Professional Stage Illusion Sale

I have a select number of used professional illusions at GREAT prices (and most economical shipping rates). These illusions are going at a fraction of their selling prices and include:

  • The Aerial Exit
  • Shadow Vision
  • Platform Levitation
  • Full Throttle Motorcycle Production
  • Blammo
  • 12-Girl Cabinet
  • Light & Space
  • Revollusion

illusions for sale

Sales are made on a first confirm basis!

More of my original illusions are also now available through Thomas Clark including “Crystal Metamorphosis”“Visual Displacement”“Blade Pyramid” and “Benchmark”.

I’m really pleased to have Thomas build my illusion designs through his company Magic Sax. He has the exceptional skill to build a high quality prop at an incredibly reasonable price.

“Benchmark” is now available at the low introductory price of US$1800. This price will only be offered to the first few orders so take advantage of it. Here are some pics of Thomas’ “Benchmark”:

Benchmarkpolished2Benchmark

Check out www.magicboutique.sg under the STAGE/ ILLUSIONS for photos, info, videos and shipping info!

Happy New Year!

6 Techniques to Differentiate Your Illusion Performances

In my previous two entries on the subject of “Why Illusionists Perform the Same Illusions?” and the follow-up, I explored the ‘why’ and urged professional-level illusionists to step out of their ‘me-too’ comfort zones and not present the same illusions in the same way.

In this entry, I will focus on not the why but the how. Specifically, I will cover 6 techniques on how to differentiate an illusion performance. This is by no means exhaustive or the only ways to differentiate your illusion performances, they are suggested proven creative approaches that have worked for others & myself.

Do Not Allow Overly Common Illusions to Dominate Your Show Progam

This is the most obvious technique yet not very helpful if not delved into with more depth.

First, I would like to stress that there is nothing inherently wrong with ‘standard’ illusions. They are standards for a reason because they are audience and time tested. My only issue is that they are overly common which makes all illusionists look the same.

I suggest the following ‘formula’: For every two standard illusions you present, have one original piece or seldom-seen illusion in your show program. And when you present the standard illusions, do it differently (more on this below).

During the peak of their illustrious career, signature illusions that the Pendragons often presented in a show included The Sword Basket, Interlude and the Sub Trunk. The Sword Basket & the Sub Trunk are standards but they made them different with their style and presentation of the illusion.  Interlude (at that time) was brand new and exclusive to them for a number of years. This gave their show a very fresh and innovative feel. Furthermore, the presentation of the illusions were closely tied into their performance characters and style.

This formula will separate your show content from others. This alone will not differentiate as a totally unique illusionist to the marketplace but is an important first step.

Modify the Aesthetic & Functional Design of Your Standard Illusion

I gave specific examples on how various illusionists modify standard illusions so they look different from others off the same assembly line. Most recently, I have rebuilt and add original elements to marketed illusions “360 Sawing” and “Windshear” to make them different.

Previously, I highlighted Michael Baron’s “The Device” as an excellent modification of the Mini Kube Zag. Several people have made changes to Modern Art in an effort to differentiate the illusion; from making it a one-person illusion, to removing the ‘table’ to having the person’s head extend out of the prop.

Changing the colour of the prop is not enough. So, think about going another step in terms of changing the structure of the prop, adding elements, reducing elements, changing materials or a combination of the above.

Script the Plot of an Illusion

Think about what story you want to tell the audience. What do you want your audience to feel or experience? Are you performing the illusion to give depth and advance your stage character?

Specifically, I’m talking about thinking about a plot in depth and not just “take a girl, put her in a box, put swords through the box…”.

Thinking about the plot will often give motivation for the illusion and help you add elements to the performance to tell the story. These additional elements include costuming, dialogue (verbal or non verbal), smaller props and music.

Every good story has a defined beginning, middle and an end, although not necessary in that order. Illusion performances are no different. Apply basic storytelling techniques and plots from good movies. Imagine if you could use the plots from “Memento” or “The Usual Suspects” to an illusion performance.

Probably the best example of using plots to differentiate their illusions (and routines in general) is Penn & Teller. Practically every act they perform is a master class of plot and scripting. While it is unlikely that you could create a whole show with this technique (because you are not Penn & Teller), just having one such illusion presentation in your show can make all the difference in the world.

Add a Kicker to the Illusion

This, of course, does not apply to all illusions but is part of the idea generation process. Some purists do not like to put kickers into an act because it becomes all the audience remembers and they forget the actual details of the act. But, the fact is, audiences love kickers if they are not telegraphed.

Think about what possible kickers can be added to a standard illusion you perform. Costume changes and the appearance of a surprise person/ object and transpositions to the back of the performing venue are common kickers in illusions. What else can be done?

Do the Opposite of What has been Done

This is a common creativity technique used during brainstorming. Think about how you can transform, change and radically do something different with a standard illusion prop, presentation or handling.

Make a list or mind map of what is normally done with the standard illusions and see what you can do the complete opposite of in every aspect.

Don’t limit yourself, have fun and come up with the most ridiculous and wild ideas. This is the idea generation part of the creativity process so forget limits at this point. Think about how you can make a standard illusion bigger, smaller, faster, slower, funnier etc.

Some simple ideas to jumpstart your brain:

  • Instead of putting a girl in a box, who/ what else can be put inside? Does it have to be just one person/ object?
  • Instead of a rectangular box, can it be round, cylindrical, hexagonal or just a frame?
  • Instead of making a girl, car or motorcycle appear, what else you be produced that makes sense in your presentation context?

Combine Different Artistic Elements with the Illusion

This is probably one of the most difficult techniques to differentiate an illusion performance because it requires a mastery of another artistic skill or, at the very least, an in depth understanding of how to combine illusion with the other artistic skill.

If not done well, the whole performance can look contrived. Many try to integrate dance into illusions (Copperfield influence from the late 80s) but it has become way to cliched now and unfortunately most can’t dance or look good trying.

Darren Romeo adds singing to illusions as the “Voice of Magic”. Nathan Burton adds comedy to illusions which is not as common as comedy to stand-up magic. Criss Angel’s “Believe” is a combination of Cirque’s take on the circus with Criss’s illusions. Lee Eun Gyeol does one of the most beautiful illusions with shadowgraphy and Chris Murphy’s “Evolution” illusion.

spiker

To end this entry, here is an example of a transitional/ filler illusion we use in our show. The purpose of this example is not for promotional purposes but to demonstrate that these are techniques we actually employ in our professional work and have spent time, money and effort on.

We call the act ‘Spiker’ which is actually Jim Steinmeyer’s “Audience Acupuncture”. The techniques we employed in creating this presentation include:

  1. Script the Plot of an Illusion
  2. Do the Opposite of What has been Done
  3. Combine Different Elements with the Illusion

Script the Plot of an Illusion

This purpose of the plot of the illusion was to showcase ‘Magic Babe’ as a strong character and as an equal on stage to her partner; not a pretty female assistant. She is the protagonist in the performance. She is in control from start o finish.

Do the Opposite of What has been Done

“Audience Acupuncture” was originally designed to be used with an audience member (typically a female or a kid) and to be presented light-heartedly or comedic in style. This is also the way it is presented by several illusionists around the world.

We did the opposite by performing it straight without comedy. We also do not use a spectator. Instead of the female being spiked, Ning spikes me. The role reversal adds interest and a psychological difference to the presentation.

Combine Different Elements with the Illusion

Ning’s skillful twirling Japanese sais is a prelude to the illusion. The sharp sais complement and set up the illusion with the steel spikes. And ultimately, it is great entertainment value and variety. What is not to like about an attractive lady manipulating deadly weapons?

You can watch our performance of this illusion here:

I hope this entry gives you food for thought and use whatever applies to you to differentiate your illusion content.

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.

Choosing Your First Grand Illusion for Modern Illusionists

In Nov 2012, Ning & I completed a 5-week 21-city “3 Sides of Magic” lecture tour in France, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany. We also had the pleasure of being invited to tape a second appearance at the world-famous television show, Le Plus Grand Cabaret Du Monde, in Paris during the same trip. It was a pleasure meeting up with almost 1000 European magicians in the course of our travels and sharing our brand of magic.

While our lecture covered our professional work in close, mentalism and cabaret magic, we devoted one segment of the lecture to grand illusions. Specifically, we discussed what would be a good very first illusion for a new performer to illusions or for a close-up or stand-up magician who has been asked to stage a large-scale act for a special show.

So, if you missed our lecture, here are our thoughts on the subject, just for you!

The first thing you need to do is to identify the level of your performance of this first illusion. For lack of better terms, I will distinguish between a professional and an amateur performance for purposes of this discussion, we define a professional performance as a paid gig where you are engaged as a professional entertainer to perform for an audience. For an amateur performance, you may be paid a token sum of money but not a professional fee. This performance might be for a friend’s function, wedding, school show, church event, magic club show or charity event.

This is by no means to look down on amateur performances but it is to highlight the necessity for a stricter criteria when choosing your first illusion for a professional gig as expectations from the client/ audience are different.

For professional performances, you have a certain expectation to fulfill of your client who booked you or your paying audience if you do your own theatre show. They will be more critical of your material, performance and overall show production value. Overly common illusions performed with little original style may not be enough to impress your paying audience. Your illusion (and rest of your show) should look professional. I am not saying that it has to have to be a chromed industrial-looking prop or a painted box, but an old card box put together with fraying duct tape will not make the cut for most professional performances. The exception would be if you were using a “beat-up” prop amidst a professional illusion set to create contrast.

If your illusion is for an amateur performance, you will have slightly more latitude in the look of your props, standard and originality of performance, not implying that artistic quality and standards should or need to be compromised. Makeshift props fabricated with careful detail out of cardboard ala U.F. Grant’s “Victory Cartons” or Andrew Mayne’s “Voodoo Box” will be good enough.

After taking into account the level of performance that you are staging the illusion, basic and practical considerations when choosing your first illusion include:

  • The illusion must complement your performing style and character
  • The performing venue & conditions – size of stage, private backstage area, side wings
  • The audience searing angles, sightlines, audience distance
  • Your mode of transportation – car, MPV, van, lorry, public transport
  • Your illusion budget
  • Your support crew – availability of illusion assistant(s), stage hands, secret assistants

Here are the three most common recommendations for a first illusion.

The Substitution Trunk. This is a classic Houdini illusion where the magician is locked into a box or trunk. The assistant stands on top and raises a curtain. Split seconds later, the performers exchange places with the magician standing on top of the trunk and the assistant inside the trunk.

The Broom Suspension. Created by Robert Houdin, two brooms are placed vertically under a girl’s arms. The girl’s legs are lifted up horizontal so her body is parallel to the ground. One broom is removed and the girl magically suspends in the air in one broom.

A Box-style Illusion. This refers to any “box jumper” illusion where a girl goes inside a box and the box is speared, stabbed or divided. Examples of such illusions include the Sword Basket or Sword Box, Robert Harbin’s “Zig Zag Girl”, Jim Steinmeyer’s “Modern Art”, Gunther Puchinger’s “Mini Kube Zag”, Jack Gwynne’s “Sword Temple” (also known as the Temple of Benares)  or my “Blade Pyramid” (that is available as a free e-plan if you search hard enough. Hint, listen to one of my audio shows).

These are all excellent illusions in their own right as they are relatively inexpensive, can pack flat or fairly small and can be performed in most conditions.

While we agree these are all great illusions and good starting illusions, not all three are ideal as the very first illusion, especially if you are an occasional performer, part-time professional or weekend warrior. The Substitution Trunk and Broom Suspension are not ideal first illusions.

J C Ning Crystal Metamorphosis

The Substitution Trunk is not a good very first illusion as it requires a lot of time to learn and eventually perfect. It is extremely difficult and physical in nature. If you are not a full-time magician or not full-time into illusions, it is unlikely that you can devote a considerable amount of time to practice and rehearse. Realistically, you may have only two to three days of two hours each to rehearse. And, you would have to coordinate your schedule with your assistant who is not likely to be your full-time assistant. The Sub Trunk requires hours and hours over weeks of rehearsal just to perform smoothly, as such, it is not an ideal first illusion although it is a fantastic illusion for a subsequent illusion after you have some experience in illusions.

The Broom Suspension is not an ideal first illusion for several reasons. First, the method requires a harness that should be custom fitted to your assistant. So, you will need to use the same assistant each time or an assistant of very similar build. The illusion also requires the assistant to have strong abdominal and thigh muscles to keep her body straight during the suspension so that the illusion will look good. If this is your first illusion, it is unlikely that you will have a professional dancer or assistant. You will likely be asking your wife, girlfriend, daughter, mother or grandmother to assist you. If they are not trained dancers or fitness instructors, chances are, they will find the illusion very difficult and even painful to perform. The experience will not be positive and they may not want to assist you after your first rehearsal.

There is another reason why the Broom Suspension is not ideal as a very first illusion due to the lack of production value. When a client books an illusion show, they expect to see big illusion props and flashy costumes. While it is a cliche and, as magicians, we know that the prop does not represent quality of an illusionist, laymen clients are different. They expect production value and see it directly proportionate to the money they pay. A Broom Suspension unfortunately does not have tremendously production value as the main props are two brooms. If this is the only illusion you perform in an illusion show, it might not fulfill client expectations.

This does not mean the Broom Suspension not a good illusion because it is very effective in the right context. If you perform a full illusion show with multiple large illusions, the Broom Suspension is an excellent illusion to put in the middle of the program. Once you have established yourself as an illusionist with the “big toys”, you explain to the audience that you would like to present an illusion with some ordinary items that you found backstage. You then bring out the brooms and present the Broom Suspension. In this context, this illusion plays very well and no client will have an issue with it in terms of lack of production value.

levitation

So, the best first illusion to perform is a box-type illusion. First, the box illusion is also a large prop that will satisfy clients looking for production value. Most box illusions can fit different sized girls so it does not have to be precisely custom fitted to your assistant. You can also learn most basic box illusions in one session of two hours and later make the performance smooth with a few more sessions. Your assistant and you can work out the basic choreography of the illusion and the order of movements in a relatively short time.

Finally, a box illusion will also teach you basic illusion presentation skills, movement, prop handling and choreography. This will help you in the performance of future illusions.

One important point to note about box illusions is that it is very easy to perform them badly. You often hear the criticism that illusionists are “box pushers”. This is because many illusionists (professionals included) perform box illusions very badly.

There are many aspects of a box illusion performance that are easy to perform badly and that affect the entire performance. Besides badly designed props that are ugly and not deceptive, the performance of a box illusion contains many non-magic actions that are not magical moments but are necessary for the performance of the illusion.

These include non-magic actions such as opening/ closing a door to a prop, removing a cloth, turning a prop around, taking swords/ spears/ tubes from a stand or stage hand or moving panels, illusion parts or catches. Many performers do not think about how to present such non-magic actions. As a result, these actions are performed without thinking how they look or take too much time to perform. Every non-magic action has to be well thought out and choreographed. The actions must be performed smoothly and with economy of action. That means that any single action should be accomplished with the least amount of movements. In any single illusion performance, there can easily be ten non-magic actions to perform. So, it is critical to ensure these actions are short and look elegant so that the entire illusion performance will be polished and professional.

Magic Babe Ning Spike Box

Here are some final first-illusion tips:

  • If you do intend to purchase or build a standard or common illusion, create a different and enhanced presentation or variation. This will help you make the illusion look different and is a good creative process that will help you develop future illusion presentations.
  • Do not get short-duration illusions as your first and only illusion. If you are performing your first illusion, it will likely be the closer for your show so it has to have a substantial effect in content and duration. An instant appearance may look good but if it takes only 30-seconds to perform, it will not be suitable.
  • Choose self-contained illusions that do not require a pre-load. If you choose an appearance illusion where your assistant has to be loaded, then you have to perform it at the start of the show. If you are not performing on a proper theatre stage, you may also not even have stage wings or a private area where the assistant can be secretly loaded into the prop. Illusions of this nature include a “Flash Appearance”, “Fire Cage” or “Shadow Box”.
  • Instead of performing one big illusion, you can also consider performing several small illusions or illusionettes like “Dagger Head Chest”, “Head Twister”, “Torch through Arm”, “Sword through Neck”, “Arm/ Head Chopper” or “Chair Suspension”. These are all time-tested mini illusions that are affordable and easy to perform.

Best of luck with your first grand illusion!