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v^SJt N many tricks it is necessary to have some or all of the props you use examined.

Otherwise the effect is weakened. The examination of props can sometimes be JfrSjlHl a good practice, even an essential one, if the trick is to escape being insubstan-Is^fc^A rial or totally senseless. Unfortunately, though, there are problems with the examination of props.

The main difficulty is that the examination must be done by one or more spectators, and you can never know how long this will take. Will the spectator be content with a superficial inspection, or will he or she wish to scrutinize the prop with a magnifying glass, tearing it apart, looking at every detail, over many minutes before being satisfied? Once a prop is given out explicidy to be examined, one can t reasonably reclaim it before the spectator is satisfied. This may take only a moment, or several minutes; you never know. In other words, you have relinquished all control over the time devoted to the examination.

The time allotted to such a procedure plays an important role in the build-up of the presentation. Regrettably, many spectators have no sense of timing in these matters. The flow and progress of a trick can come to a dead stop when something is handed out for the sole reason of examination.

To avoid such standstills, the props could be given out for inspection after the effect is concluded. The spectators need time to digest the strange experience they have just had, and they may talk a bit with each other about the effect. Its important to give the audience freedom to do this, to digest the effect mentally, and you shouldn't rush immediately into your next trick. Since, for this reason, at the end of an effect you often lose control anyway, this is sometimes a perfect moment to allow the inspection of the props.

But with many tricks, examination of the props after the effect is accomplished comes too late. By then suspicions concerning the props have already arisen, and the damage done by those suspicions often cannot be repaired. How much better to assure that these suspicions are killed before they can sprout. By doing this, the audience might not even be aware that suspicions in a certain direction could exist.

I feel that avoiding suspicion before it can occur is most often the best way to proceed. This normally means that the props should be examined before something happens to them. When the props are examined early in the presentation, you evade suspicion before it can occur—and, since the audience usually doesn't know what is to happen with the prop, they cant know precisely what to look for as they examine it. Thanks to this latter factor, the examination may well become only a cursory one, briefly performed. Also, because the effect has yet to occur, the audience will be naturally curious to see it. This curiosity is another inducement that subdy influences the spectators not to dwell on the examination. They want you to get on with it. In this way you can maintain at least some control over the timing!

It can, though, be psychologically undesirable to offer props solely for their examination, an act that stresses the fact that they can be examined. In many cases stressing this feature focuses attention on the puzzle aspect in your work, the element of trickery. This can be detrimental. Often it invites the audience to throw themselves into a suspicious frame of mind. It is often better to find another reason to hand out a prop: a presentational rationale other than that of examination.

Usually examination is difficult to make an integral part of the presentation. However, if it is possible, this is a good procedure, for attention is then placed on some other presentational feature. Yet the element of examination contributes to the impossibility of the effect without overtly raising the notion of trickery. This in turn permits the spectators to enjoy the presentation more, rather than worry themselves with puzzles.

Such presentational ploys also answer our concern about timing. If the prop is given out for some reason other than inspection, it will not seem odd when at a certain moment you ask for its return. Suppose that at some point in a trick you ask someone to hold something because your hands are full. Then later, when you need the prop, it is natural to ask that it be given back to you. And later still, the spectators are left with the impression that they were permitted to examine the prop. Presentational reasons to hand out props usually provide the greatest control over timing, leaving you in command of the action.

While exercising such control, one can even hand out gimmicked props. In "TheTamed Card" such a situation exists, when a double card (a double-faced card stuck to a normal one) is given to a spectator. The card isn't given out to be examined, but to be held. Then, immediately, you present a reason for the spectator to rub the next card. Thus he has no time to inspect the double card in his possession. /

In "TheTamed Card" the puzzle aspect is accentuated, but only after the second card has been changed. However, after this transformation, the audience naturally begins to concentrate on the impossibility of what they are seeing. Since, at this point in the trick, this turn of thought is nearly unavoidable, it is a perfect time to go with the tendency rather than to fight it. So you purposely draw attention to the puzzle aspect, to the impossibility of it all.

When the first four cards are handed out, the spectator is clearly invited to examine them, even pushed into doing so. You will find that your helper is usually not gready interested in examining the cards at this time. Why? First, because the cards are given to him, which strongly suggests that they are above suspicion. Second, people suspect that you are hiding the original cards under those in your hand. So suspicion and interest rest on the cards you hold. And third, because the spectators are now more interested in watching the other cards change. Thanks to all this, the time taken for examination is never long and you have total control!

Some spectators dont even bother to examine the cards they are given. They simply say that they believe the cards are normal. In this instance, however, it is good to push them a little to check the cards. This ploy not only diminishes later interest in inspection, but also causes the spectators to recall that examination not only took place, it was even invited! Because the first four cards were examined, it will be accepted that the other cards were normal, since they too are eventually given to the spectator to hold. The last three cards, when they are dealt into the spectator s hand, are there for only a moment, as they are almost immediately taken back and shown to the audience. However, it is not clearly apparent that, concerning these cards, the mind of your helper is kept occupied, and that he is not given time to examine them.

Because the cards have been examined (or at least the first four have) and the others are given out (albeit briefly), a strong impression is created in the minds of the spectators that all the cards are normal, at which point the only conclusion possible is that magic has been afoot.

When you examine the text in the routine you also will see that another psychological ploy is used: When the cards are given out, several possible solutions are raised, then demolished. You point out that there are no chemical layers on the card. The spectator agrees. You then mention that no colored dust rubs off the card. He confirms this, too. And that the heat caused by friction when he rubs the cards does not change them. Also true, he affirms. You then assert that the cards just change. Having at this point become accustomed to agreeing with your statements, the spectator may, through sheer habit, very well agree with this one, too. This is a well-established psychological ploy used by salesmen. First they present someone with several ideas with which they can easily agree. They then move gradually to statements with which the subject would not normally agree so readily, if at all. We, too, can use this ploy—to make people accept what they see as magic!

Another sound example of how props can be examined as part of the presentation can be found in "Counterfeiters Spellbound" in the next chapter (p. 263). There the usual construction of the effect is changed to make it possible for the audience to examine the coins, without the rhythm of the presentation being sacrificed. In this presentation, examination of the coins is invited not to prove that the coins are ungimmicked, but rather to show that the coins are counterfeit. The spectators are asked if they can see the small difference between normal coins and the counterfeit ones.

Study of these two routines will, I think, provide a clear understanding of how you can maintain firm control over timing while incorporating the examination of props into presentations—and how this can be managed in a manner that enhances the magical sense of the effect rather than reducing it to an unmagical puzzle.

EOPLE have different sensitivities to things.This must be expected. When it comes to watching a theater piece, there are also differences in sensitivity to what is comprehended. Those who see an abundance of theater, films and other types of dramatic entertainment will normally have a higher sensitivity to various dramatic conventions and contrivances than those with less exposure to these media. But of course other qualities in the person, like character and interest, play a role as well. Some people are simply more sensitive spectators than are others. Nor is the sensitivity of an audience a stable factor. Place the same group in two different situations and their sensitivity may change entirely. Mood, expectation and drinking exercise strong influences over an audiences reactions.

Most audiences embody a whole range of sensitivities, although because of cultural and sociological backgrounds, the differences between spectators sensitivities will often be diminished when they are in a group. Many working magicians eventually develop an audience market suited to their style of performance. Many others, however, find themselves working for audiences from every class of society. This means that on one day you can find yourself working for a group of people with simple tastes, and on another for a highly sophisticated audience. Of course one type of audience is not necessarily better than another. However, your performance material must be carefully selected if it is to be appreciated by each of these groups.

One way to handle such differences in audiences would be to have different programs for each. Agreeable as that may sound, having several top-quality programs is a difficult thing to achieve. Its much better and more practical to have material that can be done for as wide a variety of audiences as possible. This is the way most magicians I know handle the problem.

When designing a program that can be enjoyed by many types of audiences, many magicians choose to go for the lowest common denominator. In other words, the program is constructed so that it can be enjoyed by the simplest audiences under the worst conditions. The idea here is that if you can work for that type of audience, other groups and venues will be easy. The approach may seem practical and logical. I think that by taking this route, though, a great deal is lost, and that is unfortunate.

But, one might object, if the material is tailored for an educated audience and embroidered with subde nuances, it might be artistically better, but if those nuances go unappreciated

or even unnoticed by many spectators, what good do they do? You have simply lost your audience. Wouldn't it be better to do only direct and simple things that can be appreciated by everyone?

When things are too refined, yes, you can lose some audiences. However, I'm equally certain that by being too direct and simple, you can lose audiences just as easily.

Some people are culturally well educated. When such people watch something that has no sophistication, no subdety, something that lacks depth, something that goes only for the simple and direct, they wont find it terribly interesting. For these people there is nothing substantial to enjoy. People who are culturally educated enjoy a certain depth and complexity, enjoy discovering nuances; they are pleased by refinement because they have learned to enjoy refined things. Magic that lacks the finer details is of little value to them. It is seen as something pedestrian, something at best that might be "nice for kids".

To be so direct in our work that we lose the culturally educated, more sensitive audiences is a loss—as much of a loss as losing the less refined audiences. Since, for most of us, our market encompasses all levels of cultural education, it would better serve us if we could please all levels.

If we have a trick or an act the enjoyment of which depends heavily on an appreciation of finer details, we would lose those less refined audience members. Doing so in most circumstances is almost certainly unwise. However, what if we incorporate a variety of elements into our work, designing it to appeal to spectators with different levels of sophistication? Then, even when the finer details aren't appreciated or noticed, a basis still exists for the audience to enjoy our performance. In such a case, no harm is done by the presence of some finer elements. And if the finer points are noticed, great!

It's quite possible to design material that can be enjoyed on several levels, from simple to sophisticated. The finer details can be there without being stressed. There is a danger in accenting such nuances, for a person in the audience who doesn't understand them would then feel he was missing something important. On the other hand, not everything needs to be presented in a direct, unmistakable manner either. Let me give a simple example:

In a stage play a character enters the set, apparently coming in from an icy winter storm to a warm room. For the simplest members in the audience the playwright might have this character say, "Brrrr, it's freezing outside." The information that it is cold outside is thus given in a direct if somewhat awkward way. On the other hand, if the fact that it is cold outside is not essential to following the plot, the character could also say nothing about it, but could instead act the part of being cold. His shoulders shiver a bit when he comes into the room. That's all.

Now, for many people it will be obvious that this fellow has just come in from the cold. It isn't blundy stated; instead it's something the audience can discover for themselves. Some may miss the idea, but they won't have the feeling of being left behind; and since this information isn't essential to understanding the rest of the play, no real harm is done. But for those who notice and understand this detail, their experience and enjoyment of the play is increased. Most spectators enjoy figuring out things for themselves. Its fun to discover these details. And, for many, the indirect, suggestive way is far more enjoyable than the direct, obvious way. They take a little pride in having caught this detail; it lighdy strokes their egos by acknowledging their awareness and sensitivity. Yes, it may go over the heads of some, but to no harm! Such details add color, depth and substance to a work.


One of the main things that is off-putting to educated spectators watching a magic performance is an appearance of trivial nonsense. So often, when a magician does an act, the only reason for his doing it is to show that he can. Lets be honest. What else can you conclude when, for instance, a magician produces a handkerchief, seemingly doesn't like the color, then changes it, after which he immediately throws the handkerchief into some sort of wastebasket. What can you conclude after seeing such a performance, other than that the magician did it only to show us that he can change the color of a handkerchief? As if the audience cares!

One might contend that the audience can appreciate the skill involved, and that this appreciation is reason enough to do the tricks and have others watch you. But as I've discussed in my essay on "Failureffects" (p. 70), the times are gone when people automatically awarded respect to someone for doing something they can't. For one to win respect for a skill today, it must either do something for or mean something to other people. Given this, can you be surprised that an audience today is less than enthralled by a demonstration such as that just described? This may be the reason why so many variety acts have disappeared over the years. These acts were often based on the single attribute that the performer was able to do certain things that those in the audience could not. There were and are those rare acts in such fields as juggling and acrobatics in which the skill is so remarkable that it transcends the medium and is recognized as something truly extraordinary and artistic. But in magic, our skills should be hidden if we wish to attain a feeling of something magical happening. Virtuosity is not always apparent, and in most cases it probably shouldn't be. The portrayal of magical power has little to do with skill, and although an audience might recognize that skill is needed to attain it, this should be seen as only a tool in the background. I believe that we as magicians should strive for an effect of magic, not an effect of skill.

So if audiences today don't usually care about our skill purely as a skill, we must offer them something else. When a trick can offer another reason than skill for its performance, we can't be accused of merely showing off. Mind you, even if our presentation has a reason beyond that of skill, our behavior can still scream exhibitionism. If, though, we avoid that pitfall, having other reasons to substantiate the trick should remove any impression that we are only swaggering our skills before the audience.

Now the fact that your trick contains a valid reason for being may not be consciously noted by the audience, but that doesn't matter. At the very least, after seeing the effect, people will be stopped from saying, "So what. Who cares."

Having a reason behind the performance of a particular effect not only helps to prevent the audience from being put off, it also contributes a great deal to making the presentation more exciting. The whole thing becomes logical and much more palatable.

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