The Magician’s Starter Kit – Props You Will Need

November 17, 2010 by Admin  
Filed under Magic Tricks

If you are planning to perform illusionist tricks, there is only so much you can do just using sleight of hand. Items borrowed from audience members and simple stage accoutrements can get you some of the way, but the audience will expect certain stalwart parts of the show which can only be achieved with the use of some props.

The old image of the magician wearing a cape and a hat has gone out of fashion in recent years, but there is still room for both in a show if your tricks will be helped by them. The cape is particularly useful for tricks which involve a revelation – “now you see it, now you don’t!” – while the hat can be used for tricks which involve “magically” producing something as if from thin air.

Other props which are commonly used in magic shows include playing cards. Some of the simplest magic tricks involve a deck of cards and the selection of one of those cards by an audience member. When the card is placed back in the deck, the magician will “find” the card using a trick that makes it identifiable. In the basic trick, he or she will pull it out of the deck. To go more advanced, the magician can make the card “appear” in the audience member’s pocket or inside another prop.

There are many and various tricks which require specific props. Unless you happen to be a very skilled illusionist it is wise to have some of these props on hand, as working without them can be hugely demanding.

Hocus Pocus – The Mystery of Magic

November 17, 2010 by Admin  
Filed under Magic Tricks

If you want to impress people with magic, or illusion, you need to make sure that you draw their attention in a way which makes the trick all the more individual. Being an illusionist of average talent is not all that difficult – enough practice and we could all perform certain tricks. It is how you hide and mask the tricks that really makes the show.

The author Sir Terry Pratchett has created a certain number of characters who are witches, and who have special supernatural powers which they use only in extreme circumstances. Much of their “magic” comes from knowing when common sense will give them a better answer, and then performing the task required while using some mysterious wording to give the occasion more of a spin.

The thinking behind this, for both the author and the characters, is that people will be impressed by the things they do not recognise. A simple flick of the wrist might be enough to solve the problem, but the mystical words convince people that what has taken place is magical. The most obvious example of this is the “magic word”. A common or garden illusion might be fairly impressive, but making people think that the words were what caused it to work is showmanship.

In some ways, illusionist acts are about a magician knowing one thing that the audience do not, and exploiting that fact to make it look like they have special powers. Selling the trick is the most important thing.

Magic Is All About The Show

November 17, 2010 by Admin  
Filed under Magic Tricks

Performing magic – or illusion – is really about more than just the trick that you do. There are certain magic tricks which, with the right amount of practice, we could all perform relatively easily. However, making a magic show is about a lot more than that. To really make it fly, you’ve got to be a showman as well.

This should not be taken as being a notice that to be a proper magician you need to wear a cape and a funny hat. In reality, this is not showmanship but just a fairly cheap way of making yourself look impressive. If you want to be a real showman – or show woman – it’s about making the tricks look easy and adding something to the show that makes people smile.

Many magicians combine their illusions with something approximating a stand-up show. You don’t need to be the funniest person in the world to make this fly, simply have a few jokes which enable your show to be something more than a guy on a stage with some tricks. You can improvise things like pretending you’ve forgotten the trick – a false finish which makes the crowd laugh and applaud when you reveal that you knew it all along and had given the finish some thought.

One part of showmanship which cannot be ignored is involving the crowd. Illusion is often unimpressive if you appear to be running through the motions. If you manage to keep up some repartee and even pick someone to be a sidekick, then you can make a big difference to how impressive your act is.

What Is Magic, And What Isn’t?

November 17, 2010 by Admin  
Filed under Magic Tricks

Magic, for some people, will always be a good way of explaining the seemingly unexplainable. At least, there will always be an impulse to put these things down to supernatural forces. There may be countless more believable explanations if one looks deep enough and if one has the full facts at hand, but for the sake of brevity, magic or illusion are always mentioned at such times.

For instance, is “mind-reading” or any other “psychic” trick magic? Being able to tell what someone is thinking may be an act of incredible dexterity, but it may also be a matter of just noticing cues. Some excellent illusionists have managed to lift the veil regarding “mind reading” by showing how they have seemingly read a person’s unspoken thoughts merely by reading their eyes and other non-verbal “tells”.

Looking at it in a more prosaic way, think about how the best poker players seem to win more often than not in a game which is, to all intents and purposes, one of luck. Assuming that you are playing with a clean deck and the same conditions all exist for every player, how does the same guy win so often? By knowing (or having a very strong reason to think) that another player will do something they have not said they will do.

You can call it magic, or illusion, or cold reading, but for the sake of judging how impressive something is, all that matters is that the person doing it can do something that other people could not.

Magic, Illusion And Our Minds

November 17, 2010 by Admin  
Filed under Magic Tricks

When you are a child, one question that you are sure to be asked is “Do you believe in magic?”. You are almost conditioned from that point to not believe in it, because answering “yes” is more likely to result in the mockery of older children than it is to bring any positive results. After a certain time, we are not going to believe in magic no matter how much we want to.

And this is an important factor – surely we would all like to believe that magic is “real”. Without getting into too deep a supernatural discussion, we can all say that things we would once have attributed to magic now have more realistic, more persuasive explanations. Would we dearly love to be proved wrong and find out that it was all magic? Many of us would, certainly.

So how do we get around this fact? How many of us, as adults, continue to believe in magic even in the face of seemingly insuperable proof that it is not real? Part of it is suspension of disbelief, and part of it is an absence of proof that magic does not exist. After all, you can hardly prove that something does not exist because you can never reveal everything in the universe.

We dearly want to believe in magic, and that is enough. Sure, there might be obvious explanations for the tricks that we see, but there is more than enough reality in everyday life and nowhere near enough magic. This is a major part of the reason why the Harry Potter books are so popular with adults. We know it’s an imaginary world – but it would be incredible to live within it.

How Magic Has Changed Through The Years

November 17, 2010 by Admin  
Filed under Magic Tricks

It is often felt that the best possible punishment for a bad illusionist would be to send them back in time to the Salem witch trials or any other historical arena in which witches and wizards were subjected to harsh punishment. Indeed, there was a time when people who showed anything that could be interpreted as “magical powers” were burned, drowned or otherwise subjected to a horrible death.

Fast forward to the present day and magicians are legitimate family entertainment. And the more we come to know, the more we expect from our illusionists. This is the tricky part. An illusionist has to do a heck of a lot to convince us in this day and age. Once upon a time, cutting through a box (and apparently through a scantily-clad female assistant) was enough to sate the masses. Now everyone knows it’s a trick, and the game is tougher.

It will be fascinating to see what illusionists of the future manage to conceive to make us wonder how they are doing it. British illusionist (among other skills) Derren Brown has recently aired a series of TV specials in which he manages to perform seemingly impossible acts such as guessing the winning lottery numbers or playing Russian Roulette (and winning), then revealing how he has done it.

This revelatory aspect is perhaps one of the most useful weapons in the modern illusionist’s armory. If you can manage to perform a trick and then explain it while still having people gape in wonder at your talents, then you have done something genuinely remarkable and deserve all the credit that’s going.

Blowing The Whistle – It Won’t Always Make You Popular

November 17, 2010 by Admin  
Filed under Magic Tricks

Many of us – perhaps most – have at one time or another been the ones to inform a group of friends or a younger sibling that the guy on the TV who seems to be making colored handkerchiefs appear out of the palm of his hand is actually doing no such thing. At the moment we do it, it makes us feel somewhat powerful. We’re in on the secret!

However, part of the enjoyment of magic or illusion is the very real spell it casts on the viewer – of being so impressed by an action that in all honesty we couldn’t care less is the rabbit was in a secret compartment all the time. It may not be “real magic”, but you won’t necessarily gain the appreciation of anyone for pointing that out.

Some illusionists do “break the code” by demonstrating how the tricks are carried out. To a greater or lesser extent this is a popular move. Much as we all love to be impressed by a spectacular trick, we won’t round on the person who reveals the illusion as long as they do it in an impressive way. Shouting out “it’s all fake” reveals you as a cynic with little to contribute. Demonstrating the trick while showing some wit and stagecraft keeps some sort of a show going.

In the end, this is what “magic” or illusion is all about. The show has to be at the center of things. Once you have watched The Usual Suspects, it is easy to tell everyone that Keyser Soze is a fictional character. But all you are doing is spoiling it for people who haven’t seen it.

Illusion Is Not A Dirty Word

November 17, 2010 by Admin  
Filed under Magic Tricks

There is no shortage of people who will criticise illusionists for giving the appearance of being able to do something while not explaining that it features no more real magic than a pen does. One can only wonder at such a response. After all, do the same people walk up to Leonardo di Caprio and slap him for pretending to have drowned when the Titanic sank?

For this is what illusion is – the ability to create an appearance that something has happened, when in reality it has not. Illusion as a word has come to be associated with magic, but many of us use an element of illusion ourselves in everyday life. Illusion is merely the creation of a false perception, and we have all indulged in that from time to time.

Illusion can be used for both good means and bad. Under the “bad” heading one could file indentity theft (the pretence that you are someone else, using their documents, to gain money that is not yours without detection) or marital infidelity (saying that you are working late to cover the fact that you are spending the evening with someone else).

On the other hand, non-magical illusion can be used for good means too. As has been mentioned, film and stage acting is a form of illusion (Daniel Craig is not really a secret agent). So, too, is a father dressing up as Santa Claus to make his children believe that Father Christmas has paid them a personal visit. If no-one is harmed, what’s the problem?

Magic’s Making A Comeback

November 17, 2010 by Admin  
Filed under Magic Tricks

The difference between magic and illusion is perhaps most persuasively explained if you have read the Harry Potter books or similar fiction written around a magical world. In the “Potterverse”, magic is very much a real thing, and indeed the binding and guiding force of the world the characters inhabit. Things that those characters do could never be explained by illusion.

In the world of Harry Potter and his friends, acquaintances and enemies, the casting of spells does change the effects of natural forces. With certain spells, the wizards and witches of Hogwarts and beyond can levitate items or people, literally stun their opponents, read minds and take on a changed physical form – and take the ultimate sanction of killing others.

While anyone who has read and loved the books would dearly love to inhabit the world in which they are written – who wouldn’t give real money to be able to disappear and reappear somewhere else instantaneously? – such things cannot be replicated using illusion. If you want the coffee in that mug, you’ll have to lift it yourself, and if you want to appear thirty years older you’ll need plenty of makeup.

However, there should be no doubt that a love of the Harry Potter books and films has created an interest in illusion. Magician-illusionist societies have reported huge numbers of new members in recent years, most notably around the release of new books and films in the Potter oeuvre. Magic is persuasive like that, in a way we all appreciate.

Can You Perform Magic?

November 17, 2010 by Admin  
Filed under Magic Tricks

“Magicians” are constantly among the entertainers that are most commonly booked for children’s parties. This love of magic might dissipate as we get older, but there can be no doubting that a skilled magician will have both the children and the adults at any party looking on in astonishment as they perform tricks which seem on the face of it to be impossible.

Of course, the fact that the tricks are being done means that they are not impossible. However, it is that fine line between what is and what seems to be that makes an illusionist worthy of the title of “magician”. Any impressive feat can be explained in some way, but saying that a magician is less talented because they aren’t “really doing magic” is pretty much like saying Usain Bolt is only famous because he can move his legs really quickly.

What youngster has not, on discovering the subtle difference between illusion and magic, not set themselves to trying to learn how the experts are doing it, and repeat the tricks themselves? The ability to perform these tricks is still a skill that impresses many, and demonstrates a high level of talent. In fact, there is plenty of argument to say that if one could do “real magic” it would be an innate or bestowed skill, whereas illusion requires applied learning.

Therefore, learning to do those tricks that appear so magical as children is still worth doing. We are still impressed by skilful illusion, as long as the person performing it can put on a show.

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