Recently I was presented with a challenge at a corporate kids day. Right before Thanksgiving, I was scheduled to do a show at the Mercantile Exchange in the Loop. It was a company wide “bring your child to work” day before the holiday weekend. In the past they have had magicians, face painters, lunch, and movies. This year, in addition to having a magic show, they added a mini balloon workshop.
This being held at their office, there is very little room to gather 35 children, so alas the only place that could contain my setup and my audience was the ‘kitchen’
Those four giant tables: bolted to the floor. The client said that in years past, the kids just sat around the table as the magician performed in front of the TV. I know it’s hard to tell in the picture, but there’s about 2 feet of space between the table and the wall back there.
A strong (yet brief) sense of fear washed over me. How would I capture the energy in a room of kids sitting around a conference table? Should I just abandon my magic tricks and just discuss numbers, deadlines, and the death of dreams?
The Myster AJ Solution:
First things first, I set up my sound system and quickly got the Spotify going. [Side note: Spotify premium is worth every freaking cent]
Now, with the stuffy office vibe clearing out with my awesome children’s playlist, I was able to get to work creating my stage. I quickly made the decision to perform at the opposite side of the room because there was at least 5 feet of extra room, and the children’s heads would be away from the TV all together. Even with a TV turned off, it’s still a source of wonder. I cleared the table of all distractions, and set up my props on the side behind me for maximum amount of floor space.
This was mission critical, if I didn’t control where they sat from the get-go, I would never have command over their attention. As the kids started to file in, I directed the younger ones to gather just underneath the lip of the table like they were in a fort. (which they loved, and made the situation a bit more familiar to them) The older kids I instructed to sit on the sides closest to the ‘stage’ and directed the parents to stand along the walls and the back.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the finished product and all the smiling faces, but It worked out so well. 35 kids all within arms reach of me. It really kept the energy tightly condensed between me and them and really radiated to the back walls with the parents.
This also allowed the face painter to get all set up BEHIND the kids, removing all distractions.
After the high energy, and contagiously funny show, I switched the music back on and the face painter seamlessly began her work, I got to pack up without addressing the curious inquiries of my mini-fans, and set up for my balloon workshop. Once the face painter was on her last kid, I seamlessly gathered all the kids to stand in front of the table around me, and we had a successful and fun 20 minutes where everyone learned how to twist their very own dog and sword. We then broke for lunch and movie time. The last thing I packed up was my Sound System, and just as I stopped play, I heard a collective sigh of disappointment and someone in the cubicle outside the kitchen said, “we should hire you just to play music, that was wonderful”
Which brings me to the two lessons reinforced for me that day:
1) Whenever in doubt as to what kids will enjoy, tap into your childhood instincts.
2) Music feeds the soul, it is necessary for a happy show, and healthy life.
Later that day, as I was sitting in Thanksgiving traffic headed down Kansas City to spend time with relatives, I high fived myself for my ability to adapt and deliver. Thus raising the bar for children’s magicians everywhere.