Needs must when the devil drives…

When you are invited to perform at a birthday party with 30 children attending including the birthday child, the attention and focus you can dedicate to each child is slightly stretched. You may wish to give your time to everyone but it is simply not possible. Then throw into the mix the possibility that some children react differently to watching your show. The room might get too loud for a particular child, and you have to deal with their reaction before continuing the performance.

I am no expert and am forever learning at every event I perform at. Tonight was no exception. At this particular party the mother advised me before coming that the birthday girls sister wished to be a part if the show and (so that I was aware) was autistic. Even though it wasn’t her birthday, she asked me would I mind getting her involved too. I personally don’t use siblings of the birthday child in my shows unless I have too. I beleive it is vital that the actual birthday child’s friends get up to help in the show. I do make exceptions when parents request it, and it was for good reason in this particular case as the birthday child’s sister might be very upset from not being in the show and not understand why. For good reason, under these circumstances I acquiesce.

Awareness is key

It’s essential when you meet children to assess them for capability, temperament and above all do not judge them by what adults advise you. Listen to what they have to say and be aware of it but don’t let it influence your performance. Adults have their children’s best interest at heart. However, when you are performing with a child on stage the reaction they have to being with you will tell you how you need to look after them on stage. It is our job as performers to make sure that when any child comes up to help that it is the best experience they will have on stage at that moment. Parents may warn you that their child is shy and won’t want to help you and then they burst onto the stage glowing with confidence. You really just won’t know how a child will react until they are up there with you.

I knew right away after meeting the birthday girls sister that my middle trick would not be the best one for her to perform. This trick in my show is a complicated effect. There are a lot of instructions in a short space of time and although lots of fun my gut told me it wasn’t right for this child right now. My very last trick however is more relaxed, has an easy story to follow – the child becomes a gladiator and uses a magical sword to make the hanky of doom vanish. – and I felt much more comfortable guiding the birthday child’s sister through this particular effect.

After taking the time to get the birthday girls sister settled and comfortable with the task at hand, something very unexpected happened. I chose another child to help, whom I didn’t realise until I brought them up that they were for the most part non verbal and very sensitive to their surroundings. As soon as I handed them the hanky, it took a moment for me clock this, react and take my time to make them comfortable enough to stay up and help. Eye contact, reassurance and staying calm yourself are three great tools that aid this.

Is it best to chose the easy option?

Looking back on this situation, I could have easily plotted a story line that encouraged that child to sit back down and take someone else up, as she was very tentative and on the verge of sitting down herself anyway. As you can imagine, having two children on stage with varying abilities is a challenge for any performer, especially whilst trying to keep the attention of a large group.

However, I have a rule. I always make sure I ask children twice if they wish to come and stay to help me. The first time, when they are sitting down on the floor, which they bounce on stage too. The second time, if I feel and see them responding awkwardly to being up on stage with me. Asking for the second time reassures me and them that they are indeed happy to assist. Everyone must be happy to take part, especially your assistants, no matter what age.

It’s my party and ill cry if I want to!

On that note if during a trick a child gets upset or no longer wishes to partake in the trick you are performing, try to send them down to their seat in a positive way. Thank them for helping and ask for a round of applause. I always keep an eye on the child for the rest of the trick and show. This moment can be horrible for a child. They don’t want to not help with the trick, but at that moment they just can’t cope to finish it. It us important that you deal with their dismissal and the aftermath of this delicately.

Next you will need to request a new helper. That child knows they are a substitute but willing to finish what the other child began. If there is anyway to end the trick with both children (the replacement up with you and the child sent down) do. I.e: Say to the child on the floor that even though you are now down there I still need your help, we cant do this without you. Somehow reaffirm that they are special in making the trick work. The difference you will make to that child for the next time they have to go onstage and help someone will be huge. They will not feel like they have failed but overcome something.

Back to the party…

The mother of the non verbal child was even worried for me, moving closer to the stage and her child just incase her child needed assistance. Turns out they didn’t. Yes the trick took longer to perform, yes the audience were not under control by the end and it was not a perfect version of this particular trick but I took my time and guided both these children with complex needs through the trick to the end. No tears, no tantrums just smiles and hugs after. Helping everyone to be involved for me is more important than you, the magic or your show.

And this is the beauty in what we get to do. No show is like the other. Every child and party is different. You are different each show. Strive to throw your perceptions of the perfect show out the window if needed in order to help children have their moment on stage to shine. They may not ever think they could and you will have went a long way to making real magic happen for them and their parents in seeing their child thrive in an environment they never knew they could.

Reviews are in!

In just over a week, I have managed to post every copy of Becoming FizzWizzPop that has been ordered by my new customers. Books flew over the world to Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands, and a bunch to America. Thank you so much for your support.

Here is the people’s verdict so far…

Totally recommend it to anyone thinking of taking up entertaining as a business – wish I’d had this to read 40 years ago when I first started out as an entertainer. ( I cannot believe it was actually that long ago). We are in the business of making memories, and as such we have a great responsibility. And a great reward! Aidan Heritage, UK.


This book is a nice sneak peek behind the curtain of a magician/entertainer.
The book is filled to the brim with great stories, amazing pictures and above that she also gives some great tips to boost your professional career, and how to maintain a good and solid base of customers.

For what it is worth:
I can highly recommend this book to everybody, especially to the starting magicians, the tips in this book are gold!!!
So if you are in the market for giving yourself a present or you just want to read amazing stories and learn valuable lessons, this is the book for you! Jean-Paul Broekhuizen, Netherlands.

Mastering your words…

This week I performed at an event in the Belfast Children’s Hospice for a group of three girls and their families. I perform quite a lot in this place, bringing some well needed joy to the kids, staff and families through magic. Something occurred that made me think a lot about planning out your show properly for each audience. And knowing what you say and how you say the lines can make such a difference.

So, it was a Halloween show and in this set I perform a Rob Driscoll ‘gift’ mentalism effect using balloons. At the end of the routine each child is rewarded with a balloon for selecting and matching a pair of Halloween characters. However, as I revealed the balloons and was about to hand It to one of the girls, her mother who was watching stopped me suddenly. It turned out that her daughter was allergic to balloons. As you can imagine if her mother was not there this could have been disastrous as the staff forgot to tell me this as they are very busy with other things on their minds too.

Now, I have been using balloons in my magic show since I started performing for children and I can tell you in this time, I have never had a problem with a child holding a balloon – I’m beginning to think so far I have been extremely lucky.

In this situation I felt awful because I really didn’t make an effort to check beforehand. I just presumed it would be ok. I wanted to tell this story because we are all learning and mistakes happen. How we deal with them will help us perform better in similar situations in the future,

Ever since this I’ve been wondering what is the best way to approach asking serious questions in a show context. If, for example, you forget to ask prior to starting a performance how do you double check something mid show. I began thinking through my script and wondered if it might be adaptable?

In the FizzWizzPop magic show, I bring a balloon sword into play towards the end of the show asking my assistant, “have you ever held a balloon before?”. This line came about for comedy purposes, as when my participant answers me (usually with a yes) I miss handing the balloon to them on purpose and it flies away.

I realised though if I put a little bit more emphasis on this line before giving the child the balloon, I can provide the space and time for a child or adult in the audience to say,wait, STOP! If there is an issue with using the balloon.

Without having to say the line, “are you allergic to latex?” I am indirectly asking the same question but in a way my character would. Children’s entertainment should be fun and one way of doing this is being aware of what you say and how you say it. You can still deal with a potentially serious situation in character. Some food for thought.

One last funny note – how children repay you for bringing magic into their lives? Spray a bubble gun in your face! And that’s partly why I love performing for children.

5 Secrets

Be harsh – kids need structure and you are the one in control, you must lead them.

Be kind – Guide them and take care of them. Never ask them to do something you would not do yourself.

Be fun – Everything you do must must ooze joy and if you are having fun your audience will have fun too.

Be you – you are original! No one else can perform as you do. Be unique and create something original that kids will remember you for.

Make an impact – always aim to be remembered. Do things differently and don’t be afraid to try new things. Play in your show and your audience will play too.

There are no mistakes and you are in control. Only you know the journey your show will make. I encourage you all to take an unknown path in your show and have an adventure.

An epic unboxing!

OH MY GAUD! I JUST SAW MYSELF!!!

After seeing Anders Moden’s amazing graphic design and layout on the computer screen, the suspense was immense to see the actual physical book in real life.

After what felt like an eternity, the box from the printer arrived. You can see the unboxing in the video above!

 

Why a book?

Why did I choose to write Becoming FizzWizzPop now?

After performing for children for the last 15 years, I found myself being asked advice on how to work with children – a lot.

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I realised upon answering these questions that I was not only able to eloquently express the key tools that I use and have developed in helping me successfully manoeuvre around this potentially tricky audience, but I was able to give advice on other essential skills like character, how to structure a show & also how make a successful business from creating wonder for children .

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There is so much material out there for magicians to develop tricks for a show, I.e the props, the routines however, I haven’t found too many books that highlights what it actually takes to entertain kids for a full hour. Nobody talks about this. So I wanted to create a book that if I was starting all over again, it would help me realise what I needed to become a real magician, a role model for children.