It Doesnt Matter

According to one school of thought, everything that makes a trick effective is added after the fact: misdirection, presentation, etc. This philosophy has produced clich├ęs like, 'A great magician can make a miracle out of anything," and, "There arc no bad tricks, only bad magicians."

Compare this to other fields. Would an actor say, "I don't care whether the part is well written or whether the play is any good. My talent will make it work." Would a stand-up comic say, "Who needs strong material? III just buy an old joke book. My delivery will make it funny." On the contrary, actors will kill for the right part. The best comics sweat blood to develop strong material and usually find it an extremely slow process. Top great scripts to direct. They don't say, "There are film directors look for no bad scripts, only bad directors." In fact, in the film"indu7try they have the^opposite saying: "If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage." In other word , the script has to have the potential for greatness before even the best director can bring it out.

What's true of a film script is true of a magic efFcct. Admittedly, the effect itself only contains the potential for a great performance. The performer determines how much of that potential will ever be realized. But if the potential isn't there, even the greatest performer can't pull it out of thin air.

My own view is that the most successful performances of a magical effect succecd on three levels simultaneously: the dramatic, the emotional, and the magical The dramatic level involves the use of various technical devices (surprise, suspense, pacing, tempo, progression, etc.) to ensure that what the audience sees registers in a powerful manner. The emotional level involves the use of presentations capable of reaching the viewer on a deeper level. I explored both of these areas in Strong Magic. The magical impact, however, is limited by the nature and design of the magic effect itself. You need effective presentation to bring it out. But, in the end you're still limited by the effect's magical potential, and that's determined primarily by its design.

In the last couple of years this fact has been powerfully brought home to me by my experience with two effects of my own creation. The first involves the fusion plot in which two cards arc melded to create one double-faced card. The second is a packet trick in which faces are printed on double-backed cards.

I published the original vcrsion of each of these effects in previous books. (Bold Fusion appeared in Cardshark and Back Off appeared in Darwin Ortiz at the Card Table.) I've since developed revamped versions of each. (Ultimate Fusion and The New Back Off both found in Scams & Fantasies with Cards.) Each of the new versions has been earning me at least twice as much audience reaction as the old ones. In each case, the only differences between the old and new version were design changes.

Whatever strengths or weaknesses I may have as a performer and showman, they're the same strengths or weaknesses in each performance. Additionally, the presentations I used for the old versions of these two effects are identical, almost word for word, with the ones I'm using for the new versions. Finally, of course, the effect (in the sense of how someone would describe the trick in words) is identical in both versions. The only variable in each case is the design of the effect.

All of this points to one conclusion: the material itself matters. If you want to perform miracles, start with strong material. Those who spend their lives pursuing the perfect miracle arc kidding themselves. But those who think that they can make any trick into a miracle through presenta-

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