I don't know when I first became a magic snob. I am certain this was before I was perfect at my craft. I am certain, as I am still imperfect. But these days I am working towards becoming better all the time, and that is what counts.
Back when I was young and a complete magic snob, I figured I had outgrown "pocket tricks". Packet tricks grew out of pocket tricks. Today, many magicians don't even know what a "pocket trick" is - though they have heard of packet tricks. Pocket tricks are simply little props one may carry in the pocket to do magic in casual situations. Eventually some of us got big attitudes and we did "close-up magic" not "pocket tricks" and "sleight of hand" not ''props". We were purists, and we were certain we were the better for it. We however forgot one important segment in our grandiose philosophy.
Despite our acquired talents, and our lack of props as proof, our audiences were being entertained by such props as a folding quarter, a Scotch and Soda coin, flashpaper (without effect or reason for it), finger choppers and all sorts of stuif made by plastic magic manufacturers. It seemed to we snobs that the public was ignorant and didn't know great magic when they saw it. The truth is, the public knows what it likes, whether we think they ought to like it or not. The public is a group that "are human beings without arrogance about magic". Yes, they may well like those silly box tricks and flashy things and dancing girls. True, you may temporarily persuade them to go against their nature and look for "higher art forms". But flash a pretty gem in front of their eyes, and to hell with technique. They like the performer with the "pretty props" better than the "close-up technician".
I suppose all of this seems odd coming from me, I, the supposed high-minded thinker of mentalism and magic. But we all grow up and we all reexamine our opinions and ourselves from time to time. I am not really changing my opinions. Props are symbolic and suggestive of many things, and so they hold great interest to human beings.
Coming to this conclusion is derived from practical and open-minded observation of audiences and their reactions. You might not like it at first, but try a few of these ideas out and see for yourself. Don't get me wrong. I still feel that if a client is paying me, I am not likely to pull out a piece of plastic that looks like a piece of plastic. I would not use a plastic prop without a good reason for that prop! I am not suggesting we can use words alone to make lousy plastic tricks great ones. Maybe that can be done, but this is not my main point here.
My primary consideration is as radical as my deepest previous efforts. Put some odd looking things in your pocket and you may entertain people, not just impress them. No cool prop is ever going to make a horrid magician wonderful. I guess that sort of thinking by lousy performers is what caused many of us to go ««//-pocket props. But if I examine human nature as I have suggested others do, shiny things, and unusual things, enchant people. Try as I might, there is just no denying that obvious fact. So, why not make use of this natural trend instead of trying to rage against it? Why not use this natural tendency to inspire magic in ways I desire? Why shouldn't you do the same?
I was speaking to a famed friend of mine just the other night about this subject. We both had to agree that when an audience sees a silver ball, a shiny tube, an odd looking box with secret symbols upon it and so forth, people in the audience think "I wonder what that is for? I wonder what that box does? I bet that ball floats or something. I wonder if'. This type of thinking in the audience means they are already interested, curious and actively engaged in your act before you have ever set one foot upon the stage.
This is what props may do for you. But you have to use props "properly". If props are used to try and create, not support (or prop up) your talent, then you may well have trouble - period. But propping up anything is always an aid to support what is already there. One cannot say a roof must stand on its own without other support. Yet, the support also needs a roof to be complete. You can't have a good house without both parts.
If our props are the main and primary characters, then we as performers are not so needed. If props are the focus, then most anyone who has props that do what ours do will be worth hiring. Ask any agent, and they will act as if this is entirely the case. Resorts and party-planners inquire if someone is a magician or mentalist, if they are open to work a certain date, and what the price is. They may also ask what props are used. This is when props become a problem - when props, not who and what we are has become primary. Oddly, it was many of we magic snobs that caused this to happen. We taught people that we were great and superior with cards, or with coins or by bending metal or making predictions. Our pitch to booking agents was about what things we were using to show that we were not using things. Our "propless" approach was still about the props.
Back to now. We know people like people that are likable. We know that personality matters a great deal. We also know that claims of props not mattering at all were greatly exaggerated - at least when it comes to audiences. Mentalists still make far less in pay on average than a magician. Many mentalists don't use interesting things. If they do, the interest often wears off due to long, drawn out discussions on what that interesting thing is. They kill the interest with their long talk. Props are about action, and an audience is entertained or not by what happens. Props create immediate interest and attention. What you do with them determines your skill. Now before you rush out and buy a bunch of great props at your favorite magic dealer, let's look at some other options. I actually do use the ideas in this manuscript to this day. I am not telling you to do anything I have not done before. As simple as some of this may seem at first, I hope you will look a little more deeply to see the true wonder of it all.
Keep in mind that simple ideas and simple props do not make magic simplistic. Magicians and mentalists are the last ones who should be so deceived by appearances. For instance, instead of coins, you might use shiny gems or pieces of quartz crystal. These items create immediate interest and attention. People talk about these types of props. As a magician, you may think, "I am doing the same coin moves I have always done", but not so to your audience. To audiences, you are "the guy with magical crystals and diamonds". If you are a good performer, they will think, "There is our friend, the magical person with magical things. I wonder what he has with him tonight". This is far different than being considered the "the coin trick guy". I reiterate there is nothing wrong with coins and coin tricks. But do a coin trick, and then do the same trick with gemstones and see which gets the most attention by the majority of the public. I am putting myself out on this limb based not on the current popular opinion of magicians and mentalists. I am telling you the facts others hope you will ignore, based on many real life experiences.
This past year on the celebration of our Independence Day in the United States, I was performing for some children. No, it was not planned. Soon adults joined in and watched. The adults were entertained as well as the children. My friends told me they owed me a great deal as I entertained families for hours in scorching summer heat. For me, I was scarcely working. I had some fun props in my pocket just in case I might need them. When someone mentioned who I was, I palmed a small prop and was set to go. Between a few crystals and fake gems, a couple of rubber balls and a toy ring, we went on for hours. It was great fun. I did nothing but basic coin sleights and my own simple moves. That was it. I will detail all that I did and more in this booklet - things I still do to win over fans. The people from the Independence Day celebration are still talking about what I did. I am a living legend in several more people's lives - more real fans - and it was fun for me. Besides, it was easy. When I was having fun, others caught the feeling and joined in to watch. A few simple props made this possible when combined with mere basics in magic. It was far different to my audience that night to see a crystal vanish and appear and split in two rather than coins and card tricks. It wasn't all that different to me - except I did less difficult work. You may ask why I repeat such things. I am trying to drive home the truth many of us would wish were not so. I restate my position so it might sink in and allow you to think with an open mind about these simple props.
The tools I will give to you are new prop ideas, props you may easily create, psychology and underused principles, and simplicity itself. I do hope you can see past the lack of embellishment to the real work. You will be asked to dare do something different. Easy, but different. If you will keep an open mind on our jaunt through the treasures we consider "props", you may find the jewels indeed. From simple adjustments to concepts such as The Blur Principle, you will be given plenty to consider. Then I will unleash you to spread true wonder in the world, or return to your card and coin tricks if you prefer. If you are more like me - perhaps you will do some of it all. Do as you will, and watch the audience's reactions. Watching them closely all over again can be very educational. I hope you find this booklet to be that too - or at least an inspiring challenge.
Kenton Knepper September 2002
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Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.