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The Art of Misdirection

By Amy Harder

Last week I took my kids to see The Greatest Show on Earth. Besides being overwhelmed with the sights and sounds, the talent and technology, the fun and fears… I found myself wishing that I could pack it all up, replay and freeze-frame certain elements to puppet team directors and performance planners.

Magicians practice hour upon hour to learn how to misdirect your attention so that you don’t see what they’re really doing. Similarly, this three-ring circus did some serious planning to bring the audience focus away from the darkened areas where they were setting up for the next big act. It was spectacular and masterfully done.

[the greatest magician ever]

So what’s that have to do with puppets?

It’s simple. I’m tired of sitting in the darkness for what seems like hours, in an awkward silence that is broken only by mysterious stage clunks and muffled whispers while the performer(s) clumsily prepare for the next scene. Please, I implore you… DO SOMETHING between acts, songs, or scenes… Play music or a narration, have a clown or magician or MC come out front and involve the audience some way, prepare an in-betweener video… something!!!

OK. I’m done. But I’d love to hear your thoughts… and since my poll system is behaving badly, you’ll have to just leave your comments below.


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5 responses to “The Art of Misdirection”

18 10 2007
Kelvin Kao (22:18:04) :

Music and sound effects are great because you can use this to set up the mood or environment of the next piece of performance. MC type of person can be great if this gap is big and you need some kind of visual. Either way, sustain the momentum you’ve already built or build up a new one. Don’t let it just.. die. Seriously, when transitions are smooth, it just makes thing that much better. :)

19 10 2007
Bev McChesney (20:15:40) :

You were so inspiring to our puppet team at the fall festival in Phoenix, that some of our puppeteers will be using your character of “Fu Fu” between the songs we will be doing for our Christmas performance this year. Thank you that we were excited to come away with some really fun and applicable ideas!

20 10 2007
Aaron Steigelmann (12:48:36) :

This is sooo true. We (My Puppet group and I) have found that our mc is probbly the greatest single element that improved our overall piece in the last couple of years. Get the audience laughing, and they don’t even notice that everything around them is suddenly different.

20 11 2007
pastordave (13:32:12) :

Amy — again — you’ve hit the nail on the head. This is one of my biggest struggles with my team.

I needed to hear what you put in your post — we have become a little lax as of late and haven’t worked on making things as seamless as we have in the past. (partially because we’ve got a large number of newbies backstage who don’t understand that they need to get their puppets and get into their places for the NEXT number while there is currently something else is happening onstage.

There is nothing more painful than hearing strained whispers, clonks heaven-knows-what-else going on backstage while the stage sits pitifully empty.

Great observations from the circus. How easily this could be incorporated in any variety of ways. There’s nothing worse than dead air!

25 11 2007
William (21:18:42) :

It really works!!!!
Actually, this observation it pretty nice for newbies, my team and I, have being doing this for about 5 yrs, and really works, try some songs between acts and it will run very smooth, really.

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