A bad experience reminds Steve Valentine how important it is to be prepared for any situation

February 15, 2018

Usually, performances go pretty much as planned, give or take. Maybe you have to start a little late, or maybe your volunteer is a bit drunker than you’d guessed, but by and large, things tend to go the way they’re supposed to. As Steve Valentine advises in his latest newsletter, however, a smart magician needs to be ready to completely switch things up at a moment’s notice, because some obstacles you can’t see coming. Here’s how he puts it: 

“It’s great to have ‘an act’, but you have to be willing, and more than that, be okay with, changing things at the last minute, depending on certain situations.” There might be security concerns, religious restrictions, or maybe the eye level of the audience isn’t what you’d expected. Maybe the lighting just sucks. Whatever curveball you’ve been thrown, it’s in your best interests to be able to roll with it on the fly. Here’s how Steve suggests approaching it: 

I was watching Ron Howard’s Masterclass on Directing the other day and he mentioned that Steven Spielberg creates his movies in sequences, yes there is some ‘3 act structure’, but really if you look at his films they are made up of a bunch of unique, complete sequences, each has it’s own beginning middle and end and each is satisfying in itself. The movie is built upon these sequences, like bricks in a house, and if you think about it, it means you could exit the film at any time and still have been entertained and feel somewhat satisfied.

I think, if we create our magic in mini sequences, rather than a single full act, it would be easier to jigsaw together the perfect show for the perfect situation.

A sequence can be anything from 3-5 tricks, linked by a theme or prop, some would be in 5 minute. lengths and others in 8-10 mine lengths, the final few sequences of the show should be quicker and quicker so it builds to great finale.

These ‘mini act’ sequences also have individual tones, some are amusing, some serious, hilarious or dramatic. Some are designed for a smaller crowd, some for a larger or more distant audience.

List these for time and tone and audience size on index cards and carry them with you in your magic bag at all times.

So, you can add to your literal bag of tricks (perhaps by tapping into a service like Magic on the Go) or you can take the route referenced in this NSFW bit from Patton Oswalt: