Far Away Places with Strange Sounding Names.

Here is a further treatise on the art of performing onboard cruise ships. Every word should be taken seriously and literally.

When I was growing up there was a popular song called ‘Far away places with strange sounding names.’ I didn’t realize it at the time but it must have been quite an inspiration to me, as I seem to have spent the last three decades visiting a bunch of them.I worked onboard my first cruise ship at the tender age of nineteen. I had mastered the first lessons in my chosen craft and figured I could handle the rest by practicing during the day before I did my shows at night. Looking back it was a crazy plan but the truly crazy part is that it worked.

Cruise ships were the first serious jobs available to me as I was becoming a professional magician. They have remained an ever-present source of employment to me since that first cruise. Maybe it is the half gypsy heritage that I am rumored to have inherited from my mother’s family but whatever the reason I still like to travel and love getting paid to do it.

There has been a wealth of information published in recent years by cruise ship magicians wishing to share their hints, tips and ideas to cash in on the cruise market goldmine. To add to this stockpile of sharing I have prepared my very own list of advice and ‘Golden Rules.’

People you will be working with: other performers.

Cruise ships are filled with the wackiest bunch of weirdo performers this side of an HBO sitcom. I don’t think it is fair to single out any particular group of entertainers but I think it is only realistic to acknowledge that ventriloquists and jugglers are in a league of their own when it comes to general nuttiness.

Magicians bring a sense of decorum and sanity to their shipboard activities that are a beacon of normality to rest of the onboard misfits.If you call a magician in his cabin it is, generally speaking, unusual to have one of his props answer the phone and reply that he is sleeping.This is not the case with the average ventriloquist. A call like this to a vent might well result in a fifteen-minute conversation with his dummy about how his partner is stepping on his laugh lines.

You can also trust the working magician never to let things get out of hand. Well, okay there was that time a magician smuggled a goat onboard and covered his cabin floor with 6 inches of sand for a beach party. This kind of behavior is a little too rich for the juggling community though, where the performer is more likely to be sitting in his cabin, scratching his head as he tries to figure out how to stretch his twenty minute act into a strong fifty minute show. Ah, all to late, he is realizing that he did need his unicycle. What is the use of an endless supply of apples to juggle and masticate if you don’t have a unicycle to sit on while you do it?

There are many wonderful singers who work onboard cruise ships but they always seem to insist on talking about themselves which can be very boring to the average magician who just wants to have an open roundtable discussion about how good his act and his new double lift are.

There are also some excellent comedians working onboard cruise ships but they don’t often seem to mix with magicians. I have a theory about this lack of communication and suspect comedians just hate us because we had happy childhoods.

Other people you will work with: Techies.

Performers are not the only people you will be working with. There is a strange breed of personnel known as techies: they are easily identifiable by the all black outfits they wear. Many of these sound/light technicians own more black clothing than Eugene Burger and Max Maven combined. Here are five simple rules to help you in your dealings with them.

1 Don’t bother writing formal cue sheets for technicians. It eliminates all the fun of guessing.

2 Make sure you bring every prop you own onboard with you. There is never a problem with storage space onboard a cruise ship. A good place to rehearse is on the SilverSeas ships as there are never more than a handful of people in the showroom who don’t give a damn anyhow. When you have finished your show it is a good time to email your agent and tell him you want work on a ‘real’ ship.

3 Make your lighting needs as complex as possible. Two or three hours is a totally reasonable rehearsal time for a 40-minute show.

4 Make your cues very obvious for a non-magician. Cues such as “Turn on the strobe lights after I clap my hands for the seventeenth time after pointing to the Asrah” are perfectly acceptable. If he can’t follow simple cues like that he is an idiot.

5 If your music cues are on a CD or Mini Disc make sure they are not in sequence. The sound tech is wearing black so he is supposed to be the expert; let him figure it out.

Finally here are four golden rules to ensure your success.

1 It is an excellent idea to perform close-up magic at every possible moment. The very best time and place to perform your favorite close-up tricks is in the back of the showroom while another act is performing. There is no need to be more than adequate in your legitimate show if you put in enough hours with a chop cup.

2 If possible avoid watching any other comedic acts if you feature comedy in your show. That way you can remain unaware of any duplication. As everyone knows a good joke just gets better if you hear it twice.

3 Make it a point to explain to passengers how that trick that fooled them on their last cruise was done. It is really only common courtesy and may result in good feed back to the line.

4 If in doubt put in that clever version of the 20th Century Silk trick that ends up with a bra tied between the two handkerchiefs instead of the third handkerchief. It always gets a great reaction and is especially good for audiences that include children.

Well, I certainly hope this blog will help you fine-tune your ‘Cruise Show’ and if you follow my advice carefully then I am sure you will receive everything you deserve.

~ by Nick Lewin on June 3, 2010.

5 Responses to “Far Away Places with Strange Sounding Names.”

  1. Great Advise!!!!! Sounds like you have things all figured out. Very Funny!! But Twisted.

  2. You forgot to say that you should flirt with the Captain’s wife.

  3. I did everything you said but they never asked me back. Whaz up with that?

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