Choosing your first stage illusion

Starting You Illusion Show

Let me say before I write this article that these aren’t entirely my original thoughts. I was listening to an interview with J.C. Sum not long ago where he expressed his thoughts on choosing your first illusion. I’m passing this on, along with some of my own thoughts in case you missed this interview. Let me say first of all that I think J.C.’s thoughts on performing and presenting illusions is brilliant. He’s a real world worker and brilliant thinker. His answers always come from a point of a working pro- someone who has spent a lot of time on stage in many different situations. I would recommend that you get your hands on anything he has written.

When you’re choosing your first illusion.

There are lots of factors to keep in mind. When you build your first illusion show it will probably be built slowly over a period of time. That means you probably won’t be playing theaters immediately. This doesn’t mean you won’t occasionally play great stages, but more than likely you’ll be playing a lot of smaller venues working on platforms and corporate events that won’t have wing space. The lack of wing space and storage during the program creates three distinct challenges.

The first challenge is how to load and offload an illusion onto a small stage or platform? Usually, there are no ramps to help you do this.  Chances are you’re just one part of a complete program so you’ll need to load and unload your props from the stage or platform during the event. You need to be able to pick up your illusions and props by yourself or with the help of your assistant.  This means you definitely need to keep weight and size of the illusion in mind. There may be stagehands or technicians there to help you, but I wouldn’t count on it. You are usually on your own.

The next thing to consider is appearance tricks where you need to preload your assistant before the show. Making assistants appear is a great way to introduce the show and establish yourself as an illusionist. However, if you have no wing space or main curtain, there really is no place to preload an assistant. This is an oversight many of us in the illusion world missed when we were first starting, but it’s so easy to overlook the fact that if you don’t have a curtain or wings to get behind and pre-set the trick, there’s no way to pull it off. And preloading your assistant into the base of the trick then having a group of people pick up the illusion and place it onto a platform is extremely dangerous. I’ve watched magicians do this and it’s scary. Your assistant is in a very vulnerable position and can be seriously injured if dropped. Also, keep this in mind if you’ve promised to make the CEO appear for the big corporate event. Ask a lot of questions about the stage before you oversell this idea.

Okay, we’ve performed it now where do we put it? The third challenge where to put your props once you’ve performed an illusion.  If you don’t have wing space or curtains to place it behind, the prop needs to stay on stage for the rest of your performance. Keep this in mind when designing your first illusion show. Also, keep in mind- the bigger the illusion the more stage space it takes up, and the longer the audience has to examine the trick in their minds.

Choosing that first illusion

How dedicated is your assistant? The go-to illusion for a lot of beginning illusionists seems to be the sub trunk. I get it. I’ve owned one, or maybe two. It’s a classic- one of the first tricks we think of. It’s big. It’s showy. It’s fast, and you can throw all your stuff in and travel with it. However, the sub trunk is a physically demanding illusion and takes a lot of practice to time it out. If you want to be fast with a sub trunk you’ll need an assistant who’s truly dedicated to your performance and is willing to sacrifice a lot of time to get the illusion right. I would definitely not recommend this trick for one of your first illusions. Most beginning illusionists don’t have enough work to keep an assistant working steadily. You usually burn through many assistance before you establish yourself as an illusionist.

So what would my recommendations be for your first illusion? I would strongly consider building either a Modern Art by Jim Steinmeyer or a Zig Zag. These are perfect for a new illusionist. There not very heavy and can easily be broken down and transported. These effects can essentially be performed surrounded. Although you probably won’t be doing many shows in the round during corporate events it is very common to have audiences three-quarters of the way around you. Both of these illusions don’t require a lot of practice by an assistant and can be introduced at any point during the show. You’ll find that most audiences are amazed by these illusions.

Once you’ve established yourself and have an assistant who is dedicated to your program, some of the other effects like a sub trunk could be approached. Another great effect to consider at this point would be a broom suspension. It’s a great way to work levitation into your show and can be performed in most conditions. Combine an effect like this along with a Zig Zag or Modern Art and a good dove act will put you well on your way to producing a great corporate illusion show.

Good luck

Rodney Rash

No need for shop

When I started building  magic props you had to have a home shop or be lucky enough to have a friend with equipment. Over the years I Tech-Shophave built an impressive collection of tools to build magic props. However today that is all changed. Because of the builder movement community workshops such as hacker space tech shop to name a few have started popping up in communities all over.

These builder spaces are places where creative individuals come together and share equipment and ideas. Just five years ago it would’ve been impossible for most people to get their hands on automated C&C production equipment lasers at a reasonable price. Today these shops make it possible for anyone to build amazing props and extremely reasonable price.

Although I have a nice shop at home I am still a member of tech shop. For an extremely reasonable price this workspace gives me access to a full metal shop welding facilities a complete woodworking shop including C&C woodworking equipment. A machine shop screen printing equipment vinyl cutters injection molding machines plastic welding electronic diagnostic and production equipment 3-D printers and much much more. It would be impossible for an individual to afford the amount of equipment that is available to today’s builders individually. The builder movement is one of the great movements of our time to advance the building of stage magic.

Become a professional magician?

rodneyglobeTo be, or not to be a professional magician, that is the question? So many of us who love the art of magic have often pondered the question of whether to become a professional magician or not. If you felt the thrill of presenting to a live audience, I’m sure you’ve questioned whether you could be a professional magician .

The deeper question is whether you could live the lifestyle of a professional magician. Whether you’re at the top of the game as a magician, or at the bottom of the ladder, keeping your position or advancing your position is always a lot of work. The question you should ask your self is Continue reading

Choosing your casters for magic tricks and illusions

caster for magic tricksOkay you built your new illusion and you’re at the store reading about casters and you realize each caster has a weight rating on it. A common question is what size wheel and weight capacity do I need? The one that throws most people is if a caster has 150 pound capacity, does that mean per caster or does that mean the total project can’t weigh more than 150 pounds? Below I’ll show you how to do that calculation.

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Build a Color Wheel

This color wheel is a nifty little tool to keep around the shop. It’s a fun project to cut out and have. If you’re like me choosing the right color combinations can sometimes be challenging. This is a simple color wheel to help you choose basic color combinations. This color wheel will not make you a great artist like Chance Wolf however it will help you choose basic colors for your props.

I first came across a similar color wheel in a book called the new makeup of magic by Mickey Hades. Published in 1972 and is an outstanding resource for understanding how magic is built and the concepts behind the design of magic props. If you can get your hands on a copy of this book I would definitely put it in your library.

I have included a PDF with this page that you can print out to make the color wheel. Print two copies of the color wheel. Cut the center color dial out of one of the copies and attach it to the center of the color wheel on the other copy to make your color wheel.

click hear do down load PDF of color wheel collor wheel

Have Fun

Rodney Rash

Selling Value- Not Price

magic sales2Selling Your Show

If you want to charge respectable fees for your performances you must learn the art of selling your shows on the value they bring to the customer not on price. The biggest mistake I see many magicians make is they are so eager to perform that they are willing to drop the price of their programs well below what they should be paid. Personally I don’t bargain on price. My prices are fixed. I need to make a certain amount of profit in order to stay in business. The bottom line of being a professional versus an amateur magician is the professional magician earns his income through performing.

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Carry an emergency kit

Quick tips for the road for a traveling Magician 

Make an emergency kit ( I’m not referring to a medical kit.) I carry a small kit with me in the car when I travel to shows on the road. This kit contains items I have found useful as I travel. They are for quick hygiene, minor medical needs, and clothing repair. Inside the kit I usually carry.

  •  a sewing kit
  •  Band-Aids and disinfectant (no one likes a bloody magician onstage!) Okay, I have seen Brian Brushwood’s show-maybe his audience does enjoy that.
  • tape
  • disposable toothbrushes
  •  disinfectant hand towels
  • some cash just in case

This is just a quick kit that I can throw in the front seat of the car and take with me. It covers most minor problems that I run in throughout the day, and a way to freshen up in between shows and meals. Good luck on the road.
Go Pro
Rodney Rash

Understanding Sheet Metal For Magicians

If you pick up a book on how to build magic, they quite often refer to building the bottom of the base out of sheet metal. sheet-metalOne can immediately see the advantage of using sheet metal for the bottom of any base. By using sheet metal you immediately eliminate inches from your trick. The problem with this description is sheet metal takes on so many forms. I know the first time I read this; I was a bit confused what sheet metal really was. When you call a sheet metal distributor to ask about purchasing sheet metal you get a variety of questions: What type of metal do you need? What gauge do you need? Would you like hot rolled or cold rolled? Continue reading

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