It's All About Respect
In the past, I have written and spoken about the stage contestants who turn the stage into a garbage dump during their acts. Some contest acts at the combined convention seemed to take this to extremes. In the past, the need to sweep the stage before setting the next act has caused large lag times between acts. At the combined convention it was decided that the way to alleviate this problem was to tape down drop cloths before each act; the thinking, I guess, was that the drop cloths would make clean-up faster. Unfortunately, all the drop cloths did was to move the lag time from after the act to before the act. And since the drop cloths had to be taped down carefully (you can’t have a performer tripping over a loose edge), this procedure probably increased the lag time.
Let me offer some reasons why I think treating the stage like a trash can is an approach that should be discarded. 1) It shows a lack of respect for the performance area and the stage crew. 2) It shows a lack of respect for the audience. Lag times between acts drain the energy and attentiveness from an audience. Even an expert emcee is going to have problems maintaining their enthusiasm. 3) It shows a lack of respect for the other performers on the show. If, because of the mess on the stage, the show lags and audience energy drops, the next performer is going to suffer. A show should build in intensity. This can’t happen if each act has to start from square one. 4) An act that trashes the stage will have a hard time finding a home in any revue show in the real world. I have spoken to many friends who are professional stage and stand-up performers; none have told me that a booker would consider hiring an act that left the stage a mess.
I think it’s time to admit that this has gone on long enough; the solution is simple: change the rules of the contest. If an act’s props can’t be struck and the floor cleaned in sixty seconds (or whatever small, arbitrary amount of time you want to choose), there is a penalty – a penalty severe enough to affect the chances of winning a prize.
The young magicians who are in the process of developing stage contest acts look at the acts that have won for inspiration. If a winning act trashes the stage, they will do the same. Instead of perpetuating the mess, let’s force them to think outside the box and see what ingenious methods they’ll come up with to avoid the litter. If we give them the opportunity, I think they’ll surprise us.