I recently received an email from Canada. It was sent by a children's entertainer interested in expanding into the school assembly market. One of his questions dealt with whether "Shows In A Box" such as those offered by Dave Dee and C.J. Johnson were good investments.
Generally speaking, I have found most "Shows In A Box" to be wanting. A gentleman that works with my agent bought an anti-drug program in a box last year, to be booked when he had openings with the company's shows. Teachers gave him very bad reviews on it. Most "Shows In A Box" that I have seen or read about are poorly put together with very little educational value.
Another problem with "Shows In A Box" is that most performers use the same name and marketing materials for the show. That means if one performer does a bad job, or upsets a potential customer, that will automatically reflect not only on the show you bought, but every show you do. So if you buy a show in a box, be sure to change the name and marketing materials to make yours unique.
Better is if you take the time to create something curriculum based. I do "The Magic of Science" which shows how magicians use science to fool us. It includes chemistry, mathematics and physics. I use the magic tricks to teach about acid/base reactions, magnetism and other textbook subjects. My other program is a chemistry program. About liquids, solids and gasses. Not magic tricks, but I do present some surprising chemical reactions including color changing liquids that climax with all the colored liquids turning clear. A demonstration of indicators that the students will study at some point between 4-8 grades. Also a lot of emphasis on lab safety.
I suggest you get Steve Spangler's catalog (http://www.stevespangler.com ) and check it for ideas. Visit the local KnowPlace or other teacher supply store. Visit the science store in the mall. Find small science kits and other educational materials and figure out how to "super-size" them for the stage. Go to the library get science or math or reading books and see what you can use to create a visually captivating, entertaining and educational program.
What makes "magic" so fun is that it is visually engaging, surprising and interesting. My chemistry program is just as magical as a magic show. Many of the students refer to me as "the magician" even though I have presented myself only as a scientist. The same skills, ideas and creativity you use to do magic can be applied to school shows. Magic can always be worked in as part of the show.
Join your local PTA. Talk to some teachers and principals about the types of shows they are interested in. Find the need and fill it.
Barry Mitchell (http://www.barrymitchell.com ) has some good routines you can use to build your show around and his Creativity DVD has some more great ideas. Duane Laflin's tapes have good ideas for using magic to teach character skills. Yes, I know I advise against them, but if you want to add one to you offerings, develop your own.
Once you've collected some ideas on interesting effects and demonstrations, develop a topic and choose the things that will allow you to present your ideas in an orderly, interesting manner. Outline the ideas you want to present in lecture form and choose appropriate tricks, demonstrations, and visual aids to illustrate your talk.
You now have a show that is uniquely yours. You have a monopoly. If the topic is in demand, you will be too. Now remember to dress and act professionally at all times. Price your show competitively. If you undercut all the competition, you ruin the market for everybody. Sell quality, not price.
Whether you are looking to book an entire year of shows, or just want to do a few local shows, follow these tips and you can succeed with a lot of hardwork.
Feel free to send me your comments and questions. Thank you.