During the off-season of our Grand Magic illusion show we do a variety of other programs, including shows for public schools. It seems our school programs are effective. We enjoy doing them and response from administrators is affirming. We are almost always invited back again. As well, we normally are immediately recommended to other schools in the region. When we have time for it, there does not seem to be any problem in getting bookings for this presentation.
A show we have used previously was titled “Magical Wonderful You.” The purpose of the show is to encourage young people about themselves. The program promotes self-esteem and respect for others. It is not an anti-bully show. However, a number of things we say in the show apply to that theme. This subject matter is greeted with favor by teachers and parents.
Here are some general thoughts about the show.
Entertainment is important
Schools definitely want a program to have educational value. At the same time, the reason they are bringing in an illusionist is they want the presentation to be something special for the kids. Often it is viewed as a treat or reward for them.
I think it also true that teachers themselves want to enjoy the program. They have plenty of challenges and sources of stress in their lives. If the show makes them laugh, and they see the children having a wonderful time, it is a good thing. It is something they desire.
This means it is wise to have things in the show that are truly entertaining. To state it another way, not everything in the show needs to be message oriented. It is okay to do a couple of things simply because they will be enjoyed.
Involvement is important
Teachers like to see children participate in the program. Children like to be chosen to help with something the illusionist does. The show itself seems to be stronger for holding the attention of the audience if audience members get to come on stage. These make three powerful reasons to do “audience participation” effects.
I do not believe every routine should use a spectator. Especially when it comes to the serious message portion of the show, having someone on stage next to you might be a distraction.
The objective is to use audience members often while being strategic about not using them with everything. A good school show has lots of involvement but the magician remains in a position of strength as a communicator.
Message is most important
We must not make the mistake of thinking that as long as we have fun with the kids and get laughs it will be deemed a great show. Entertainment is a key ingredient in the program, but it is not the reason for the program.
An educational/inspiration message must come across clearly, or the show will be a disappointment to those who booked it.
More important than the performer being viewed as a “great illusionist” is the program being viewed as “a great help to the kids.”
Earn the right to be heard
One of the reasons why a school may hire an illusionist to come in to do a program for the children is the belief that this person, by way of his or her entertainment and showmanship skills, will be able to hold the attention of the assembly. There is the hope that the children will actually listen and learn.
The practical application of this is the show must be arranged to make the children want to listen during the serious portions of the program. If the illusionist properly impresses them, they will be respectful when he talks to them. If the illusionist is only seen as silly and crazy, they are likely to continue to be silly and crazy as well, even when it is not appropriate to do so.
It is not enough to do some fun things for the kids. Some things must be done that suggest the performer is skillful and professional.
Be careful to maintain attentiveness
In our show structure, we start off with the goal of impressing the kids with our abilities so they will want to listen. Then we have several spots in the show where we try to accomplish that same thing again. We do this because we know, as children sit in bleachers for significant periods of time, their minds can wander and there are many things to distract them.
In a forty-five minute program, I start out with something that helps me “win the right to be heard.” Then, at about the fifteen minute mark into the program, I try to accomplish this again. At the thirty minute mark I yet try to do it again.
This means, at these points in the program, I may step away from the message and do a trick because I know it is especially interesting and/or amazing. Another choice I might make at these specific points in time is that of doing an audience participation effect because I know such a thing helps to “reset” an audience of children.
Here is the show we are using, with some comments about the various parts thereof.
1.Simple Silk Act
The show begins with a three minute silk act featuring color changes, vanishes and productions. The goal is to impress the kids and win them over. As well, the routine is entertaining.
Essentially this show starts as all of my shows do…with something interesting and exciting that is intended to capture attention.
2. Verbal introduction. (Here is my scripted beginning remarks.)
This program is called “Magical Wonderful You.” It is not about what I can do. It is about what you can do. I am an illusionist. I do strange and usual things. Today we are going to learn that one does not have to be an illusionist to do amazing and incredible things. This is true because achievements in life do not come about because we know tricks and secrets. They happen because we have positive attitudes and positive actions.
Speaking of having a positive attitude, I believe it is time for me to make an elephant disappear. Do you think I can do it?
- Vanishing Elephant
This effect is done purely for the fun of it, and the fact that is further helps me in “winning the right to be heard.” The effect has been described in previous issues of this publication. It is done with giant cards. A picture of an elephant disappears. I cannot recommend the trick highly enough. For situations such as a school program it is extremely useful.
- Mis-made Flag
With this routine the fun continues, but it also provides an opportunity to begin the message theme of “working together and appreciating one another.
Here is the script for what I say at the conclusion of the trick.
“Just as we need all the colors to come together to make the flag, so it is working together as Americans that makes our country great. It is great that these two volunteers worked with me so we could do a fun trick. Wonderful things happen when people work together and appreciate each other.”
5. Clap Hands Gag
The Clap Hands gag is described in my “Warm-ups and Wake-ups” book. The children are asked to follow my motions as I clap my hands. I deliberately do some things to make them mess up in their effort to do as I do. It is like playing a short game together. Here is what I say at the end of the gag….
“Some of you got it right, some did not, but all made a good effort, give yourselves an “A” which stands for applause.”
- Sponge Color Count
The Clap Hands gag leads right into an explanation of the term illusionist. Here is more of the script…
“You may be wondering, what exactly is an illusionist? It means I do things that puzzle the mind and surprise the eyes. I have no secret powers. I do not do anything spooky. There is a trick to everything you see me do. I learned my tricks from reading books and from practicing what I read about. Here is something I had to practice for a long time. It is called, “Sleight Of Hand.”
What I call Sponge Color Count is fundamentally a Balls To Pocket routine done with giant sponge balls that are each a different color. (Taught on our Clever Sponge Ball magic DVD.
7. Giant Spelling Bee
I like the Giant Spelling Bee trick for two main reasons. The first is I can involve seven people from the audience without having them leave their seats. The second is the fact that it allows me to present and explain a word that is key to the lesson.
For those who are unfamiliar with the trick, it is a display of a seven letter word. The letters are removed from the display and mixed up. Audience members then tell the magician where to put the letters as he returns them to the display. Mysteriously, even though each audience member does not know the identity of the letter he works with, an important new word is spelled.
The word I used in this show is RESPECT. At the start, the words are arranged to spell SPECTER. A specter is something scary. With the children’s help, we magically turn SPECTER into RESPECT. I then talk to them about the meaning of respect and the fact that we should respect ourselves, respect differences, and respect truth.
- Professor’s Nightmare
The various ropes represent how people have different gifts and talents, yet they all are of equal value. This illustrates the fact that we must respect ourselves. Just because we are not as big as someone else, or we do not get the same grades another person gets, or we cannot run as fast as another person does, this does not mean we are less important.
- Feather Funny Business
This is a comedy trick that is done with feathers that change colors. The lesson is about how the trick would be boring if there was no color change. From that we talk about how life would be boring if all people were the same. Differences make life interesting!
I emphasize the concept that the reality that something is different does not mean it is better or worse. It is just different and different can be good. It gives variety in life.
So if we feel like we are different, or we know someone else who seems different, we should not judge for better or worse. Instead we should be thankful for the new perspective this brings to life.
- 20th Century Silks
Each handkerchief represents something. One is truth. One is right decisions. One is a happy life.
We tie truth and right decisions together. Happy life is separated and put into a “party house” (silk cabby). The lesson is about how some think truth and right decisions have nothing to do with a happy life. They just want to party. They disrespect the good advice they are given about life.
The “happy life” silk vanishes from the “party house” and reappears between truth and right decisions. The best life comes by way of learning what is true and then making good decisions.
- Match Them For Us Now
This is a card match trick done with giant cards. I primarily do it because it resets the audience by way of getting five volunteers down to help. However, it also allows me to compliment the volunteers for being “extra special participants” which fits with our theme of Magical Wonderful You!
12. Square Circle production done to teach a lesson about Potential.
Here is the script for leading into the routine…
“Remember that this program is called, “Magical Wonderful You.” Why can we believe that every one of us can do some amazing and incredible things? Why should we be positive about ourselves and the things we hope to accomplish in life? One reason is because we all have the same fantastic thing inside of us. It is called potential!”
The emptiness of the box suggests “nothing great can happen with this.” The surprise and magic of the production suggests “there was more there than anyone expected!” The application is we are to believe that inside ourselves are talents and abilities that can be surprisingly wonderful. It is our job to believe they are there, put them to use, and make the most of them.
We finish the show by reminding students of the primary points of the lesson…
“What have we learned today? We have learned that we should respect ourselves, respect others, and respect knowledge and truth. We should remember that all of us are important and all of us have potential. It is good to make up our minds to do the best we can with whatever skills, abilities, and opportunities that we possess.
Thank you for letting me use my illusions to remind you about being a magical and wonderful you!”
The outline of the show looks like this…
- Simple Silk Act
- Verbal Introduction
- Vanishing Elephant
- Mis-Made Flag
- Clap Hands Gag
- Sponge Color Count
- RESPECT (Giant Spelling Bee)
- Professor’s Nightmare
- Feather Funny Business
- 10.20th Century Silks
- 11. Match Them For Us now
- 12. Square Circle (Potential Lesson)
- 13. Review
Key aspects of the lesson are…
- We can accomplish wonderful things by working together
- We should respect ourselves
- We should respect differences
- We should respect what is true and make good decisions based on it
- We should remember that we are all special and important
- We should believe that we all have great potential and determine to find our potential and make the most of it!