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Regular user
Sydney, Australia
156 Posts

Profile of dreidy
I teach high school. In an effort to be a little more entertaining in the classroom, I dusted off my old magic stuff and got back into performing. It's worked and now I'm happy to say not only are the lessons more fun, but the kids are more motivated and in the end of year tests produced better performances than earlier in the year.

Because of that, the Drama department at the school (we have quite a strong performing arts culture at the school) have asked me to offer a unit on magic and performance as part of the senior drama course. So here's the question--what are the ethical considerations of teaching tricks?

Of course I know to acknowledge all sources, and I don't have a problem with the one minor rubber band illusion I came up with myself, but what about other tricks? I would expect that something like the Professor's Nightmare is now so old and well known that I wouldn't be stepping on anyone's rights to show that, but what about the ring techniques I picked up from Shoot Ogawa's DVD? Or I suppose that simple sleights like palming cards or thumb counting would be fine, but what if they are linked into a trick I saw done by say, Oz Pearlman? If I get them all to buy "The Amazing Jumping Knot of Pakistan" from Daryl, can I then teach them that trick?

I haven't said that I'll do it yet (school's not back until February), but I thought I should ask those of you with more experience what would be considered acceptable in the magic community.


Peter Marucci
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Inner circle
5389 Posts

Profile of Peter Marucci
While this suggestion is far from perfect, it is, at least, a help:

Go to the library; there should be several books with more than enough material in them.

While the material in library books usually falls in the public domain, there is always some stuff there that is not.

A small problem.

However, it is not so bad as teaching stuff from still current videos, etc., like Daryl's Jumping Knot, etc.

You more or less answer your own question: If a person's name is still attached to it (as in "Daryl's Jumping Knot"), then it should not be taught, sold, given away, or anything else, without the express written permission of the originator.

When in doubt as to who the originator is (i.e., the Professor's Nightmare), then leave it out.

You will find you still have far more material than you can use.

Some examples of material in the public domain:

  • Hindu-shuffle card force
  • Classic card force
  • Slip-cut card force
  • French Drop coin vanish
  • Thumb palm
  • Back palm
  • Cut and restored rope (cutting a bight near the end).

And you might check out the Learned Pig site; Marko has many books--all in the public domain--that can be downloaded; there is several lifetimes' worth of material there.

Peter Marucci
Jonathan Townsend
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Eternal Order
Ossining, NY
27106 Posts

Profile of Jonathan Townsend
Before you get bogged down by well intentioned misdirection....

Have a read through "Our Magic"...there is an idea about a scene where the character playing a magician is assisted by the other character(s) onstage in making the magic happen for the audience. Such is the knowledge your students are seeking. The specific mechanics of props and sleights can be treated as homework and exercises. all the coins I've dropped here
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Manchester, NH
195 Posts

Profile of ClodAppleleft
As always, Peter has great ideas. Another thing you can do is focus more on the performance aspect then the tricks themselves, since it is a "Drama" course.

Anyone can "do" a trick, but it takes a lot more to "perform" a trick.

Maybe start with some simple sleights like the french drop or fake pass. Then show them how simple aspects of magic can grow into a big performance.

Just a thought.

There are many different ways to cut an apple.
Dave Egleston
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Special user
Ceres, Ca
632 Posts

Profile of Dave Egleston
There was some guy at Merced Junior College in Merced, California who was teaching a simple magic class (I should have enrolled).

You might try and contact him for a lesson plan. As far as I know, I think he used Hay's book. It was available for sale at Waldenbooks in large quantities during that time.

Good luck,

Bill Palmer
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Eternal Order
Only Jonathan Townsend has more than
24264 Posts

Profile of Bill Palmer
Actually, it is "Hay," not "Hays." If you do an search on "Hays," you won't find the book.

Regarding the ethics of teaching magic in a school situation as part of a drama course, one of the first things to do is to teach them about the ethics of magic and why it is important to keep a secret. If you get that over to them before you start teaching the secrets, then you will be way ahead of the game.

A long time ago, I taught magic for one of our "Sundry Schools." Everything I taught was either my own or something that was definitely in the public domain. I started with an overview of the ethics of revealing secrets. Then I went into some very simple ideas of the basics of magic -- the basic effects from Fitzkee and other sources. Finally, I taught a simple trick.

Then I gave them an assignment -- come up with 10 different ways of revealing a chosen card. These did not have to be possible or even plausible. Just 10 ways that were their very own. In the next class, we took a few of them, and by using basic principles, we figured out methods.

Some of them were very clever. One in particular was this:

They raise the Titanic, and they show someone opening the safe in the captain's office. There in the safe is the selected card.

Since part of the challenge was that we would figure out solutions, I did manage to come up with a satisfactory one. Think videotape!
"The Swatter"

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