Hello, loyal readers!
Right now I'm about 7 hours from home in sunny, scenic Newark, DE. I've escaped the onslaught of snow dumping on my home town of Niagara Falls, NY. I'll be on the road performing all week, leaving my poor wife to deal with the snow. Yikes!!
My first column this week deals with blindfold acts. I'd been wanting to add a blindfold act to my mentalism performances for years. It was different and would add texture to my shows. I decided to buy John Archer's DVD, "Blindfold Tips."
During this DVD, you'll see John perform his 20 minute blindfold act. During the act, his eyes are ductaped shut, complete with coins and a sleeping mask. After all of this is done (with the assistance of two spectators) Archer asks three people in the audience to draw pictures on pieces of paper. Once finished, the three spectators join Archer on stage where he, blindfolded, describes the drawings.
The response is incredible and the working is surprisingly (at least to me at the time) simple. I actually bought this DVD two years ago and for many months was too scared to try it out. What if the audience left? What if someone screwed with me?
After trying it, I became addicted and have now done the act at least 100 times. It's angle-proof and everything can be borrowed. What's especially wonderful about this act is the fact that the journey to the revelations is highly entertaining - people can NOT believe you're actually putting duct tape on your face. Whereas many mentalism (and magic effects, for that matter) feel somewhat "procedural" during the set-up, here the journey to the pay-off is wonderfully engaging. In some ways, this is the perfect mentalism routine - angle-proof, no boring parts, visual, etc.
The visual aspect of the act is enhanced by Archer's decision to have people draw drawings as opposed to holding up small objects - keys, etc. It's more visible for the audience and, as Archer points out, it gives him more scope for comedy and ad-libbing.
Archer teaches the routine in a hilarious way, ad-libbing his way through the explanation with a panel of three other people - Peter Nardi and two other people I can't remember right now.
Archer is a gifted comedian. If anyone feels mentalism is boring, give Archer a try. In mentalism, there are fewer effects as pure as a blindfold act, but Archer turns it into a comedy act without sacrificing a bit of the amazing factor.
My only quibble is the fact that Archer didn't go nearly in depth on the comedy aspects of the act. Granted, he did touch upon basic elements, such as his choices for blocking, spectator placement (and why), the right specs to use and more.
Many of the lines of the performance were ad-libbed, showing Archer's true gift as a performer. There are other lines which were scripted. I've adapted my act over the years to where it's more "mine" but Archer's basic framework gives the budding blindfold artist a great start.
PRODUCTION VALUE: Fantastic. It's no L&L, but it's just fine.
PRICE: $39,95, available here from Hocus Pocus: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=6829
MARKET: I've performed this for adults, teens and seniors, inside and outdoors, in front of 10 people and 500. it PLAYS.
This DVD gave me a fantastic, show-stopping hilarious routine that I routinely use to close my high school motivational talks - in front of 500 kids at a time!
This gets a solid 10 out of 10 from me.
The second item I want to touch on today is Osterlind's Stainless Steel Blindfold.
The reason why I bought this last year is because, during one performance, someone remarked, "Oh, just like last year's performer..." when I went into the blindfold act. So, I bought Osterlind's Stainless Steel Blindfold with the idea that I could add it to the Archer act as an added layer of deception.
Is it overkill? It depends on your point of view. Personally, my audiences think it's pretty funny that in addition to coins and ductape, I cover my eyes with a stainless steel hunk of metal!
In other words, it works terrific for me.
WHAT YOU GET: You receive the extremely well-made blindfold and a booklet of care advice, routine ideas and much more. Osterlind's writing style suits me just fine. Some performers, gifted though they may be, simply aren't suited for writing, but Osterlind is quite good.
FEE: $74.95, available from Hocus Pocus here: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=3724
MARKET: This piece is suited to adults or teens, but I don't think young kids would get a lot out of a blindfold act. as with Archer's DVD, this blindfold method is suitable for indoors or out, 10 people or a 1000, surrounded.
The blindfold itself is tough as hell, though I sewed a simple fleece bag to transport it from show to show to prevent scratches. With care, this will last a lifetime.
These are obviously custom-made - there's nothing from Walmart or Home Depot you can buy and jury-rig into a good steel blindfold, so to me, the asking price is more than fair.
The blindfold has no moving parts, slides or sneaky, hidden gizmos. The "secret" is in plain sight, though you could leave this with laypeople for hours or days, and it's doubtful they'd ever discover the secret.
The routines are all quite good. If you're the type of performer who performs multiple times for the same client, there are a lot of great routines in this book that you can use to change up your act each year.
For me, no surprise, this is a 10 out of 10.
These items have been out for a while, but as I mentioned, I'm trying to balance my reviews with stuff that's been out for a while so I can give feedback as to how it plays.
Later this week, I'll be reviewing the Magellan Master Levitation. Tomorrow morning, I am performing it for the first time. I've been rehearsing daily for weeks and I feel ready. Stay tuned...