevitably look dated. That is, unless you’ve structured your show to be themed in a “blast from the past” type of feel.

While some things may be respected as iconic and classic in magic, do bear in mind that while these are things magicians embrace, the rest of the world (i.e. mainstream public and media) may regard otherwise when they see top hats, canes, and rabbits. Don’t fall into this trap because when you follow the herd, you step on a lot of crap.

Structure of Magic:

Is the structure of your act just like everyone else’s? Certain acts have almost a template feel to them and the only difference (to the lay public) is just the magician performing it. At one time, everyone was doing doves, zombies and cards. Then it was the incorporation of canes, silks and snowstorms. Now, one of the magic fads is the CD manipulation act.

Can you honestly say you have a uniquely different product, or does your act/ show have the same formulistic structure that other magic acts commonly have? Can you change your act or show order, so it breaks the conventional rules or typical structures of magic shows? Award-winning mainstream movies like “Memento” and “Usual Suspects” did not follow conventional storytelling of film making and stood out from the norm. Use that for inspiration, to shine out!

Dressing:

What do you wear when you perform? Are you still in a 1990s Matrix-style black leather trench coat or god-forbid 1940s black tuxedo or even worse, painfully shiny 1970s sequined jacket? Are you in an obvious costume or dressed in something more normal? Where do you get your clothes from? A high-fashion retail outlet? A costumer? Does your mother/ wife/ girlfriend dress you?

Sure, I understand that magic attire has specific needs, but that is still no excuse not to have a current look that is fashionable or stylish. Consider what celebrities wear. Would they get their outfits from the same place that you do? I’m not asking you to shell out tons of money for designer wear and don’t be a wise ass about Lady Gaga’s Kermit the frog get-up *wink*

Hairstyle:

What do you sport? Does it feel dated? Is it the same hairstyle you’ve had since the 1980s? On the flipside, is your hairstyle too extreme for the general audience? If you are losing hair, do something about it! Comb-overs maybe only work if you do comedy, but you really don’t want your audience feeling sorry for you.

Grooming is important, and whoever said your hair is one’s crown­ing glory, really got that right. But! Here’s a tip from a female of the species. If you are seriously losing hair and can’t get a good wig or hair plugs, just consider shaving it all off. Grow a nice goatee, stay in good shape, tweeze your brows… You may just look sexy and badass. Women love that. Trust me!

Music:

Music is always an accurate reflection of the current time and a fitting piece of music for an act or routine makes a good act, great. Besides creating the perfect mood and feel for your magic, music also puts a time-stamp on your act. If you are do­ing a deliberate classical, themed, or period act to a time period, your music choice will be specific. However, if you are doing a general magic act or illusion, then your music needs to be up­dated every 5 years.

Please refrain from copying the music from other people’s per­formances, though you may find it perfect for whatever your intended purpose is (a similar act or otherwise). If I collected ten bucks every time I hear that particular soundtrack from string-quartet Bond blasting in a magic performer’s show or card manipulation act, and gave all the money to World Vision, I think my adopted kid in Mongolia can afford a PhD by now. LOL!

Script:

How do you write your lines, plan your story, and work on your all-important script? Where do you research jokes or lines?

Unfortunately, many magicians tend to use the exact same lines and this is evident if you attend magic conventions or magic production shows. It does get old quickly for an educated audience and that obviously, works against the performer. Ensure that your jokes are “fresh” and your script is topical. Throwing in current buzzwords are good if they are in context because people like that.

That’s something the most successful comedians and speakers use, so it’d be wise to follow in their footsteps.

 Case Study

As I think it is always important for one to practice what they preach, I thought I would share with you my own process that I have used to evolve my image and magic as my stage character, ‘Magic Babe’ Ning.

When I first started out professionally, I was pretty clueless about most things. Dressed in a dark trench coat, I wore a white long sleeve shirt and black leather pants.

Early Ning

Subsequently, I swapped my conservative top for something a bit more showy. It was a bareback silver sequined number that is held together only by 2 strings. One tied to the back and the other at the nape of the neck like a halter. Obviously, it sold sexiness much more than the previous costume and I used it because my skill sets to agents and bookers were already established. Every year, I changed my wardrobe to keep it fresh; from a sleek black corset, fitted with boning within to a sexy red vinyl corset to a black sequin bare-backed top, which I had professionally customized for a better fit.

Linking Coat Hangers

Earlier last year, I had my long tresses chopped off, a big sacrifice since most women regard long hair as a symbol of femininity, and instead I had my hair layered short with shocking purple streaks. I was completely comfortable being in my own skin. My attitude oozed that, and that gutsy part of me was reflected. FLY Entertainment, my artiste management company, supported the move and the media and fans loved it. Comments started coming in that they liked the fresh change. Now, my hair is actually hot pink! Something, I’ve always wanted to do at least once in my life.

coathangers

Besides my image, my material has also evolved over the years. The illusions I perform with my partner J C Sum are constantly being tweaked, whether it is a change in choreography, update in illusion design or update in music. We also add/ replace one or two illusions every two years to our show.

My favourite illusion “Crystal Metamorphosis” went through multiple changes over a 3 year period. An illusion we are quite known for “360 Sawing” has gone through two complete redesigns to make it even more deceptive. You can watch us perform the 2nd version in the recent NYE 2011 taping of Le Plus Grand Cabaret Du Monde in Paris and the 3rd & current version that we performed on Italy TV.

le plus2009 – 2011 Design

Italy TV

2012 – Present Design

However, my personal solo acts have also evolved since over time. I started with softer acts like a cut & restored rope performed under UV light and a linking coat hanger routine. Now, I perform more edgy acts such as a razor blade act, but with the addition of eating a torch of fire. I also added a “Human Block Head” routine (nail up nose) but with a 4” drill bit. This fits my more matured and edgy image.

For the longest time, I performed my “Straight Jacket Striptease” routine with a custom burgundy straight jacket. The routine has now been improved to a double straight jacket routine where I’m strapped up in two regulation-looking straight jackets. I still perform the “striptease” part but with two jackets “wink”.

straight jacket striptease

straight jacket striptease

For the sake of your pursuit in magic and for the sake of the art, please evolve!

Best of luck with your journey of evolution in magic!

If you enjoyed this article, you can check out my original books/ plans/ DVDs HERE and use this Promo Code “5OFF2014” upon Checkout to receive a 5% discount off all books, sets, DVDs, plans & downloads.

Working with Female Partners by ‘Magic Babe’ Ning

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Here is a great article by Ning that has been published in a few international magic magazines. It is an insightful and modern look at male performers working with female assistants, partners or co-performers from a female’s perspective. It is a worthy read for all performers looking to expand from a solo act to a show that incorporates other female performers. Here is the article in Ning’s own words:

Ning Revollusion

Stage magicians and illusionists will at some point, seriously consider having an assistant or performing partner be part of their show. This could be an effort to increase the scale of the show, making things look bigger and more lavish, or to be able to employ magic methods and techniques that utilize one more person.

Besides my solo show, I also perform in an equal partnership role with a male magician. JC Sum & I work with assistants (male and female) as well as female dancers. In this article, I will be sharing my perspective as both a female stage performer & an objective audience member watching male magicians work with their female partners and dancer/ assistants.

Define the Role of Your Female Partner/ Assistant to the Audience

So how do we first begin? Well, the very first thing to do when working with a female partner is to be extremely clear what role she plays in the show.

Clearly define: Is she your stage equal? Is she a stage assistant or stage hand?

If she is your stage equal, she must hold an equal role and not just be billed as an equal. It is essential that she have an equal time being the protagonist on stage and hold the stage as strong as you would. Her costuming must be as loud or attractive as yours so that both of you shine as brightly as stars, together.

If she is an assistant, however, her principle role is to support the show and not pull focus from the show and you, the magician. Her position on stage should always be a step behind you and her actions must compliment yours. Her costume must not be too loud so that it pulls focus away from you every time she steps on stage, because you are the star.

Now, if her role is that of being your stage hand, she must be invisible to the audience. Ideally, the audience should not even realize that she is on stage, so her movements and dressing must be completely understated so that she performs the role of supporting your show discreetly. Think professional kabuki performers or stealth ninjas *wink*

Recruiting your female partner/ assistant

If you are lucky enough to have a supportive wife/ girlfriend/ sister who is willing to be part of your show – congratulations! You are a very lucky guy :) But FYI, this can be the best thing or worst thing for your show because it has the potential to go both ways.

As your partner off stage, they will be dedicated to your show and want to make you look as awesome as possible. But! It is also important that they know what they are doing and are properly trained to partner or assist you in a professional way.

If they have any kind of onstage role, they must look appropriate for stage, be it physical appearance or dressing. They must know how to move on stage and must physically and theatrically compliment you when performing together. In other words, have them go for lessons to be stage ready. They need not be professional dancers but the ladies should at least know how to stand, pose and move on stage.

In case you aren’t aware, your wife/ girlfriend/ sister may not be completely crazy about what they are doing on stage but are doing it because of you. If this is the case, for the sake of your show and reputation as a magician, it may be better to consider another alternative. Seriously, not only does it not help your show in the long run, it will also ultimately sour your offstage relationship.

If you are looking for a professional female partner/ assistant, I’d suggest working with a trained dancer; someone with performing experience and training will know how to pose, present, move and look their best for you and your show, on stage. With communication and over time, they will also know how to react if something goes wrong on stage and can assist to misdirect as you recover.

magic babe ning on stage

Play on Your Female Partner’s/ Assistant’s Strengths

The next important step is working out and identifying your female partner’s/ assistant’s strengths so that you (both) can design specific roles that best suit her strengthens. If your female assistant is not a flexible petite lady, PLEASE do not try to force her in small boxes. Contrary to popular belief we aren’t compressible like doves *shifty eyes*

Now, if your female assistant is good in understanding magic psychology and knows how to perform deceptive moves like loads and steals (believe it some of us have the natural knack for these things), do take advantage of that. If she is a good actor/ dancer, incorporate that into your show or act to give emotive texture to the performance.

On a related note, appropriate dressing an costuming is essential. Don’t make her wear “the usual” stage costumes just because you see other women wearing them on stage. Choose outfits that flatter her figure and dress her to compliment your show and not just like the typical cookie cutter showgirl. Allow what she wears to holler her unique character and personality.

Use your Female Assistant Only As Necessary

Some guys don’t realize this and I’ve noticed this happening more often than it should :(If your lady’s role is not that of your equal stage partner but she is just your assistant, please do not overuse her for every small thing. She is a utility and should be used only as necessary. This is where she can be most effective as a deceptive magic tool. Also, if you use her for every small task, it makes you look like an old school chauvinistic performer and that does not sit well in today’s forward thinking society. Food for thought.

If you perform larger stage acts and illusions, my sincere suggestion would be… Please don’t do that cheesy cliche dance thingy at the end if it is not crucial to your act or adds zero value to the performance. The dancing and posing before and after an illusion is a dated (1980s… That’s like 30 years old) piece of choreography and looks especially unflattering if you don’t know how to dance well or move pose gracefully like a dancer.

magic babe ning jc sum

Listen to Your Partner/ Assistant

Gramps used to tell me there’s a reason why God gave us two ears and only one mouth. When I just started University (way before I turned professional), I did a one off illusion show with a local aspiring magician (let’s call him Mr X). Two other guy friends, also magicians, helped out as stage hands for this big event. Sadly, it was a tragically unpleasant experience because Mr X would not listen to our suggestions for show content, choreography or the presentation of the acts.

Though Mr X was uncertain (he was watching VCDs of World’s Greatest Magic) and had no prior experience of how certain things should be done or presented, his ego permitted him from listening, discussing or opening himself to potential ideas. His own acts were under-rehearsed and under-researched and the three of us realized Mr X really thought himself as the star instead of team effort as it was supposed to have been.  One example of being unprepared was his part of the execution of the classic sword basket illusion. Mr X did not rehearse his part well enough and I was the girl in the basket. When I got into the basket in position, I suddenly felt the cold metal blade of a sword roughly shoved down the back of my pants (and panties). Being nervous, he had been clumsy and just stabbed the blade in against my bare bottom skin!

But that’s not it… Mr X’s show opener, a customized torn & restored act, was also a disaster because the clipped pack of papers with the client’s key messages fell from his jacket the moment he ran up on stage. He had refused my suggestion of getting the words professionally silk-screened on cloth, despite the backing of the other guys. His reason? Cost. So he hand-wrote everything with a marker on cheap sheets of paper. Well it certainly cost him the show because the client never touched base again. It cost him our friendship too, because no one wanted to work with him after this horrible experience, more so when Mr X kept a thousand for himself and everyone else got a few hundred bucks, when the contact wasn’t even directly his. Sigh. For obvious reasons Mr X isn’t doing magic anymore.

Anyway. It’s important that when you work with a partner/ assistant, you should listen to hear their perspectives (be they male or female) unless you have worked out with 100% certainty what is to be done exactly. As the magician, you are the chief executive officer and must provide leadership and direction. If you can’t, you need to be willing to see your partner/ assistant as a collaborator. Quite too often, magicians have tragically let their ego rule their judgment instead of a clear logical head.

Having a stage partner or assistant with the same chemistry as you can add tremendous value and production value to your show. However, you have to work well and seamlessly well with them to maximize their value. Treat her well and you will be rewarded with a team member that ultimately benefits your show. Best of luck with that :)

Wishing you all the best with this exciting journey!