Drawing Of Spectator Gaze
&fS consider once more the uncomfortable performing situation discussed in the preceeding article, one that happens with some frequency to almost every magician: You are in the middle of a trick and have reached a point where the audiences attention must be directed elsewhere than your hands, so that you can execute a secret maneuver. I lowever, you note one spectator tenaciously staring at your hands, the danger zone. What do you do?
You could try to make this spectator look you in the eye by asking him a question. This practice is generally acccptcd as good directive technique. However, in performance I've found that it tails as often as it works. The critical variable seems to be the level of suspicion harbored by the spectator; on how determined he is to discover your secret, or on how relaxed his attitude is concerning the current action.
You see, the moment you ask a question while someone is looking at your hands, he may clearly understand that you're trying to distract him, especially if you haven't succcss-fully led him to relax. Once even the slightest suspicion of attempted distraction is aroused, the game is lost. The spectator then becomes firmly resolved not to look away, not to look up into your eyes. In odier words, lie sees through your ploy. Such cases, in which suspicion or full understanding of your directive tactic occurs, account for the majority of failures using the technique.
In situations demanding rhat a question be asked or a remark be made to steer a spectators attention to safer ground, the normal tendency is to address the spectator who has become a prohlem, the one who is watching the danger spot. However, it is important to understand rhat it generally doesn't matter which spectator you engage with your question or statement.
I've found it to be much better not to engage the difficult spectator direcdy with a question or comment, but rather to neglect him and ask your question of someone else! This tactic avoids any possibility of arousing or intensifying suspicion. Furthermore—and this is most important—since you busy yourself with someone else, you send a signal to the watchful spectator that you don't know that he is watching, or that you don't care. Since you arc wise enough not to move your hands, giving him nothing interesting to observe,
and since you are relaxed and don t seem to care about his acute attention, he will quickly sense that he has fixed his gaze on something unimportant.
Additionally, since such persistent: spectators are usually eager to discover how the trick is done, they don't want to miss anything important. Therefore its highly probable that such a person will look up at someone else to see what response they give you; and when this occurs, you can see it from the corner of your eye, at which time you grab your chance to do vour work.
In such cases an attempt to steer attention elsewhere, directed specifically at the problematic spectator, is less effective than an indirect attempt. Although the tactic is aimed at the difficult spectator, it is bounced off a cooperative one, resulting in a ricochet effect. While this technique is not absolutely certain, it is far more effective than die standard one of posing a question directly to the spectator whose gaze you wish to control. Even greater success can be achieved with the ricochet technique if you direct your question or comment at die least suspicious spectator in your audience!
Actions, rather than questions and statements, can also be employed to create a ricochet effect. Your actions tend to be viewed by a suspicious spectator as more important than the remarks you make. II, instead of asking someone else a question you ask this person, for example, to liand you some object, chances ate greater still diat the difficult spectator will turn to watch this action. .After all, he doesn't want to miss anything that might give him a clue; and vour receipt of a prop from another spectator would be even stronger incentive for the watchful one to follow the procedure. Such actions carry powerful attraction for a suspicious spectator, since they are initiated by you and therefore would seem important to watch. Of course, such a ploy makes it necessary for you to do your secret maneuver or sleight with only one hand, while die other draws attention to itself.
Whenever you are in a situation where a question is asked or an action taken to provide cover, spot rhe most difficult spectator at that moment and direct the action or question toward someone else—preferably someone who is completely relaxed and who is seated or standing where you can address him while you just barely keep track of the difficult person from the corner of your eye. Kven when there is no outstandingly stubborn spectator, play nevertheless to the most relaxed person in the group. If you apply these tactics corrccdy, you will find that the ricochet technique is far more reliable than the direct approach so often recommended.
flu« ta tfpSy) LOSE-UP magic in the second half of the twentieth century owes a large debt to
Ak"1» a performer who has given far more to the craft than most magi-ml^Jr cians realize. The trick I'm about to explain is almost one hundred percent Don Alans, and comes from the 1951 booklet Close-up Time with Don Alan (see "Card in the Egg", p. 9). The effect, typical of this performers work, is novel, humorous and surprising. The performer places an egg on the table.This is not a leal egg, but a hollow, plastic one that can be split into two parts. A card is chosen, noted and lost again in the pack. Then the egg is "broken'' open—and a minianire playing card is found inside: a duplicate of the card just picked! This is puzzling enough, but the effect is deepened when the performer spreads the dcck facc up, revealing that it contains only duplicates of a different card—the card just chosen couldn't possibly have come from this pack!
My little addition to the trick is to cause die egg to appear magically oil the table, well away from me. This occurs near die start of the effect and provides an extra element of surprise and mystery. It also conveys a valuable lesson in the use of attention management ro cover a rather bold subterfuge. It is an admirahle opporninity to gain confidcncc with your ability to command and manipulate an audicnccs attention, and carries no clanger of embarrassment through failure as you learn.
You will need three things: a hollow plastic egg, a miniature playing card to fit inside it, and a spccial dcck of cards.
The egg should be die approximate size of a chicken's egg, and is made to come apart at its seam (Figure 1). These plastic eggs are fairly common, especially around Easter, and can be found with party and craft supplies, and often in children's toys. Don Alan originally used the egg in which Silly Putty, a children's novelty, came packaged. I use an egg that is light brown in color, rather than white or some bright color, as the brown is similar to my skin tone. This makes accidental flashes of the egg less likely while it is palmed. Light brown also approximates the color
of chicken eggs in most parts of the world. You can ccrtainly use an egg of another color if you choose, but you will have to be more careful of side angles.
The miniature playing card should be as large as possible while still fitting comfortably inside the egg without being folded. For a reason that will be explained shortly, I recommend that this card be double faced. It can be made by gluing two miniature cards back to back, both faces of which match the card you will force from the prepared deck.
The deck is essentially a one-way forcing pack with one contrasting card. Perversely, that odd card is the one you will force, and should contrast strongly with die surrounding duplicates that make up the rest of the pack. I use a low black card for die force card (say a Five of Spades) and a high red card (say a Nine of Hearts) for die balance of rhe pack. The force card must be corner-shorted to facilitate a riffle force. With the card mrned face down, you need to clip off a small crescent from both the outer left and inner right corncrs. Place this prepared card near the middle of the dcck and pencil-dot or otherwise mark the corners of the card lying directly under it. The final bit of preparation is to treat the face of the force card and rhe back of the pcncil-dottcd card with roughing fluid (Figure 2).
Carry the egg, with the miniature card inside it, in a holder under your jacket, or in a convenient pocket, or in your prop bag or case: somewhere where your right hand can quickly and secredy get it when ir is needed. And this need arises just before you are ready to begin the trick. Palm the egg in your right hand (cither a classic or finger palm can be used) and hold the dcck squared and facc down in left-hand dealing position, ready to execute a riffle force. (If this is not the first card trick of your performance, you will need to switch the deck you have been using for the special pack.)
Before we begin the action, a brief comment about the psychology of the riffle force may be warranted. Forces like the riffle force and I lindu-shuffle force, in which a selection is made without the chosen card leaving your hands, can seem artificial and therefore suspicious if they are performed with a spectator within easy reach of you and the deck. If someone is sirring directly in front of you, the normal and logical way to have him select a card would be for you to spread the dcck and let him draw one. However, if you choose to involve a spectator positioned several rows back from you, procedures like the riffle force become both logical and considerate. uPlease, don't bother getting tip. Just tell me when to stop as I run my thumb down the cards." I low thoughtful of you! He needn't work his way through rows of other spectators and can remain comfortably in the audience. And how convenient as well for you, for now you have a solid reason for using a method of selection that accommodates the force you require! If you are working for a small group where everyone is close to you, you can still apply the same psychology. Just position yourself in some way that makes it awkward for the designated spectator to reach over and take a card.
Now let's start the trick. Single out someone appropriately seated for your purposes and to your left. Make your request that she stop you as you riffle your thumb down die cards, and lean out toward her, bending at the waist and extending your left hand with the deck. In doing this, lightly steady yourself by resting your loosely closed right hand on the table, near the right side and somewhat forward. (Figure 3. Note diat, due to considerations of page space, in this and subsequent illustrations I am shown working to a spectator seated closer than would be done in actual performance.) Outwardly, this posture is assumed to allow the spectator a better view of your hand and deck as you riffle your thumb down the outer left corner. You are again being thoughtful and open. Beneath the surface, though, your leaning forward in this way serves two important functions: It widely distances your hands from each other (though this mustn't be exaggerated to the point where your stance looks unnatural), and it focuses all attention, yours and the spectators', on your left hand and the deck.
Work slowly and deliberately at this point. Release the corners of the cards from the left thumb at a relaxed speed as you concentrate your gaze on the deck and on the assisting spectators face direcdy beyond it. In doing this you condense the entire audience s frame of attention from you and the room behind you to the narrow space immediately surrounding your left hand and the deck. \our gaze, your body, your silence as you wait for the spectator to say stop, all force attention to converge on your left hand.
When the spectator calls "Stop," your thumb should be ncaring the ccntcr of the deck and the force card. In the time-honored manner, as you see her lips starting to move, release all the remaining cards above and including the corner-shorted card and stop the riffle. You should see the marked corner of the card below the force card. This is a safety check.
At this point everyone's attention should be firmly fixed on die deck. They are watching intendy to see what will happen next. It is at this moment that your right hand gently leaves the palmed egg on the table and rises to meet the left hand. Keep the left hand absolutely still as the right hand moves, and your gaze riveted on the cards.
With your palm-down right hand, cleanly grasp the packet above the left thumbs gap by the ends and lift its outer end an inch or two as the left hand pivots clockwise at the wrist, tipping die bottom half of die deck to a roughly vertical position and away from the right hands packet. Don't move the hands more than an inch or lwo apart. You want to maintain a tight focus of attention on the hands and cards as you display die card 011 the face of the right hands half to your helper (Figure 4). She and everyone else in the group will wish to see her selection.
To this point your upper body is still bent forward from the waist. Now calmly straighten up and take a single step to your left and back a bit, distancing yourself somewhat from the table as you draw the gaze of the spectators upward. Immediately begin to turn slowly to your right while keeping your hands and the cards fixed at chest level (Figure 5). By doing this you arc deliberately displaying the chosen card to the rest of the group as you keep attention focused saielv above the table.
While you make this slow sweep of the audience, move your gaze accordingly keeping it up and in line with your hands and cards. However, as you do this you look directly into the eyes of the spectators and note the direction of their gaze. And here is where the "fail-safe1 aspect of the trick is lodged. If your direction of attention has been successful, all eyes will be raised and on the cards or your face. In this case, you can continue with the appearance of the egg on the table:
Drop the right hands packct square onto the lefts, clearly losing the selection in the center of the pack. At this point you should still be turned somewhat to your right. Look direcdv at the person sitting nearest the egg on the table; then look down at the egg, let an expression of surprise show on your face and look up at the spectator again. In doing this, you guide everyone else's eyes down to the egg. In feigned shock you ask, "Sir, did you lay that?" This question combined with the sudden appearance of the egg at a conspicuous distance from you will create surprise and laughter. "WeiJ, in diat case 1 suppose I can incorporate it somehow into the trick."
I Iowever, what if, as you make your survey' of faces, you see someone looking down at the egg while you arc still displaying the chosen card to the group? It is likely that the spectator saw you placc the egg on the table. Should this occur, you simply forget about the magical production of the egg. In fact, if you don't feel certain that you've managed the audiences attention effectively, if you sense that everything hasn't gone as smoodily and surely as you would like it to, forget the production of the egg. Instead, smoothly rihbon spread the deck face down across the table, then with your right hand pick up the egg and set it in the center of the table, just in front of the spread cards (Figure 6). As you do this you say something along the lines of "Here is the deck; and we'll also use this egg.0 The appearance of the egg on the table will still surprise many people, but you deliberately avoid dramatizing the production, making it seem to the one or more spectators who spotted the egg prematurely that its presence was not intended as a magical effect.
So you sec, with this procedure you can safely learn how to control an audiences attention with no fear of embarrassment should your direction, in the beginning, be less than perfect. This trick is a perfect exercise for gaining the confidence and skill required to do a piccc like my Two-cup Routine in Volume H (p. 105), in which attention management is crucial.
From this point forward the nick follows Don Alan's plan. Whether the egg production has succeeded or not, you ribbon spread the dcck face down across the table. Another technical aside here: I think it is better in this context to spread the cards in an arc that curves toward you (a smile), rather than away (a frown), as is commonly done (see Figure 6 again).
The reason for this is that in a few moments you will domino the spread face up, revealing that it consists of nothing hut red duplicates (Figure 7). You want no hesitation here in rhe audiences speed in comprehending the situation, which might spoil the timing of this visual punch line. By spreading the cards as described, the exposed indices will rest right-side up from the spectators' point of view, making the situation immediately clear to them.
Having moved the egg in front of the facc-down spread, resting centered in the curve, pause for a moment, then say, "111 tell you what. I'll make your chosen card appear by magic inside this mans egg." Using both hands, make a magical gesture over the egg, incidentally letting the hands be seen empty. Then pick up the egg and rap it on the edge oi the table, simulating the action of cracking the shell of a real egg.
At the same time, look up at someone seated at the table in front and ask her to hold out her hands, cupped to catch the contents of the egg. You then hold the egg in both hands, poised to separate the halves. You can at this point throw in a brief bit of by-play, in which you remove one hand momentarily from the egg and shake it as you say, "Sorry, this is a little messy, isn't it." Now, the fact that die egg is not genuine will be clear to just about everyone. Af ter all, it has a visible seam. So this bit of nonsense will be perceived mainly as playful playacting. But no one is quite sure what is inside this plastic egg. Maybe you have put a real yolk and white in it. This thought will naturally make your helper worry just a little, but you don t dwell on it or make her feel uncomfortable. Immediately ask her, "What was the name of the card?" When she answers, "break" open the egg and let the miniature card fall into her hands. Since it is double faced, its identity is immediately seen, whichever side is up, assuring that the timing of the climax isn't ruined. The appearance of the little card and the release of rhe tiny anxiety you have crcatcd should bring another strong reaction of humorous surprise.
I et the audience react to the production of the card as you rake it from the spectators hand and display it to the entire group. But when the laughter and applause have peaked, interrupt with a look of uncertainty on your face: "Are you sure it was the Five of Spades?" When the group asserts that it was, say, "But that's impossible! How could you have pickcd the Five of Spades from this deck?" As you finish this question, domino the spread deck over (the roughing fluid keeps the Five of Spades from showing), revealing that it is made up of nothing but Nines of 1 learts!
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