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Topic: Help! Building an act with only 3 tricks...
Message: Posted by: rcad (Nov 14, 2003 06:31PM)
Hi everyone,

I am currently taking a magic course. The teacher's very good and I am happy to be one of his pupils. There are about a dozen students in that class. At the end of the course (in March), we will have to perform an act with only 3 tricks we learned in class which amounts to about 70. We will also be videotaped and every student will get a copy.

The catch is, however, that we will only know what tricks we can use 4 weeks prior to the performance. There will be a draw and whoever wins first place will get to choose his 3 tricks first and then, no one else can use those tricks for their own act. Of course, everyone in the audience will know how it's done so they'll be watching for false moves too.

The only way out of this in order to make the act entertaining and maybe even for any misdirection to work will be, I think, to have a very original presentation of the effect. But... I'm afraid I'll have to concentrate on the technical aspects of my tricks during those four weeks and with my busy schedule, I simply don't see how I will be able to work out a very original presentation as well during that short period of time. I can't even be sure of the nature of all the tricks we'll be taught since the only clue I have is a course description with only the names of the tricks to come.

So my question is this: Is it possible to start working on an original presentation for an act with only 3 yet unknown tricks? This may sound like a strange question but I just want to give the best performance I can for this very peculiar crowd (magicians like me) and yes, I admit it, to be applauded because they really liked what they saw and not just because they are being polite...

Any ideas?

Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Nov 14, 2003 07:20PM)
First off that is wonderful that you are taking a course to better yourself and your magic. Secondly, applause to you for learning and realizing what so many others fail to learn. It IS important that your magic not be aimed so much to fool as it is to entertain the people you are performing for.

I guess the first thing you should do is just concentrate on learning the effects and the methods behind them. Understand them and work with them as much as you can. Once you do this, you will learn to relax a bit more.

Also, only us magician tend to look at an act and be overly critical of every little move and sleight. A lay audience will be more wowed if you move them in an emotional way. In fact, they may even forget the effects you did because they were having so much fun with your performance as a whole.

The other thing you will want to do is determine who your character is on stage. What works for you and what is your style? It takes time but the best way to start is to ask close friends you trust to describe your personality and what they like the most about it. Are you funny, wide, whimsical? Use what they tell you to find your own "voice".

I will be more then happy to help work with you on routine ideas and get you trained to start thinking creatively.

There are exercises you can do for your mind to help you think creative and these exercises will allow you to develop great and clever ideas at a fraction of the time it may take others.

I will be more then happy to share any of these thoughts with you. Please feel free to PM me at any time.
Message: Posted by: rcad (Nov 14, 2003 08:06PM)
Thank you Kyle,

I think you hit on a few things here...

You are right, being a beginner, I *am* nervous about this performance. I am currently just beginning to feel more comfortable when I perform for family and friends. I guess experience is slowly kicking in. But this particular performance does make me nervous since we'll be evaluated (not on the spot but the teacher will watch the videos and evaluate us then). I know that only practice will make sure I do not goof technically. That is why I don't think I will have time to create a good *act* in the four weeks allowed because I'll be too busy practicing. Besides, I will also need time to rehearse!

Something I may have been unclear about though is that the audience will be strictly composed of students from our class and the teacher. I worry about them watching my moves because we all had to learn them in the course. They'll recognize the trick within seconds and then, to help me, will watch me closely perform it.

What I want to do is to make them forget just that: watching my moves and just be entertained, even if they already know how the *trick* is accomplished.

I think you've got something there when you say that I need to find my character. I have LOTS of ideas but since I don't have the opportunity to perform in front of focus groups (does it show I come from a communications background? hehe!), I don't know what will work or not. Right now, I only know what kind of character I do not want to be... My fear is, what if I try a certain type of character only to find it leaves the audience indifferent?

I should get my hands on a video camera soon in order to watch myself perform but I'm not sure it will help me see if I can *entertain*. I am counting on the camera to perfect my sleights and misdirection only.

Although it must have been done thousands of times, I was thinking about playing the role of an "apprentice" who really has a hard time with his magic. He would expect something to happen only to see something else happen. There are a lot of funny lines and situations that could arise from that. Although I am a funny guy, I just don't know if I want or should get into a comedy act... Even if I decided this is the way I'll go, how on earth can I start to work on the "script" if I don't know what tricks I'll be stuck with?

I guess I am trying to figure out what I should focus my creativity on... What other questions besides "what kind of character I want to be" should I be asking myself? I know theme is important too but I'll have to figure that out when I know what tricks I'll be doing... Or do I?

Message: Posted by: Pepe Le Pew (Nov 15, 2003 11:59AM)
Just a quick thought by reading the things you just said: that you have a communications background and about the funny lines you can get by playing the role of an apprentice.
The apprentice part could be funny but awkward if somebody else thought about it and had to perform it before you.

What I thought is to play the role of a creative-publicist who've just given a product to advertise. And the scene is that you're just in the process of brainstorming ideas on how to best advertise the product, with magic: so you start with the first trick, and talk to fictitious colleagues (the spectators) "What if we make the product appear magically from an empty fist? ... No, better! I think we could place this product in an envelope, burn it and make it appear in the hands of the customer who was using the product from the competitor..."... and so on...

So you're playing the role of specific job which you know and understand all about it (lingo, difficulties, rhythm, etc...) while you nonchalantly do your magic as part of the process of brainstorming ideas, and it will allow you to have a continuity in the magic (same product) even if there is no continuity in the 3 tricks.
You'll just have to prepare specials props with the fictitious name of a product for the 70 tricks you could be tested on like a silk or a card with the name of the product.

Hope this helps?
Message: Posted by: rcad (Nov 15, 2003 03:40PM)
Pepe Le Pew,

That's a good idea! I'll let it simmer in the back of my mind and see if ideas related to that popup. This is usually what I need to do to be creative...

Thanks for the help!

Message: Posted by: Dynamike (Nov 15, 2003 10:17PM)

Will your teacher count each trick in a routine as a trick or routine? For example the billiard ball routine will be great use. But will your teacher count the effect as a trick or several tricks. Another good item to use is ropes. Paul Green has a great rope routine on his DVD, "In the Trenches." Another DVD with a good rope routine is "Great Scott! It's Magic!" by Scott Guinn.
Message: Posted by: rcad (Nov 16, 2003 06:27PM)

He is mainly teaching us tricks rather than routines so when he says one trick, he means one effect. I agree that rope tricks are fun and can easily be turned into routines but there is no way to be sure if I'll even be able to choose amongst the rope tricks he'll teach us. That's why I'm trying to find an act that could incorporate any kind of tricks

At least, so far, I did come up with some funny stories and lines that could fit anywhere in the act. It's a start I guess and it may help me create my stage character.

PS: I will take a look at those DVDs you mentioned... I really love rope tricks!

Message: Posted by: Aus (Nov 16, 2003 07:29PM)
I think you need to ask your teacher some questions, like what is the main focus of the performance. Is it something of technically ability? Maybe itís the presentational side, or even both. This helps in your focus sometimes, because believe it or not even in magic competitions, some things are more highly regarded then others. One tip that I highly recommend is checking the place that is to be the venue of your performance, because knowing this can considerably affect your presentational aspect of your act and help in technical areas as well. An example is made in a book by Michael Ammar that he once participated in two ďclose up CompetitionsĒ that had completely different set ups. One was at small but intermit room that had the act broadcasted to a hall in which the main bulk of the spectators viewed it. He also had a few spectators sitting around his table where his act was to be performed for interaction purposes. The other was on a large stage in which he had no spectators sitting near him to interact with, and the hundred of magicians in the hall viewing his every move.

How does each of these different aspects affect my/your performance? In the first situation if you had known in advance of the close intermit room, the way the camera was focused and the way the spectators were sitting you could adjust your performance to help any angel problems or other bits that may be a little vulnerable to such things. Also knowing that interaction is possible with spectators can help in your performance, like getting a spectator to hold a card well you do something else or a spectator calculated reaction that you may try to get to help your act along, and in turn elevate your performance. All these things you have to consider. In the second example where there was no spectators to interact with, you would have had to chose effects where no cards where chosen, no things signed etc, but were visual and self contained in respect of what was manually needed.

Now you have said in your first post that with the various life commitments your focus has been divided, it may pay to choose effects if the choice is available to you of ones that donít have a great demand on your technical ability, there for giving you more luxury to focus on other things.


Message: Posted by: rcad (Nov 17, 2003 06:36PM)

You've made me realize that I took a lot for granted. The location of the performance, which I assumed, would be the classroom. It may well be held somewhere else. I agree with everything you said and will ask a few questions next time I see the teacher.

I want to thank you all so much for your help and ideas. This is by no means a "closing post" but I've gathered insights from you all to solve part of my problems. I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your help! This place really is the best "magic forum" I've had the pleasure to visit.

Message: Posted by: Digital Backlot (Nov 20, 2003 01:33PM)
This a great info. It helped me too. :applause:
Message: Posted by: ByranNewell (Nov 20, 2003 01:51PM)

It's very difficult for a magician who knows the secret to a trick, to not notice the moves required on either a conscious or a subconscious level. Whenever I go to the Magic Castle, I realize that I'll recognize the trick that's being done as soon as the magician starts doing it. Generally. It's the standout magicians where I don't realize what trick they're doing, until the middle, or end. Why? Presentation.

I am assuming (and you know what they say about that) that you only have to perform the effects themselves, and not the learned patter and performance. If I am correct in my assumption, then that leaves you a wide margin to do with what you want in regards to having the audience of magicians enjoy the magic as opposed to the trick itself.

I am also assuming that you would like to fool some of the magicians watching. Seeing as how they will all know the secrets to the tricks; that is best accomplished using a stooge. Inspection's, deck switches, etc., can all be "helped along the way" with the aid of a fellow magi.

Once you know which three tricks you will be using, post the tricks. It'd be a nice exercise for everyone to think creatively.
Message: Posted by: JesterJ (Nov 21, 2003 10:00AM)
You know the one bit of advice that was missing here seems kind of obvious - the mechanism for choosing the tricks is based on a draw. So, Richard, you could put some time in on figuring out how to gimmick the lottery :lol:

Otherwise, I think the advice you've gotten is pretty good.

Jester J
Message: Posted by: Aus (Nov 22, 2003 07:44AM)
Yes, JesterJ brings up a good point, joking or not. What we have not talked about yet are the tricks. Given that to a degree and on the luck of the draw, you will be limited to what effects you can choose, you can still make a good choice. But if what you say is true, I think your chance of finding something that works well together is rather high.

But what do you look for in selecting tricks? Well I would be summarizing now what you have learnt and see if you can find the following elements that create a good routine.

A good opener: Now unlike poplar belief, I do not believe that the opener is limited to the flashy and attention getting tricks, if this was so how would a mentalist do it? Having a good opener is not limited to the tricks its self, but equally to what you say. Think of how in your patter how you can make them focus on you, make a loud noise, and do what ever just as long it attains the main goal.

For example, if I opened with a cups and ball routine, how would I obtain that attention factor? Many magicians look at the trick for the answer, and some would say that this trick is not the best for that situation. But if I dropped a cup with a load clatter (intentionally of course) with accompanying patter, how many people would focus on you? See, look out side the box.

Transitions: In order to make tricks seem more then the sum of there parts you need to unite them. Ask your self how with the tricks you have leaned, how one can relate to the next. The physical likeness of effects may suggest ideas or linking tricks with patter. What I mean when linking effects is give a reason why the next effect is being performed. An example of patter linking effects is this:

Now with such a mathematical probability being high as it is, there is still a 10% margin of error; which if ever occurred in a magicianís performance would look very bad indeed. So to remedy this problem we as magicians often train cards to do jobs for us and we do this in the following way (lead into twisting aces effect).

Thatís a transition using patter, and is best used in effects that donít relate in a physical way. Linking effects in a physical way requires effects that seem similar in effect, like a ambitious card routine and card to ceiling. Both of these effects give the impression of something rising or something going up. Use patter that uses this likeness to your advantage.

The Closing effect: This as many say, should be the best trick of the lot, the one that will wont them wonting more. The thing that seals the deal, so make sure that you put in that little bit more effort in this effect.

Thatís a basic round up of routing, there is so much more, but no doubt your teacher will guide you in regards to this. If ya stick to the rules of routining you will have the basic criteria to pick your three effects.


Message: Posted by: rcad (Nov 22, 2003 09:08PM)
Digital Backlot,

Glad to hear it! I almost didn't ask this question because I was afraid it might be so specific to me that it wouldn't be of interest to anybody else.


Your assumption is correct. That's why I am trying to work ahead with the presentation.

After listening to Aus, I asked my teacher a few questions. He confirmed most of what I thought was right. Except that I have an additional alternative: he explained that he wanted us to present any of the effects he had taught us during the semester but that we were free to use a different method!

I usually don't care about different methods. I just try to balance the difficulty of the manipulation and its effectiveness; I won't use a different or more difficult method unless it's worth it. But in this particular situation, where every single spectator will be aware of the method used, I will try my very best to find an alternative method to actually turn the trick back into "magic" for them.

You are very nice to offer your creative mind, as Kyle did, and I appreciate a lot! I'll keep you posted.


You really chose your nick well... That's a good one!


You suggest a structural approach I had forgotten to reflect on for this assignment. Mind you, it's easier to do when you know what tricks you'll be doing.

For example, I am also working on a Christmas show I'll be presenting for my colleagues on our last day of work before vacation starts. They all WANT to see me perform which is very encouraging. In any case, I'm in the process of selecting my favourite and most mastered tricks. I sort them by prop, by type and by participation level in an effort to balance the whole act. Looking at my list, I soon realized that I was heavily into mentalism. That DID affect the way I thought the show would be performed. Although this show is not the one I talked about in my original question, feel free to comment on my ideas for this one too!

This audience has seen very little magic so far in their lives and I want to give them a very entertaining experience. For an opening, I chose to begin with a simple lightning calculation. I'll justify this trick by saying that since a magician's brain has to work in different ways when he makes his experiments, he needs to warm up. In my opinion, this sets the mood for later mentalism tricks. It also eliminates the inherent condescension of a lightning calculation trick. The magician isn't testing members of the audience and by extrapolation, the whole audience; he has the audience test him instead. Lastly, it does involve a few spectators to participate but not as much as them standing up in front of everyone. The magician simply has them write numbers on a pad as he walks amongst them. So this should involve the audience right off the bat with minimum effort on their part.

You guys let me know what you think...

Meanwhile Aus, you got me thinking, although the teacher told me it was way too soon to start planning our performance. I will wait a bit to see, say, half the tricks we'll be taught in the course and start using a variation on Kyle's creative method posted somewhere else in this forum (Kyle, told you I'd try it! ;)). I will write down the names of each trick and try to find ways to associate them. To ease the process, I will classify them as opening effects or closing effects and see what different associations inspire me and what could fit in the middle. If I feel confident that I'll find a way to link almost any 3 out of say, 30 tricks, I would be very unlucky indeed if I was to choose last and see them all already selected.

Wow! I think I'm getting there after all.

Message: Posted by: Zeftron (Nov 23, 2003 07:27AM)
As you are free to use any method you want, and you are performing for magicians who 'know' your method, you could always throw them a curve ball.

For instance using a one way forcing deck.

"Classic force" them a card - Read their signals to reveal the identity of that card.

Using that same card, go into the best ambitious card routine they'll have seen, passes, cuts, DLs, shuffles etc etc.

Because they 'know' the method, they won't suspect the deck in the same way a layman would.

Be sneaky, you can bet the others will!
Message: Posted by: ByranNewell (Nov 24, 2003 08:06PM)
Zeftron makes a very valid point. We are so "programmed" to think a certain way in terms of doing tricks that we often can't see past our own noses. It's how Dai Vernon was able to fool a boatload of magicians by using a double-backer and a double lift and *poof*: no double. Since your teacher has let you use entirely different methods to accomplish the same trick, it's opened up a whole new world. Keep us posted as to the tricks you either choose or get stuck with.
Message: Posted by: Aus (Nov 25, 2003 03:37AM)

When I made that routine suggestion as a way to select your three tricks rcad, it was under the idea that the pool of tricks that you are to select from have been already taught. What I was suggesting was that you reflect on the tricks taught and see what can be routined. This helps because when the time comes, you will be under the pressure of selecting the tricks there and then, and you might choose unwisely if you don't know what effects go well with others.

On 2003-11-22 22:08, rcad wrote:

Except that I have an additional alternative: he explained that he wanted us to present any of the effects he had taught us during the semester but that we were free to use a different method!
Well there you go, how would we have known this if we didnít ask?


Message: Posted by: KingStardog (Nov 26, 2003 05:55PM)
You have a fairly tough assignment ahead of you. Heed all of the advice you have been given. It all sounds very well thought out and solid.
You need an opener, a middle and a closer.

What you really want to know about is what most acts are lacking. When there is say, a party that is themed, and you are invited and you look around at all of the decor and see the thought that went into a well crafted event, you can see the time, emotion and careful decisions that were put into everything.

This is what the spectators will also want to see in your show.

Since you have one arm tied behind your back, use the other one to build what you can.

Do you have any stories that you tell your friends or family about experiences that you have had that are interesting, exciting or funny? Maybe two?

Get a pad of paper and some tape and storyboard each one, to include all of the high points and remove all of the low points. Add in descriptions of feelings that are familiar to everyone, and that everyone can relate to. Try to include something embarrassing to you, or a predicament you found yourself in, or similar content that is kept family oriented (clean humor.)

You didn't say how long the act was expected to be.

If you have put together two set of storyboards and have them taped up on the wall, try to imagine
where the effect can fit into the story and punctuate it, or stress or enliven the message. Mark the time spans that you think are prime for the effects onto the story boards.

Now you have two possible acts, somewhat fleshed out.

Depending on what you draw, you should be able to work two of them in very easily, and if you have two open with the third right off the bat so itís out of the way as the entertaining part of the act begins.

Hopefully you draw early on and pick three that fit right in to your act at the proper points.

Don't just do tricks. Make them an integral part of the larger entertainment picture. Magicians won't be impressed with tricks, but everybody likes to be entertained, and most folks love a good story.

Also don't worry, its not like your going to flunk out of magic class, based on one weak performance.

Most of all have fun with it. Itís catchy.
Message: Posted by: jonesc2ii (Nov 27, 2003 06:51AM)
My advice would be to try to find a way of linking the three tricks together. For example, Jeff McBride does a rope routine that leads into a ring on rope routine that leads into the linking rings. It gives those few minutes a smooth, gliding feel rather than a 'here's a trick, here's another trick' feel.

Hope this helps, a very interesting thread, thanks.
Message: Posted by: rcad (Nov 27, 2003 11:36PM)

As soon as I heard my teacher say that, I started reviewing the different effects in my head to try and find other methods of doing them. ;)


Thanks, I will! :D


You gave me a very good advice so I just followed it! Thanks again! :)


I agree and this it what I want to achieve. I like your idea of coming up with stories ahead of time, regardless of the tricks I'll be able to use. I just hope that when I do get to choose them, I'll be quick enough to make the right choices.


I agree but that would mean to already know the tricks I'll be presenting. My problem is, I don't and won't know until 4 weeks before the presentation.

Message: Posted by: Vanished Zauberer (Nov 28, 2003 09:19PM)
Good luck with your routine! Just a quick hint, try and add humor because if it's funny, people will laugh and it will help the flow of the routine. Also, have a really nice climax at the end that is either amazing, hilarious or both. And always have fun with it.

Ty :eek: :rotf:
Message: Posted by: rcad (Nov 30, 2003 02:09PM)
Thanks Ty! :)

Message: Posted by: KingStardog (Nov 30, 2003 02:57PM)
[quote]-On 2003-11-22 22:08, rcad wrote:
Except that I have an additional alternative: he explained that he wanted us to present any of the effects he had taught us during the semester but that we were free to use a different method![/quote]

Can you select them now and choose different methods?

Some effects have a half dozen different methods. This angle would be very easy to tackle, and much easier than waiting on a lottery.

In review, this may be exactly the point in the lesson. To see how many seek the path unknown versus the canned drawing.
Message: Posted by: Vanished Zauberer (Nov 30, 2003 05:51PM)
When the time comes, you'll have to tell us which tricks you did and how the show went! I bet you'll do a great job. Make sure you perfect your routine and know it backwards and forwards.

Message: Posted by: rcad (Dec 1, 2003 06:53PM)

I wish I could pick them right away, even if it meant to have a more restricted choice but like you said, maybe that's the point... But I think it is more likely that he wants us to know enough tricks to pick the ones that will fit our own style. I will let you guys know and then you all can help me find other sources for different methods.

Vanished Zauberer,

I will, although I'll probably have to post it in the "What happened was..." forum. Thanks for the encouragements! :D

Message: Posted by: Vanished Zauberer (Dec 1, 2003 08:15PM)
Sounds good fellow canadian
Message: Posted by: Aus (Dec 1, 2003 08:55PM)
Best of luck Bro, keep us posted.


Message: Posted by: Telemus (Dec 9, 2003 12:34AM)
How about,
You an anthropologist just returned from some far off place. You where welcomed into the tribe and studied tribal customs and strange rituals and it gave you powers. This can be Scary, Funny, Serious.

This kind of thing for example
"The ability to have eggs appear from a bag shows virility"
"A rope that repairs itself shows Trustworthy"
"A leaf that levitates over the head Fertility"
"Three ropes when pulled in this manner are all different lengths, that shows innocence, However when they end up all the same it shows guilty and is punnishable by death!!!"

You can work out the entire routine in advance and just insert the effects.

In a way it is a true story. Your new magician friends are your tribe and this routine is your rite of passage.

The reason this works is because magic is has been used for all these things since recorded time.

The miracle proves the magician is real.

All the Best
Message: Posted by: rcad (Dec 15, 2003 08:16PM)

You know, I love your idea and that angle does provide countless stories/effect avenues. I could start with something like that right away with the tricks that have already been taught!

But to fit my personality, I'd feel more comfortable in the shoes of a [i]Lovecraftian[/i] archeologist... I could have found a book describing ancient magic rituals and a few artifacts... I would be trying this magic for the first time since the magi needs to be with his congregation to gather enough magical power or mana... I could place any trick in any country or century... Yeah... That has a lot of potential. I'll let it simmer and see what comes out of it! Thanks!

Message: Posted by: Aus (Dec 19, 2003 05:28PM)

Just one more tip. You talked about the alternative of using different methods in the tricks that have been taught. In most cases method is not as important as the end effect, but when the method does affect the effect, its importance become par with it.

I think your teacher is giving you an extra element to be creative here, and if that is what he is doing he would be watching to see who takes advantage of it. There are many methods out there that have better advantages over others, like the card to any number which could be pulled off with anything from a Sven deck to a normal deck, in turn creating the advantage of inspection between those two examples. The advantage is also in having the opportunity to throw your class room piers off the beaten track because you have thrown in various elements that are contrary to what has been taught. So knowing a bit of information can be made to your advantage.

Another example is the princess card trick, in which four cards are fanned towards a spectator which he then makes a mental selection. The Magician turns the four cards towards him self and extracts one of the four cards and places it in his pants pocket. He then after some build up pulls the card from his pocket and it proves to be the selection. Unlimited Edition which is a marketed effect, maintains much of the effect but with one major difference, and that is the card that is thought of turns blank other then having it placed in a pocket.

I hope that gives you something to think about.


Message: Posted by: rcad (Dec 22, 2003 07:18PM)

I will definately take advantage of using different methods if only to throw off my audience which will be expecting me to use known methods. I want to create magic for them, not just a mere demonstration of techniques. Also, although I do want to impress my teacher, I want to add that we cannot "fail" this course even if all the tricks are failed during evaluation. So you can bet that as soon as I know what effects I'll be performing, I'll come running here and ask for different method ideas. :D

I'm already thinking that the classic card effect where the 4 aces come up on 4 apparently random piles has a lot of potential since there are so many methods for it and that I think I may have discovered a way that will baffle them and still be technically easy enough for me... I'm thinking, "switch"...