If you think about the questions you most think you'li find that most of them can be 8et fro The great thing about doing so i8 that VotniMiered 4»
interest in the effect will be high since .t relate" 'X^JV
that's on the spectator's mind. And since it's a qUeJ y all the time, its answer is bound to interest other that>&S also, not just the person who happened to ask. Pe°P'e I'm not suggesting that you do tricks at inappropriate because someone happened to ask you one of these c^^^i^ dons. Sometimes the best response to a question is a s0tnm°n However, in situations where you're already performin-UIlpl!; an»»t. judge that doing a trick is appropriate, there is no more efr^rew to open than to let the audience provide the interest-ca^^ *», form of a question they pose to you. her to ^
Using a spectator question as a springboard for a trick is effective interest-catcher that it's a pity to have to wait f ^ spectator to ask the question before you can do the trick. So d'' wait. Suppose there's a question that laypeople often ask v0u aw! magic and you've fashioned an effect to answer that question Sir« the question comes up frequently you know it's probably on peop!^ minds even if they don't come up and ask. Why not introduce the effect by asking yourself the question, then answering it with the effect?
Perhaps you have a great trick you do whenever someone asks you what is the most difficult trick you do. If you feel like doing the tack and no one has asked the magic question, just introduce the effect by saying, "People often ask me what is the most difficult trick I do." Now, do the trick.
Mentalist Lee Earle opens one effect by saying, "People often ask me 'If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?'" This is a beautiful interest-catcher because practically everyone who sees a mentalist perform wonders how come, if he really is psychic, he doesn't use that power to pick winners at the racetrack or stocks on Wall Street. Earle doesnt wait for someone to bring it up. He beats them to the punch and, in so doing, ensures that everyone will pay close attention to the effect he performs to answer that question.
Similarly, 1 start one effect by saying, "People often ask me whether I'm allowed to play cards in Las Vegas." I then perform an effect that demonstrates why I've been barred from the blackjack tables. Sin«
Strong Magic already on overyono'a mind before I raised it, their
.n,rr<*«,n . t ,ruth is absolutely essential for this technique to u--p i" 0,111 . «sk yourself a question that is on people's minds.
orl *'ht'n Vw «Vlves -Yeah, 1 was wonderinB that." In fact, often thcv'U say t0u inverted question technique I'll see heads nodding in *hcn ' „ as I pose the question. That» proof that I've hit ,he sudience a attention to the tnck. However, if I were to n nerve *nd "j* trick by aaying. "People often say to me, 'Darwin, .ntroduce a rop lie a shank knot?'" the audience reaction would
„bat's the best waj be, Huh: there's no great mystery to figuring out which inverted ^member, ^^ ^ which ones won't. Just listen to your questions w^ quegtions they ask you over and over are the ones that 'iS?their interest when you pose them to yourself.
. r au the interest-catchers we've looked at involve patter. But metimes you can capture the audience's imagination before you *tter a word. You do this by pulling out a prop that fascinates the audience, a prop that makes them think, "What is that?" or. "What on earth is he planning to do with that?"
Bizarre magic is a field that makes constant use of this ploy. Almost every effect seems to start with the performer introducing an amulet, talisman, statuette, ritual implement, or other occult tool. Stephen Minch once published a bizarre magic effect that begins with the performer taking out a jar containing a human eye floating in formaldehyde. There's an opening guaranteed to wake the audience. Even if you don't conjure with body parts, you can still use this technique. When I perform "Card Warp" I use my "Card Warp Deck" idea from Daruiin Ortiz at the Card Table. This means that I start by removing and displaying a deck in which every card has a different back: advertising cards, casino cards, souvenir cards, all mixed together. In 'The Lucky Deck," also from the same book, I start by taking out and fanning a blank-faced deck. This may be a common sight to magicians, but not to laypeople. In each case, the strangeness of the deck makes the audience curious to see what I'm going to do with it If you do Brother Hamman's "Micro Macro," you'll find the «jme thing happens as soon as you take out the miniature deck of dfaLlE"™ 3g0, MaX Maven marketed a" effect that used a pair of « with no spots on them. If you do that effect. I suggest opening by rolling those dice out on the tabJe before v most common "intriguing props" in magic is a blank playing cards and unspotted dice, a b l PUl"ae f°h&or obviously useless concept that people will 83 Purs„ - ""e.
audience interest. In fact, his entire close-up """"'i of c attractive anil unusual props, a new one he,no ; 2 buiu'H, of each effect. Today, David Roth is a master fdu®i at t|S3 addition to using a purse frame, he starts effectsh"''8 '•cbn? holes, tuning forks, plastic rainbows, or disemb ? pu"ing 1» Even his coin box functions as an intn>i,i„~ . °died Jacb, .., c iiuw», Or disernborl '°Sout„i 1
Even his coin box functions as an intriguing pro , JacWt ,|. i they've never seen anything- like it before. P °r ^J'PeopjJ6,^'.
I don't recommend that you incorporate exotic where they serve no useful purpose. Sure the aurt'*^8 ml0 e» "What's he going to do with that?" But they'll be df"*" »«j!" they find out that the answer is, "Nothing much " PP01I«e<i vfc(J I do suggest that you look at your repertoire to see if ft, effects where you can effectively substitute something more mundane prop. (Keep in mind that the item S"'nS'«ti persona. If your character is that of a card shark a„ ovT jar probably won't fit in. But a twenty-dollar gold pie- ™ T'"6 suggest that when using intriguing props that you rouh™ ,>>1 ^ .n such a way as to get the prop in view as early aa ™ sooner it's out there working to grab the audience, L befer Ti*
The Lead-in Effect a°nne^Si,KlniqU,e ^ M audience's interest at the start rf an effect that works well with some tricks is to do a quicltieTfeU leads into the more elaborate effect. The most commonTxaSt
red 2 a, i dr a Il,nS sandwi=h "«tine "sing the to.
Chy manLr Th ™ ^ Md JacltS' he •>r°du<*s ' »
matetheauH „ 1 "P"-** ** stunt is enough t„
the e/acLTstXhT 6 th3t WhateVer hC 18 "itl
"illy aODfeSlf? y i0mB to be worth watching. This technique is effective C£rtain effecfa' but right spot it can be atart"try°rfeIctWati; StreSS that you sh»uldn't V™ blre " sible opening ft, „ n Interest-catcher. Sometimes, the bestpos-6 tor an effect is to say, "Pick a card." But, particularly in
„lT part of your performance, before you've really established lhe if It help» » i1™ advantage m K,„bbi„E ,kt your®3"' interest-hatching openings are one more tool for ¿Tt pulP"68-
What Is Progression?
r. Technique of Acting, F. Cowles Strickland writes. "That which In: must always be made to seem more important and more follow ^^ (hat which ha8 pre^jed, , ETan m 0„clB]rt to
'"'"tain the same level of interest will not satisfy an audience." In """at book, Magic and Showmanship. Honning Nelms talks about h'3 ® iBSue in terms of how the interest curve must continually °n a performance. He writes, "The interest that an audience takes 11SC ovthing never remains constant. If we do not increase it, it will
^ 8udience is entertained only while interest is rising." Those two statements are worth your closest study. The insight they tain is one of the tnost iundamentaL yet profound secrets of ^ccessful performing. The audience must feel a sense of progression throughout your entire performance and also within each effect. We'll be talking about progression in the overall performance in the section on The Act. Right now I want to talk about structuring an individual effect to achieve progression.
In an effect with a single climax, progression is usually not difficult to achieve. Things naturally tend to move toward the climax and the judiencs can sense that. It's in multi-phase effects that a lack of progression is most likely to destroy a good trick. By multi-phase effects I mean tricks like the "Ambitious Card," "Oil and Water," or a one-at-a-time "Coins Through the Table." In such tricks, you do the same sort of thing several times in a row.
Many tricks require a multi-phase approach. Some effects are over too fast for the audience to fully absorb. They feel that they were caught unprepared and want another chance to see the phenomenon. For example, I've never seen a performance of the "Ring on Wand where the spectators didn't respond by saying, "Do it again." Other effects are statistical. A single performance means nothing: they gain power only from repetition. If you and I cut for high card and I win, it doesn't prove much. The odds were only fifty-fifty; maybe I just got lucky. But if we do it six times in a row and 1 win each time, that's quite uncanny.
Yet this repetition, which mav be the l
" ' — nay oe the kev t also be its downfall if the audience sense- t'i efr,'<"t they
• interesting than the last—the same v.7 -cry ^ ,,.»._ 1 • ec ai"erent " **
the same thing over and over. The moment th** ,heV «L*^
stuck in the station rather than moving forwl y fo*l tW Ju". . > «, condition»: The mo.t common
It's your job to make suro the audien« ^ »A "m more intsrestine than the l„st_,K. feels eVe^ - f*^* t vcrH«^W ^„ible condition., intrinsic Progression.
/W.iuvU The raw' common and generally
Admittedly, there are some exceptions—eff enon is so astonishing that even an exact re Whet* tf»e achieve a sense of progression. The exhibitio^'1'0" ** e^'«: doesn't change, but the audience's appreciat? °f the Phe?ltt '-
repetition, creating that necessary sense of nrn^.0" er°wa ^"N
Jn such effects, three repetitions seems to be id i'0" the audience thinks. "Did I see what I think I In the firs, missed something.- In the second repetition thev 1 > saw what I thought I saw, but it's imp^LT*' X I repetition, they think. "Its hopeless. No matter h °n the * ' does it, I'll never understand how it can be." °W man>' tiuip^
A perfect example of this occurs in Larry Jennings' "Open Travel! an effect where you do the same thing three times, and the audt" gets more excited each time. However, even with the most miraculrf phenomenon, more than three identical repetitions will cause tfe interest curve to drop.
One effective approach is to introduce a more stringent condition after the third repetition. A perfect example occurs in the Edwarl Victor "Eleven-Card Trick." The first three phases are identical. Each time the performer counts the cards he has one less than he should If he were to repeat the same thing a fourth time, audience interest would drop. Instead, the performer introduces a new condition on the next phase. He has the spectator count the cards, yet there is still one less than there should be. This new wrinkle boosts audience interest in the rest of the routine.
If you can somehow make each repetition more impossible than the last, you may find you can effectively repeat many more times. Just watch Daryl perform the "Ambitious Card" sometime. He brings the card to the top over a dozen times, yet the interest curve never drops.
But if he were to perform the exact same actions in exactly the same way, he would lose the audience by the fourth repetition, if not sooner.
Very few multi-phase effects are as strong in each individual repetition as the "Open Travellers." Most will require that you giw them a sense of progression by somehow making each phase more interesting to the audience than the last. Here are the various ways you can do it.
tHe « spectator and w.n To make it impreaaivt rw,n . ooker with a.8PeC^?reforo we p,ay five hands in a row i all five hands, the audience would
... Ortiz at "" ■ -^ h d up poker with a spectator iind win lo mane n „„,,, p!ay jVjtitions are needed Therefore wo play five hands in fUowed the same procedure on all five hands, the audience would tunliy lose intcri"st doePite the astonishing fact that I win every
CV "l under impossible conditions. Therefore, I've structured the han go that the conditions become more impossible each time.
vTth each repetition I give the spectator more and more control over how the cards are shuffled and distributed, yet I still win
Another good example of progression through escalating conditions is
Darvl's "Ambitious Card" routine. The first couple of times he inserts the card in the center and it rises to the top. Then he does the same thing with a small packet of cards. The audience sees this as a tougher condition since there seems less opportunity for concealing sleight of hand. Next he allows a spectator to hold the deck as he
• k«. rard in the center. Obviously, this restricts the possibility«
.JL the card in the center. Obviously, uu. —jos r r sleight of hand even further. Yet. the card jumps to the top even vhile the spectator is holding the deck. Finally, he ties the deck with " ece of rope. Clearly, this would seem to rule out any possibility whatever for manipulation of the cards. Yet, when he inserts the card in the middle, it still rises to the top. As with the previous example, the trick gets more and more impossible as it goes along. One of the reasons why Larry Jennings' "Amhitious Classic" is such a great trick is that progression is built into the very premise of the trick, You start with a five-card packet and perform an Ambitious Card sequence. Then you discard a card and do it again. After each phase, you discard another card. The audience feels that with fewer and fewer cards, their chances of catching you should increase. Yet, you fool them each time—even when you only have one card left. The same thing also happens in the Braue and Jennings versions of 'The Homing Card."
Creating progression by tightening the conditions is such a natural thing that audiences instinctively seek it if you don't provide it. You can prove this to yourself with a simple experiment. Perform a five-phase 'Ambitious Card" routine for a group of laypeople. Make each phase look exactly like aU the others, perhaps by using a pass each tune. By the third phase you'll find that someone will ask if he can sec we face of the card just before you insert it in the deck. If you accede hw request, the next time someone will ask if he can insert the card
slightly by holding back convincing features 0f ,k these convincing features step by step until, in th, °iethoH them with the full power of the method. Bo like « PW V reveal his full troop strength in the first battle It]gerieral w^'Sk in reserve and adds them in stages as combat SS he proerc,
Through Increasing Stakes: A few years ago Peter K trick called "Kane's Variant." This is a fine effect in Jh?/®3^ gambling game with the spectator and win. Since you »S^pC* recommends wagering a sum of money on the game to V°Se' W He also recommends playing the game three times with th 'nieri This is necessary to prove it wasn't just luck. Unfortu phase is just like the other two phases. ately, e^
In this case, you can artificially generate a sense of progr . simple expedient of wagering more money each time. por'°n by ^ put up a twenty dollar bill on the first game. Then risk a f,fi!aiDplf-bill on the second game. Finally, wager a hundred dollar bill ^ last game. This gives the routine a sense of build. The effect** ^ the same each time, but the situation escalates; therefore, aud^ interest rises. You can apply this idea to any multi-phase' effect volving risk.
Through Speed: Finally, a means of artificially creating a sense of progression that works effectively in some routines is a gradué change in tempo. If you perform each phase slightly faster than th one before the audience will get a feeling of making progress even though each phase is actually the same as all the others. This works best in multi-phase effects in which each phase is quite short Interestingly, it is also sometimes possible to create that necessary sense of progression by performing each phase slightly slower and more deliberately than the one before. In René Lavand's brilliant six-phase Oil and Water routine he achieves progression primarily from performing each phase more slowly than the one before, a fact that provides the effect with its patter theme.
3. Surprise And Suspense
"In other words, we're back to our usual alternatives: Do we wont suspense or surprise?"
To use terminology sometimes employed in connection with short stones, magic effects may be classified into two categories, revelatory
1 The revelatory effoct is one that ends in an
A conf»ri,na"°n the many versions of J'he Color-Changing Duck ^^eaud^-!known examples of this type These two
011(1 ocCted way; The conformational effect IB one that ends exactly <5ythie category^ expectcd. -wnd Card," "The Homing Card." and the z Ace8" ar® t reflect the two most powerful dramatic tools cJeVf'le* performer, surprise and suspense, lable to aval'
__ ■ ¿oes not mean that there will be no dramatic surprises; it means 1/v that there must be no surprises which do not. as they unfold mate total sense to the audience."
Nash & Oakey, The Screenwriter's Handbook
There are few things in magic as strong as u truly surprising climax. Anyone who does magic quickly discovers this fact to his delight. Consequently, the tendency is to utilize this weapon indiscriminately. In the following pages we'll consider the use and abuse of surprise as a dramatic tool.
There are two ways in which surprise may be incorporated into the pjjjnax of an effect. The first is to provide a surprise climax instead of the one the audience has been led to expect. The second is to provide a surprise climax after the one the audience has been led to expect.
The Reverse One-Eighty: By a twist ending effect I mean one that ends completely differently from the way the audience expected. There are two common ploys for achieving this result. The first I term the reverse one-eighty: at the last moment, the action of the effect makes a complete turn-around. A perfect example is "The 0. Henry Aces" plot. The effect begins as a classic-style slow-motion ace assembly. The first ace travels to join the leader ace. Then the second ace travels to join the leader ace. Naturally, the audience expects that the third ace will do the same. Instead, the direction of the action suddenly reverses. The third ace remains stationary and the other aces travel from the leader packet to join it.
Similarly, in David Roth's Coin Box Routine, four half-dollars begin traveling one at a time from the performer's hand to the box. Just as the audience is ready for the fourth coin to travel to the box, the three in the box travel to join the one in the performer's hand.
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