Master of Ceremonies: USD Robotics Contest, part 2 (The Agenda)

This is the second post in a series exploring what an EMcee can bring to an event using my recent experience the University of South Dakota (USD) High School Robotics Contest.

The Robotics Contest is very complex. It is a very real technical competition, with detailed rules and an unusual preliminary and play-off round format. It also introduces the high school students to USD and the USD Computer Science department. A lot of competition is packed into a very few hours, so the event must be kept on schedule.

Many of the students competed in previous years, so they expect a first-class competition and improvements to the experience.

The USD Computer Science team planned a great event. In addition to the competition, they arranged for the student clubs related to the discipline to staff information tables. CS department faculty displayed their research, so the competitors (and their advisers) could learn more about the department. They arranged for dean-level representation from the College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School and more, to address the students. The key was to present it all in a logical, efficient, fun fashion.

As EMcee, I needed to create an agenda to keep things moving. This agenda was based on the original schedule of events created by the department, but much more detailed. It contained:

  • The Original Schedule Outline,
  • The links to a USD Marketing Videos,
  • A description of the USD Computing Clubs,
  • An introduction to Computer Science Faculty,
  • The name, position and introduction for each of the keynote speakers,
  • A review of the rules, and tournament format (with diagrams),
  • The actual schedule for the preliminary rounds, and outline for play-off rounds,
  • The announcement, and awarding of prizes,
  • Correct pronunciation of all presenter’s names.

For this event, I created a projected presentation in PowerPoint, so that all attendees could follow the progress. For this event, it was a good choice. Sometimes, a projected presentation sets the wrong tone, and I work from notes. This decision depends on customer’s goals for the event.

Customers should expect a full and detailed plan from the EMcee. Whenever possible, I like to review plans before the day of the event.

Next week, the series continues with a discussion of the actual event, and ways to keep an audience interested.

Master of Ceremonies: USD Robotics Contest, part 1 (Before the Event)

In April, I acted as Master of Ceremonies at the University of South Dakota (USD) High School Robotics Contest. It was a great experience. This blog post is the first of a series exploring what an EMcee can bring to an event through the example of the competition.

When most people think of an emcee, they think of someone who keeps the event moving while interjecting a quick quip or joke. As far as it goes, this is a great job description. But an Emcee can do much more.

The USD event was a series of robot runs through a maze. The best times from the early rounds competed in a semifinal and final playoff. I worked closely with the event planners to develop a checklist of items to enhance the event. A key aspect of this preparation step is to seamlessly work with the event planners to streamline the progess on day of the event, while freeing them to execute on the other aspects of the day.

  • I created a PowerPoint to control the progress of the event. To that end, before the contest date, the school provided:
    • Team list,
    • Mascots/logos for each team,
    • USD spirit videos,
    • Prize list,
    • Names of presenters,
    • General Agenda,
    • Rules and Rule explanations,
    • Tournament format,
    • List of other activities.
    • FAQs
  • We also determined the audio-visual and logistics of the event and determined that we needed:
    • A Sound System (with hand-held and stationary microphones),
    • Projection method to attach to a Laptop Personal Computer,
    • Stage.

Next week, I will discuss my behind the scenes planning and preparation for the event.

USD Opera Production of “The Consul”

I had a great time working with the USD Spring Opera program and thei production of The Consul. The performers put on first rate show, and the director, orchestra, cast and behind the scenes crew were professional–and fun.

Here is a photo from the show and a link to a thank you from the director:

Water from Newspaper USD Opera Spring 2018

operaThankYou

Scripting “Laughs, Wonders and Illusions”

After outlining the show, we write scripts for each illusion.

We use the proper script formatting to capture each scene from the audience’s perspective, including speeches, set, movement, etc.. We do not consider method (how the magic will be achieved) while writing. The entire focus is on presentation. Krissy and I split the scenes and write independently. After the first draft, we print them out and critique each one together.

During the second and subsequent drafts the illusion becomes independent from our previous research. We introduce humor, emotions, movement and narrative to make each one new and exciting. We seek to expand the basic idea to its ultimate limits. This is when concept drawings start.

From concept drawings, we make shop plans and start to build. But more on that next week

Developing “Laughs, Wonders and Illusions”: The Concepts

Moving from research to a performance-ready show is long journey.

Even before Krissy joined Jim Perry Magic, my notebook was filled with illusion ideas. Pictured here is an quick sketch from September 2016, which ultimately did not make the show.

Maybe someday, we will build and perform this one, but for now, it will wait. It is one of dozens of ideas that we looked at in the concept phase of the show.

As we moved from concept to planning, Krissy and I agreed that we prefer magic that has a lot of comic moments. So we started to list effects that allowed that type of interpretation and to exclude those that didn’t (for me that meant no sawed-in-halfs, feigned dismemberments or body penetrations). We drafted several handwritten lists.

Eventually, we made an overall outline that details the general flow of the show. This basic framework allows us to focus on the specific performances of the individual effects. From there, we began scripting and sketching. We continue to plan and work towards our premiere in Crofton, NE on March 11 for the Shannon Trail Promoters.

Next week’s post will focus on the scripting and concept drawing process (and maybe a few work-in-process workshop photos).

Developing “Laughs, Wonders and Illusions”

It is the reason I started.

Lots of folks thought I was crazy when a left a great job at a great university (University of South Dakota–Go Yotes!) to return to full time magic. It was hard for them to understand leaving a secure, well-paying, fully-benefited job to perform. Those who know me best knew that it wasn’t really a choice. I need to entertain and inspire audiences to escape into a world of laughter, wonder and illusion.

So we dove right into the deep end. I hired an assistant (Krissy Leitru), and first we redesigned the stand-up magic show. We made great progress, and we are very proud of that offering. But, we have never lost sight to the end goal: an illusion show for all ages! Between writing and rehearsing the stand-up show, we started to brainstorm and research the full illusion show. We spent weeks reading and re-reading books in my magical library, watching hours of videos on the internet, and just tossing out ideas.

The ideas started to come together, and several things became clear:

  • We loved the adventurer magician idea, but decided to table that idea for later.
  • Individually and as a duo, we prefer magic that has a lot of comic moments.
  • We wanted to build our own illusions.

So we outlined a show and started to write scripts for each illusion. After a week, we had strong first drafts of each illusion script and some concept diagrams. We are in the process of refining, expanding and improving these illusions as we go into the shop to continue building them this week.

The show includes a Portal Appearance, a crate escape, the suspension in mid-air of an audience member and much more.

More next week…

Ringing in the New Year with a Little Card Magic

Finally, 2018.

We ushered the new year in with some magic at the Yankton Historical Society’s Mead Masquerade Ball, at the Mead Cultural Education Center. It was lots of fun, and we will post some images and video in the coming weeks, but here is just a taste of the fun we had:

Next week: a look behind the scenes at the development of our new Illusion Show!

Why?

Magic is a profession like any other, and it is important to stay up to date. I spent last Saturday at a lecture with David Hira for just that reason.

David’s lecture was outstanding. The presentation prompted many ideas for improvements to our show. I cannot wait to incorporate them. But beyond the technical showmanship and magic ideas, David’s lecture asked a critical question: Why?

Why? Why are we magicians?

This question is about motivations and the attitudes that a performer brings to the stage. I could give many answers to the question “why do you perform?” from continuing a family tradition to its just plain fun. But those reasons would not explain why I don’t return to post-secondary education or return to the lucrative computer science field. And honestly, they are not why I choose to become a full-time entertainer.

I became an entertainer because I love to take people away from their daily lives, to help them for a few minutes to see a world filled with wonder and laughs.

Social Media Milestone; Thank you

Part of the relaunch strategy for Jim Perry Magic has been to increase our Social Media Presence and reach as part of the creation of the Explorer Magician family show.

Ultimately, the Explorer Magician show aims to tell the story of a magician and his fairy friend’s ongoing adventures and discoveries in both the fairy world and the natural world using online and live platforms.

Before we can use Facebook and other platforms, we need to create a following. We focused on Facebook first. Below is a chart from the Jim Perry Magic Facebook Administrator page

The chart shows a huge growth in Facebook page likes at a every rapid pace. You might wonder what happened. We worked with some of our fans to promote the page. And those fans shared the page with their friends.

Yup, that is the big secret to the growth: Friends helping friends and sharing content that those friends might like.

We want to thank everyone for helping us create a following of people, who want to share wonder and a laugh. Thank you.