Originally published in Genii Magazine

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I suppose there is one question that is asked of me more than any other. It is asked in a variety of ways, but the main thrust remains the same. The question is this: How do you go about putting together a magical presentation?

My answer is usually a variant of, "If I had a simple answer to that question, I would write a book and tell everyone the secret of constructing presentations, but the truth is that I don't."

I really don't! If I had, not only would I write that book, but I would also no doubt have a larger and more fabulous personal performing repertoire of my own.

No, I don't think there is a simple answer to the question of constructing presentations. Well, there is one answer: "Jump into the water and begin!" But we'll get back to that rather curious answer in a moment.

When I look at the more successful routines in my own repertoire, I see that there was no one simple way or method by which they were put together. Sometimes, the idea of a presentation came first; but in other cases, the bare magical effect was the beginning point.

Let me be specific. It may surprise you to know that I have written -- and actually perform! -- four different versions of the "Torn and Restored Thread." Many readers are familiar with the version I have done on several television shows where I burn the thread and talk about the Hindu myth of the creation and destruction of the universe, symbolized by the activities of the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. That version, however, was the second version that I created.

My original presentation was about vampires -- and I bit the thread with my teeth. I might still be doing that version today except for some dental work which altered that place in my mouth where I could bite the thread. Suddenly I found that I could no longer bite thread easily and so, without a presentation, I didn't perform the effect for almost a year. Needless to say, that depressed me because it is certainly one of my favorite pieces of magic.

Then one day, quite out of nowhere, the thought hit me that I could burn the thread with a candle. A second flash reminded me of the Hindu creation myth. Then the task was relatively simple: tell the story in as few sentences as possible and choreograph the words spoken with the effect's action - which is (1) show thread, (2) burn thread, (3) ball up loose pieces, (4) put ball on single strand, and (5) show thread restored.

When I appeared in Hauntings: A Shakespearean Séance, in Los Angeles in 1998, the show's writer, Peter Howard, Max Maven, and I wrote a third script for the effect that would bring it into the theme of the show: the spirits in the works of Shakespeare. I have since revised that script around the theme of broken human relationship and sometimes perform it for both magician and non-magician audiences.

You may find the fourth script the most interesting of all because here the effect is performed in silence! This presentation was written for those performing situations (such as corporate cocktail parties, restaurants, and lounges) where (1) such serious themes might not be fully appropriate for the happy occasion, and (2) there are more things than my performance competing for my audience's attention.

While the effect is performed in silence, there is a verbal set-up that goes like this: "One of the things that people often say to me is that I talk a great deal and, therefore, distract you. And so I would like to perform a piece of magic without saying anything at all. Well, I do need to say a few things. First, this is yellow cotton thread. Second, this is an example of pure sleight-of-hand. Third, this is dedicated to the pyromaniac alive deep within each of us." Then, I smile and perform the effect in silence, but with apparently great concentration on what I am doing. I find that this silent version can be as strong in its impact in some settings as the verbal presentations.

The point here is not simply that there are many presentations that can be wrapped around our various pieces of magic, but also that we need to think about the types of places that we perform when we think about the presentations we might develop.

Here are two concrete thoughts. First, when you start thinking about a presentation for a specific piece of magic, don't forget that, if you are typically a speaking performer, presenting one effect silently may give your show a new sense of texture. When you consider the surprising compactness of sound systems today, you might want to think about adding some music to this silent routine. The image of Andrew Goldenhirsch, a magician in Southern California, has flashed before my mind. Andrew performs utterly amazing sleight-of-hand with coins silently to beautiful, almost hypnotic music. The result is truly marvelous because, as we watch him, we realize that magic is a beautiful art.

My second concrete thought has to do with audio taping rather than video taping. Although I have always been an advocate of video taping rehearsals and performances -- and have learned a great deal from video taping my own -there is also a benefit from audio taping. When we video tape, we can be so dazzled by the visuals that we don't really hear what we are saying. When we audio tape, we have no pictures to distract us; there are only our words.

This is important: As a speaking performer, I deeply believe that my performances (of an idividual trick or an entire show) should be interesting purely on the verbal level, without the visual addition of the magic tricks. If, through audio taping, I find that my show moves along and is interesting purely on the verbal level, then I am confident that when I add the visual effects to the verbal presentations the result will be even better!

Is your magical work interesting purely on the verbal level? Try audio taping one of your own routines, or a Full show, and find out for yourself. You might discover pauses that don't contribute anything positive as opposed to moments of silence strategically placed for impact. You might discover that you are endlessly repeating yourself. You might find that some of those jokes are helping in the big picture. I have a strong feeling that if you do audio tape your presentations you will certainly discover some things of great value, things that you would not otherwise have discovered about yourself and how you perform your magic.

So the answer really is to jump into the water -- and begin!

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Fundamentals of Magick

Fundamentals of Magick

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.

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