Building an Interactive Illusion Show

We recently announced details to our 2011 illusion show. If you are coming for our free public sneak preview, do check our Facebook event page for updates.

As with all our shows and projects, I always give some “behind the scenes” and background info. Besides being in line with the character of this blog, these are also some of the most popular entries I make.

“Illusions of the Mind” was first developed by myself in 2002. It was more of a theatrical mental magic show as it did not follow the general rules of a pure mentalism show. At the same time, I added lots of music and theatrics to the show that is typically not seen in a pure mentalism show.

I did the show for two years for select corporate & special events but had to abandon it to focus more fully on my visual illusion show. However, over the years, I was still refining the material and added some acts to my regular shows upon request.

Promo poster of the original “Illusions of the Mind” cira 2003.

Below are performance photos from the same period.

Coincidentally (or maybe fate), Ning’s first introduction and performance in magic was mentalism! Now, even at the infancy of her professional magic career, the smart cookie knew that traditional mentalism was not easy to stage so she went the visual route; ending with the spontaneous combustion of a sheet of newspaper into a blaze of fire. Her effort won her 2nd place in her first competition.

Ning & I started working on the some of my original solo routines (but reproduced to be performed as a duo) in 2008. But, we only started seriously developing the new show at the end of 2009. Now, we have a complete show of 100% new material produced for us as a duo. The show features original presentations not seen in any other show… in the world, I dare add. Actually, we have content for two complete 30min shows.

This is neither a traditional illusion show nor a mentalism show. We draw techniques, methods and presentation models from both illusion and mentalism shows but neither illusionists nor mentalists will feel the show fits their respective genres. Honestly, categories and labels are just that and the world does not fit neatly into categories. So, one might consider this a fusion show. We simply call it our “interactive illusion show”.

An interactive illusion show or interactive show of any kind is probably the hardest show to present. I should also mention that a mentalism show is the toughest type of show to present. It surprises me that a lot of new magicians try to start with a mentalism show.

Mentalism techniques alone may take a year or two depending on how dedicated you are in learning and mastering them. I consider them as hard as, if not more difficult, than card sleights. But, aside from technique, the reality is: without any performing experience, deep understanding of human psychology and excellent communication skills, it is impossible to present a mentalism show well.

Even with all that, it is no guarantee that a mentalism show can be presented entertainingly. As a result, a lot of mentalism shows are confusing, dreadfully boring and uninspiring. Even many professional mentalists who have been performing for years, do not present a commercially entertaining show; what more the inexperienced magician who does not have the skillset to present such as show.

I did not tackle mentalism or mental magic until I was studying/ performing magic for at least 10 years. From very early on, I knew that it would take a lot to tackle such sophisticated material. Which is why I only started exploring the subject after years in professional close-up, stand-up and stage work.

As with any show, there was a period of research, development, production, and rehearsal that cycled several times over the years.

Each phase was tedious and time-consuming but necessary. Even though the show is in its final stages of rehearsals, it is still being fine-tuned. The live sneak previews at The Peranakan Museum on 20 Nov 2010 will help test the material with a live audience. This will allow us to further improve the show and have it completely ready for the official launch in the new year.

Hope to see you at the show but do take note that seats are limited!


About J C Sum

International Headline Entertainer, Content Creator and Investor
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