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For the past six months or so I have been working on a "History of Magic" presentation for a local ladies' study club. Well, the "big day" finally arrived last Tuesday.

It's interesting how programs evolve. My study produced an outline that, when "fleshed out" in Word, turned out to be about ninety minutes in length. I am probably the only person on the planet who could sit and listen to an hour-and-a-half talk on magic history, so I thought it best to cut out about an hour. To do this, I tried to only include magicians from each era that had some connection. For example, I talked about the Herrmanns, transitioning to Kellar by telling about the famous Herrmann/Kellar rivalry. I then went from Kellar to his successor, Thurston, from Thurston into Vaudeville with Blackstone and Houdini, etc.

Although I don't perform much anymore, I really enjoy putting everything I can into the performances I do give. The show began with me in a Gandalf-style wizard costume. When I reached the Middle Ages, I removed the wizard cloak and hat, and was wearing a Renaissance-style outfit. When I talked about Robert-Houdin, the Renaissance outfit gave way to a tux. (I realize this sounds more like a striptease than magic, but it really wasn't that bad.)

My list of six tricks was cut to five, and then to three. Charles Gauci's "Body Language" served as a demonstration of the early wizards' divination abilities. For the early street performer, I performed a Chop Cup routine (not exactly "period", but close enough to Cups and Balls for my use). When I got to Dunninger and psychic entertainers, I used Larry Becker's "Casino Royale".

What did I learn? First, people LOVE magic, even when you aren't the most gifted performer, if you work hard to do as good a job as you can. Second, there are plenty of interesting characters in magic to keep almost any audience's attention. Third, never underestimate the power of simple effects.

"Body Language" is simple, but there are a ton of story lines, and the right presentation can give you a miracle. The final load in Chop Cup really makes the routine (I used a small apple and, in a last minute decision, decided to use a small orange as a second final load. It was almost like the audience expected something with the apple, but was caught completely off guard with the orange, especially when the items wouldn't fit back into the cup).

Finally, "Casino Royale" was a killer! I have owned this for quite a while, but I had never performed it. Larry Becker was very helpful with some presentation ideas. I just can't get over what you can get away with if you act like nothing unusual happened.

Well, this post has gone on much longer than I intended. Those of you who perform a lot are probably yawning, but to those of you who don't, I encourage you to practice and to get out there. You'll have a great time!

Amos McCormick
Things are more like they are today than they've ever been before...
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