Get Your Act Together (3 volumes) by Joanie Spina

(c. 1999) (Submit Review) (Submit Update)

Effect: This revolutionary video set is for the serious performer who wishes to learn how to develop, build, and improve his or her stage act.

Some of the subjects addressed:

  • Selecting the material that is best for you
  • Evaluating your strengths and talents
  • Directing focus
  • Structuring a routine
  • Creating striking and memorable pictures
  • Building a “vocabulary” of moves
  • Movement as dialogue
  • Utilizing props in the choreography
  • Movement exercises
  • Applause cues
  • Smooth transitions
  • Tips for assistants
  • Selecting the appropriate music
  • And much more!

The series features video clips from the acts of numerous successful professional magicians including Becky Blaney, Connie Boyd, Jason Byrne, Christopher Hart, Jeff Hobson, Mark Kalin and Jinger, Tim Kole and Jenny Lyn, Rocco, Ashley Springer, Kevin and Cindy Spencer, and Marco Tempest.

The world of the average magician revolves around tricks: what’s the secret, can I perfect the moves, and where do I get more? However, if you want to work in the real world, the emphasis must shift to the presentation of these tricks. How do you perform the tricks in an entertaining, engaging, and theatrically satisfying way?

On the three videotape set Get Your Act Together! Joanie Spina addresses the issues that are important to anyone who wants improve the theatricality of their magic. Ms. Spina has impressive credentials. For over 11 years she served as choreographer and artistic consultant to David Copperfield and was lead dancer/assistant to Copperfield for eight of those years. With co-star Becky Blaney, she staged and performed in The Women of Magic in Atlantic City. She is also the director of the Carnival of Wonders show featuring Mark Kalin, Jinger, and Jeff Hobson that is currently playing at the Flamingo Hilton in Reno, Nevada.

The first video of the series is titled Who Are You? and, unfortunately, is slightly mistitled. Of the fifteen topics covered, only three directly relate to identifying your personality strengths and defining your stage persona. The other topics discussed are useful, but the don’t directly relate to the subject. One bit of advice Ms. Spina gives is to hire competent directors, choreographers, and consultants, and in this regard mentions people such as Don Wayne, Jim Steinmeyer, and Andre Kole. While I certainly feel that an act will benefit from the hiring of talented people whose expertise lies in fields outside of magic, I can’t imagine the average magician being able to afford the three talented men mentioned above. Near the end of this video Ms. Spina offers some excellent suggestions concerning costuming.

The second videotape focuses on staging. Included are suggestions on directing attention, structuring routines, entrances and exits, applause cues, and the use of effective lighting. I found the information on lighting to be slightly lacking. Ms. Spina presents clips from various acts and instructs us to notice how effective their lighting is. Unfortunately, I know nothing about theatrical lighting, and Ms. Spina provided no commentary, consequently I had no idea what it was that I was supposed to be looking for.

The third videotape discusses movement and stage presence. The majority of the information presented is geared toward the use of dance in a magic act. It’s important for an illusionist to move elegantly and gracefully on stage, and Ms. Spina’s suggestions are useful.

One point that is emphasized on all three videos is that the choreography must support and enhance the magic, and not dominate it. This is excellent advice, but it is far too seldom heeded. These days a five-minute illusion seems to be composed of three minutes of dancing and two minutes of trick. I’m not sure why this trend started (although I’m sure it has something to do with getting your money’s worth out of an expensive illusion), but I wish it would end. While Ms. Spina knows her way around magic tricks, her greatest strength lies in movement and dance skills, and much of the information on these tapes comes from a dancer’s viewpoint.

Scattered throughout these tapes are clips from the acts of Jason Byrne, Jeff Hobson, Mark Kalin and Jinger, Marco Tempest, Ashley Springer, Rocco, and Tim Kole. Ms. Spina uses these clips to emphasize certain points. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of repetition of clips throughout the three videos.

Being a dancer, Ms. Spina has a strong relationship with music, and emphasizes the impact that well chosen music can have on an illusion. She makes one statement however, that I must disagree with. She states that great music can save a bad illusion. I don’t agree. You can gold plate a cow flop, but that doesn’t change what it is. If an illusion is poorly staged and poorly performed, great music won’t make it a great illusion. It will always be a bad illusion. This also applies to movies (see Steven Spielberg’s Hook as an example).

(By the way, speaking of music, a while back I mentioned a program for the PC called Acid Music. If you’ve wondered about the music that program produces, listen to the background music that accompanies the video clips. It’s pure Acid.)

As talented as Ms. Spina is, extemporaneous speaking is not one of her talents. Often her discourse becomes a bit rambling and repetitious. While not a fatal flaw, the tapes would have sounded a bit more professional had she scripted each tape and used a teleprompter.

I feel that the information on these three videos is extremely valuable, especially for anyone planning on performing illusions. The presentation of the material is not perfect, and there is some repetition among the three tapes, but overall there is definite value for the money. If you are serious about making your magic look polished and professional, Get Your Act Together! should be in your video library.

(As we go to press I’ve learned the Ms. Spina is including a small manual with her tapes. The manual clarifies and expands on some of the points made in the videos.)

Pros: Get Your Act Together! gives valuable information on how to create effective, theatrically satisfying presentations.

Cons: There is some duplication of video clips, and a scripted narration would have tightened up the presentation.

(Michael Close – Magic Magazine, March 2000)
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Approx. Price: $90.00 (1999) ***

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