Adding Surprise To Your Kids Entertaining
10 Essential techniques that professional kids entertainers do not share.
Part 1 with Colin Underwood
Over the next few articles I will pass on from my experience as a full time performer of 35 years and more what I have found to be the essentials of performing. I have compiled these techniques over literally thousands of shows in all sorts of situations and audiences. These are truly tried and tested.
I sincerely hope that these techniques will enhance and improve your performances. If only in that they get you thinking deeper about you and your shows …
The surprise element: Is it there?
This is vital for children’s entertainers and increases the magical entertainment. The interest span of children these days is shorter as a result of over exposure to video games and cartoon content.
If you study a cartoon of today you will see there is a vast amount of sensory exposure. The colours are bright with characters always doing something. The dialogue is kept to basics and in kid’s style of talking. The characters are often magical or have super unhuman powers. The music is upbeat with massive sound effects sprinkled liberally in between. All of this stimulates the senses of the children. How does this relate to your magic show and as a children’s entertainer?
Well if you do not engage the audience and by that I mean all of the audience including the parents right from the beginning you will have an uphill battle. By adding large doses of surprising situations in the show you will be off to a good start. Most children’s performers place way too much emphasis on the main ending, e.g. the production of the bunny! The routine should be structured to engage and keep interest. Sometimes due to familiar props many children are way ahead of you and will shout out that they have seen this or that trick. Of course this is a good thing and bad! To counter this you might consider performing a routine with a different ending this makes you different and a more interesting entertainer. I call this a reversal surprise technique.
You can do a baking the cake routine and rather than produce a cake you produce a rubber chicken. (So much easier than a cake by the way) or reverse this and say you are knitting a jersey (jumper for your granny) the kids can see you.
are baking a cake and will tell you so. Your surprise ending is to actually produce a jersey in this case.
The surprise might be at the end of a routine but I recommend having smaller sub endings or surprises throughout the routine.
These can be silly misdemeanours that set your character or in routines such as the washing machine type routine you keep reaching a false climax. The basic plot being dirty gloves need washing and must come out clean at some point. But what can really happen is they are mutilated, change colour and any other surprising sub ending. But be careful that the plot is maintained and the audience know what you are trying to achieve. The final production of clean socks after so much mayhem might actually be a let-down.
The silly misdemeanours are E.G using a glue stick on your lips instead of lip ice. You can look surprised at this and then look again (a double take technique) and notice that the glue stick is now proper lip ice. This gives you an additional surprise and strong magic content.
I would consider sleight of hand as a great way to produce props or to vanish and item. The magic is strong in these situations and enhances the surprise. Cigarette sleight of hand from the old books is a great place to start and these moves can be ideally adapted to similar shaped items of sweets or in this case a lip ice or chap stick as it is known in the US.
The various wands on the market are prime example of incidentals that make a vital part of any children’s show. The reaction to a broken wand is a valuable bonus and makes the entertainment value increase in your show. I recommend you buy up any of the gag items in magic stores and scour toy shops and cheap one dollar stores for interesting items that may be used in your show with a little creative thought. Of course how you react to these happenings will determine how entertaining you will be which leads me onto the next vital point of enhancing suspense in your show.