Planning and Organizing

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 1.42.14 PMOriginally Published in Grand Magic Magazine – July 2013

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An “information burst” is a list of ideas, briefly stated, to provide food for thought about an important subject. This month, the subject is….

Planning And Organizing

  • If you use a table backstage, consider putting masking tape on it to outline the placement of props. There are several benefits to this. First, it helps assistants know where things are; second, it allows you to check to be sure everything is in place; third, when it is time to pack up, you can look at the table to check and be sure all props used have been found and put away.


  • The picture below shows tables marked out for our props at a show we did in a civic center Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 1.41.55 PMauditorium. Even for a small show, this technique for organizing backstage equipment is good. It is an extra value if you have people working with you. It allows everyone to know where everything is.


  • Start planning now for the main show you want to do a year from now. If you do this, you can watch for ideas, jokes, clever patter ideas, props, and equipment that will enhance the new show. The old saying is, “To fail to plan is to plan to fail”. It is hard to have a great show if it must be put together at the last minute. By setting a goal, planning for the goal, and then pursuing the goal, it is much easier to successfully achieve the goal.


  • Have a white board and dry erase marker backstage (or behind your case or backdrop). Whenever something happens that needs to be remembered, quickly scribble it on the board. If you notice a screw has fallen out of a prop, or a sound cue is incorrect, or something else is wrong, record it on the board. This way you do not forget to take care of the problem. As well, it is a tool to help you remember good things you do not want to forget that happen during the show. Such as a joke that came about spontaneously or a better way to say something in the course of patter.


  • At the end of the show, transfer the notes from the white board to a notebook. Refer to the notebook when looking ahead to your next show. This keeps you from repeating mistakes and assists in making improvements.


  • Have a backup of your music that you carry with you. If you keep your music on your phone, also have an iPod or MP3 with you. This way, if you lose the phone, you have other ways of playing music. If you do not use the phone, consider having your music on a CD as well as another playing device. It is not worth the risk of having your music available in only one form. Many working pros carry their music in three different forms, such as a backup CD, on the laptop, and on an iPod or similar player.


  • Familiarize yourself with adapters commonly needed for sound systems. Carry them with you. Nowadays, most of the time you can plug in with an 1/8 inch prong on one end and 1/4 inch on the other (Phone, iPod, Laptop to sound board). However, it is not uncommon to need the 1/4 inch adapted to XLR connection to get the best sound. Other times a stereo type jack system will be needed. A small carrying pouch can easily hold a variety of adapters. Do not assume that every place you go will have what you need! 
- Carry a flashlight with you. Many use their phones as a flashlight. This works well. It also seems wise, especially in light of the low cost, to invest in several small flashlights. Keep one in your magic table and another in a prop case. You are likely to use these lights more often than you would expect.


  • Carry a roll of duct tape or gaffer’s tape with you. In a pinch, it seems good tape can make almost anything work.


  • Designate a place where you keep your car keys during a show. Always use this same place. Otherwise, it is easy to misplace keys during the course of setting up or packing up. It is not fun to have a show packed and ready to put into a vehicle, and then realize you have no idea what box might contain your keys.


  • Along with what you have in your phone or laptop, use plastic sheet protectors to carry information. Print out your travel map and contract details. Put them in the sheet protector. By this means you have backup information with you (in case of misplacing your phone or the battery going low on the laptop). The sheet protector keeps this information legible in spite of things that might be spilled on it (or the paper work dropping out of the car into a puddle on a rainy day).


  • A second benefit of keeping paperwork in sheet protectors is, upon returning home from a show, you can put the protector into a notebook. This provides written record and storage for all the details of shows you do.


  • Even if you know your show by heart, carry a written copy of the order with you. You can give this to volunteers who may want to help with lights, sound, or opening a curtain. It may help an organizer know the proper time to come up at the end of a show.

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