Dove Hotline Articles

Tony Clark's
15 Second Theory

This theory was created from my interest in what makes people respond and how to keep them engaged throughout the performance.

I would like to preface this article by letting you know that the 15 Second Theory that you are about to discuss today, was formally known, a short time ago, as the 20 Second Theory. While I'm at it,
I must also alert you that it could possibly change to the 10 Second Theory in the near future. Hopefully, by the end, you will understand why it has changed and will most likely keep evolving.

As magicians (or any performer for that matter), we are looking for that rush of energy, that sign of ultimate appreciation by the spectators through the ever-so-sweet sound of applause. If you think about it, that is the truest feedback we can get. (As long as the spectators are not just your family, friends, and loved ones, but total strangers who either paid, or at the very least went out of there way to see your performance.) For those who are not exposed to the real audience reaction, this theory will not be of any value.

We usually judge our performance not just by how we did as far as our presentation, but also by the applause we receive from the spectators. It's very interesting to me when I see some performers come off stage unsatisfied and unhappy, feeling like they had done a terrible show, while the spectators on the other hand gave them a wonderful ovation. Hopefully this essay can help ease some of this self abuse and help them realize that it doesn't mater what we the performers think is good or bad, but leaving it to the unsolicited genuine responses of the spectators. This is invaluable because you will be able to start seeing your performance from the most important point of view - the spectators'. Once this is understood and applied, it can cause you to make improvements to your act that might now be beyond your present scope.

I learned the importance of focusing on audience response early in my performing career while doing kids birthday parties. I quickly and painfully realized that you can't get a more honest response than a bunch of kids sitting two feet away from you. They truly give you what I call a reflexive response. Meaning they usually just say what they see and feel without having any qualms about it. This is most likely why a lot of performers avoid kids shows like the plague.
Most say that they just don't "like" kids. It would be a truer statement if they said, "I just don't like the response their giving me." Why don't they? Probably because the performer is doing what he or she wants to and not what is needed for the youngsters to be captivated and entertained. I always say, if you can learn to captivate, control and be accepted by children, entertaining adults will be a cake walk. Mind you, this is not just a hypothesis, it is a hard learned fact during my ten year career in the kids birthday show biz. Sometimes I call it the boot camp of a performer's career. It can be painful at first, but the rewards are priceless!

You're probably saying to your self, "OK, I sort of get it, but what does all this have to do with the 15 Second Theory?" Don't' worry, keep reading the 15 second theory is a summation of more than
30 years of my never ending pursuit trying to improve my performances and understand what spectators need to be satisfied.

The most valuable experiences were when I began performing overseas. I started evaluating and comparing spectator responses from country to country. In Japan they seem to respond with more verbal expression such as oh's and ah's. In Portugal they seem to respond to more of the subtleties. In England they responded at all the right points. (Probably their theater etiquette.) In Puerto Rico they responded with a more explosive energy. In the USA, they seem to respond at more obvious applause cues. They all have a slight difference from each other in what they respond to. The one thing they did have in common, was that their reactions were beginning to change. Over my ten year period of globe trotting, I began feeling as if the spectator response was diminishing and my act was slowing down. But wait a minute, I was doing a silent act timed to music and I didn't change my music for the last ten years. So how
can my act be slowing down? As a matter of fact, when I watched myself on tape, it started feeling slow to me, too. What was going on? Was I losing my mind. Was my tape or CD slowing down with usage? I had to find the answer because I knew it couldn't have been my fault because as I mentioned, my music has been perfect for the last decade, so why should I change it? Well, remember earlier when I mentioned that you should focus on what the spectator needs to be captivated and entertained? That's exactly what I began to do.
I started watching what the majority of people spend their time watching ... TV. I watched with the intent to notice the tempo or speed of what was on the screen. It was an eye opener to say the least. I noticed that most "shots" or camera angles changed every 5 to 15 seconds. Why did the TV producers instruct the editors to do this? To captivate and keep the attention of the spectators! Ah ha! That was what was happening to my live audience. They are being conditioned to receive new information every 5 to 15 seconds! It's a fact that modern spectators spend most of their time watching TV instead of live performances. Even the evening news is bombarding us with information. They have the TV channel and logo and the right bottom corner of the screen, while the temperature is on the top right corner, and across the bottom is a breaking news story. During working hours you may even see the stock market numbers somewhere else on the screen. Wow, can we absorb all of it at once? No, but it gives us choices to focus in on new information, which allows the TV network to hold on to a larger demographic of viewers. In the meantime, we are getting conditioned to see multiple pieces of information coming at us. If you watch shows like MTV or action type show, it's even faster. They will change from camera angle to camera angle as fast as two seconds at a time. Much different from TV shows ten years ago. So, what does this mean to us as performers? Should we be concerned? What should be done? I had the same questions… Until one day I discovered the answer.

When I was asked to perform one of my escape stunts for NBC's World's Most Dangerous Magic, I learned a very important lesson first hand. The escape stunt I was to perform involved a speeding car coming at me while I had to find a key among more than a hundred different keys and release myself from a chain that was locked to my waist. Then the car would plow into a metal container behind me and explode into flames with a huge boom. Without a doubt, the most exciting segment of the show. I thought for sure that my segment would be closing the show. Actually, the opposite was true. The producer, Gary Oullette said that my segment would be perfect for the opening of the show. "But Gary," I said. "Don't you think that this segment should be kept to the end for the Grand Finale?" Gary looks at me with a smile. "Yes, but it's more valuable in the beginning of the show." But shouldn't the show end with a bang?" Again he smiles and says, "The bang must come in the beginning of the show these days, because if you don't grab them in the beginning, they'll never watch to the end. TV spectators have so many choices now that we the producers must be aware and make sure we give them a hook to keep watching." I sat there without saying a word. At that point I didn't know what to say, I just looked at him. Gary continued - "Believe me, it's not the way it used to be. The studios spend lots of money figuring this stuff out." So there you have it. They spent one hundred thousand dollars to produce an exciting segment to be used to open the show. The Hook! Today it's even more true then just a few years ago. We the performers have a new era with a new eye to capture! Ignoring it will not only make it more difficult to please the audience, but also more difficult for the performer to enjoy what their doing.

I fee Global TV Conditioning has infected our customer service departments too! Think about all the ideas that have been created in the last 10 years in order to move people quickly through stores and businesses. The bar code scanners for instance, really gets you out the door fast. Long gone are the days of polite chat at the checkout stand. Now it's a quick pass over the scanner and a quick swipe of your credit card and you're out the door before you can say "paper or plastic". If I pay with cash, it's a challenge to get my money in my wallet and move out of the checkout line, before the next person is done and waiting for me to move. So I pickup my wallet and bags and scurry away to avoid being a nuisance. Don't forget about all the drive-in food establishments. You don't even have to get out of the car, you just zoom to the order speaker and then zoom to the pick up window, where you pay and zoom off into the sunset. I'm not saying these modern inventions of convenience are bad, but we must realize they are affecting everyone, whether we like it or not. At first, I thought that just being aware of the Quick Fix Global Conditioning would be a sufficient antidote - I was wrong.

Recently, I was with some of my fellow magicians at Dean Dill's shop in Glendale California. We began watching some old videos of magicians on the Johnny Carson show. I found myself beginning to drift away because it felt like the tempo of the performers was very slow. I quickly realized that the studio audience was enjoying it and responding well, it became obvious to me that I too have been effected by TV Global Conditioning. Sounds pretty serious. Well my friends, it is. The reason it that it affects us without us even realizing anything is happening. It infiltrates the very fragile and impressionable subconscious part of our mind. The subconscious part of the mind is always absorbing information without us even noticing. This is why advertising companies keep repeating things time and time again. Before you know it, you don't live at home with out it. This, my friends is affecting all spectators. We are catering to new age of spectators who are exposed to less and less live performers and more and more fast actions adventure TV, movies and video games. Computers are faster than ever and yet we still want the next, faster model yet to be produced. We can't beat them so we must join them and cater to their needs to be entertained. If not, my feeling is that live magic shows, will be less and less desirable, resulting in a vanishing market. Pun intended!

So what is the answer? Ah ha!
At last we come to my 15 second theory!

I feel that most if not all, spectators have been affected by global TV conditioning, so we must cater to it. Several years ago, I used to call it the 20 second theory and now I give you the 15 second theory.

I feel that it is extremely important to capture the attention of the spectators as soon as possible. Something should happen in your act to grab the attention of the spectator within the first 15 seconds of you stepping on stage. If you can accomplish this, you will satisfy the appetites and expectations of the spectators. Better yet, if you can add new information, be it a gag, a problem, a challenge, a production, vanish or any other magic effect during your act every 15 seconds or so, the spectator response will begin to snowball. As they say, first impressions are very important. This is especially true when you're a performer. So get out there and do something to engage. Grab them and hold them. Make sure the overall tempo of your act keeps a good pace. This doesn't mean you have to go crazy for your whole act. So what can we do?

Here are some ideas of how to perform in harmony
with TV Global Conditioning.

Changing the tempo of your act can also keep the spectators engaged. This will keep the spectators on their toes. Not knowing what or when to expect what's coming next. I would highly recommend enrolling in an Improvisational acting classes. I started taking classes from the "Groundlings" in Hollywood a few years ago. I noticed that it enhanced my ability to pay attention and react to any situation. It really frees up the mind. One point the class stresses is to keep adding new information in order to keep the scene alive. New information can come in many forms: An effect, a question, a challenge, a joke, a mishap, a lighting change, a tempo change, etc. etc… This fits in perfectly with what I have been discussing above. Finally, just keep in tune with what the masses are watching and notice the trends and tempos. Be aware of the type of things that seem to be getting press or media hype. You may not be able to apply it directly to your show or act, but it will definitely keep you in the "present". Actually, it's move valuable to see how TV networks present information to the public in order to "grab" their attention. So, allow yourself to see what's happening around you. Perform in harmony with it. You never know, it can be a life changing experience. In closing, please keep this in mind ---"If you make them wait….they'll head for the gate!"

Many magical wishes!
Tony Clark

How To Decide What Effects To Buy?
By Bob Sanders

Sometimes finding sources of good tricks with doves is a trick in itself. When you don't know what you are doing, the risks are high of buying what may not match your needs. Unfortunately in magic, the trick is sold when the secret is told. However, knowing the secret is exactly what will keep you from using some tricks. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the trick except that it won't fit your routine. You may think a dove trick starts and ends with an ungimmicked silk you can use in your next trick. Then find out that there is nothing else you can do with it because it is full of holes, plugs into the wall, or is made of fiberglass and whipped cream. You get the idea - some tricks are limited and have attachments and accessories that limit its use.

This is a good reason for buying from a swap meet or an auction. If you accidentally buy something that won't fit your routine, odds are good the next highest bidder would like another shot at buying it. Try it, and if it doesn't fit, put it back up for sale. I don't know a cheaper way to get to live with a trick for a while. Remember... good quality magic tends to appreciate in value.

There are several rules I count on when buying magic tricks that I know little about. First I make sure I understand what the seller claims the trick does. Forget the pictures and read closely. Do the claims solve any problem in my routine? How well do the claims address my problem? What would I ask if I could? What must the trick absolutely enable me to do? How does it finish? Will I be left with something in my hand to use in the next trick? Will I be left with something I don't want in my hands or on stage? What are the time constraints? Can I do this anywhere in my routine? The sooner it has to be done, the less interested I am. Delays can be an embarrassment and unfortunately they are a fact of life.

A major concern to me is knowing who made this product. There are some manufacturers that could sell me anything based upon their reputations and my experience with their products. There are others you learn are hit & miss. Unfortunately, there are some to avoid. Dove magic is not peg board magic. If a vendor does not carry a lot of magic for working magicians, it is unlikely he carries quality dove magic. Dove magic is essentially for the working magician. It takes too much commitment in dove care, practice, and equipment to interest a hobbyist. Watch magicians who get paid to perform. They have to have equipment that works.

The next problem is learning what to look for. Remember the good advice you got in Alice in Wonderland: "Start at the beginning, and when you get to the end, quit." Look at the routine you would like to perform the same way. Examine the routine you already do? What are your other needs? How does it fit in your routine? This will help you decide what you are looking for.

Ideas come from several readily available sources and almost all are available on auctions or local magic get togethers. Videotapes of both full and partial routines are very good for idea generation. Books are another very good source. One overlooked area is from old magic publications like Linking Ring, MUM, Genii, etc. Back issues are available. There are reseller markets for all of these. Look for techniques and presentation rather than specific tricks. It sharpens your shopping skills. Later you will know what tricks, if any, you may actually need to buy. Remember that you are not looking first at the trick, but at the performance.

There are usually many ways to do the performance. There are usually several versions of the same trick. Collect magic catalogs and read them over and over. Cross-tab them. Learn to recognize the same trick sold by another name. Get familiar with the catalog prices. In many cases the consequences of a bad decision are nothing compared to no decision. Don't waste your time. Instead, take action and get some results. Stay in forward motion.

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