March 2009 Vol 1, Issue 2

Creativity For Entertainers Trilogy

Creativity For Entertainers

Welcome to the second issue of my Creativity For Entertainers newsletter.  This will be an occasional service for owners of my Creativity For Entertainers books.  I want the books to be as valuable a resource as possible for you.
In the Acknowledgements for Volume One I wrote, "The most important people for me to thank are Bruce L. and Irene Johnson, my parents, and Carole, my wife.  I can truly say that without their support my career and this book would not have been possible."  My mother passed away February 19, 2009.  Her memorial marker will read "Loved and Rememberd by Those Hearts She Touched."  I will miss her, but I also have many fond memories of her.  More importantly she was a valuable influence that shaped my life.  I am the person and entertainer that I am because of her.
Please feel free to contact me with your questions and comments.  Let me know which articles you find the most helpful.  I want this newsletter to be of value to you.  I will adjust the content of future issues based on the feedback that I receive.
In This Issue
Card Stand
Evolution of a Butterfly
Adding Sound
Jazz Magic
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Card Stand
In the first issue of this newsletter I talked about the Word, a card trick with an alphabet deck where you produce four cards that spell a predetermined word. In this, and many other card tricks, displaying the cards standing upright so they are easily seen by the audience is a nice touch.  An easy way to make a stand to hold the cards is using two pieces of wood molding and a thin piece of plywood.  I like to use quarter round molding but other shapes also work.  The dimensions will depend upon the size of cards you are using.  Glue the two pieces of molding with a flat edge facing each other onto the plywood.  Leave a gap between the pieces of molding that is wide enough to easily slip the cards into.  If you want you can then round off the ends of the molding or leave them straight.  I paint my stands black so they do not attract attention when they are sitting on my black magic table.  Then I use a little sand paper to widen the top of the slot making it easier to slide the cards into and to give me a line of bare wood helping me see the slot during performance.
Evolution of a Butterfly
Jim Burke has told me that he has been getting great response to the Evolution of a Butterfly routine described on pages 187-197 in Creativity For Entertainers Volume Three.  He has been using it in Clown Ministry to teach a variety of spiritual lessons.
This routine works well to teach a lesson about anything that is a process.  I have used it in creativity classes to talk about the process of creativity.  (That process is described fully in Creativity For Entertainers Volume One.)  The summer reading program theme in many libraries this summer is Get Creative @ Your Library.  You can easily adapt this routine for a library show on creativity.  The egg is the starting point or inspiration.  It can be a problem that needs to be solved or a question you want to answer.  The caterpillar stage is the imaginative phase of creativity.  Caterpillars are not all beautiful creatures, but if we kill them they will not transform into the gorgeous creatures they have the potential to become.  Our first ideas may not be great, but if we don't nurture the seemingly poor ideas they won't evolve into the great ideas they potentially could become.  The caterpillar needing to eat is a good metaphor for the explorer role.  The cocoon is analogous with incubation.  Emerging from the cocoon takes work which is analogous with the implementation phase of creativity.
Adding Sound

Kathy Shook told me that at Christmas she produced a plush snowball in her dove pan.  The snowball was designed to sing a song when you dropped it on the floor.  She discovered that putting the lid on her dove pan jolted the snowball enough that it started singing.  Then she would look for the source of the music, remove the lid, and discover the snowball.  She said it was very well received in her nursing home visits.
My niece recently took me to a Build A Bear Workshop.  They had a rack of sound effect devices to be placed inside your plush animal.  I found a plastic box that was 1-3/4 inches long, 1-1/4 inches wide, and inch deep.  When you squeeze the box it makes a "magic" swooshing sound three times.  I discovered that it is easy to hold concealed in your hand while also holding a magic wand.  (Your hand looks natural holding the wand and the box.  Holding the box by itself looks a little more suspicious.)  I have been having fun playing around with making the magic sound while waving a wand to create the "magic moment."  (For more about the magic moment see Volume Three pages 429, 430, and 436.)
When Carole does her hospital clowning she wears a headband with a bird perched on top.  We found an electronic music box movement on-line that is a button about the diameter of a half dollar.  When you press the button you hear birds singing.  She keeps the button in her pocket.  She will point to the bird with one hand and push the button with the other hand so that children can hear the bird talking to them.  She uses it as a conversation starter.  She also tells the kids that the bird is a goldfinch, the state bird of our home state of Washington.
Build-A-Bear Workshop had some of the same type of round sound buttons in their display.  I noticed that one of them was a dog barking.  The buttons are easy to palm and can be used to make a balloon sculpture dog start barking.
At one point in my career I used one of the buttons that played Happy Birthday.  At a birthday party I palmed the button and started touching kids on the nose.  When I touched the guest of honor on the nose the birthday song played to identify them.  (Often the birthday child is wearing something special identifying them.  If they weren't, I would quietly ask an adult to tell me what their cloths were like.)  I found that button at a craft store.
How could you use something that creates a sound effect?  Where can you find them?  Where would you conceal it?  How would you set it off?  Where would you want the audience to think the sound was coming from?
Jazz Magic
On page 361 of Creativity For Entertainers Volume Two I referred to "improvisational magic."  I was not entirely happy with that term but I could not think of one that I liked better.  At the 2008 Magic Show Conference, Boris Wild used a term that I like much better.  That is Jazz Magic. 
Improvisation is only one element of Jazz music.  Jazz music is supported by a structure and is grounded upon technical skill.  When you listen to a great Jazz performance the song is still recognizable, but that particular version is fresh and exciting.

The same is true in Jazz Magic.  You work within a basic structure that assures your success.  You have worked out a basic presentation and then you take advantage of the exact situation to create a variation on that presentation.  You have developed the technical skill necessary to make those variations succeed.
An example of Jazz Magic is the Impromptu Card trick in Volume Three pages 120-123.  (The rest of this article may make the most sense if your read about the effect in my book first.)  I needed something to fill time while my family was visiting my mother in hospice care.  Somebody had a deck of cards so I performed the Impromptu card trick with my niece Julie.  The force card was the Ten of Hearts, and the number she picked was seven.  After I performed the flushtration count to show all of the cards in the small packet were the Ten of Hearts I noticed that the card that was now on the face of the packet was the Seven of Clubs.  I commented that seven must be her favorite number because all of the cards were the Seven of Clubs.  Performing the Flushtration Count again returned the cards to their normal order.  I fanned the packet facing me so I was the only one who could see the identity of the cards.  I noticed that the Nine of Hearts was next to the Ten, and the Eight of Hearts was next to the Seven of Clubs.  I squared up the packet turned it so Julie could see the face of the Ten of Hearts and asked her to guess what would have happened if she had picked six.  I slid the Ten of Hearts off the packet revealing the Nine of Hearts.  I did the Flushtration Count showing that all of the cards were apparently the Nine of Hearts.  I ended up with the Seven of Clubs off the packet keeping it face down.  I asked Julie to guess what would have happened if she choose six.  Hesitantly she guesses that the cards would be the Eight of Hearts.  She was amazed when I demonstrated that she was correct.  I ended the routine there.
At a family gathering my sister asked that I do some magic for John and Lu Beuzis, parents of my brother-in-law.  It was the day before Lu's birthday so I did the Impromptu Card Trick with her.  It turned out that the force card was the King of Hearts.  I commented that when she selected it she must have been thinking of John, the King of her Heart.  After doing the Flushtration Count, I discovered that the next card to be revealed was the Queen of Hearts.  I said that if John was the King of Hearts she would be the Queen.  I then used the Flushtration Count to show all of the cards were Queens.  When I fanned the small packet of cards in my direction, I noticed that the King of Diamonds and Queen of Diamonds were next to each other in the center.  I cut the packet to move those cards to the top and bottom.  I commented that heat and pressure transform coal into diamonds and difficult times can transform our personalities.  I used the Flushtration Count to show that the Queen of Hearts had transformed into the Queen of Diamonds.  I commented that couples go through experiences together so John would have been transformed as well.  I finished by showing that all of the cards had changed to the King of Diamonds.  I ended the trick at that point.
I know the general plot for the Impromptu Card Trick.  I have developed the sleight of hand skill to present it without thinking about the method.  That frees me to concentrate on improvising the presentation.  Since I don't know what cards will be available at the beginning, each performance is a fresh challenge that keeps it interesting for me.  Since there is no set patter I can often personalize it to make a stronger connection with my audience partner.  Often it turns into a heart-to-heart moment that is satisfying for everyone.
What routines do you know that permit a Jazz approach?  What basic format will support your improvisation?
Volume One Corrections
"You are not responsible for what you were taught, but you are responsible for what you teach." Quoted on page 64 & 98 is a statement by Norma Brandel Gibbs  

Roger van Oech on page 68 should be Roger von Oech. 

Norma Brandel Gibbs was the instructor of the Mental Hygene class mentioned on page 188.  She is the one who said, "You are not a better teacher, or anything else, than you are a person."

The proper spelling of the name of the figure skating coach on page 189 is Carlo Fassi.

Keith Simonton and Dean Keith Simonton are the same person.  The proper index entry is Simonton, Keith 140, 200
Volume Two Corrections
The proper spelling for Larry "Boozer" Lubbin on page 282 should be Larry "Boozer" Luebben.
That's it for this second issue.  I am always interested in your questions, comments, and how you have been able to apply the information from my books.  Often readers come up with ideas that I would not have.  Their ideas then inspire me to create additional related ideas.  This newsletter is an attempt to keep two-way communication with readers of my books flowing.
Bruce Johnson
Charlie's Creative Comedy