ne wsiu ln e unwevcr. the — - — ^ «• ^niouna the teacher's stories; however, he does include enough telling details in of the rheraatical theorie8' exorcising the 8Plnt and sending it hack to give us a picture of a real person. Compare this tn lachc9sef! n

nationality, his physical appearance, his favorite method 0f cu and other personal traits. "eat^

He doesn't provide every one of these details in every stories; however, he does include enough telling details in Ga,f 0f eive us a picture of a real person. Compare this to the magician's presentation of the "Magician vs. Gambler" wherT> characters remain faceless cardboard cutouts. both

The ideal antagonist is both three-dimensional and formidable i been said that the key to a good story is a good villain. After all l* hero's stature is measured by the stature of the oPponetn7 overcomes. Would Sherlock Holmes have looked as good if ProfeJ* Moriarty had been a moron instead of a genius? Would Rob,n have seemed as impressive if the Sheriff of Nottingham had beena wimp?

One effective approach to producing a formidable opponent is what I call the Walter Mitty's Revenge Formula. The idea is to cast an unpopular authority figure as antagonist. Then build your story around an experience shared by most of your audience where they have felt helpless in dealing with this type of authority figure Finally, turn the tables in the situation through magic. A couple of excellent examples of this strategy can be found in the outstanding book Magical Adventures and Fairy Tales by Punx.

One of these is a presentation for the "Monkey Bar," the trick in which different-colored ribbons hanging from a bar magically change places. Punx tells of the time he was stopped by a traffic cop for driving through a red light. Punx accused the policemen of being color blind and apparently proved his claim by means of the "Monkey Bar," thereby escaping a traffic ticket.

Certainly, traffic cops would be high on most people's lists of unpopular authority figures. Furthermore, almost every person in the audience has had the experience of receiving a ticket from such a cop for some infraction. They may have tried to talk him out of issuing the ticket, but it's unlikely they succeeded. This is exactly the kind of universal experience that makes most people feel helpless. When the magician shows how he triumphed over the cop through magic, the audience will get a good deal of psychological satisfaction from the tale. (Admittedly, the "Monkey Bar" isn't a close-up trick. But this same presentation would work perfectly for "Hot Rod," a standard close-up item.)

Another effect in the Punx book is a version of the "Six-Card Repeat.-m this presentation, the performer relates a dream he had in which a nated. sadistic math teacher from his youth came back from the dead teUnt h,m about ks mathematical inadequacies, just as he had 142

, „„ so often When the magician had been his student. This time ¿^ever, the performer is able, by magic, to confound the teacher's h°wt theories, exorcising the soirit and nor,,i;„„ .

I suspect that most of us have, buried in our subconscious, memories of some math teacher, science teacher, or gym teacher who humiliated us as children, taking joy in rubbing our faces in our shortcomings. I wouldn t be at all surprised if some adults still have nightmares about this character.

Indeed, Punx's dream strikes me as psychoanalytically very sound A painful specter from one's youth, long buried in the subconscious rises again in a dream to arouse old feelings of inadequacy. He is then banished by an affirmation of the ego-building accomplishments of one's adulthood—m this case, the magical skills the performer has mastered. Even if you don't care to dig that deeply into the matter I think you'll agree there is little doubt who the audience will be rooting for when Punx tells this tale.

A little thought will provide you with many more ideas for utilizing the Walter Mitty's Revenge Formula. How about a confrontation with an auto mechanic or TV repairman who kept your car/television set in the shop for ages, then presented you with an obviously inflated bill? What about a battle with an obnoxious sales clerk? Perhaps you used magic to survive an IRS audit. (It would be difficult to come up with a more unpopular authority figure than the Internal Revenue Service or a common experience more likely to arouse feelings of helplessness than a tax audit.) You might recount a childhood encounter with a schoolyard bully where your magic saved you. Stories about besting a dishonest used car salesman also have potential. All you need is some imagination combined with an understanding of psychology and contemporary social consciousness. For example, at one time a tale about outwitting a cop who was giving you a sobriety test might have been amusing. In today's social climate, it would be suicidal. Anything that reinforces sexual stereotypes (e.g., "how I got even with my mother-in-law") should also be avoided. With story patter as with any presentation it's important to study the subtext to make sure you're not sending out any unwelcome messages. The Conflict: The greatest advantage of story patter is that it can achieve strong audience interest in the outcome of the effect as they're swept up in the imaginary conflict you create with your words. What gets the audience interested is the conflict at the heart of the story. For maximum audience involvement, it's best to make it a sharply drawn conflict, such as a direct challenge or a concrete threat which the villain presents to the hero.

performer the best of both worlds: the same stron audience sympathy in his favor rather than against 4m ^ ■

nprfnrmpr tells the Stnrv no o« .

Suppose the performer tells the story as an episode h' rather than one in which he participated. Now ^h*06wit:

gambler may be presented as the ^Pathetic protagonist^ other gambler who challenges him and then tries to cheat him thfc painted an even blacker villain. Most importantly, the aiS"8^ psychologically identify;the victorious one-armed gambler performer who is narrating the tale and also performing the 8le p> hand he attributes to the one-armed gambler. '»t of

Before leaving this example I should note that in his book J|fo_-Adventures and Fairy Tales. Punx argues that the great strong the Vernon patter in "Cutting the Aces is the fact that the audien doesn't know who they should root for, the performer whom thev\ grown to like during the performance or the one-armed gambler ij,! shows himself to be the better man in this conflict.

To this I will only respond that in magical story patter you should be striving for entertainment not great literature. Moral ambiguity js fine if you are Ingmar Bergman. However, the films of Steven Spielberg gross a great deal more at the box office and nobody ever had any trouble figuring out who was the good guy and who was the bad guy in one of his movies. As a magical entertainer this is the kind of simple, gut-level entertainment you should be striving for. Give your protagonist a white hat; give your villain a black hat. Identify yourself with the good guy in the story and make sure that he wins. Let me conclude this point by providing another example of how switching the perspective in a patter story can strengthen a presentation by making the protagonist the victor. The Classic Magic of Larry Jennings contains an outstanding effect called Larry Jennings' "Homing Card." The performer holds four red cards and the ace of spades. He places the ace aside and shows the remaining four red cards. Yet a moment later, the ace has returned to the packet. The performer still holds only four cards, but one of them is now the ace. This sequence is repeated over and over. Each time the ace is placed aside it returns to the packet. The packet gets smaller and smaller, but the ace is still there.

Eventually, the performer is down to only two cards, the ace of spades and one red card. He places the ace aside and holds onto the red card. A moment later, this lone card has changed to the ace of spades. The b00k provides Michael Skinner's excellent patter story for this trick. It involvea the time in the performer's childhood when his

ZJ*" I , to teach him a card trick. The trick involved the ace of but. because of a superstitious fear of the card, the performer ing it aside. Because the card was required in the trick, the kCpt r kept making it magically appear among the performer's cards, to"- I* found this patter story appealing I did not feel comfortable U h sting myself in the role of a student and particularly did not with ®a8i(jea 0f the performer losing a duel to someone else, even hia llk° father. Once again, changing the point of view was the solution. ° h nging the point of view I was able to preserve essentially the By conflict situation while resolving the conflict in favor of the SaTrmer. I'll givc Patter exactly as I deliver it in this trick. I P- what the action of the effect should be clear from the patter. Just ember the ace is continually placed aside. Yet every time the ^"former says the phrase "The Ace of Spades Trick." the ace is shown PChave returned to the packet. (You'll note this is an example of the tennis match story format I mentioned earlier.)

Sometimes after a performance someone will come up to me and ask me to teach them a card trick. I always try to explain that the kinds of tricks I do take years of practice. You can't just teach someone how to do them in a few minutes. But then they sometimes say, 'You must know one easy trick I could do for my friends." I never teach them. Not after what happened t.lie last time I tried to teach someone a card trick. I had said to the guy, "I'll teach you The Ace of Spades Trick. It uses one red card, two red cards, three red cards, four red cards, and the ace of spades." But I noticed that, as soon as I handed him the cards, he got a little nervous. He said, "I don't mind using the four red cards. But I've heard that the ace of spades is a bad-luck card. If you don't mind, I'm going to just place the ace of spades aside and do the trick with just the four red cards. I'm sure no one will even notice that I'm using four cards instead of five."

I said, "No, for this trick you need the ace of spades." I palmed the ace of spades—invisibly. I tossed the ace of spades over to his cards and I said to him, "Will you let me teach you The Ace of Spades Trick?"

At this point the guy started to perspire. He said, "I'm part Gypsy. We Gypsies believe the ace of spades is the death card. If you don't mind I'd rather just place the ace of spades aside and do the trick with just three red cards. I'm sure it'll still be a good trick even with only three cards." I said, 1The trick won't work that way." 1 palmed the ace of spades—invisibly. I tossed the ace over to his cards and I said to him, "Now can I teach you The Ace of Spades Trick?"

cnrv tricks typically cast the audience in the role ofWit„ than participants. Most story effects are what David JJjf up-and-watch tricks. ^Us«huu

I'm not for a moment suggesting that an effect must contain a , participation to be strong. Some of the most powerful effec£S*S ul magic are of the shut-up-and-watch type. However 'ncV reliance on such effects places the audience in too passive a thus makes it harder to mamtaxn a high level of ^««nd involvement. men<*

The second problem with story tricks is that they lack a Sp immediacy. In reality, of course, the audience is watching eveC** are happening now. Nevertheless, since the theme of these effL the retelling of events that occurred some time in the past T18 tricks contain a particularly predetermined quality as compared most other close-up magic. 0

Its the difference in feel between watching a taped televw,«,,, program and watching a live news telecast of some exciting event as it is unfolding. The former can certainly be entertaining; however, the latter can be riveting. The sense of immediacy is one of the greatest strengths of live entertainment in general and close-up magic in particular, but it is this very sense of immediacy that suffers in story effects.

Once again this "canned" quality of story tricks only becomes a problem if you use too many such tricks in one performance. If you do only one or two story effects in the course of a full close-up show, the disadvantages are far outweighed by the advantages cited earlier, not to mention the variety that a good story trick can contribute to a performance. Nevertheless, I think it's worth examining techniques that may sometimes be successfully incorporated into story presentations to overcome the problems of audience passivity and lack of immediacy, thus achieving the best of both worlds. Audience Participation: A moment ago I suggested that spectators can't play a role in a story trick because they weren't present when the story originally occurred. Actually, that doesn't necessarily follow, ^ou can actively involve spectators in the story through the simple expedient of casting them in the roles of various participants in the original episode.

Dai Vernon's presentation for "Triumph" as published in the Stars of VK V8 3 patt€r St0ry" Vernon tells of one particular occasion on Which he was performing a pick-a^ard trick. After the spectator had Zff and returned it to the deck, Vernon handed him the Slijft hi8 amazement, the spectator shuffled face-up cards and face-down cards together, then handed back the deck with

0 0

Post a comment