Ken’s View on Kid’s Shows
I was very interested in Ken de Courcy’s views on children’s shows published recently in a magazine. His advice is always worth studying. He is honest too. He tells us that he hasn’t performed any children’s shows: yet has watched hundreds. I guess he was watching his dear wife Sue, whilst helping to take in the props. Often a person who watches such shows as a member of the audience, yet knowing a lot about magic, is a better judge of matters than most of us.
Those of us who have presented countless children’s shows know too well the pitfalls. Ken has outlined several things that have happened to me personally. The more kids shows you do, you are bound to experience more problems. The less shows you do, problems will be fewer. Here’s some of the things I hate about kids’ shows, and I have been doing them for years, often on a daily basis, and during summer months two or three per day.
You are performing a show to six year olds, all seated on the floor and things are going well … that is … until a little three year old boy drags a chair across the wooden floor back and forwards. The noise seems to get louder and the Mum smiles around. “Look! My little boy can pull a heavy chair like that all over the place.” You feel as though you want to shout out, “for heaven’s sake kill that child!”
On occasions (not that often), and even at school shows, one child in the middle of the hall is sick. Everyone moves away. What do you do? Certainly this disruption wasn’t of your making. A signal to someone in charge, even a teacher nearby (they are always sitting at the sides) should be given. The teacher will see the plight, and fetch some sawdust, a cloth and bucket, and disinfected liquids. The problem solved – the show can continue. Often at shows, including play-schools, you will find that mums will be chatting throughout. This is always a difficult one to overcome. Whilst you can’t say ‘shut up,’ you can get the children to respond by saying, “On the count of three let’s all say grown-ups please be quiet.” Repeated this does bring results, and most of the adults who are making the noise feel rather ashamed.
Then there are the children who follow the little brat who starts them off. He chants “Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!” and the other’s follow. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it certainly puts you off.
And you get the little naughty boy on the front whom, when you blow up a long modeling ballon and you ask, “what does this look like?” shouts out, “A Willie!” What do you say? Nothing… Forget it.
Children are unpredictable. The professional performer can usually control the children “most” of the time. At other times, unpredictable things often happen and cannot be controlled. I know of one performer who unfortunately, whilst performing, had a child collapse and die – WOW! But busy children’s entertainers will agree with me when I say that for our five times, over the years, I have had the birthday child reject me. On two occasions the birthday child would NOT join the others and the party had to start (I made sure of that). On another two occasions the birthday child would not assist me, so I had to use another child from the audience. But how can you print the magic birthday card to “another child?” I have seen some very nice birthday children and some very nasty ones. One little girl was so arrogant that when each child came in handing her a present, in unwrapping it she would shake her head and say “Rubbish.” The same little darling girl when opening a another gift unfortunately found it contained a duplicate present. She quickly snapped, “I’ve got three of these and I don’t need anymore!” Then she whirled it back to the poor benefactor. Needless to say her dear mother rushed over and said, “Darling – you might break one and this will be a spare.”
Ken is right. An amplifier is a must. I also use a backcloth display unit and spotlights. When a child comes up and tries to touch the very hot bulbs I say, “Stop, Mum, where are you? If she touches these she will be burnt to a cinder. She will look like a hot-cross bun and we all know that it is very bad luck to get electrocuted on a Saturday afternoon, don’t we?” Like Ken, mentioning wandering children, although not under your complete control, must be stopped. Children wandering (youngsters that is), around the back of your set-up must be a no-no. Whilst you are there to entertain, you must not allow this sort of thing to flourish. Remarks to the Mum like, “There’s lots of electric cables back here.” often don’t bring results, but can sometimes help.
Then you sometimes get the nasty child who after the show keeps pulling your jacket or hitting your bottom for no reason at all. This can be disturbing but must not be tolerated.
Because I have a backcloth unit I can bring it out in front of all the props, all of the tables etc, hiding them from view. Many children’s entertainers have the problem of having loads of children come up after the show and raiding their props – often destroying them. One performer told me that his yards and yards of silk streamer was destroyed in a matter of minutes, yet the parents of the birthday child laughed it off. His silk streamer, to replace, cost a mere 260 English/Sterling. And that’s not from Magic Hands of Germany, otherwise it would of been double that.
But I feel the worst problem that occurs is when some young mother is nursing a baby who in turn cries and cries and she never even thinks of taking the baby out. This little baby not only spoils the show for the others but also should not be there in first place. The baby is probably one of several children of a mother who has brought along the “main” child to the party, but doesn’t really care or understand the trouble her child is causing. Perhaps she is used to all this crying at home. If this is the case, let it be at home. We have, most of us, brought up children, so we know how they re-act. And if readers ask me if I like children, I will simply answer ‘yes,’ with lots of salt and pepper, and perhaps a dash of English mustard! Only a joke of course. Ha Ha.