“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
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?
Above are a few questions i have come up with…again..off the top of my head. The intent at this point is to understand what needs to be taken into consideration, and we have successfully addressed the first nine questions. I would like to take this time and address the remaining five.+
10) Let’s face it; If the prop doesn’t look like what it’s supposed to, maybe it’s time to try something different. Maybe it’s time to create a different kind of prop, new show format, or SOMETHING that just plain takes the performer away from anything that will end up looking negative on their performance. To be honest, An impact prop needs to look like what it’s supposed to be. The entertainer needs to place their focus on the performance; not on trying to convince the audience of what the prop is. Design it for resemblance while still maintaining characteristics of BEING different. I once saw a dress made out of balloons. It was amazing. The problem was that it was showcased on a runway at a fair distance from the audience. End result? No matter how unique, and DIFFERENT it was, it LACKED it’s impact because at that distance people couldn’t TELL that it was made from balloons instead of cloth. Be sure that gets factored in as well. Too unique runs the risk of not looking like what it’s supposed to be and too close to the real thing and at a greater distance it no longer looks unique; it loses it’s impact. Be careful to maintain a fine balance when creating an impact prop for that themed performance.
11) The key is to MOVE the audience through the performance. Using impact props as characters that already exist in known stories means that the emotions that need to be evoked are already in place. They already have some kind of feelings towards the characters in the story. Rather than create a new character and have to start from scratch in tapping the audience’s emotions, it’s much easier to piggy back the emotions the audience already feels towards readily available, preconceived characters. It could be an animal from a famous story. Many of the characters from Aesop’s Fables IMMEDIATELY spring to mind. The wonderful thing about Aesop’s fables are their ability to share important life lessons. A few of these stories placed together with similar morals to the stories and the show creates itself. And how dynamic would it be to create a giant insect body that assembles one piece at a time onto the body of an audience volunteer? Imagine if it were perhaps the scorpion from the tale of the scorpion and the crocodile…and the scorpion’s giant stinger actually had a tube built into it that allowed for the spraying of a thin stream of water towards the audience! Again, the possibilities start to build onto themselves. The moment a performer starts breaking into that 4Th dimension of the performance – the part where they are physically EXPERIENCING what is going on in the show….it evokes a new level of unexpected excitement….an emotion that ANY entertainer wants to see emerge within their performance.
12) What’s important on question twelve is that the performer have a relative understanding in advance of a few simple points. The performer should have a working understanding that the presentation, if successful, WILL evoke emotion, the performer should have an idea of what kind of emotion they are looking to see develop, they should gain an understanding of how their direct connection with the audience through participation and interaction will help evolve the emotions, and they should be aware of how to handle themselves should they evoke an emotion they were NOT looking to see happen. Sometimes, though, the unexpected emotions that result from a prop or presented action aren’t negative. Unexpected positive excitement…or “pops” are a welcome surprise to the performer when they come. From the entertainer’s perspective, their needs to also be moments when the performer WANTS the negative emotion from the crowd. If we want to see a high level of excitement from the audience when the hero saves the day, we need to understand that it is contingent to the level of jeers we see towards the villain. The more the villain is hated, the greater the positive response from the audience when his wicked plans are foiled, the princess is rescued, and the day is saved.
13) The best point to bring out an impact prop is contingent with the type of venue, the type of audience, the stage/area layout, the theme, and what kind of emotions one hopes to evoke from the audience. I have personally closed my stage performances with an impact prop for quite a few years now, with the intention being to always make sure the impact prop remained there. This year I started giving consideration to a new factor; Attention span. I didn’t just focus on the attention span of the children, though, I focused on the adults as well. The truth is, it’s quite easy to lose some one’s attention ten minutes into a presentation. If the presentation doesn’t seem to fit what’s going on in their lives at the moment, lacks the ability to relate to them in their lives, or is just plain missing a level of energy required to go over well, people will drift. As a result, I decided that I wanted to impact them not just at the end of the performance, but from the moment the presentation started as well. I started making an impact balloon that I wore out to the stage for the purpose of capturing their attention from the very start of the show. Once I had them mesmerized at the beginning, maintaining their attention became a great deal easier throughout the performance compared to trying to build it up from scratch. I also found that once I had their attention with an impact prop at the start of a themed presentation, it became much easier for me to deliver my message in the performance, whether it was literacy, recycling, science, geography, history, etc. The key detail to remember, psychologically speaking, is that when an individual is given a string of consecutive things to have to retain, the easiest to hold onto will be the first and the last. Knowing this and utilizing this will help make the theme of the rest of the performance fall into place.
14) What else can be done with the prop to make it a better performance? It would be easy for me to put an extra day into this final question and provide you with a hundred different responses that would benefit the audience, the performer, the venue, facilities nearby, the community as a whole, and the world in general. The problem is that I arrive at a personal conflict; “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” As a teacher, as a sharer of knowledge, the most IMPORTANT thing I can recognize is that I do NOT have all of the answers. I am here to point out all of the doors and show people the way through them. It is NOT my place to tell you what you have to do. It is my place to suggest and more importantly, to demonstrate to you the ways in which YOU can better understand how a show theme or impact prop can be looked at through YOUR eyes as it pertains to YOUR VENUES in YOUR geographical locale. I am always an e mail away to help you think, to inspire you, to release you of the frustration; I welcome the opportunity to help you push yourself in new directions, better understand yourself as a performer, and light up your imagination when you feel the need. Believe in your ability to build the show; I do.
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