The Art of The Quick Change
One of my favorite types of magic acts is The Quick Change act. The magician and/or assistant come on stage, dance around a bit, and through a series of rapid fire progressions completely change outfits.
Although interestingly enough the first time I ever saw a Quick Change it wasn’t being done by magicians but rather a marching band! The color guard erected a large cloth tunnel on the field and the marching band went through in a single file line. The tunnel was maybe ten feet in length over all but literally as each member of the band marched through from one end to the next their uniform colors completely changed and the music never missed a note. It was quite cool.
Later on I started seeing quick change being used as a kind of “kicker” note in various acts. Most notably in my experience was Jonathan and Charolette Pendragon doing the Houdini Substitution Trunk. Jonathan gets into a bag inside a large trunk which gets closed and locked. Charolette wearing a black spandex outfit stands on top of the trunk, raises a curtain and in less than a second the curtain drops to show Jonathan standing on top of the trunk. He opens it up, opens the bag and Charolette pops out wearing a white spandex outfit.
A change of places and a change of outfits. Very cool.
Later on I began seeing actual Quick Change acts where the overwhelming number of changes is the whole point of the show. I’d sort of figured out how I thought a single quick change could be done, but as soon as I started seeing these full on quick change shows I was pretty surprised and my little theory was blown out of the water.
Not long ago I did finally lay my hands on the right information so now I know how it’s done. Would I ever do it? I don’t know. It’s fun to watch and I appreciate it for what it is, but I don’t think I would do an act like that though I might consider doing a singular quick change as part of something more appropriate to me.
What I am finding out is that there is some tiny historical evidence to suggest that quick change may in fact reach just barely into the period of history the SCA covers, though not the culture.
There is a suggestion of quick change having some origin in Kabuki theater in the very late 1500’s to very early 1600’s. Kabuki is said to have begun in 1603 according to the history I have so far, but I’m willing to give a couple of years grace period for development (and let’s face it, wishful thinking). Did its origin include quick change? I do not know that yet but again, wishful thinking.
I am not a proponent of Far Eastern culture in the SCA generally speaking, but I’m finding more and more that a lot of the entertainments that I am interested in presenting for my medieval carnival do have some origins in ancient Chinese acrobatic theater. So my historical wanderings include these things for completeness sake as I continue to develop the ideas.
Watch the videos below. The first is a couple of German quick change artists who have achieved a significant amount recognition for the quality of their act. The second is a Chinese magician who has been doing his act for his whole life and is using historical techniques (not as far back as I’d like) as his basis and extending them himself.
And then imagine how cool it might be to quick change between your two favorite SCA costumes at 12th Night.
Yeah, that’s a cool trick.