hflllenge. "Find card now!" Vernon triumphed over tK, thej!e8een complication by causing all the cards to magicaUy tZ un d^wn except for the selection.
ren Vernon speaks of the spectator in the story having selected « j he has a spectator m his audience select a card. When he 8aVR ft'the spectator returned the card to the deck, he has the «pectau>r thaie audience return the card to the deck. Thus, for the first part of jhe effect, Vernon has, in effect, cast an audience member to play the part of the spectator in the story.
r ting a spectator to play the part of a spectator must qualify aa the irimate in typecasting. It's the most obvious and most common nlication of the idea of having a spectator play an active part in a aP rv trick. However, it's not the only way you can use this idea. ! fflY version of the "Magician vs. Gambler" I tell the story of a wager " L an old card shark and a young card shark. The old man bet between ____„„„„„ V,ot tV,o L..-.. i his entire bankroll and the young one bet the keys to his brand-new
When I get to the point in the story where I mention the wagers I k two of the spectators to act as stakeholders. I hand one of them aSy wallet and I hand the other my keycase. Although they don't i it vet these two props will become very important later since a
Know II- j > ., , ...:n U. i____J —„U „f.l___
pre viously signed card will be found in each of them
What I've done is to cast two spectators to play the parts of two of the original participants in the story I'm telling, thereby giving them an active role in the proceedings. This not only draws these two people more deeply into the effect, it draws in the rest of the audience since they will identify with their two representatives. The standard approach in story effects is for the performer to play all the roles. However, it's actually only essential for him to play the role of the protagonist. When routining any story trick, consider whether any spectators can be cast in supporting roles. This is particularly effective if the role calls for the spectator to make a choice or decision of some kind at some point in the effect. However, even if the spectator's functions will be perfunctory, it may be worth doing to achieve a sense of audience participation—as long as it fits the story and doesn't slow things down too much.
A point worth remembering is that, unlike in casting a movie, in a story effect a spectator may be effectively cast to play a certain role for only part of the story. For example, in Vernon's "Triumph" presentation, the audience member is only cast in the role of the difficult spectator for the first part of the story. He selects a card and returns it to the deck as the earlier spectator had done. However, when the performer speaks of the difficult spectator in the story having shuffled the deck face up and face down, he doea himself. """-nik.
Immediacy and Failure: If you want to battle the proM tricks locking immediacy, there are two techniql>es yau ® °f first is die failure motif. It's often been said that the early " Tk, television had an excitement lacking today. This is beeau8e „ participating and everyone watching knew that it was alwav„ for something to go wrong; even if it did, it would still g0 ' '««ble This is also true when you perform a stDry trick since you not oil tape. lvtV'
However, if you're really a smooth professional, the audience . to forget there is a possibihty of something going wrong—w5 something does 6» wrong. The moment they see you re in »«
they"think. "Oh-oh, that wasn't in the script.. What's he^m^!?'
m» -___-l.r^^J kii nrliat ie Konnoninrr 11.. . & W) QQ
tbt is happening now, it's not merely a replay of anm.^rj*^?*
now?" They are riveted by what is happening, totally absorbed in n, moment. They are suddenly very aware that what they are Wate|u " is happening now, it's not merely a replay of something S happened ill the past.
In the "Magician vs. Gambler," you explain that the magician had to cut to four of a kind in order to win. You then proceed with the effect in such a way as to lead the audience to think that the magician effortlessly succeeded in doing just that. When, instead, you misg on the last card, the audience is shocked and so, apparently, are yog When you succeed in bringing the effect to a successful conclusion and it becomes apparent that the "miss" was itself part of the story you were telling, you have succeeded in achieving the best of both worlds, a stoiy trick with a feeling of immediacy. This technique is not applicable to all story tricks, but please keep it in mind for those where it may be. The failure motif is so powerful that I'll give it separate attention later in this discussion of situational meaning. For now it is enough to note that it can be a powerful tool for counteracting that rehearsed feeling that can hamper story presentations.
Background Stories: The other technique for adding immediacy to story tricks is to use the story as background to the effect rather than as the plot of the effect. I can best explain this with an example. In Funxs book Magical Adventures and Fairy Tales he has a great presentation for the rotating key trick. This is the effect where a fingertip1™6'' key tUrnS mJ'st!!riouslV while balanced on your
Punx tells the Story of the night he spent in a reputedly haunted room m an old Scottish Inn. Unable to sleep, he stayed up by candlelight he story itself is being told by candlelight. He mentions the room key strong Mogii
, ,,„„.. when he went to bed, then produces that, key „ lBft in the doorman ^ ^ of ^^ h0
- fi if held by an invisible hand. As he describes v t*» - ' " v«nsertipTtarL to turn. He tells of how the key fell ^ thfcfndl suddenly extmguiahed On cue, the
S^W^i^i^S e^hU. On cu. the "" i flo»' ^d the candle ^ ^ ^ ^ : .
W T. S «5-ist in this story is, it's the ghost; the key . tendering *b°^stss little menace were it not for the impkcation „„vement w behind it.)
°,"Sh° f t ful presentation which cannot be faulted in any way Th,s is » beautiful pre ^ judgmcnt that you want to
§&«•. however, ytnt m presentation of this effect. You
„¡gilt P™csed,"ne° the guests arc sitting around talking. The Afl" »Is « he suhject of the supernatural (because you've conversation turns to ^ dilcotion). As always happens in such skillfully ste°reett ,e recount uncanny experiences they've had.
cages, vano V You tell of yow recent vacation to England and
MOW it' y°ur '^„t in a Scottish Inn in a room rumored to be 11,6 "t'lCsS goes that a grisly murder was committed m that tainted. The « ^^ ^^ any otheI detalls al!cept that
"" ^n^occurred on the stroke of midnight.
first checked in. the thought of sleeping in a haunted room ^Yd^ou Bufafmidrnght approached you had second thoughts „mused you^ BUI t dock strib twelve A m t bV' « Z heard a noise at the door. Looking in that Srr^ you d .eft in the keyhole turn slowly
Sown accord. A moment later it fell to the floor. What may have occurred m the room after that you'll never know ¿«use you were out of there in a flash and spent the rest of the Lit in your car. When you returned the next morning to collect your belongings, on an impulse you took the room key. (At this point you remove the key from your pocket.)
At first you tried to convince yourself that what you thought you'd seen was a case of your eyes playing tricks on you in the moonlight. However, since that trip you have on several occasions seen something unexplainable happen to that key, always exactly at midnight. Someone points out that it ¡8 almost midnight now. (You have, of course, carefully timed the start of your story. If the group is a little slow on the uptake, you yourself can "notice" that it's almost midnight.)
You look at your watch as the second hand approaches midnight, .lust as it reaches twelve, you shift your attention to the key which is now
«(¡d, balanced on your fingertip. Slowly, it is seen to rotate 88 ,f a ghostly hand, then fall to the floor. if t^
Feel free to employ this presentation if you wish. You d«w. to wait until midnight. Admittedly the witching hour adV**1 W atmospheric touch. However as long as you perform J* night, you can always claim that the murder occurred fiv ^ >t after whatever time you start telling the story. uve
This presentation employs the same effect and essentially «, patter story that Punx did. However, where Punx's perforj* 8a»>o a reenactmcnt of the story, my presentation uses the story 2? prologue to the exhibition of a phenomenon which is happ^T 1 and which, therefore, no one can be certain will actually occ"8 "°'J the moment it does. (Study Henry Christ's "Dead Mans Hand-"1'1 another good example of using story patter as background.) f°r The previous presentation utilized what I call the Occult porm one that is very common in the field of bizarre magic: (1) The perfo mer introduces an exotic prop. (2) He then tells some supernatuM tale concerning that prop. (3) He uses the prop to produce a phenomenon that appears to validate the tale.
In the above case, I felt it would be dramatically more effective to tell the tale first, then introduce the prop. However, that's only a minor variation on the formula. It's a formula particularly well suited to effects with an occult or supernatural theme and one you'll encounter often if you read publications specializing in bizarre magic. It shouldn't be surprising that a branch of close-up magic that relies so heavily on the creation of atmosphere should make frequent use of story patter.
This background story technique is not only applicable to supernatural effects like "The Haunted Key," "The Dead Man's Hand," and bizarre magic effects. Here is an example from my own repertoire where I use the idea to present a straight card magic effect. I use this presentation for a two-card transposition effect where a card placed in my pocket changes places with another card held in my hand. The effect, called "Nulda's Revenge," will appear in Cardshark. However, there are several published "pocket transpositions" to which the patter could be applied equally well. Here is my exact patter: In my book Gambling Scams I tell a story about a card cheat I know who specializes in holding out. This means that early in the game he palms a high card out of the deck and hides it in his pocket. Later, when it will do the most good, he switches that card for one of the cards he's been dealt. On one occasion he went to the post office and bought some stamps. Later he was playing poker in a cardroom in Gar-
, -, California. Forgetting that he had stomas i t'^Ued L scam of palming out a cord «W^*** fofpocket. Later he switched that card for one ofZZl'T
L dealt. It wasn't until he spread h,s hand on the talu ,u Caw that the switched—in card had a postage sZ^ 'J^ ,L faCC. A liUlc old lady m the «a,nc l°<>l<cd up ouST *
id, "So, someone mailed you an ace of diamonds?" Zmr readers have questioned whether a card cheat could really switch a card m his hand for one in Ins ,Kckel game without getting caught. Let s put the question to the test At this point, 1 perform the two-card transposition effect. The effcct does not involve postage stamps and is ,n no way presented as a recreation of the story I ve told Rather, an amusing anecdote is uL Z a prelude to the effect, both fonts inherent entertainment value and to add meaning to what would otherwise be an amazing but meaningless effect. (The anecdote ,s told as a spectator is 8,gninB the faces of the cards to be used in the effect, so the story also serves to fill in what would otherwise be dead time.)
Overshadowing the Magic: A final danger to avoid in story presentations is creating a situation where the tail (tale?) wags the dog. It's important not to lose sight of the fact that the story should support the magic, not the other way around. Unfortunately, the story potter approach tends to attract magicians who nre* more interested in talking than in doing magic. This is one of the biggest reasons the technique has fallen into disrepute with some magicians. Very few magicians have the story telling skills to hold an audience's interest throughout a long story, yet too many are willing to try. Even if you do possess such skill, it's still better for the sake of your magic to show restraint. René Lavand, perhaps the most effective exponent of story presentations in close-up magic, is acutely aware of the danger of allowing the story to overshadow the magic. He has often spoken of the need to achieve "equilibrium" between story and effect rather than "allowing the story to kill the magic or the magic to kill the story."
I've already praised Punx's book Magical Adventures and Fairy Tales. However, one effect in that book provides a good example of what I advise against. Punx gives his presentation for the "Penetration Frame." He observes that the effect itself takes only about a minute. Yet, he tells us that his story presentation for the effect takes six minutes. He goes on to say that often at the conclusion of this effect some audience members are in tears. I don't doubt that statement since the patter is quite touching. I'm sure, however, it's the story that i$ evoking this reaction, not the magic.
Consider what this presentation accomplishes. Teari card destroys the deck. Restoring the card saves you"! Up a Pla spend two dollars and fifty cents to buy another pack hav'n»5 matter of earthshaking import. However, destroying °0t ^cj,^ instrument worth five thousand dollars is another m 1 ^¿i! restore that, it really means something. a«er. if y *
No doubt, some will respond that the audience knows th isn't true and that the card being torn and restored i f' the «on thousands of dollars. It's also true that when an audieS Woith actor act out a death scene on stage they know that the"0? Sees ^ true and the actor isn't really dying. Nevertheless, such a '5 n°l bring the audience to tears. This is because a good story06*16 ttla-creates a dramatic reality that has its effect on an audien ^ tlie fact that they know it's not true. ce despite
The realization that the story is fiction is an intellectual impact of the dramatic reality is an emotional one. Good sto°ne' ^ captures an audience's imagination, which is what all good P8tler should do.
As with any dramatic technique, proper use of story presentations requires care and a lot of thinking. You mustn't overdo it, either in the sense of using the technique too frequently or in the sense of over-elaborating the story to the point where it dwarfs the magic. However, when used skillfully, story presentation can be a very powerful tool in pursuing our goal of making the audience care about what we do.
The idea of creating a conflict between two different spectators is one which you will not be able to use often. Although it's a less versatile situation than the others we've discussed, nevertheless, in certain tricks it can be exploited very effectively. Consider the "Endless
Chain" effect. The performer forms a chain into a figure eight and demonstrates that if a finger is placed in one loop the chain catches, but if the finger is placed in the other loop the chain comes free. This is usually presented as a gambling game in which the spectator attempts to win by picking the loop that will catch. Needless to say, he always fails.
This standard presentation creates a conflict between the performer and the spectator and can be quite effective for that reason. However, here is an original presentation that places the emphasis on a conflict between two spectators.
Strong Magic how the game works and claims that it „ performer demonatraWs ^ Hc exp]flin8 lhat the COn
^Yd-time S « : ability to judge character. Hc must li 1 key *,n iiB opponent someone who is irresolute, easy to jS* * PSKng inTcourage of his convictions. ,gyche out. an audience he comments that he would
Turn»"* as an opponent because ho can tell that she is just the
^rPickh ^Ued individual who would be impossible to beat He 90ft ofstrong-J"1' an.s hugband or bovfriend and states that if he then t^ns to u» this is just the kind of weak-willed opponent rt-cre play^S1 ]ine is deUvcred tongue-in-cheek so as not to hc would want, i
°ffendi- rraer allows the man to play and he loses. Forming another The perior ^ ^^ ^ the woman anrf anowg her to choose a loop.
figure eIg re8t 0f the routine follows this pattern. Most of the ghe wins. ^ ,g played with the man and he loses every time. timC«t nallv however, the performer turns to the woman and asks heTto'show her husband how its done. Every time she plays she wins. Throughout the routine the performer can generate considerable humor by commenting about the man's vacillation or his tendency to look to others for guidance as the reason for his losing. He tells the spectator that he must learn to think for himself and have faith in his judgment or he'll never win. This is the secret his wife has learned. At one point, the performer can effectively use a clever bit from Jules Lenier's "Endless Chain" routine. The spectator places his finger in one loop. The performer points to the other loop and gives the spectator a knowing wink. If the spectator moves his finger to the loop indicated by the performer, he pulls the chain free and the spectator loses. The performer comments, "You think I'm going to help you? She never would have fallen for that." If the spectator keeps his finger in the original loop, the performer pulls the chain free and the spectator loses. The performer comments, "You can't say I didn't trv to help! J
Finally, the performer forms the figure and has the man place one truth Theto Z HC PUHf ^ Cham taUt N°W comes the momlt of
2ectI^ S wmUS\rem°Ve "ne fl^er- Wm ^ choose the wife and asks her to adv-
her' WSS.^^? Ch00se ^ heed her advice or to ignore man Zes U^eZ^ Tu^ ^ S° that -therway
Performerfinishe fby sayfnVC , ^ f*"' he 10868 and **
her " * he has followed^ aJ*g ^ T? lear° * to advice, he loses and the performer fini-
shes by saying, "Someday maybe you'll learn to h own judgment." fait],
Anyone familiar with the throws used in the "Enril easily follow the method for the preceding routine Tk Clli>in" point IS that the performer has fashioned a stro ""Port!'" presentation from a conflict he has generated between"?' ®S4»i» t" one in which he seems to only play the part of a refc spc=tat'
In fact, the concept could be taken still further hv „i, gambling con premise entirely and presenting the ch "^""'"B ft new device now being used in marriage counseling w-§aitle ^ a creative thought this could make for an extremely funnv !tl1 the performer playing the part of the counselor. ' routirie ^
Note, incidentally, that the patter has been fashion d foreshadow the climax regardless of whether or not th 10
follows his wife's advice. If he disregards her advice it is f Bpectat« he lose because it has been established that she is the onl ^ ^ can beat the game. If he follows her advice it is logicat'thanT WIw because the performer has stressed that the spectator's fat I fl 'D8e his willingness to be swayed by others. (For the record I'll' n " above presentation "The Lady or the Tiger?";) ' ^
I'll provide you one more example of an effective spectato spectator presentation for a standard trick. "The Spelling Less' r an old effect in which the performer removes all thirteen cards °f " suit from the deck. He shuffles the packet then Spel]a w transferring one card from the top of the packet to the bottom for eank
[i tU™ 0Ver the new toP card °f the packet and it is the ace. Me repeats the process to produce the two and the three.
He then hands the packet to a spectator who is instructed to spell out four. However, when the spectator finishes spelling and turns over
""."J " » ae wronB card, perhaps a joker. The performer
Z. ani/UCCMds in arriving: at the four. This pattern
TZ^ perforraer always arriving at the spelled card and the
STk TayS ¡>rodll<™S: the joker when he tries, until all thirteen cards have been spelled out.
ImafrV!30 PkyS °ff a anaict performer and a reaUv W T " Very Btron? crafli« because the effect doesn't light order or not7^01151 ^ Wheth" the Cards COme 0,,t in
ThrieA™0!JteFnatiVe,,lre8entatiDn ^signed for family audience*-perhaps ten „r fPPIOaches 3 youngster in the audience who is school He th™ T lears °ld' Ho asks the child if he is smart in h°<* good he is at spelling. The performer that spawns '» important in magic; ]J you .
«pl'^' ting » maRic formula "r ¡"^tion the ZS,« ^TS^O"^- """"»»Kid h°i0 T-formep then produces the packet of card, and w . The Perf0'"nd turn over the top card. It is. of coum! T' ™ =h,M »P»11 fr also succeeds in spelling and locating ft,' tlT^ >'oU"S Now the performer hands the packet to the chili, fath„ ™
lMet-m7p"U ■four IortMd f thE four- «•» joker tum.1 ^continues in this fashion. The child i, a,way. 3SJ* 15 "rent is ldw«ys unsuccessful. ,ul fjfc t. >he child h"8 taen c"tt"I0le wWch l!,e perfc™« Plays
.¿/standard presentation whde the parent ,s cast ,„ the r0|e *f
Th° f,rformer ^nin only a referee who
„ides occasional pointed comments. ( And scientist* claim that IQ '"hereditary!" "Obviously, young man, you take after your mtthcl.. ■Boca yonf fatbor ever P y™ W y°Ur No'' You're lucky-")
ThiE presentation should produce considerable glee from the child both at his success and at his parents failure. This, in turn, will enerate entertainment for the rest of the audience Because the child will consider the whole enterprise important, it will become important to the audience.
Keep in mind that in order for a spectator vs. spectator conflict to be effective, the audience must be given muse to root for one over the other. Indeed, this ia true of any conflict presentation. Many movies have failed with audiences because they were unable to generate any sympathy for the protagonist. Consequently, people simply didn't care whether the hero or villain triumphed.
In a presentation where the performer is cast as the protagonist in the conflict, the audience will presumably root for him because he has previously established his character as appealing and sympathetic slid has established a rapport with them. In the case of a spectator vs spectator conflict, if you were simply to choose two spectators at random from the audience with whom to do the spelling trick, the presentation would have little impact.
The two examples I've just given work because they exploit built-in conflicts of family life; the inevitable conflicts between spouses and the inherent conflicts between parent and child. They provide emotional satisfaction for the audience by, in each case, casting the underdog in the conflict as the victor. (Our society is still sufficiently male-dominated that the wife or girlfriend will be viewed as the sympathetic underdog figure in the "Endless Chain" routine.) If you »ere to perform the "Endless Chain" with the wife as the loser and the husband as the winner it would be far less effective , reverse the roles of parent and child in the "SpelWi U results would be disastrous. ^880n;. ^
These two examples also draw strength from exploit^«, tw cliches of television sitcoms and indeed of our society in Z 8tar»laM domineering wife or girlfriend paired with a weak-wUleH^1' the crafty child who always outwits his parents. Let me re *an ar^ the point I stressed in the discussion on story patter: In »J*81 presentation the audience must have reason to root f0r J ^"flict principals and they must be given the emotional satisfaction of °f th* that principal win. seeing
Before leaving the subject of conflict situations I want to point that performer's conflicts need not involve other people or °Ul machines. A clever performer can create audience interest evenT becoming locked in combat with an inanimate object. If you evers Fred Kaps perform Braue's "The Homing Card" you know whan mean. Again and again Kaps was foiled by a black card that stubbornly insisted on returning to the packet of red cards in hi8 hand. When performed by a master actor like Fred Kaps this became a real and very funny conflict.
The performer may even find himself in a conflict with fate itself This approach works best as a comedic theme for an entire act Despite his best efforts, everything seems to go wrong for the performer. He just can't seem to get a break. The audience looks forward to each new effect to see what obstacles will arise in the hapless performer's path and how he will cope with them. If you use some imagination, you'll find there are many opportunities to inject conflict into your effects. In so doing, you'll make those effects more gripping and more meaningful to the audience.
When I was a youngster, my father would watch boxing on television every 1-nday night. I always found these matches excruciatingly on ?T ,n t,Wait for them t0 be over so I could watch something on IV that I liked.
One Friday night my father proposed that we wager a quarter on the boxL«,T? 3 XGr 3t random t0 bet on. That night I found the ooxmg match riveting.
„1 gamblers have long known that any event he™ profes-^^ve got a bet down on it. Thats why wW ^ m°re
"ter they tod something to wager on. Whether if, whirh A
ret bor««g tny^ reflch ^ bottom of fl w.ndQw ^^ ^cb^op
°f!!rTubeVfly wil1 decide 10 land on. such wages'?nich SUCg Periods into interesting experiences. * turn ho™K
Wfll „mber "The Man From the South"? The situation in »k . R:fsoimpelling, not only because of the conflict'St abL re sties were so high. The young man risked losing hiSe^T <a n magician, you can sometimes make an effect far more comn=n i S the stakes In other words, offer to risk 1 the outcome of the trick. Presentations of this kind usuallv fl.nl? So categories, financial risk and physical risk. > faU ,nto
Performer's Financial Risk: Examples of financial risk presentation«, would include gambhng routines in which the performer plays a earn! of cards with one or more spectators and offers to forfeit some siLble amount of money if he loses. A specific example of this approach is -Beat the Dealer" from Cardshark. Other illustrations of this presentation can be found in Del Ray's act.
Non-gambling examples of this approach include prediction effects where the performer backs up his prediction with a hundred-dollar bill as in John Thompson's version of Koran's "Five-Star Prediction." Another is the classic "Bank Night" effect where several spectators are given a chance to win some of the performer's money if only they can guess correctly. Some performers use the same approach for Annemann's "Seven Keys to Baldpate" trick. The lock guards a substantial amount of cash which will go to whoever picks the right key.
There are a great many other effects to which this type of presentation could be adapted. Of course, it won't work for every effect. Offering to risk a hundred-dollar bill on the outcome of an ace assembly doesn't make much sense. What you need is a trick where you can state in advance what the desired effect will be and in which the chances of failure seem great. Indeed, for best results, the odds against success should seem overwhelming. Even a pick-a-card trick can be enhanced by offering to wager money on your success, but only if it's a pick-a-card trick that's performed under seemingly impossible conditions.
I need hardly add that it should also be a trick where there is actually no possibility of your fading. The audience would be embarrassed, not entertained, to see you fall flat on your face. Some magicians fail to grasp this last point. They mistakenly feel that the appeal of such presentations is that the spectators have a chance
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