So, here’s the deal.  I spent hours yesterday trying to work out my comedy linking rings idea.  While I still feel that it is a goal I will most certainly work for, I just don’t see myself having the time to work out a completely different and very ambitious routine.  Especially with all the rewriting I have to to anyway to convert my scripts to an Elizabethan dialect.  I’m more than a little disappointed.  But, on the bright side, the answer to a problem with my rope routine appeared (by magic?) last night.

In my original conception of my act, I envisioned my rope routine looking more like Tabary’s work: very simple, very unusual, and no scissors.  From the very beginning of this precess, I’ve had problems with using scissors in my routine.  Even though scissors were around in the Renaissance, (and much, much earlier.  Scissor history turns out to be very cool) they just don’t feel very appropriate to me.  My first idea to solve this problem was using a knife or dagger to cut the rope.  This has problems of it’s own.  Pulling a dagger on a crowd, even at a ren. faire is risky not to mention that you couldn’t really hand them to an audience member to have them do the cutting.  The bottom line: knives are just too dangerous (which seems silly when you consider that scissors have twice as many blades as your average knife).

So what’s my solution?  While looking through my magic tapes and DVDs last night, I cam across David Stone’s Real Secrets of Magic.  On it, he describes his rope routine which is very much inspired by Tabary but it’s meant for a close-up audience.  It’s also of a difficultly that’s within my reach to learn in the month I have before the faire.  Hopefully, today, I’m not being too ambitious.  And, if I am, I hope i realize it while there’s still time to do something about it.

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Linking Ring Ideas

September 29, 2010

Today I want to focus on retooling the “out-of-the-box” routines I’ve got to inject some of my own personality.  I’ve decided to start with the linking rings partly because it may be the most difficult.  Why?  Because in most ring routines, the performer is silent or mostly silent throughout.  I don’t really have the option to play music as a boom box might be considered anachronistic at the ren. faire (although they said that dealers could sell CDs and DVDs… curious).  Also, the rest of my show is talking without music so I think that might seem too out of place.

The bulk of my routine was inspired by Jeff Mcbride, but I think I can make it me by making it funny.  I know they must be out there, but I haven’t seen many comedy linking ring routines.  I’m thinking of approaching from the angle of the magician who is pompous in his mastery of the rings being thwarted by the rings themselves as they seem to do the opposite of whatever he wants.  In the end the magician and the rings learn to work together and accomplish the finale.  This scenario is perfect for me because, from what I’ve been told in the past, the humor that I best project from the stage is that of the “straight man.”  Abbot, not Costello.  In the vision of the routine in my head the rings themselves are the funny member of the comedy duo and I’m the guy reacting to them and trying to get them to stop being so silly.

I, of course, can’t just come out and say that.  A routine like this requires a complex “silent script,” a script made up of thoughts in the performer’s head that get expressed through body movements and facial expressions.  With only one month to prepare, it may be a little too ambitious a project, but just because a piece is performed doesn’t mean it’s complete.  Usually far from it.  With a lot of hard work, the routine should be in a presentable form by the time the faire rolls around.  If it’s not, I always have the base routine to fall back on.

Time to go work.

As the deadline for finalizing my set list draws closer, I thought it would be good to talk about my material.  I’ve narrowed it down to six effects for my stand-up show.  I plan on doing some walk-around to drum up an audience between shows also, but that’s another story.  The six effects are:

  • “Ping-pong Ball, Fruit, & Flute” which was described in Harry Anderson’s book, “Wise Guy.”  Great for getting attention.  Balancing a ball on your nose while eating fruit is no problem.  The real problem is fining a song you can play on a recorder with one hand (with your nose).
  • Mouth coil.  Pretty standard here, you seem to be doing some sort of torn and restored paper effect when you stick the pieces in your mouth and pull out 25 ft. of colorful paper streamers.  Very festive and feels very time appropriate.
  • Multi-Phase cut and restored rope routine.  Nothing fancy here.  I don’t have time to learn Tabaray’s wonderful routine (although I wish I did, it has a lot of advantages like no scissors, and the same rope used over and over again.) so I’m just sticking with stuff I know on this one.
  • Silk to Egg with the comedy (sort of sucker) explanation, because, without that, it’s just not as good.
  • Linking Rings.  Something I’ve loved and been practicing for years.  I just bought some larger rings and it looks ever better.
  • Finally, John Carney’s wonderful “Fruit Cup” cup and ball routine.  A classic to be sure and very fitting for the venue.  In fact, I discovered during my research that most magicians during the Renaissance mainly did cups and balls work and nothing else.  It’s just that good of a tick.

Well, that’s the show.  As of right now, I’m pretty sure that’s the order I’m going to go with too.  As for the walk around stuff, I’m probably going to stick to simple card tricks as I found a great 16th century replica deck of cards.  Very cool.  This brings me around to my shocking revelation.  As a practice this stuff, it’s really taking me back to my very early days of learning magic as this was the kind of stuff I was exposed to first: the more parlor style magic.  As I got older, I left it on the shelf and devoted all of my magic time to close-up magic, card work mainly.  So here I stand, with a set of steel rings in my hand where just a few weeks ago I would be sitting with a deck of cards in that same hand.  While I do love close-up magic, I’m discovering that it doesn’t fill me with the same sense of fun and enthusiasm as what I’m doing now.  Maybe I’m not a close-up magician.  Maybe I’m a stage magician.  That may not sound like a big deal to non-magicians but it would be like thinking you’re an Everly Brother only to find out that you’re Alice Cooper.  Maybe I’ve been headed down the wrong path all this time.  Maybe that’s something else that’s been holding me back. Whatever it means in the long run, I’ve got to keep practicing, because I have to focus on the task at hand and not go off daydreaming into the future. I’ve already learned so much from preparing for the show, just think how much I will learn from doing it.

The Venue

September 27, 2010

Before I start talking about the venue for my upcoming show, let me get something out there.  I had planned to, in this post, talk about my past with magic and why it’s taken me so long to perform in public again.  After a few hours mulling it over, I decided that that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in this blog.  This is a not a place for me to bitch and moan about things I regret doing or not doing in the past, but a place for me to focus on the present and the things that lie ahead.  If I may be so bold as to paraphrase the great Alan Watts, “the past exists only in our memories, the future exists only in our imagination, the present is all that is real.”  My sentiments exactly.
Now that that is over, let’s talk about my show.  I will be performing at the Northwest Arkansas Fantasy Faire (read: renaissance faire).  This is a really good first show for me for a couple of reasons.  First, I’ve assisted a friend of mine with a magic show at a renaissance faire in the past, and second, I’m not getting paid.  That, to some, may not sound like a good thing, but trust me, if I’m doing the show for free, it takes a lot of pressure off.  It’s being held at the local fair grounds here in Fayetteville.  An outdoor venue can cause some problems just due to weather and lighting conditions, but I think the material I’ve selected should work in most cases (I’ll talk about my material next time). Also, because it is a renaissance faire, I’ll have to be in costume.  hopefully puffy shirts and silly hats won’t get in the way.  The only other concern with this venue is that I need to speak Elizabethan style so I’ll have to do some research and rewrite my scripts.

Let me also bring you up to speed on what’s happened in this process up to now.  I’ve made a rough set list and bought some new props to replace cheap versions I had before.  I’ve roughed out some routines and some scripts.  I’ve done quite a bit of research online about dialects from the day and it looks like it won’t be as difficult as I feared to rework my routines.  I’ve also watched videos on Youtube of magicians at ren. faires all over the country and most of them seem to not worry about the dialect part all that much, or just ignore it completely.  I’m going to try my hardest not to that.  I’d like to be as authentic as possible.  Also, after more research, I’ve decided on a costume which I placed an order for last night.  As my wife is a photographer, I’m sure there will be many pictures when it arrives.

My Goals:
Finalize set list by Oct. 1 so I’ll have an entire month to rehearse without wasting time on tricks I don’t end up doing.

And always: KEEP PRACTICING

Beginnings

September 27, 2010

I started to learn magic when I was 12 years old. Ever since then, I knew that a magician was what I wanted to be. I’ve devoted as much of my life as I could to learning the craft and art of magic, but the goal of performing for a real audience has been constantly pushed back.

First, it was college, then girlfriend, then wife and house. In one month’s time, I’ll be 30 years old. One week later, I am scheduled to give my first formal performance in over ten years. This will be the story of my preparation for that show and hopefully, the story of getting a leg up on a dream almost 20 years old.