Archive for May, 2008

Fluidity within magical performance.

Friday, May 30th, 2008


Fluidity within Magical Performance

 

Once we’re a little advanced in magic, one of the main things we’re told is to plan out our performance, our script, even choreograph the main points within the routine as much as we can, but there are many occasions when it pays us to leave the script behind and concentrate on coincidence and happenstance.

 

This can be called adapting to your circumstances, or reacting to the unknown situations that you never want to encounter – but I along with many Magicians call this ability Fluidity, or being more Fluid in your performance.

 

Circumstances often dictate that we have to move into unknown territory, away from our practiced and polished routines – but are you confident enough with your knowledge and experience to be able to do this?

 

Some degree of fluidity is needed in any presentation – otherwise, how would you recover from an error? What would happen if halfway through a routine, one of the spectators who’d up to now been well behaved, turned to the others and said “I’ve seen this one, it’s the one where he makes the card end up in his wallet”?

 

You *could* follow the trick through and end with a card to wallet, but is that the only outcome for that series of sleights?

 

One example from a performance of mine, for a good friend’s Aunt and Uncle, came halfway through the Two Card Monte – after I’d switched just one of the cards over, and asked her whether she thought she was holding the Spade or the Club, she replied with a laugh “Neither, I’ve got the Ace of Hearts!”

 

Now, my Two Card Monte changes the Black Queens to the Red Aces, and I know that there was no way that I’d flashed, or that she’d seen me perform this before, I knew she must have been playing at “fool the magician”.

 

Fortunately though, a quick unseen glimpse at my deck told me that she *was* holding the Ace of Hearts – at this point, why do I need to carry on to the end of the effect, I’ve seemingly changed one of the cards into the card she named. I replaced the other cards on top of the deck, dropped the deck into my pocket, looked her straight in the eye and said “The Ace of Hearts? Now, that’d be something wouldn’t it?” I left a brief pause, still maintaining eye contact then told her to turn the card over.

 

To say that the reaction was stunned would be on the modest side, she literally squealed and laughed – and just because I had the presence of mind to change my presentation halfway through.

 

I’m not saying that this is always a good thing to do, there are many hundreds of circumstances where leaving your tried and trusted presentations and going out on a limb would be a bad idea, but just like all the sleights we practice for hours on end, it’s another weapon in our arsenal.

 

How can we practice this though? Is it even possible to think of all the circumstances that can occur, that would give us chance to exercise our creative muscles?

 

Personally I don’t feel it is, I believe fluidity can only come from real performing experience.

 

You may mess up on occasion, heaven knows I have, countless times – but as long as you remember two of the golden rules, I don’t think you’ll go too far wrong.

 

1. In most performances, there is no need to tell your spectator exactly what’s going to happen – would you introduce an effect by saying “In this presentation, I shall have you choose and sign a card, from where it will continuously rise to the top of the deck”? or even “I’d like you to take a card, and once you’ve signed it and replaced in in the deck, I shall turn the back from red to blue”? Leave the ending of the presentation a complete mystery, and only ever tell your spectators what’s happened, not what *will* happen.

 

2. Always, and I mean always, have an out – have some way of salvaging your routine if all were to go wrong. Fortunately, there are many ways of doing this.

 

Answer the following questions for yourself, and see what results you come up with

 

1. What would you do if the spectator purposefully changed their mind on the card they’d selected?

 

Would you accept what they say and go with the flow – even if it means you’re going to end up looking like a bit of a fool if you carry on with the same effect? Would you change the ending of the effect to encompass this new card too? Would you be nervous at the challenge in front of you and clam up?

 

2. What would you have done in the situation I mentioned in the Two Card Monte Performance?

 

Would you also have forgotten the traditional end of the effect? Would you have corrected her and carried on with the ending – which in my opinion would have been weaker now that one of the kicker cards has been mentioned? Would you have classified her as a tough cookie or heckler, and dealt with her accordingly?

 

3. What are your outs? Do you have something for everything you do?

 

Would you be able to change the ending to the effect so drastically, yet done with enough subtlety that makes the mental change of gear invisible? Would you simply apologise for the trick going wrong and move on to the next item in your routine?

 

Answer these three questions, and you’ll have taken the first step towards a more fluid performance. – to quote Louis Pasteur “Chance favours the prepared mind”

 

The sky is falling!

Thursday, May 15th, 2008


No matter where you go on the internet to find your news and community, sooner or later you’ll see someone talking about how this or that is killing magic.

But is it?

Is magic *actually* dying?

With an unprecedented number of new magicians entering the art, some magicians with what you might call ‘Old fashioned values’ claim that magic is becoming watered down and hijacked, becoming nothing more than a fad.

Whilst this may be true for some, what negative impact does it actually have on the community?

I’ve read on a number of forums, how “All the kids want to do is learn the secret and then expose it on the internet,” and whilst this is undoubtedly true in a small number of cases, in many others, it’s because those new magicians haven’t yet learned any better.

It’s up to *US* as a community to band together and look after the beginners, to teach them the right way to learn, to teach them the power of the magic club or society, and finding a trusted friend with whom to practice.

I have no doubt that reading this entry will be a huge mix of skill levels and experience, from professional to just beginning.

To the beginners, please, be patient with your progress. You might think that one day you’re getting nowhere, and another you’re ready to go out and perform for the world, but please, be patient and brutally honest with yourself.

To the professionals, I beg of you – be a little more lenient and patient with the “kids” who are just beginning. All they want is to learn the right way… Teach, don’t preach.

 

Others say that the prevalence of magic websites such as www.ellusionist.com are to blame for the proliferation of new magicians. Again, now it would seem that a magic store is only ever a google away – but how much easier is that for us?

The closest real magic shop to me, the one I visit most often and would love to hang out at every day, is a hundred miles away - and I’m sure I don’t have it as bad as some.

A few years ago, we would have had to make that journey every time we wanted to pick up a new deck of cards, pick up some refills for our lotions and potions or replace the thumbtip that the cat ran off with. (Don’t laugh, I swear one day I’ll find a dozen or more hidden away somewhere.)

Now, we click on the right name in our favourites and a few moments later, the order is placed and being processed.

Some may say that this takes away a lot of the human contact associated with a visit to the magic shop, but if you’re in a rush… Well, honestly – how many of us were ever able to just nip into the brick and mortar store, purchase the one or two items we wanted and walk out again?
How about the prevalence of magic on TV with shows like Celebracadabra, showing how Celebrities can learn magic quickly? *Surely* that’s to blame for the downfall of magic? The fact that you can tune in almost any day and find a show with magic on it, that the tricks are being performed by a variety of skill levels, cluing our spectators and audiences in when performed badly.

The fact of the matter is that when Penn & Teller can’t kill the Thumbtip by exposing it on international tv, and the efforts of all the Masked Magician’s shows put together can’t keep us down, will the next show that features no exposure do us any bad?
Yet other complaints have been based around custom cards, and the manufacturer’s website being emblazoned across the box. I can honestly tell you that the magician behind one of the top rated effects so far this year has exactly that to blame for hooking him in to magic. If it hadn’t been for a deck of black tiger cards, and seeing “More Black Tiger Gear available from www.ellusionist.com” on the bottom of the box, his entire magical output so far and in the future would never have existed.

That may be just one story – but that’s the first story that springs to mind.

Cards, like anything else, are a tool – they’re like the mechanic’s spanner or the painter’s brush.

They do what the artist chooses to do with them.

That’s right, it’s up to *you* to make them make sense, it’s up to *you* to create a web of mystery surrounding them, or fashion a reason for using them.

Some say that they shouldn’t have to do that – but hey, if we were all the same, we’d all like musical theater…

FLOW NOW RELEASED!

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008


FLOW NOW RELEASED!

FLOW is now released! Click the banner above to get straight to the store page…
** The first 50 orders placed online will be hand-signed by Paul Harris

** 24 hour Price Hack :When you add FLOW to your order, get 10% off of all other items
in your order (other than FLOW).
** The 10% discount will only last for 24 hours from the time of release .
(Discount ends Wednesday May 15th, 2008 at 10 AM Pacific / 1PM Eastern / 5PM GMT)

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Flow by Paul Harris – Ellusionist Exclusive Release

Thursday, May 8th, 2008


Flow by Paul Harris   Ellusionist Exclusive Release

EDIT: Due to circumstances beyond our control, the release of FLOW has now been pushed back to: Wednesday May 14th, 2008 at 10AM Pacific / 1PM Eastern / 5PM GMT 

Flow by Dan Hauss allows the performer to suspend water from an upside down water bottle, and can be performed in virtually any setting, making it an easy and perfect addition to every magician’s repertoire. 

 

This isn’t the trick you learned in the first magic book you ever bought…
As part of the exclusive release, the first 50 copies of Flow that leave the Ellusionist warehouse will be signed by Paul Harris himself* and if the Ellusionist’s recent releases are anything to go by, set your watches extra early as the first 50 will be gone very quickly! Own a piece of autographed magic from one of magic’s *true* legendary thinkers.

 

 

Not only that though, if you order Flow in the first 24 hours after release, we’ll give you a 10% discount off all other items in your order! (except Flow**).

 

Be sure to check back here soon for more information about Flow including preview videos and product shots.

*Online orders only.
** Shipping costs not included in offer.

Celebracadabra Episode 2 & Wise words going unheeded…

Monday, May 5th, 2008


Once again, the smoke has cleared, the shards of broken wand have been swept away, and the canceled sign has adorned another apprentice magician’s picture in The Magic Castle.

Episode 2 dealt with Children’s Magic, and to my mind showed as much how *not* to do it as how to remain professional and appropriate!

What can we take away from episode 2 though? Without going to the obvious “Never, ever invite a school full of children to rip the candy from your absurd candy suit”, the real highlight for me was Lisa Ann Walter’s production of lemonade, when given a bushel of lemons.

Celebracadabra Episode 2 & Wise words going unheeded...

Lisa Ann Walters wearing this season’s in look

Forced to wear a Ketchup suit due to Hal Sparks’ special powers this week, all seemed truly lost for her… Except, she had other plans.

After the initial shock had worn off, I can only imagine the amount of work that went in to preparing her act – what *can* you do with a Ketchup suit?! Easy, perform slick and themed magic, after having the world’s best children’s entertainer whoop your crowd into a frenzy for you!

Showing exactly what you can do when you’re put into a situation you’re not comfortable with, and don’t want to be in, Lisa Ann Walters’ routine was smart, funny, and kept well within appropriate behaviour boundaries for children’s entertainment – sadly more than could be said for this week’s loser, Ant.

After throwing a hissy fit and running out of the costume store because of the scary clowns, it appeared that he refused to even consider putting the homework of character creation and preparation of the other contestants, instead settling for calling at a gas station on the way and picking up as much candy as he could carry – before stapling it all over himself.

Quite what this has to do with anything other than a vain bid to buy the children’s affections, I was never, and perhaps will never be sure. I was unfortunately proved right though, and at the culmination of Ant’s (extremely inappropriate on occasion) routine, he invited all the children to rip the candy from him…

Celebracadabra Episode 2 & Wise words going unheeded...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Wise words from Ant’s Coach that were about to be completely ignored.

Special mention this week to C. Thomas Howell, and his rise to the top after last week’s mistakes. His Cowboy act made sense, his natural personality shone through and his enthusiasm was contagious as he enjoyed rapt attention from a room full of restless children.

Celebracadabra Episode 2 & Wise words going unheeded...

 

 C. Thomas Howell’s performance of the Lassoo’d Card winning astonishment from the children and respect from magicians who saw his handling of a potentially tricky moment.

This show is simply getting better and better, and next week’s show – in which our magicians find themselves performing in bars to a selection of college students in varying degrees of inebriation – looks to be perhaps the most interesting (and certainly most challenging to the fledgling magicians powers of crowd control) yet.