Thanks guys, yes you can. I get that a lot. Glad you enjoyed it, a lot of work went into this over the years and it is a special essay to me being it was my first ever written online about 4 years ago. I still do the venues till this day, although not as often as when I first started. This venue started my career, and I have not looked back since...only in delightful memory of how my career began, and how I am still doing it today.
It was definitely not easy at first, but it got better as I did as a whole. It served as a great learning experience, and still does till this day. I may write another essay on just what can be learned from this venue sometime in the future when I get free time. (Hah yeah right...free time.)
Retirement Home Shows Part 2:
I decided to expound upon this venue a little
further after receiving countless questions regarding
it. I will address a few of the most common questions
that seem to come up often. Let’s start with the first
“What kind of effects are best?”
Well as I said previously, you want keep the effects
“visual,” and the larger the effects are the better.
You want to do effects that even the most
disadvantaged of the group can understand, and follow.
Sometimes this may be hard to gauge, but the more
experienced you are, the easier you will be able to
select what effects, and routines work best with these
groups. I am not really saying you have to use effects
that require no memory or concentration, but keep in
mind, it should be very little.
There are exceptions to every rule, and as I stated
before; some of these audience members are pretty
sharp sometimes, and very alert to what is going on. I
am speaking however from a general point of view, and
for the majority of what type of audience you will
most likely get. As far as microphones go, a cordless
microphone, and extra batteries is a great idea. Most
facilities will have a microphone of some sort
already, but maybe not one you enjoy using. Personal
preference is key here.
“Do you recommend performing with a close-up table or
I usually set a table up front, about five to ten
feet away from my stage table, and about five feet or
so from the audience. This works well for effects that
you can walk closer to the audience, allowing them
better visibility of what your doing close-up wise.
You can also have the table off to the side until
needed. My table up front is slightly lower than my
stage table in the back, but I usually have it out of
the way while using my stage table. I generally do not
do any more than three close-up effects tops anyway,
but if the situation allows I may do one or two more.
“How far between yourself and the audience?”
Usually about ten to fifteen feet total. You can walk
back and forth to a close-up table, or you can just
have your main table about ten feet away from the
front of the audience. If there is a lot of people,
you may want to spread the audience from side to side,
so that they are not pushed to far to the back. But
you need to be careful because if the room is too
small they tend to “wrap around” you some, which could
be a bad thing depending on how angle sensitive your
effects or routine is. In some cases it may not be a
problem at all.
“What kind of seating arrangement do you recommend for
Generally they are in wheelchairs, and they usually
bunch up in front of you. Typically there are anywhere
from twenty to thirty people, and the staff usually
sit in the back at a table. Sometimes people that are
able to walk on their own sit in regular chairs, and
behind all the others. As I stated above spread them
out side to side, and sometimes they may wrap up
around you slightly to the sides of the table. Be sure
to have props and other equipment that you don’t want
seen behind a table cloth, or some other type of
cover, in case they wrap too much around the sides of
you. It all depends on how many people you have and
how much room is available.
“How much audience participation do you recommend?”
A little participation is always a good thing.
Usually though if your going to involve them, you have
to walk out into the audience to them. It is good to
do a few effects requiring their assistance, as it
allows you to be on a more intimate level with them,
and sometimes get better reactions from them; and
their peers. You must be able to judge who will be a
good candidate as an assistant, and sometimes this can
be very difficult. That is why I stress keeping it
simple as possible. A lot of times I study, and gauge
the audience while performing, to see who is mostly
involved, who is paying close attention, and using
these determinations to help me decide who will be a
good candidate for assisting me later on.
There may be members who are able to enjoy your
magic, and understand it just as easy as anyone
would—but your show has to be geared to fit the least
fortunate of the group, not the most astutely aware.
Sometimes I may need a coin, or a card signed, and not
all of them will be able to write or see what they are
writing. So it is a personal judgment call. Ask the
audience first if anyone would like to assist you, and
if anyone is quick to respond, select them.
Also try to pick someone near the front of the
audience, so that you don’t have to walk back through
them, and have the front of the audience struggling to
look back at you, being they are positioned in their
wheelchairs to face the stage. Be sure the entire
group can see the object you have, but not necessarily
the signature. It will be assumed anyway that the
signature is legitimate, if one is used. That being
said, I rarely ever do signature effects simply based
on the fact that they have poor visibility; and even
more so in this case.
“What type of effects should you perform?”
These types of audiences are not always “zombies” so
to speak, as I already mentioned. It is a good
guideline to follow the general rule of “big” and
“visual,” however as you know there are exceptions to
every rule. Some personal effects I do? well I do a
lot of customized/personal versions of existing stage
effects. However I can also say that you can get away
with using both “prop types” for Retirement Homes,
that you would use for kid’s shows. They both seem to
be interchangeable for the most part.
When people get to a certain age, they seem to become
a kid all over again. When we were born we start out
in diapers and are bald—near the end of the cycle of
life most of us end up that way again. Just an analogy
to ponder. I have lot of different routines to select
from, I use six feet of stage rope that I made myself,
by hollowing out the inner core and tying or burning
the ends together to last. Some use glue as well. This
type of audience seems to love rope effects a lot I
have noticed, because rope fits the criteria of
“simple and easy” to understand.
An example of only some of the effects I do are:
Rope: I do cut and restored rope, uneven ropes,
(Professor's Nightmare) ropes through body, (two ropes
placed through both jacket sleeves, coat is put on,
rope tied together into a knot as they hang out of
sleeves, ropes are pulled through coat, and body to
the front) rope a card, ( a classic I have been doing
since the age of ten or so) linking/unlinking rope
loops, rope to silk, etc...
Coins: Misers dream, (sleight of hand vanishes using
a lighter to make it flashy, and using half dollars
for visibility) coin in bottle, (close up at the
table) matrix effects, signed coin in ball of wool,
and sealed matchbox(own version) jumbo coin effects,
and not too many more due to limited visibility
Silks: Endless possibilities! Squared circle
deception (made my own pretty impressive one long ago,
but also have an original, burned and restored silk,(I
play this off as an accident while heating it up in an
attempt to change it to another color. “Indeed it did
turn red ladies and gentleman and....black....”) 21st
century silks, (updated from 20th century!) the
invisible silk, (my own method of making a silk
invisible) appearing candle (my own version) dancing
hanky (think Blackstone) crystal silk cylinder,(can
use this effect to vanish or produce virtually
anything that fits in the tube) soft soap,
linking/unlinking silks, etc...
Cards: Flourishes, jumbo invisible deck, (as well as
other jumbo effects) rope a card, selected card
through window, (own method) rising card deck,
floating card (own method) Note: These are just some
of the effects I do, and they are all usually in the
same show. I keep card effects to a minimum usually
due to visual limitations. It all depends on the
audience that day.
For stand alone stage effects, you never want to do
all you got in one show. You want to spread them
evenly through out your routines of course. If you do
a show consisting of eight effects, you should only do
about three tops, and no more than four stage effects
(stand alone) because you don't want to use up all
your expensive goodies in one trip. For the rest of
the show you will use some fillers, but quality
nonetheless. Heck you can even do your best close-up
also if acceptable for the situation. You want to save
the rest of those expensive stage effects for the next
time you come back. Maybe start the show with one, one
in the middle, and lastly the grand finale!
Just a few of the stand alone stage effects I use are:
Stage: Zombie ball, silk to egg, vanishing milk,
hippity hop rabbits, vanishing water in newspaper,
torn and restored newspaper, penetrating silks,
(knotted together, they melt through and apart, while
the knot remains) sponge balls, (2-2 ½ inch red or
yellow on black cloth) match to flower, (blow a match
out, instantly changes to a flower. I always loved
this very visual effect!) Multiplying billiard balls,
(not really billiard) strat-o-sphere, (they love this!
Covers all rules: visual, balls, colorful, comical!)
mismade flag, top hat effects, (vanishes/productions
as needed) linking rings, passe passe, (tricky
bottles) magic coloring book, Chinese prayer sticks, (
a tissle and a tassel ) needle thru balloon, bill in
lemon, (works well for stage, or variation card in
orange, being residents don’t carry cash usually)
flame from finger tips and transfer to candle,
(picking up a flame, and moving it around) soft soap,
ultimate airborne, (floating glass) vanishing coke
can, (vanishes in a tube, only to have a red silk
blown out) vanishing ketchup bottle, (paper bag) water
suspension, egg vase, slush effects, as well as others
I already listed above.
So that is a basic idea as far as what kinds of
effects work well for this venue. Just always keep in
mind the general rules when selecting your effects.
Try to make them large, simple, and as visual as
possible. As long as you use these rules as your
guidelines you should not have too many problems.
Last edited by sirbrad on Thu Nov 26, 2009 4:05 am, edited 1 time in total.