Building the show – part 9
“To entertain for the purpose of temporarily taking someone from their cares and worries in the world is noble…but to recognize an entertainer’s ability to REACH an audience and UTILIZE that gift for an educational purpose…holds FAR greater value” Jimmy Leo
Enter the Dragon (continued).
Up to this point, it’s been my intention to continue the concept of theming a show. Yesterday’s article was aimed at continuing the theming of a performance, but theming from an opposing approach; Rather than look at the niche and building the props and the show from there, it was presented in the direction of creating one very large interactive prop that provides impact; The dragon costume. A huge costume, similar to the Chinese dragon outfits worn during the Chinese new year. The intention at this point was to examine the prop itself, the many aspects that surround it, how it could best be utilized and the niches that it could fit into. The given, of course, is the Chinese new year or performance focusing on the Chinese culture. The reality, though, is that the dragon is a creature who has fit into many different cultures, from Greek and Roman to Norwegian and many places in between. But before continuing with this train of thought, I want to first return to the list of questions I had provided in the previous article concerning this type of prop.
Some questions to ponder when coming up with ideas for a prop of this magnitude;
- AS a whole, is it safe?
- Is it going to be an appreciated interactive element?
- Will there be difficulty in assembling enough people to fulfill the positions within such a prop?
- How will such a prop benefit the overall performance?
- Will the reward be worth all of the work that goes into it?
- Just how many different directions can one go with such a prop?
- How could the prop be specifically themed towards the overall presentation?
- How does this prop present itself in a manner that is DIFFERENT?
- Am I sure the audience can RELATE to the prop being used?
- Does the prop actually LOOK like what it’s supposed to?
- What kind of EMOTION is this prop going to evoke form my audience
- Is it the kind of emotion I’m looking to evoke from my audience?
- What is the best point in the presentation to bring out the prop?
- What ELSE can be done with the prop to create for a better performance?
The first four questions have already been addressed in the Building the Show – Part 8. Let’s continue with question 5.
5) Will the reward be worth all of the work that goes into it? – This is a difficult question. It depends most on what you’re looking to achieve. If this is for a performance, what value does it command? Please keep in mind, I did not say price. The truth is that value fluctuates with the economy and price is a flat number; Value is fluid. It would be foolish to assume there is one set fee across the board in all places at all times for the same prop. There are formulas that balloon decorators use for understanding what they should be charging for what their offerings. Other entertainers also fluctuate their pricing based on the numerous factors that go into the performance, of which this large prop is a part. One has to factor the following in;
- What is the cost of the supplies
- what are the overhead costs?
- How much TIME will go into the creation of the prop, as well as the rest of the pieces for the performance?
- Will people need to be secured and contacted to assist in the creation of this?
- How much will they be PAID for their participation?
- How much CREDIT will those helping RECEIVE?
- What is the size of the venue?
- How will you plan on marketing the venue?
- Will there be an agent involved?
- What % will the agent receive and what negotiation needs to take place?
- Are there other means of receiving compensation? Press Release, Photos, Testimonials, Listings, etc.
- Is this something that seems like it will be a one time thing or something that serves a long term goal, benefiting me in a multiple of ways?
- what kind of overhead costs will i be looking at for something like this?
- Is there a need to provide Per Diem expenses for the amount of time going into this?
- What is the best method of organizing such a project?
- Should there be a breaking down of the project into smaller, more manageable goals?
- Should portions of this performance/prop be delegated to others?
- Is this the kind of project where once it’s finished, the aftermath is filled with benefits…or is the aftermath filled with more work long after the payday is over?
The questions continue from there. Given another hour, I can present at least thirty more, but I choose not to. My point is very simply this; There are a great deal of factors to be weighed first. To jump in to a project without first examining EVERYTHING that is involved is foolish to say the least. The idea is to create as little margin for error as possible and once that’s done look at what the potential consequences could be should something NOT go well. If when everything is carefully examined, it demonstrates plenty of reward, then it becomes worthwhile. The only thing I would like to add is that if it’s something that has never been done before, do NOT Guinea pig the client! Practice what it is you will make first. Practice the creation of the props, the show, the decor, and anything else that the client is desiring.
6) The different directions one can take a prop. It sounds cliche, but the results are endless. The only limit is the imagination. I have a specific 15 minute balloon show I have
performed for years – 15 to be exact. It involves a giant balloon hat. The hat served as the prop and the building of it became the performance. During this performance, each balloon was symbolic of something and the end creation (the hat) was symbolic of something else as well. because symbolism works so well with imagination, it becomes very easy to verbally sway the audience towards “seeing” the symbolic props as what I wanted them to be seen as. The beauty of this is that it opened up entire new worlds for me. Once I started working on a literacy program, I was able to symbolically have each balloon represent a book of some sort. When I did a show on history, each balloon represented a different time in history. When I did a performance themed around NYC, each balloon became a skyscraper that made Manhattan what it is today. In truth, each performance utilized the EXACT SAME PROP; but discovering the ability to utilize symbolism and imagination within the performance allowed for an ENDLESS amount of performances using the same ONE prop.
7) The prop can themed specifically towards a performance in it’s design. If I’m aware that Chinese new years are known for it’s green and red dragons dancing and swaying from side to side, I’m going to design a prop that’s capable of doing just that. Perhaps, though, I’m doing a show that involves a different kind of dragon entirely. Perhaps I’m designing a dragon for a story pulled directly from Norse mythology. I would probably change the design and the color of it; It would more than likely be white and other similar colors. It may incorporate wings that with the use of motors, actually flap. Perhaps another dragon entirely different would have a stronger focus on the arms, legs, claws, scales, jagged decorative lines within it’s skin, a long thin face,, etc. It could also be themed towards a specific performance through the means in which it interacts with other characters in the storyline.
8) DIFFERENT is important in the design of the prop because it’s important to have something of the entertainer that SPEAKS to the audience; Something that demonstrates to the audience that they are witnessing something rare. The more unique the prop, the more value it holds. The more it becomes desired. Along with the actual THEMING that caters to the client directly, this is the other feature that’s going to make the clients stand up and take notice; tell everyone they know and make your performance one of increased value. There’s a hamburger place within a stone’s throw in any direction. As a result, hamburgers are quite common and the concept of convincing the client that ANY one hamburger is special is…well…a difficult task. The result? Since they really can’t change the burger to be very different from those of the competition, they have to lower the price. I’ve seen hamburgers as low as .60 cents. I wonder how good, how special , or how DIFFERENT that burger could have been?
9) It’s MASTODON of a prop – something so BIG and DIFFERENT and OVERWHELMING that on it’s own, it serves a strong purpose and needs no support. Odds are this may not be the case. It’s also quite possible that as the entertainer, it’s important to have a presentation that in ALL aspects ties back to the theme. So keeping the amazing prop in line with the performance is important…and this is done by being sure that it ties in through stories the audience can relate to. I can give an American performance in India based on the American culture, but the only people who would understand it would be those exposed to and appreciative of the American culture. Even then, they would be aware of what’s going on in the show, but wouldn’t necessarily relate to it. This is why it’s important to properly research the culture first, find out what they take great pride in, their history, and their lore. Build a performance with a great prop around that and success awaits, even with the audience that has nothing in common with you.
coming soon……Theming your Performance; Part 10 Enter the Dragon (conclusion)
All inquiries, questions and comments are always welcome. As always, it’s a pleasure to share my knowledge with others – Thank you for the opportunity!
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Jimmy Leo – Cloud 9 Balloons