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5th Featured

I've finally done my 2nd Children's Birthday Party.  Actually, in reality, it's my first in an external venue (at one of the KFC outlets), with mainly people that I do not know.  The first performance I did, I did with my church friends mainly a good number of children that I do know, so it was somewhat less intimidating (or so I thought!)

First, I'll touch on some audience management must-haves I learnt from my first experience.  It is critical to mark out a "magician only" or "stage" area which is out of bounds to the children.  Of course, the more seasoned performers already knew that....  So I armed myself with duct tape, and marked out the area on the floor.  Before even the show started, it took some time to keep reminding the children to stay behind the line.  Some children even played around by hopping over the line and back repeatedly... geez...  but with enough reminders, I'm glad the no children crossed the line even after the show when I was at the table behind eating.  (I was watching the area though.... )

Now for the routine, I've made some last minute changes to it because I didn't have enough time to practice some of the routines. Sadly to say, I think I didn't do justice to some of the effects... but I think the children still enjoyed it nonetheless. 

The magic word.  I was wondering what magic words to use, and I asked the children if they knew of any magic words.  The usual like abracadabra, hocus pocus came out... and somewhere I heard someone said "Banana"... so I declared the magic word of the day to be "Bouncing Bananas!"  Said with Gusto, it somehow amused the children very much! I must say... I kinda like this magic word and might stick with it! 

Here's the routine after I did some warm-ups with the children.

  1. PIP CARD.  This is the one where the number of dots on the cards kept changing.  I did it using a "eye-test" premise and also as a "to see if you are paying attention" premise.  I think it built up the momentum nicely.
  2. Sponge Ball.  For this effect, I invited a child to participate. I started with on sponge ball, and split it into two.  Then I placed one sponge ball and asked her to hold it tightly, and then magically cause the ball in my hand to travel to hers. I pull out one more sponge ball, and asked how many sponge balls would I get when I add 2 sponge ball from her hand to mine.  I'll get various answsers, then I'll say we have none, because we only have 1 square cube. This routine played well (children always love sponge balls), and while I inserted this segment at the last minute, I'm glad I did. 
  3. Magic Coloring Book (with disppearing crayons, breakaway fan, nested wand). I did Danny Orlean's Magic colouring book routine.  For this I invited 2 children to help me (you can see them in my photo album) and I think it played very well.  The disappearing crayons created some gasps, and the revelation that the colours have magically jumped onto the book produced some nice reactions too. Learning point one, one part of the routine is to be surprised when the coloring book is magically coloured by coloured in a messy manner (i.e. not within the lines).  The child I invited was a little too young (almost 4 yrs old) and that was exactly how he would have colored it, so there was no surprise.  Getting a slight older child might have helped create the surprise alittle more. The breakaway fan worked well, but I think I need to work on acting surprised more... the children were amused but didn't react much.  Oh... but for my nested wands, they were laughing hilariously! The child ended up holding 4 wands, and waving over the coloring book to fix it.  Of course, the audience all clapped for the boy after that.  :)  I like this routine and will definately do it again. 
  4. Gypsy Thread.  Danny Orleans used this in his routine and I thought I give it a shot.  The objective was to get the children to settle down a little after all the fun with the disappearing crayons, coloring book, breakaway fan and nested wands.  The effect played well, and I got the children's attention. I was worried that it might bore the children, but it was alright!  Getting the children to shout "BOUNCING BANANAS" when attaching the ball of thread, and when revealing the restoration was a blast.  Actually, I think the whole routine wouldn't be the same without the children shouting the magic word.  :) It really creates participation and gets them feeling involved.  A wonderful thing this magic word is!
  5. Do-As-I-Do with rope.  This is the same one I did at the first kids show I did.  But what I did differently, was to invite someone's daddy to join me. (You can see this in the photo album).  This worked much better than when I did it the first time.  Firstly, getting an adult to come up means they can follow the steps much more easily, secondly, the children enjoy much more seeing a adult being unable to do what the magician can; as compared to if I had a child instead.  I think it was also good because this time, I got one of the parents involved.  We know how the parents all just end up doing their own things during the show. 
  6. Professors Nightmare.  I love this effect, and adults I've done it to always have their eyes widened in wonder.  For the children though, I think I did it too quickly.  I didn't get much reaction, and I also forgot to give the children more opportunities to shout the magic word.  It was like the magic was happening quickly and all without the children having to really participate.  That was a mistake I think, and the reason for it is, I was so used to doing this routine for adults, that I went on auto-pilot and so it didn't really play so well with the children.  I need to re-look this routine to make it better for the children, or otherwise, it may have to go out... but I do love this routine... it's so visual.... haha! 
  7. Ball and Vase.  What was I thinking when I added this!  Actually, the children kinda liked it. The reason that I did this was because I wanted to introduce my "invisible friend" in my next effect.  Simple and sometimes over exposed, it was a risk to do this.  I didn't have anyone shouting that they knew how it was done fortunately, and the younger ones thoroughly enjoyed it.
  8. The Thing.  After I did the ball and vase, I asked the children if they wanted to know how it was done.  And then I introduced my "invisible friend". Overall, this was a very, VERY short routine, and I do think I need alot more practice with it.  But I'm glad the children were entertained and some even come up after the show to see my invisible friend again.  :)   One nice thing that happened was that I took my time to "materalise" the thing.  I said "hello" about 3-4 times, and one the adults started shouting "Hello" louder, saying I was too soft perhaps.  While it might have been abit disruptive, it gave me the opportunty to look "distractedly" at her and materialise "the thing" at the same time.  So the appareance of "the thing" without my awareness of it got the children quite excited. I thought that was a nice touch.  :) 
  9. Miser's Dream.  I did Baxt's routine for this, and I actually forgot to do the last phase of the routine where the child picks a coin out of the air and throws it into the bucket.  In my opinion, that's probably best part of the routine but I forgot about it somehow!  It still ended well (not as well as I hoped), and the jumbo coin was quite the novelty with them. 

 

And so that's the full routine!  On hindsight.... I think I was doing too many effects, and some of the effects were rather rushed (like the prof nightmare, the thing) and I think that was also one reason that I missed out one phase of the Misers Dream routine.  I definately need more practice!  But after that the host got some feedback from the guests, and everyone came but with great feedback!  Somewhat Ego boosting I have to admit. 

Some other items to touch on before I forget:

  • Audio - I used the PAS-8000 by florida magic.  I think it worked very well and was extremely easy to set up. While testing it at home, I got some white noise while using the wireless headset, but I didn't notice it at all during the show, so I think it works great on the ground.  It really adds a touch of professionalism to it, and also prevents me from having to shout to get the children's attention.  In comparision with the first show I did where I didn't have an audio system, I think it makes all the difference in the world in helping with controlling of the environment.

  • Attire - I was wondering what to wear. I don't have a customised vest, or jacket, or anything.  So I just quickly popped on a jacket with a graphic-T, and a necklace (yes, I'm vain....haha).  Looking at the pictures, I actually rather like the look.  Any feedback on how to make myself look better is welcomed! :) 

  • Profile of Children for this show - There were about 20-25 children, aged between 4 to 10 (estimated), and of course I have the adults and some older sibblings in the teens.  I had only two teens there who were very well behaved, thankfully! :) 

I end this blog post with conversation the host had with one of the children that she shared with me.  And I paraphrase.

Host: Did you enjoy the birthday party?
Child: Yes, but I don't like the magician.
Host: Oh, why, did you like the show and the magic?
Child: Yes, I like the show and the magic.  But I didn't get any prize, so I don't like the magician.
Host: <Laugh>

What happened was I was giving out some small gifts for participation in the magic show and also in some games later on.  The child wanted some prize but was usually too slow, so other children got the prizes instead.  I know this means I got to work on how to ensure every child has something at the end of the show and the games..... suggestions welcomed! 

5th Featured
A little background here, I'd been playing around with magic for quite awhile, and mainly do close-up. Recently, I did some magic during a mission trip to Sri Lanka for a group of about 50-60 kids which went quite well, so I thought this round would be better. It turned out quite differently though. 

My friend asked me if I was available to do some simple tricks for the daughter's birthday party, I'd have about 10-12 children aged 3-7 years old. And I was doing the performance in the living room. I know most of the children personally (mostly friends' children) and we're pretty familiar with each other. There were a number of children who were guests and were people I'm meeting for the first time. 

So before the party started, we were playing with the children, and making some balloon sculptures while waiting for the rest to turn up. When everyone was here, we started with same games (pass the parcel and stuff), before it was my turn. I prepared a number of stuff, but I ended up doing the following. 

1. How to tie a rope without letting go of the ends (by crossing the arms first). This was a warmup piece that didn't play very well. I intended it to be a puzzle which they could learn and show their friends, so I issued a challenge, got some of the older kids up, but promptly lost their attention. So I got on the next one. 

2. Do as I do with the rope, where only the magician get's the knot. I had the two older kids from the first trick attempt this, but it also promptly fell flat on it's face too as the children had difficulty following the movements. So I cut it short, and proceeded to do the next trick which I thought would be better. 

3. Professors Nightmare. After the "nightmare" I had, I sent the children back to sit down, and promptly did professor's nightmare. I handed the ropes of 3 lengths to the children to take a look, and then did the routine. The first routine where there was a moment of amazement and some applause. I was relieved this went quite well after the outcome of the first two items. 

4. Cups and Balls with Breakaway Wand. I pulled out the table, and the cups and realised it was instantly recognisable! And the children knew what was going to happen. I got them to stand up incase I flashed the extra ball, but that might have been a mistake because they got REALLY close to the table! At this point, another family came into the house (the door was behind me), so I turned around just to say "WELCOME!", I turned back and saw my stack of cups in the hands of one kid who opened the cups and dropped the 3 balls on the floor, another kid grabbed my breakaway wand and somehow the key piece dropped out, so he was staring at the broken wand. All that in the time I took for me to just turn my head and say "WELCOME". With my breakaway wand already "broken", I played along and acted shocked, then proceeded to get another normal wand out for the trick. The trick then went alright, because they knew what to expect, but it really did feel quite chaotic at that time. In between, I'd tried to ask them to sit down, and realised they can't see the cups, and asked them to stand again. At this stage, I thought I pretty much lost the audience and made a full out of myself. So I moved on to the next one. 

5. Misers' Dream (Baxt, a boy and a bucket). Boy, I tell you... I thank God (And Robert Baxt!) for this! The children were still standing, and at the start of the trick, kept wanting to look into the bucket to see the number of coins. That really wasn't a problem, and got them really close up and engaged. The children were roaring with laughter when the coins started falling out of the kid's ears, armpits, and bottom. When I went into the "Grab a coin from the air, make a fist and drop the coin in the bucket". The boy got so amused he just kept doing it repeatedly without my instruction until I almost ran out of coins (I played along of course)! So fortunately, the show ended with a high. Those who have not tried Baxt's routine, I highly recommend it.
Alex Wong Feb 19 '13 · Comments: 10 · Tags: insight, performing, children, party