You need a stage plot! If you think you don’t need a stage plot, do not pass “GO”, and do not collect $200. As a matter of fact, we’re not even gonna let you put houses on Baltic & Mediterranean! The only exception in the world of magic is the “walk-around” performer. Without a stage plot, every other magician will find himself experiencing unnecessary frustration & confusion, and will project the image of an under-prepared amateur. Big talk, huh? Well, a well-designed stage plot will help;
- Make sure you have enough space for your props, illusions & furniture
- Make sure you have enough space for your PA and other production equipment
- Make sure you have sufficient space to move yourself and others on/off/around the stage area
- Make sure you have sufficient stage power
- Protect your sight-lines
All this and more can be accomplished with the help of an easy-to-create stage plot.
A good stage plot isn’t difficult to create, and should be very simple, cleanly laid out, and easy to understand. First, we’ll look at some of the rules of thumb regarding formatting & content. Then, we’ll check out a sample stage plot for a stage illusionist, and one for a close-up, table magician.
Make sure it can be faxed, and then re-faxed, and then re-re-faxed, and then photocopied, and then photocopied again! Unfortunately, by the time it gets to your employer, the venue, the venue’s staff, etc, that scenario may actually happen, and if your stage plot doesn’t survive the journey, you’re not gonna get what you need. This means all of the text and graphics need to meet the following requirements.
- Use only black print on white paper.
- Use a clear “sans serif” font like Arial or Helvetica. The small decorative flourishes of “serif” fonts, like Times or Times New Roman are less likely to fax or photocopy successfully.
- Use a font size of at least 12.
- Use only as much text as necessary. Clutter is not your friend!
- Again, use only black on white. Colours and greys both fax poorly.
- Don’t use logos unless they’re entirely black on white, with no greys, and no fine detail.
- Don’t try to get cute or funny with your stage plot drawings. Humour is yet another thing that doesn’t fax well.
- Don’t include large black objects in the plot, because they take too long to fax, and use too much or your recipient’s ink. Instead, draw outlines of such objects.
Many people have many ideas on what should be included on a stage plot, and much of your own decision regarding what to leave in and what to leave out should be influenced by space & clutter issues. Remember, clutter is not your friend!
Here are two lists of stage plot content. The first consists of mandatory content, and the second includes some ideas for additional content (please re-read the previous paragraph before continuing).
- Stage left & right indications. In theatre, “left & right” are from the performer’s perspective as he/she is facing the audience.
- Upstage & downstage indications, with “audience” alongside “downstage”, since you may not be working with theatre professionals who understand the up/downstage designations.
- Contact info, since some folks will have questions.
A legend for things like AC (power) outlets, chairs, stairs, mics, etc…
- Minimum stage size requirements.
- An indication of the number of pages in the plot.
You may also consider including some text outlining other stage-related requirements. If you do this, make sure the text is below the stage plot. The notes I chose to include in the examples indicate which stage items I’ll provide, and which items I need the “house” to provide.
On the example of an illusionist’s plot, there’s also an “input list”. Magicians usually don’t use many mics or other audio sources, so you might choose to include this list as well.
Sample Stage Plots
Illusionist Stage Plot
For the sake of simplicity, I assumed the “house” would provide its installed lighting, but this plot does include the required location of passages for the entrance/exit of props, and the location of the hazer (fog machine), as well as mention that audience stairs are required. By the way, always make sure you make the venue and your employer aware of your use of a hazer of a fog machine (see “Advancing Your Shows”). Since there was enough room, I also included an input list for mics, etc… This certainly is a logical place for the inclusion of such info, but it could also have been included on a separate page.
Close-Up Stage Plot
His table IS his stage, and should be treated as such. Note that I chose to make very clear indications concerning sightlines, because I imagined effects in which this would be crucial.
Well, my friends, to return to the first paragraph’s “Monopoly” analogy, let’s hope this article helps land you on “Free Parking” next time you walk into a venue! With this article and the one on “Cue Sheets” you’ll be miles ahead of many other magicians!