As you plan your act, one of the most important aspects has to be the flow, or how your act is paced from one trick to another. This especially holds true in an illusion act because often you are locked into pre-recorded music and you can’t speed up the pacing with your patter or presentation. So as you plan your illusion act, best you consider the flow first of all.
Remember, any successful show has peaks and valleys and they have to come at the right time. It took American illusionist, illusion designer and show designer Paul Osborne several years to work out pacing for park shows, but there is a formula for a good twenty minute illusion show. This formula is so successful that, season after season, he would substitute illusions, still keeping the same basic flow, and audiences around the world loved his shows.
To understand his illusion show formula remember what I said about peaks and valleys and begin to visualize it as if your show was a graph based on the high and low points. The highest points being the illusions or effects that get the most audience reaction on a fast paced, up tempo level. The medium and slow effects are still good mysteries, they just run at a slower pace to allow your audience to catch their breath as they are still being entertained.
Let’s use the same graph, but this time putting the effects in.
The act would basically flow like this:
The magician is introduced, walks out to a fast paced music. Enter assistant with crystal casket base and framework, the magician spins unit as assistant brings in plexi panels to insert into framework. Cloth cover is brought out, casket covered, unit revolved, girl produced. Running time approximately 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Magician bows with female assistant. She exits, he begins blowing up balloon.Male assistant takes crystal casket off, brings on Dove to Duck. Female assistant enters with tray, balloon is attached – POP! A dove produced. Female assistant exits with tray (changes costume backstage for sawing.) Dove is put in Dove to Duck box – BANG! Sides fall down – a rabbit is in the dove’s place. Male assistant exits with the rabbit and the prop. (Running time, 1 minute). Magician bows, steps up to microphone, removes six cards from pocket, begins patter – to finale of trick (approximate running time, 2 minutes.) Magician introduces the Thin Sawing in Half Illusion. Curtain opens revealing the prop. Enter two assistants, the girl positioned in the box, the male assistant helps with blades, etc.. The illusion is performed to fast paced music to finale. Girl exits from box and curtains close. (Approximate running time, 2 minutes, 45 seconds.) Assistants exit, male returns to bring magician What’s Next effect as magician steps up to to the microphone to begin patter on What’s Next. (Backstage both assistants preset the Asrah Illusion, girl assistant changes costume.) Magician performs What’s Next to finale. (Approximate running time, 1 minute, 30 seconds.) Magician steps away from microphone as ethereal music begins. Curtains open, enter female assistant. Magician hypnotizes her, she falls back, caust by male assistant. She is placed on the couch and covered with the cloth. She floats up, male assistant wheels away table. (Backstage she exits, runs around to the back of the theatre.) The form floats up, dramatically the magician whips away the cloth and she has vanished! She screams from the back of the theatre and runs down the aisle to join the magician and the assistant for bows. (Approximate running time, 2 minutes, 30 seconds.) Curtains close as the magician steps forward and requests the assistant of two young audience members. The male assistant hands him the Linking Rings, the magician performs withthe aid of his young helpers as the assistants prepare the Substitution Trunk backstage. As the Linking Rings are completed and the two young helpers are assisted back to their seats, the magician begins to talk about Houdini and his fabulous escapes. (Approximate running time, 3 minutes.) The up-tempo music begins, the curtains open to reveal the trunk and the two assistants enter. The handcuffs and bag are displayed, the girl is cuffed and put in the bag. The bag is put in the trunk and tied off, the trunk is locked. The magician jumps on top of the trunk and pulls up the cloth cover. “One” (cover up, cover down), “two” (cover up, cover down), “three” (cover up, cover down) – it’s her! She drops the cover, all is reversed and the magician is found where she once was. (Approximate running time, 3 minutes.) The magician and assistants take their well deserved bows.
This is Osborne’s basic formula for his popular park shows. Season after season he would change the illusions out but never the formula. He changed the Sawing for Zig Zag, Cutting in Sixth and Mismade. The slot for the Crystal Casket was filled with the Costume Trunk, Doll House and Chef’s Nightmare. The hardest slot to fill was the final illusion. The Sub Trunk is a natural conclusion to an illusion show. The Assistant’s Revenge works nicely, the Zig Zag works okay and a costume switch works, but it has to be a special illusion to conclude your show. One of the most creative finale illusions he came up with was called the Chicago Fire. It was invented for a now defunct park called “Old Chicago” near Chicago, Illinois. Basically it was a small buildin (cabinet) elevated on a parson’s table. Steps were wheeled up, a young lady stepped up into the ‘building’, the steps were removed and the little building caught on fire. Flames billowed out the top as ‘firemen’ entered to put out the blaze. Instantly all four sides of the building collapsed. The firechief turned around and it was our missing girl! It was a creative, inexpensive solution to “what do we put in place in the Sub Trunk?” What can you come up with?
After years of trial and error, he found this formula works for a twenty minute, three person illusion show presented in parks, and it is still as strong now as it was then. As you plan your shows, print my graph, write out what you plan to do, visualize your performance and gauge your peaks and valleys. Don’t give your audience too much and don’t give too little. Put it all together right and, even if your illusions are not that good but your flow is correct, you will give your audience a memorable evening of magic.