Variety

While unity is vital to any successful performance, it's imoort» , to confuse umlv with sameness. Unity creates artistic impact " ™ ness creates boredom. Others have commented on the imporun« T magic act has-iug variety. Achieving variety in a magic Achieving variety without sacrificing unity is another matter One of the great challenges in putting together an effective act i, ,„ balance unity and variety. It's important to do so becausete™

Theme receive a thoughtW T* fln rffect in "hil:h J"0« « thought to t J:ieTn efta^f remote viewing. Yeara aeo IJH r ,1 P"™»" effect of introducing to the nuhll mentaUsts a great favm by manifestation of «¿tTpow™^ °f Phys'ca3 Phenomena as » considerable variety to his set h a 3' toda'' a nentalist can add physically alter objects thro k ~emonstrat™B his ability to move or "lay be considered ., sub tb„„ H of ^ Each of these theme of the act. thCme that «»ws logically from the larger

Many magicians, when th-

just a string Of poker d '™ «-(ether a gambling act, end up with crooked gambling than thnt' v„,? " ? ,ot to the theme of poker, another on cheating at ulu", °n{! eiIect "n cheating at 3M lael",,''k- "»'her on cheating at «in inlV or bridge, all popular games. You can «how pe0plc how tiffCB can cheat using false deals, using crooked shuffles, and by timing and switchin« cards. You can do a three-card mo ate t „oiistnition, n demonstration of cutting to the aces, and a routine which you actually play cards with one or more spectators and m .»„rllv win under impossible conditions.

Another way to achieve variety is to engage in shifts in tone that are consistent with your theme, In recent yeara mentalisls have shown neater interest in effects with humorous overtones. Similarly, in a gambling net you can do a deadly serious demonstration of some •closely guarded" secret cheating technique. Yet your next effect may be a three-shell game routine with strong comedy elements.

Props

David Roth performs an act built entirely around coins—indeed, entirely around half-dollars and English; pennies, Yet, by introducing a wide range of subsidiary props, he creates tremendous variety and disguises the fact that the audiences is not only watching magic with the same prop over and over again, but also watching the same few effects (vanishes, productions, and transpositions) over and over again. The use of a purse frame, a cloth hole, a tuning fork, a glass, a brass coin box, a plastic rainbow, and pot of gold give the act great variety while the central prop of coins gives it great unity. In an all-cards act you may do one effect using the full deck, another effect using only a small packet, another in which cards an- laid out in a pattern on the table (such as 'Wild Card" or an ace assembly), a trick like "Card Warp" which uses only two cards, and one or more effects in which the deck itself is transformed (such as a version of "The Color Changing Deck," "All Backs," "Micro Macro, or my own effect "The Lucky Deck" in which faces are printed un a blank deck). Once again you have great visual variety without abandoning the "one prop" concept.

Dramatic Structure

Here is perhaps the^ TeS'

one or two of intermediate length and you 11 give refreshing sense ^ „,„,. mck„ that «!, on

surprise for their impart l"steaa'

Now when you're faced with the prospect of doing performance you can immediately mentally run through* and select one, then mentally run through your closeranT** Once you've settled on those, you can play it by ear in ,Selecl one middle effects. Of, course, as you go along you should ♦ tinS the ever stronger tricks throughout the middle section. Oni! nVe Pick cided it's time to wrap things up, cut right to your closer V^6 de-this a much more effective approach than the con i ^ ^nd structured approach derided by Milbourne Christonh ■ Ur>~ quotation above. er ^ the

As I mentioned last chapter, I abo think it's a good idea t the material in your repertoire into acts even if you never p rgatli!!e effects in this way. It's an exercise that will help y °r,Ul tlle understand proper act construction. It will also help v | ter understand what slot each of the effects in your repertoire ^ suited for. You'll find these insights very helpful when deciding fc to do next during an informal performance. The fact is that most informal performances are not com 1 unforeseen. You usually realize in advance when you're » somewhere that you may be asked to perform. In such cases should construct an act in your mind of the length you think want to perform if you're asked. Also identify one or two of S mS effecte that you can jettison if, when the time comes, you decide 2 should shorten thin^ This gives you the combination of to and structure you need in such cases, 1

Finally, you may wam to put together „ ^ j neks in length that you can perform anytime, anywhere S

PrlncipVsw^JS^?^"* "" opener The I,« wT" , '™k 13 ™e that w°rfcs well as an « f," °De 'hat ,Vmks - a closer. And the closer. tl,at easms ^ from the opener to the penrLl!r„lrtliaJ"'1more.li^ h»PP- to an informal be asked to do one ir T^m T yD"'VC fi"'Shed' *» ">'

someone who has mst j 7' ™ he for the benefit of yourself that one moreSttdbdS?' ^ y°U ^ ^

that you spec'ficaUy chow a^'"1 ^ ,After T^'ve Just done an effect how do you do an encore with , f" because impossible to folio*, One solution is ,0 decide in ° ' " CMinB <"> anti^Iimactic? same time that you MtUe „„ °n " Possible encore item. At the your opener and closer, decide on an-

<f ct at least as strong as the closer, that you'll use as an »'afthe situation calls for it.

■'""'J solution is to follow this rule: the way to follow an An°'ll woble effect (whether it was performed by you or by another an) is to perform a trick so different from the previous one that magic" ct>inpaTis0n. Suppose, for example, that your closer was a ® strong gambling routine or other display of skill. A good encore ' might, be a completely hands-off trick like "Out of this World." only ia this a very strong trick, but it's so different that the it'ence can't compare the two. They have to take each on its own ftU 1 ts For thia reason' the opposite would work just as well; a really Songgambling routine ran follow "Out of this World." Every performance of more than one trick is an act and has tu be structured as such if it's to play as strongly as possible. Even if you never hope to perform at The Magic Castle, you should study the principles of proper act construction, Understanding them will help you in every performance.

tioningly that two cards held together in anything even resembling alignment will always be accepted as one card ai?01^ block of four cards is indistinguishable from a single card R lhat a all believe that if you perform a Hindu shuffle until a special! "stop" then show him the bottom card of the deck, he will belief ^ he has had a free choice. Ve ^at

The Blind Leading The Blind

The source of this consensus reality problem is the fact th magicians rely primarily on other magicians for guidance on what constitutes strong magic. The fact is that when another magician gives you his opinion about whether a trick you've just done for him would be strong for laypeople he is really just telling you whether he personally liked the trick. I need hardly point out that this is Ices than useless in determining whether laypeople will like it. There is a great deal of interesting literature about the psychological mechanisms people use to rationalize their prejudices when faced with contrary evidence. The way magicians cling to their preconceived notions of what constitutes effective showmanship could provide an interesting case study in this field. A striking example can be found on the A1 Koran "Magicassette." The tape consists primarily of soundtracks of Koran performing various effects on television. But it also contains an introduction by Goodliffe. In it, Goodliffe observes more than once that A1 Koran lacked showmanship. Apparently, this is based on Goodliffe's judgment that Koran wasn't as bombastic as he feels a mentalist should be. My own feeling is that the performances that follow Goodliffe's preamble evidence outstanding showmanship.

However, my goal here is not to contrast my opinion with Goodliffe's. What matters is that, on the tape, one can clearly hear Koran receiving very strong audience reactions—gasps, applause, laughter— to his effects. Yet this fact did not lead Goodliffe to consider revising his opinions about what constitutes effective showmanship. In his view, Koran wasn't a strong mentalist because he didn't present men-talism the way Goodliffe happened to believe it should be presented, and the audience's reaction be damned.

Even magicians who are themselves strong showmen often have unfounded prejudices about what constitutes good showmanship. The problem ,s that they know what works for them, but often can't recognize that a very different approach could work for someone else. The moral is: when it comes to showmanship, don't listen to magicians; listen to your audiences. Don't even listen to this book-at

, not uncritically. Test the concepts discussed in it before lav fences and evaluate the results In the language of pop p8y: holoRy. thlS i9 callcd r°a y testmR If more magicians would reality-S what they think they know about showmanship, it could put an end to magical consensus reality.

Commercial Sense

It would seem to follow that all you really have to do to determine what effects will play strongly for you is to try everything out in front of ,-eal audiences of laypeople and just forget about all this theory stuff. And, if you had unlimited amounts of time available for performing and for readying new material for performance, and also had unlimited access to eager audiences, this would be the answer. Of course, none of us, not even professional performers, have the time to audience-test every trick that could conceivably prove to be an effective item for us. When you buy a new magic book you just can't try out every trick in the book on an audience to determine which ones they like.

That's why the single most important quality you must develop as a performer is what I call commercial sense. Gambling cheats and con men use the term "grift sense" to mean the instinct that every good hustler has for recognizing moneymaking opportunities, knowing what scams will be most effective, and how to best work a particular con. In the same way, every successful magical performer eventually develops an instinct for what effects, methods, and presentations will work best for him.

A good Broadway producer has a strong commercial sense in that he can watch a new play alone in a theater and predict whether it will be a hit. Over time, he has developed that insight into what the public likes. The only difference between that kind of commercial sense and the kind you have to develop is that you need an insight, not only into what kinds of things audiences like, but particularly what kinds of things audiences like when you perform them. Thus, as n magician, your commercial sense must be a combination of insights into the nature of audiences and insights into your own strengths and weaknesses.

In large part, commercial sense is merely a matter of developing objectivity. You must be able to septate your own reactions to an effect from the audience's reaction. This is something most magicians seem incapable of doing (witness the Goodliffe example) A* soon as you start to realize that the fact that you like an effect doeant necessarily mean you should add it to your repertoire. youH have

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