Creating a themed act is a challenge. I wrote about one approach to handle them in this article earlier. I know most of us do not face the challenge of creating a themed act too often in their magical lives, but when you look at the competitions at conventions that happen every year, there are times when it is necessary to create an act with a theme. The other thing is that a themed act can be a commercially interesting thing at times. Or for a certain business project, where the customer wants or needs a themed act for his production.
The themed act has a few obstacles. It forces you to think along certain lines, staying within the theme of the act. Therein is the difficulty. Often, your view will be a limited one, because you try hard to stick to the theme.
In the beginning, you decide on the theme of the act: a golf act, a waiter act, a middle-age act, and so on. Then, you start to collect the tricks and ideas concerning this act. You investigate what there is in the market. You read books, filtering the content for the fitting tricks for your theme.
Finally, you arrive at a point where you have collected lots of ideas, and now the task is to set the puzzle together into an act. That means making decisions on what to put in and what to leave out. This may be the hardest part.
The problem with this approach, although it works, is the limitation and fixation on this one topic. Because of that, your vision becomes narrower or more focussed, and chances are you’ll miss on many good ideas that could be incorporated when you change them to fit your act.
For these reasons, I developed a strategy over the years, which solves a few of these problems in a remarkable way. As usual, it is straight-forward and to the point. It is a working man’s solution.
I strictly divide the theme from the tricks and techniques. I am an avid collector of usable, practical techniques. I believe that collecting a usable technique is for more important, rather than collecting finished routines. In the end, you will want your personalised routine, which comprises the techniques that fit you, and that you can do, or which are the most suitable for the working environments you encounter.
Whenever I make a choice of adding something to my arsenal, I think about whether I could use it in different, themed acts. That means I try to stay away from too specialised tricks. This makes it a lot easier for me later, when I face the challenge of a themed act. Call them “neutral” tricks and techniques. This is the pool of techniques I have at my disposal. Because I can already do these techniques, it speeds up the creation of a themed act. When building your personal archive, right from the beginning try to select the material following these criteria.
By understanding and working with this set of “wild card” techniques, it will free your mind for the examination of the theme, or plot. It will be easier to outline the plot precisely and then fit in the tricks or techniques.