Review of “On Stage with Illusions” by Duane Laflin

Review of “On Stage with Illusions” by Duane Laflin


On Stage by Duane Laflin

Duane Laflin has written a detailed book that gives a comprehensive look at performing a large-scale illusion show on stage. It is a well produced, clearly written book peppered with photos of Duane performing the illusions on stage with his cast.

In a nutshell, this book is filled with sound practical advice and solid information on producing, performing and managing a large-scale illusion show. It is a book I would have read cover to cover a hundred times at the start of my illusion career. From choosing an illusion, producing different types of shows to examining what makes an illusion show work, Duane leaves little information out. He also includes many miscellaneous practical considerations that do not fall into any one category but are invaluable to any working illusionist. These tips will save you time, frustration, money and effort! These include choosing assistants, how to prepare them to work on an illusion show, how to conduct rehearsals and scripting a show.

I could relate to a lot of information and experiences that Duane shared. A lot of the information is gold and only known to working professionals who have “been there, done that” for years. For example, one seemingly simple but often overlooked aspect of producing an illusion show is backstage management and storage. While some venues have a large stage that can fit the grandest of illusions, the backstage space is often limited. All the illusions and show equipment have to fit into a small confined space and the backstage has to be shared with other artistes. This is a common situation for professional small theatres, auditoriums and even international cruise liners. When Ning & I did our 13-month gig at Clarke Quay in 2008/ 2009, the greatest challenge was packing one hour’s worth of show gear in a backstage space that measures about 10′ x 8′. That was the real magic of the show. We had a full-scale platform levitation, smoke chamber, Bo Staff, Crystal Metamorphosis, Blammo, Shadow Box and a variety of smaller props that all had to fit in that tiny space. Duane addresses practical issues like these that are crucial when producing an illusion show.

One of my favourite chapters in the book is his discussion of illusions. This is similar to the concept of Ning and my “Behind the illusions” DVD but Duane explores mainly “stock” and classic illusions. The way this section is written is similar to the contents that form the bulk of David Seebach’s book “So you want to be an Illusionist?” but Duane covers more illusions with a bit more detail and specifics. New illusionists will learn so much about standard illusions on the market in this section alone as Duane literally goes through a catalogue of illusions. And he has worked with a lot of illusions over the years. It looks like almost every illusion from an Owens and Abbott’s catalogue. It is very insightful and a fantastic reference for illusionists (new or seasoned) to see of a particular illusion is suitable for them. Illusions that he covers include:

    • Sword Basket
    • Kub Zag
    • Head Twister
    • Blammo
    • Zig Zag
    • Phantom Cage
    • Assistant’s Revenge
    • Body Slicer (Safety Slicer)
    • Upright Saturn Levitation
    • Mini Spiker
    • Through The Looking Glass
    • Origami
    • Fire Cage (Lion’s Bride)
    • Tipover Trunk
    • Modern Cabinet
    • Chests Of Mystery
    • Dekolta Chair
    • Table Of Death
    • Materializer
    • Elevator Illusion
    • Goddess Ascension and Water Levitation
    • Doll House
    • Sword Cabinet
    • Janet Illusion (Slicer)
    • Kiosk Illusion

One thing that I should highlight is that most of these are “stock” illusions and I always encourage illusionists to try and modify aspects of “standard” illusions’ design and presentational effect as they grow in the careers. My issue with too many “stock” illusions is that, while the illusions are solid time-tested effects, a lot of the exact illusions are also seen in similar large-scale illusions shows across the world. Just read any of Mike Weatherford’s reviews on magic shows in Vegas to understand what I mean. What I would suggest is to explore modifying not just aesthetic designs like the colours of the props/ costuming or even theming of the presentation but to actually use an illusion in a different way than intended or combining illusions to create different effects. Of course, this does not necessarily apply to someone new to illusions but it is something to always keep in mind.

Besides a large-scale show which is the focus of the book, Duane also explores a practical two-person illusion show that does not need to be performed with a crew or dancers. This will appeal to a lot of performers who do not have a permanent show but work one-off events like corporate shows, malls or festivals. He also discusses shows specifically for theme parks and Gospel magic shows.

If you are considering performing illusions or already do a small-scale illusion show but are thinking of creating a full illusion show, this book is a must-have investment! 5 out of 5 stars.


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