Chapter 13: Dramatic Structure

If you use music in your act, there are ways to avoid problems you might encounter when working with technicians who are unfamiliar with your presentation. If you follow this sequence, you will likely have fewer problems on stage:

  1. Start the music
  2. Open the curtain
  3. Turn on the lights
  4. Start the show

This sequence can help you avoid mistakes like playing the wrong music or opening the curtain while you're still preparing your act.

For structuring your act, remember that good stories are typically developed in three parts:

  1. The introduction to the setting, characters, and hero
  2. The conflict and villains are introduced, along with the main body of the story
  3. Some form of resolution or conclusion, whether it be triumphant or tragic.

Once the curtain opens, try to establish eye contact with your audience. By looking in a friendly manner towards the last third of the rows of your audience, you signal to them that something special is about to happen. After this first smile, follow up with a fast, visual effect.

After your first effect, use the principle of alternation. After a short story, do a long story; after a funny story, do a sad story; after a fast routine, do a slow routine. If you have a signature routine that everybody knows, keep it right at the beginning of the act. This will strengthen the relationship with your audience. However, keep your strongest routine for the end. It is usually the part of the act that you want your audience to remember and talk about when they go home.

And keep in mind that planning carefully where to pick up and put down props after their use during the act is another key element of a smooth show. The focus of the show should be on you, not on your moving all over the stage just to get a prop.