“Beyond the Mirror” Tools of the Trade

Besides a caseload of custom props I hunted down and had custom made, I also had to design the practical elements of my new “Beyond the Mirror” formal close-up show.

I have a unique set of props and “decoration sets” that enhance the show and the challenge was to figure a way to ensure that all the items used in the shows are set up and organized during the show. Just like stage management for stage shows, this is exactly the same but at a smaller scale. But, it is also more challenging as the work space is much smaller.

In addition, unlike a stage show that has theatrical devices like curtains, blackouts and stage hands, all stage management has to be handled by myself in full view/ light of the audience.

I designed 3 holders/ organizers that serve that function of ensuring that the show can run smoothly. In fact, one of the things I’m most proud about the show is how smooth the transitions are between acts and how unnoticeable these transitions are.

I’ve deliberately blurred out the items in my case to protect the “secrets”!

Everything also packs down into this case for the basic version of the show. The elaborate version requires two cases for several specialized acts.

One major element of the show is the performance table and my own seat. To ensure the consistency and high quality of each and every show present, I designed a custom table for the show. I was surprised how difficult it was to design & build a “simple” table. I mean, I have designed complex illusions like our Revollusion fan illusion that had mechanical/ electrical moving parts and multiple components yet I was outsmarted by a table?

Of course, my table was not as “simple” as a board and four legs. As per the “requirements” (self-imposed nevertheless) of the working artist, the desire was to have a table that was stable, large enough to work with yet pack flat, pack small and be lightweight. As if life was not difficult enough… haha!

The first design I came up with was built and basically was rendered unusable. While the table packed flat and small, when set up, it was impossible to get it leveled. The pack flat design and material choice did not allow the table to be completely leveled. If you have experienced dining at a table that is not level, even by a few millimeters, it can be downright annoying and impossible to dine at. The typical solution is to shove a folded piece of paper under a leg to level it. However, that is not a solution I can accept.

The builders offered a plethora of solutions from custom fabricated aluminum parts to a sliding framework but I felt the whole table would be way too engineered with too much money and man-hours spent on what I saw as a “simple” table.

So, I went back to the drawing board. We did some adjustments with scrap wood to access the problem. I made certain critical changes that ultimately solved all the problems. While the original design did not work out, the new table design is very stable, still packs flat to a managable size. The table has a gentle curve in it, inspired by a casino blackjack table and matches the cut in my performance mat. The seat was also a custom modified project from an off-the-shelf stool. This was to ensure it could pack down flat along with my table.

Everything packs down to a custom canvas padded case for easy transport and can travel as excess baggage for overseas shows.

While it seems like a lot to carry for a close-up show, this is nothing compared to our typical illusion show. And, for the market that this shows caters for, no expense can be spared and clients expect nothing less for “the most exclusive magic show in town”!

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About J C Sum

International Headline Entertainer, Content Creator and Investor
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