Michael Fernando’s post on Facebook has attracted many responses from other magicians who are kind enough to share their thoughts about how to manage unruly children during the show.
Perhaps Michael’s difficult show had to happen to stimulate the thoughts of performing magicians, including the seasoned performers, and to goad them to suggest solutions to the pervading challenge of audience management.
Children are, of course, a different fish in a kettle. They require different psychology to reigned in their energy during a magic show.
Silly Billy (David Kaye), in his bestselling book Seriously Silly, writes that children are like drunks. They can often be uninhibited and are prone to exhibit uncontrolled enthusiasm. Such behaviors can pose problems for a live performer.
In response to Michael Fernando’s pleas on how he could have handled his encounter with drunk-like children, some magicians suggested pre-show audience management. The idea is to prepare one’s crowd control strategy before the show starts.
This seems to be an obvious strategy, but you would be surprised to find out that many magicians have become complacent over the years and would gloss-over pre-show preparations.
To prevent children from going through your props, here are some things you may want to do BEFORE THE SHOW STARTS:
Create your own holding area. If you perform for a corporate show in a large hotel ballroom, the organizers would probably give you a room nearby, where you can set up your stuff. You can stay there while waiting for your part of the show.
In a recent corporate show, the organizers sequestered my entourage and me in the canteen. It was a convenient place for us to stay and pass the time while waiting for our turn on the stage. Not only we were able to set up away from the prying eyes of the crowd, but also we were given a steady supply of food and drinks.
Sadly, not all events provide performers with holding areas. In such cases, you have to create your own. In large hotels and clubhouses of first-class subdivisions like the Valle Verde subdivisions, Acropolis, Greenhills West, Forbes Park Pavillion, etc., there’s always the backstage or the side stage, which are spacious enough. They are a bit out of the way of the audience and not easy to access by the stampeding kids without you noticing and intercepting them.
Of course, if you are performing in Mc Donald’s, Shakey’s, or in a client’s garage, then setting up can be problematic, especially if you don’t have a packs-flat show.
Still, there are ways around the problem. When performing in cramped venues, my assistants would assemble the bigger props near the stage and cover them with cloths and curtains to discourage children and even curious waiters from dissecting the props. I would set up the smaller props, load the animals and change my costume in my van. It’s a hassle, but, hey, who said showbiz is all glamor and fun.
Defend your Roll-on table. Whoever invented the roll-on table is a genius. It makes easy for the magician to take props and tricks from it, return out-of-play stuff to it, load, steal, and just store things safely.
Still, it is not Fort Knox. Even though the props in the table are mostly safe, they can still be accessed by children who have mayhem in their minds.
Keep your table and its contents safe by putting the table on a defensive stance. What I do is that, after the props are set up, I push the table against a wall, so that its open side can no longer be accessed except by the most determined child.
Cover your props. If your props and magician’s table are the open type, you had better cover them with cloths or curtains. If your illusion travels in ATA cases, once the illusions are assembled, it might be a good idea to use the cases to barricade the illusions. Warning: the waiters will hate you if you do that.
Hire a security guard to watch your props. As you can see in the accompanying photo, a security guard, complete with ID, a mean look, and dark sunglasses, is sitting near my Walking Thru a Mirror illusion and keeping it safe from harm.
Okay, I’m just kidding. I can’t afford to hire a security guard. The guy just happened to be sitting near my illusion when I snapped the picture. But the idea is there and valid. Assign someone (your assistant) to watch you props and to shoo away prying children.
Next: my thoughts on crowd management during the show.