Theming a Show – Part 1
“To entertain for the purpose of temporarilly 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
I stumbled across it almost by accident. One of those situations where I found gold while searching for copper. What is it? Theming.
At the time, I was working the birthday party circuit quite well, but having the same difficulties most others had. I was never getting out on time. My performance was solid enough. It opened with a 15 minute balloon show, followed up by balloon sculptures for party attendees, polishing off with
a sword fight – me against the world…Sometimes I dragged fathers into it…an amazing sight if you’ve never seen it.
Despite the success of my performances, I was noticing a trend. The sword fights were occurring after it was time for me to leave. I also noticed that no matter what or how many balloon sculptures I made, it was never enough – people always seemed disappointed. They liked the one they had….until they saw someone else’s …and the never ending process of line building continued…entirely against my will or wishes…but it didn’t matter. And in the end, instead of being the hero for all of my efforts, I was finding myself the villain because there was always some child crying over not receiving yet another balloon, parents upset over baking in the hot summer sun, or in some cases some parents remaining defiant and staying on a line after it’s been cut off before them – reaching the front just to yell at me for not making their child another balloon…or whatever specific thing it was that was desired. In essence, I was weary of being a villain – and the amount of money, no matter how much, wasn’t justifying it anymore.
Larry Moss was doing some stage shows involving storytelling. I picked his brain some and received the chance to buy and work his mousetrap show. It was a good show, but didn’t cater to the directions i wanted to appeal – I also found myself welcoming the challenge of creating balloon shows myself, so I pleasantly declined and started cutting my path. I started creating my own show.
I had already started working the library circuit across long island and already had a few “ins”, so it struck me as a natural fit to Guinea pig some shows in that direction. I wanted to really go over the top, though. SO I started putting careful thought into it. How can I manage to truly WOW them! There were some immediate concepts that came to mind. I could create a performance with some skill demonstration. It was good, but something felt like it was missing. I could create a performance that was completely DIFFERENT from anything they had ever seen before. Again, a very good concept, and one that found it’s way into my performances, but not really the concept I was seeking at the moment. Back to the drawing board. High Audience Participation? Another wonderful concept that I will be bringing to the table in another article. Yet again, one that is an integral part of my shows, but would it be the key element that would make me unforgettable to the specific people at the libraries? NO.
That’s when it struck me. I was approaching this from the wrong direction. Rather than approach it from the direction of what it was I could or already did offer,
perhaps I should be viewing it through the eyes of the librarians? Once my view changed…once I viewed this through eyes other than my own, all the pieces to the puzzle fell into place. I I leaned back in my chair and placed careful thought into this. I placed a great deal of time into creating a solid storytelling program with no less than 3 stories involved. In continuing my research I discovered the price range that seemed to best fit this new presentation i was offering. I picked up the proper verbage I should be using with regard to it and discovered that due to it’s unique nature, I could not only charge a higher fee, but present it in a smaller time frame. Gone was the sense of obligation to being booked for a minimum of an hour and then running over by an additional 30 minutes with nothing more to show for it. Before me was an opportunity to present a show using balloon masks, make the audience members the stars of the show, keep high audience participation from the remaining audience members and close with something really unique and different. Along with this, the ability to view the presentation from the eyes of the person booking it rather than the eyes of the one performing it. Time to take action.
I roamed the library, seeking the children’s librarians that might be able to give me a better idea of what it was they were seeking in an entertaining show…what it was they would like to see incorporated in a performance that would make them want to rebook over and over gain. Every wall in the library, children’s section and otherwise was plastered with giant posters of various celebrities from all eras..speaking in one unified voice…..
It was such a common sense idea that I seemed to be overlooking it all along. A performance given to libraries that uses stories to promote LITERACY! And so it began. My performances would not be mere escapes from daily life or standard entertainment – My performances on the library circuit would excel..They would bring laughter and cheers, interaction and THOUGHT! And where children shut out the words, the very SAME words spoken by some adults in their lives, they remained open to entertainers holding their attention; and I would use this ability to reach them where others tried and fell short. I would not just educate them, but through THEMING my performances I would EDUCATE them as well.
For more on entertainment concepts, balloon show creation and stage show presentation, “Journey to the Center of the Stage” Featuring the Performance of Jimmy Leo is available through the mbd2.com store.
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