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The Importance of Lists

By Joshua Jay - Saturday, May 11, 2019


We made a couple new hires to the Six Impossible Things crew this week, and I realize as we train them to help in the execution of the show, that we’ve learned some tiny but critical things along the way.

The smallest, most obvious, but perhaps most valuable tip, is this: keep a setup list. I realize many of you already do that, but I have some nuanced strategies to get the most of a checklist for a show.

It takes three people (and me) to run our show Six Impossible Things. Each person has their own checklist of what needs set and any pertinent details. But magic isn’t like setting a dinner table. In our show, some things are time sensitive; hot tea, a secret block of ice, decks of cards...some things have to be done right before the show and some things can be set much earlier. Now, nearly 150 shows in, we’ve made every mistake possible, but we do our best to learn from these mistakes. So here are some pointers for your list.

  1. Put it on your phone. That way you can update it as you change material or figure out more efficient orders.

  2. Organize the list by trick, and then by task. For example, the second trick in Six Impossible Things is called “Alice.” “Alice” is second on my list, but there are seven steps to setting up “Alice,” and I like to have a reference for each one.

  3. At the top of your list have a “Right Before Showtime” checklist. For me, this means placing two coins in my hand as I walk out, and testing an electronic device that I turn on just before I begin. I can’t set these things in chronological order because they would occur too early.

  4. Set up for the next show AFTER your last show. Most of our mistakes occurred because we put off setup until the next night, just before showtime. That’s the worst time to realize we’re out of gaffs, or we don’t have enough thread to do Gypsy Thread. If you set things immediately following a show, it gives you a day for reaction time.

  5. If you work with a team, check each other’s list. It always helps if someone else checks your work. I know that I have to fill a teacup with water just before showtime, but I also know if I miss that, it’s on Kevin’s list, too.

Checklists are, for me, a way to take the stress and thinking out of the pre-show experience. I’m completely relaxed in the knowledge that everything on my list is complete, and that there’s no way to forget anything important.

What are your list strategies? Let me know in the comments.


Reader comments:

Chris

Saturday, 11 May 2019 14:59 PM - Reply to this comment

While I agree a phone list is good for making updates, I don't ever fully trust that my phone will have battery life, so there is always a physical list. However, I suppose item #1 could be "check for list updates on your phone."

And while it's probably implied in your tip #4, even if you've already done your setup a day before it's a good idea to run through the list before showtime to verify everything's in place.

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