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McGonagall

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Hello, Magicians!

I am a non-magician who portrays Transfiguration Professor Minerva McGonagall in Harry Potter themed events. I have been asked to create a short "Transfiguration Class" that I could perform once an hour or so at a Faire-type event this coming summer.

I have been slogging through online Magic Shops, but am so ignorant of your art that I am at a loss to figure out a decent illusion that I might be able to learn/perfect in six months or so. Because the class is "transfiguration," it needs to appear that I turn one thing into another thing. Even better is if I could ask a "student" to use their wand to complete the transformation.

Is there a place in these boards I should start? Does anyone have ideas of what I might look for or how to begin? I would likely have a table of some kind, my robes are voluminous, and I'm not averse to using a box or other container, as long as I could paint/alter it to match the theme.

Any love out there for a McGonagall?

20191102_AZ_McGonagall01sm.jpg 


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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #2 
Welcome. I imagine we can help!

A dove pan comes immediately to mind. (It need not involve a dove.) It is a device that allows the craft magi to transform one item to another, or to conjure an object from fire. Go to any magic retailer website, say Penguin Magic, or even Amazon, and type in dove pan. They are relatively easy to use, and allow the performer to focus on presentation.

See if that'll work. If so, we can help with presentational ideas once you've got it in hand. If not, there will doubtless be other ideas tossed your way.

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #3 
I second the idea of a dove pan.  Skill requirement is pretty much zero, but with the proper presentation it can be very impressive.  You can do the "cake pan" version and put all of the ingredients into the pan then subject it to a flash of fire and voila, a cake!
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McGonagall

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Reply with quote  #4 
Sounds cool! I looked at devices that would turn a dove into a rabbit, but I think that is more involved than I'd like to get at this point! 😉

I'll look into dove pans while I wait for more ideas/help.

Thanks so much, Anthony and RayJ!!

MM
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chris w

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Reply with quote  #5 
In addition to the venerable dove pan, there is also the change bag, which is usually a wood-handled cloth bag similar to what people tithe in at some churches, with the added feature of being able to transform things into other things.

For many contemporary magicians, its old-fashioned appearance can be odd or hard to justify. In your context, it might make perfect sense. 
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #6 
Good call, Chris! You're correct; a change bag wouldn't look at all sketchy in that context, in fact it'd be practically perfect. 

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McGonagall

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I am so excited about these responses. I looked up Dove Pan tricks on YouTube, and I think that would be fantastic. I'll look up the change bag, too, I was mostly worried about being able to learn sleight-of-hand in time, but I think I could handle the Dove Pan without too much trouble. I am noodling about options: it would be great to have a "student" accidentally set the pan on fire, then I quickly grab the lid to douse it, maybe having a different student pass over it with their wand, and release something cool for everyone. -- Might be a good thing to have at the end, with candy or something for the kids to take.

I'm really getting excited about the options here!!

MM
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #8 
The change bag would also be good and has the advantage of not having to use a table unlike the dove pan.  So if you are going to be standing and walking around freely, it is perfect.

Good idea Chris!
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by McGonagall
I am so excited about these responses. I looked up Dove Pan tricks on YouTube, and I think that would be fantastic. I'll look up the change bag, too, I was mostly worried about being able to learn slight-of hand in time, but I think I could handle the Dove Pan wiithout too much trouble. I am noodling about options: it would be great to have a "student" accidentally set the pan on fire, then I quickly grab the lid to douse it, maybe having a different student pass over it with their wand, and release something cool for everyone. -- Might be a good thing to have at the end, with candy or something for the kids to take.

I'm really getting excited about the options here!!

MM


Glad we're of service. Sleight of hand rocks, but it's not necessary for strong magic. It's mostly in the presentation. Everything we've suggested so far requires zero sleight of hand, but should you choose to combine some of those items with a little sleight of hand in the future... you'd be amazing!

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #10 
To piggyback on what Anthony said regarding presentation, one of the biggest things is to find a "hook" for your presentation.  Your patter has to be interesting and help elevate the trick, complement it.  The whole is greater than the parts kind of thing.  In your situation you already have "built in" patter themes with Hogwarts, Harry Potter, alchemy, etc.  It is a perfect set up for the magic.

If I were you I would also look into color-changing liquids.  These could be put forward as "potions".  I'm not expert on the methods involved but I believe they are quite simple.  Hopefully someone here has ideas.  
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McGonagall

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Reply with quote  #11 

You guys are great! My voice really sells the McGonagall character, and I will put a rough script outline together that mimics the classes from the books and movies. I think rather than taking strict volunteers, I'll ask trivia/homework questions of the kids about spells (from the books), so they can be looking at each other & etc. I'll have a costumed assistant who can help with misdirection wherever needed. I am a trained actor, but usually have all the movements and lines given to me; this is the first series of gigs which require me to pull it together myself. A bit dangerous-feeling, but I'm up for the challenge!

Ray, I think Professor Snape would get a little salty if I get into his territory! 😉 He uses dry ice and isopropyl alcohol to do all sorts of science-based "magic" -- smashing frozen gummy worms and dry ice bubbles and suchlike. 😉

MM

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arthur stead

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Reply with quote  #12 

David Ginn (a veteran children’s magic performer, author, lecturer and dealer) has a unique hat which is also a change bag:

https://www.ginnmagic.org/product/big-black-hat/

I can vouch for its effectiveness in my own kidshows. 

… plus David also has change bags, if you need ‘em:

https://www.ginnmagic.org/?s=change+bag&post_type=product

 


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John Cowne

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Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Cowne
Welcome, MM. First, it’s great you’re giving yourself six months for ‘preparing’ something you will be happy with. You’ve been gjven some great advice already; here’s my thought. Have you already got a wand? Seeing your great outfit, I imagine you’ve already been directed to some matching accessories. Of course, for Professor McGonagall’s character, a wand is essential. If you’re not committed to getting a ‘genuine’-looking Harry Potter franchise wand, there are heaps of gimmick wands that you can browse through on a Magic Shop catalog. There are ‘light-up’ wands, wands that make eerie sounds when ‘swish-and-flicked’. You could change them around when you do different walk-arounds. If you want to explore a comedy aspect with wands - as long as you don’t think that would compromise your character they can gets kids going wild with laughter, and there are HEAPS of options; one of my faves is Topsy-Popsy. Of course, as you explore the possibilities, ANY wand is going to be helpful in what you’ve already mentioned - misdirection. Oh, and as a few have recommended, the change bag is great - and if you check out the various kinds, there ae some that would definitely complement your persona. I haven’t seen Minerva with a strap-bag, but I could easily imagine her using one when she wanders Diagon Alley. The perfect accessory for carrying the change bag, a wand....and a bit of change for a lemon sherbet. I know you will enjoy it!
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McGonagall

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Reply with quote  #14 
Thanks, John. Great ideas. I have a wand that was custom-carved to fit my hand (not a Universal Studios patented Minerva McGonagall wand), but there is no saying that I couldn't use a different one in class. I'll look around at those options, too. I don't mind some humor; without it McGonagall can come off as a little TOO strict, so as long as I don't make her the butt of any jokes, I think that is fine. I DO have to do walkarounds for smaller events, and often between "classes," so it won't hurt to have a little something to impress the older kids. Most of the littles are in awe enough by my existence in the flesh, and I don't want to scare anyone more than I do by simply existing. 😃  Our Dumbledore does a little something with... maybe flash paper? It kind of sparks off his fingers... he doesn't use it all the time for safety reasons, but all of us are upping our game as our group gets more recognition and more gigs.

Arthur, thanks for the links. I'd rather give my galleons to a reputable human rather than Amazon, whenever possible -- and I've been surprised by the sheer number and depth of online options out there. Completely overwhelming!

Looks like I also need to spend some time on YouTube, to pick up some patter I can alter, and watch a few dozen people who know what they are doing. I've never watched magic that way before, and usually do my best NOT to figure out the "trick," because that ruins things for me. 😉 I'm super glad to have been made to feel so welcome here, I was worried that I'd get yelled at for being the very noobiest noob.

So, thank you all. I'm glad I'm starting early enough to sort all this out. I'll definitely get some sort of change bag (hat?), and a dove pan (w/fire?), and perhaps a gimmick wand. I think one more thing would make a nice rounded-out Transfiguration Class, not be too hard to set up/clean up, with options for when I'm walking around.

You are all super fantastic for helping me out. I can't tell you how many hours I spent clicking around in Magic Shops getting more and more confused. Thank you.

MM
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luigimar

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Reply with quote  #15 
Quote:
Originally Posted by McGonagall

Arthur, thanks for the links. I'd rather give my galleons to a reputable human rather than Amazon, whenever possible -- and I've been surprised by the sheer number and depth of online options out there. Completely overwhelming!
MM
 

McGonagall, 

You have received some very helpful advice and you are off to a great start once you get all the stuff you want to get. You say you want to give your money to a reputable human and if you give us a general idea of where you live (if you don't want to give your exact location) someone might know of a reputable brick and mortar place near you so you can buy the stuff you need. 

You still have time to get set and in case you can go to a real magic shop and they don't have the effects you need, they can order them for you...

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chris w

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Reply with quote  #16 
You might take a look at the trailer on this page and see if it looks like it could appeal to you, MM. The thought of color-changing silks occurred to me (packs small, plays big) and I see that Dan Harlan, a well-known magician and instructor in our world, covers a range of methods and theatrical presentations for the plot here. Some of what's included might be beyond your comfort range, but it seems pretty likely you'd find something workable.

https://www.penguinmagic.com/p/6438
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McGonagall

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Reply with quote  #17 
Luigimar, I am used to doing everything online, as I live in a weensy town (3k people) smack in the middle of Nebraska. The closest "big town" is Grand Island. Most of the gigs are 90mins/2hrs away in Lincoln and Omaha. I'd be happy to visit a brick-n-mortar, but due to my isolated location, am VERY familiar with online retail. 😃 

Chris, thanks! I'm a little swamped with boring work stuff, but will be able to immerse myself in all these links and ideas in a couple of days: keep'em coming!

MM
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luigimar

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Reply with quote  #18 
Oh, ok (so I guess from what you just said, a brick and mortar magic store may not be within "walking distance"). 

If you have no problem with buying online, then I would recommend: 

https://www.penguinmagic.com/

and 

https://www.vanishingincmagic.com/

I have used both and I haven't had problems with them so far (although I have used Penguin Magic a lot more). 

I would suggest you wait for the Black Friday week because they usually have some sales you may want to take advantage of. In the mean time you could go ahead and use some of the effects you have been given the names of to do a search and see if you can find them, or something similar. 

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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #19 
Welcome to TMF!

The early responders have given you excellent recommendations.

You might also look into what we call "Hat Tears" : a few pieces of tissue paper are torn up, then the pieces transform into a fancy paper hat that your audience assistant can wear.

Penguin lists a lot of variants but most of them seem to be temporarily out of stock.  I think the Witch Hat and Wizard Hat might be perfect for you.  Amazon has the Wizard Hat Tear in stock.

Caveat 1: you can run through a lot of hats - they are not reusable. 

Caveat 2: quality may vary between manufacturers.


Robin


PS:  Awesome costume!
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McGonagall

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Reply with quote  #20 
Thanks, luigimar and Robin! I've been working on perfecting my MM persona for a while now, I'm getting very close, thank you!

Robin, I was looking at the tissue/hat thing... does it require sleight-of-hand? Or is it newbie-proof? 

Thanks to you all for the warm welcome and GREAT suggestions! I'll check out those links.

MM
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #21 
Quote:
Originally Posted by McGonagall
Robin, I was looking at the tissue/hat thing... does it require sleight-of-hand? Or is it newbie-proof?


In case it's a while before Robin checks back in, yes, it's newbie proof. There's zero sleight of hand, just some subtlety that's covered by the actions required to successfully perform the trick. Easy-peasy!

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McGonagall

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Reply with quote  #22 
Thanks, all!

I just got swamped (putting my daughter's bday together), but will check out and order all these fancy things and check back in when I get stuck -- as I'm certain I will. Is this thread the best place, or is a different topic in the forum better for more helping of the McGonagall?

MM
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #23 
Since everything's already here for easy access and referral, just post back on this thread when you are ready! We'll be here to help, and if it turns out we need to move to another section, we'll burn that bridge when we cross it. [smile] 

Best of luck.

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EVILDAN

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Reply with quote  #24 
Another option would be a magic drawer box. If you get a wooden one you can paint it however you want. It’s basically a box with a drawer in it. Open the drawer and show it empty. Close and wave your wand. Open it and now it’s full.

Or change one item into another. Or make an item change color. Options are up to you and whatever fits in the size box you decide to buy. They come in a wide range of sizes from small close up to large stage size.
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McGonagall

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Reply with quote  #25 

Thanks again, all. Got a little swamped, and am goggle-eyed from video watching. -- PLUS, we have a new booking in Illinois for April!

I'll post back on this thread when I have questions or reach a stopping point.

You are all SO kind, I can't thank you enough.

MM

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McGonagall

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Reply with quote  #26 

Hello again, Magicians!


I’ve done a lot of work, and have a skeleton of a show put together, but I am struggling with a “super easy” trick, and would love some input. I’ve attached a video, but if you aren’t up for watching it, the question is simply this: what do I do with the crumpled-up paper from the hat tear trick?

I don’t have my costume & etc. in the video, but I hope it helps to illustrate my issue. I also forgot to wave my wand and do a “spell,” instructing the child to do the same, then, of course, the child’s won’t work, etc.

The first adjustment I made is to tear and give half the tissue to a child (who doesn’t have a hat). That gives me less paper in my hand to deal with. But what do I do with the wad of paper that ends up in my hand? As I note in the video, the “bonnet” hat tear directs one to  use the wad of tissue as a “flower” on the hat band, but the wizard hat tear doesn’t have any info on what to do with it. If I put it inside the hat as I unfold it, the little kid with the (tiny!) hat is sure to feel it or find it later. I’m positive that if I just drop it on the ground, someone will see: the audience will be mostly children, and some will be just 3-4 feet from me.

I’ve watched possibly every hat tear demo on YouTube, and I can’t see what they do with the wad of tissue paper. What am I missing?

Please help,

MM

 


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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #27 
First of all, I love your presentation and you did the trick quite well. As far as what to do, I would ditch the piece in a pocket or bag/purse as you go to retrieve something else. Then, and only then reveal the hat. Perhaps you reach into your pocket for some sorceror's dust? If there is literally nowhere to conveniently dump it, I would ask the kid how their wad looks and when they show you a messy wad of nothing, simply add your wad to it. Then show your hat.

Nice voice too, btw.
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #28 
So, yeah. You're 80% there, so don't despair. Ray's correct; you need to ditch the pieces before the reveal. There's a nice looking wand there on the table. If the wand were atop a box, you might drop the pieces into the box as you pick up the wand, or just pocket the wand after waving it and ditch the pieces then. Or, as Ray suggests, reach into a pocket for some handy item, real or imagined, and ditch the pieces as you bring it out. Or have a cloth of some sort that you pick up to polish the hat, and ditch the pieces with the cloth when you pocket it. Lots of possibilities! Hope these suggestions help. But seriously, your presentation is looking good, and you're almost there!

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McGonagall

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Reply with quote  #29 

Thanks, guys, that really helps a lot -- especially in the confidence area! This journey has been a little scary for me; I'm used to having a writer and a director! [smile]

I had intended to use the wand in this trick, so I will figure out a way to ditch the wad of paper in one of the (great) ways you mentioned.

Thanks again, and I'll be posting more here as I get my other sections ironed out -- the dove pan has vexed me, but I think I've finally worked something out there!

Cheers,
MM

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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #30 
Also, remember that the audience will follow your attention.  If you are going to ditch the torn papers when you pick up your wand, focus your attention on the "hat packet" and raise that hand higher as you pick up the wand with your other hand.   Similarly if you ditch the packet in a pocket as you get some magic powder or elixir that will cause the transformation, ignore that hand until it is coming out of the pocket.

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